Bruns (2008): Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond

Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (Digital Formations)Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage by Axel Bruns
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Bruns’s Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond is a solid argument about how the Internet is changing the way we produce content. Bruns explains that content creation online “operate[s:] along lines which are fluid, flexible, heterarchical, and organized ad hoc as required by the ongoing process of development” (1). He argues that the term “production” is outmoded for much online content creation because it implies a final product, instead of an ongoing process of creation. He proposes that we understand content creation online as produsage to highlight how the roles of consumer and user are disappearing, replaced by a system where “the distinction between producers and users of content have faded into comparative insignificance” (2). This change in creation processes is made possible by develops of the Internet as a media. Bruns specifically points to differences between the Internet and previous mass media: an increased access to the means of production and distribution, the ease of peer-to-peer communication, and the ability to share, manipulate, modify, and edit content (13-14).

Bruns outlines four principles of produsage that signify when it works best: 1) open participation and communal evaluation; 2) a fluid heterarchy that leads to an ad hoc meritocracy; 3) creation of unfinished artifacts through granular changes; and 4) the development of communal property that results in individual rewards (particularly social capital) (24-30).

After extended discussions of open software creation, citizen journalism on blogs, and wikipedia, Bruns turns to how “we [. . .:] identify, collate, process, evaluate, combine, and synthesize the diverse range of content now available to us from a variety of sources” (171). Bruns explores metadata — data collected about usage, information, and behavior, often through automation, or through links and tags (174, 178-179). The book is a rather extensive and detailed discussion of various aspects of online produsage. Worth a read (or a skim, at the very least — the book seems to get repetitive at points, but offers some useful insights).

A few quotes on new media and developing relationships: “The social, collaborative basis of the content creation communities engaged in produsage also indicates this: in produsage projects, the object of the communal effort is almost always as much the development of social structures to support and sustain the shared project as it is the development of that project itself” (23). “content creation is an act of maintenance and construction (of both content and the social relationships among participants) at least as much as it is one of production” (23).

Bruns, Axel. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang 2008.

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4 Responses to Bruns (2008): Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond

  1. Derek says:

    Produsage, huh? That word will take some getting used to.

    I’m tempted to continue preferring “production” with the caveat that rhetorical thinking understands that a product’s consequences are variable and unfolding (rather than terminal or finite). What about you, Michael, do you think this a word–produsage–that will take flight?

  2. Michael says:

    I meant to discuss the word “produsage” in the review, but then kinda just wanted to get the summary off my plate and move on. Frankly, I think the word is corny and gimmicky — why not stick with “production” and understand that production has often varied and differed across settings and situations? I like the way you put it, Derek: “a product’s consequences are variable and unfolding.”

  3. Andrew says:

    “Produsage” might be the stupidest thing I’ve ever seen written in an academic article.

    So, no. I don’t think it will take flight.

    Moreover, as you say in your review: Marx understands commodities as they operate in terms of both “production” and “distribution.” So the concept of produsage is doubly stupid because we already have words for those concepts (either circulation, distribution, or consumption). Also, frankly, I’ve seen some new media types using the term “prosumption,” which if you absolutely have to make a new word, that would be the more correct one to use.

  4. Michael says:

    Andrew, your comment made me giggle. 🙂

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