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Re-Public: Who Owns the Means of Produsage?

I'm very pleased to see that a new article of mine has just been published in the energetic Greek online journal Re-Public. Editor Pavlos Hatzopoulos invited me a little while ago to respond to a first wave of articles discussing and critiquing the emergent phenomena of the social Web, and the contributor list already includes a number key thinkers in the field, from Michel Bauwens to Trebor Scholz. In fact, I responded specifically to the opening discussion between Trebor and Paul Hartzog, which revisits the industrial-age question of "Who owns the means of production?" for the new, information-age context.

What was missing from this, from my point of view, was a concern not so much with the means of production, but with the next step in the chain - with the means that connect producers and users, the means that facilitate the interaction, collaboration, and ultimately the produsage that takes place when the producer/consumer dichotomy diminishes. This, I feel, should be the main starting-point for critique now - the question should be "Who controls the means of produsage?" In fact, its claim to exclusive ownership and control of the means of produsage within its gated community is one of the reasons why I am so concerned about the rise of Facebook, as I've noted previously.

Anyway - the article is now available on Re-Public, and reprinted below. A special thrill for me (having studied ancient Greek at school) is that Re-Public also published a (modern) Greek translation of the piece: Ποιος ελέγχει τα μέσα παραγωγής/κατανάλωσης; Cool...

First Responses to From Production to Produsage

Externalised 2As we get closer to the release date for my upcoming book Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage, I'm now starting to deal with the tail end of the production process - finalising the cover image and organising the back cover text. Having featured comments from John Hartley and Geert Lovink on the back cover of my last monograph, I aimed high with this one as well, and I'm very pleased that both MIT's Henry Jenkins, one of the most eminent scholars in the field of user-led participatory culture, and Michel Bauwens, the driving force behind the inspiring Foundation for P2P Alternatives, have agreed to endorse the new book. And what endorsements they are - I'm very flattered, and I hope the book lives up to these plaudits.

Axel Bruns's far-reaching and conceptually powerful book, From Production to Produsage, captures a shift in cultural logic which is profoundly altering how culture gets produced, how knowledge gets circulated, how reputations get made, and how industry, politics, and education operate. This book is essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about Wikipedia, Second Life, eBay, Flickr, Moveon, or YouTube, in short, for anyone who wants to understand the turn towards participatory culture.

-- Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide

Produsage Book Update

Externalised 2It's been a while since I've posted anything about my produsage book project - the last update I gave simply consisted of some quick stats about the continuing writing process when I was still on sabbatical with the Comparative Media Studies group at MIT in Boston. Back then, for those of you keeping count, I was almost a fortnight into writing the book itself (following months of research and preparation), and had written about 150,000 words; after another few days, the complete first draft of the manuscript weighed in at a slightly frightening 190,000 words - at that time, something of a worry for a book that was contracted to be around 130,000 words or 325 pages.

Working with some excellent advice from the tireless Steve Jones (who edits the Digital Formations series which the book will be part of) and the good folks at Peter Lang, I'm happy to report that I managed cut the text by what's roughly the equivalent of an MA thesis, and have squeezed the manuscript down to around 165,000 words or almost exactly 400 pages. This wasn't the easiest or happiest process (I love writing, but hate editing), but I'm extremely pleased with the final outcome, and comments from those few colleagues who have read the full manuscript as it now stands have been incredibly positive (more on this over the next few weeks). I've now updated the information about the book on this Website, and I've also uploaded the introductory chapter of the book to give you an idea what it's all about. We've settled on the title Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage now, and we're looking to use one of Ann's paintings as the cover image.

Citizen Journalism beyond the Tactical Moment, Blogging with an Australian Accent, and Other Upcoming Publications

I'm very happy that a few of the articles and chapters I've worked on throughout the year are now coming close to publication. One of them is a chapter in Digital Media and Democracy: Tactics in Hard Times, a book edited by Megan Boler for MIT Press; my contribution is based on one of my papers for the AoIR conference last year and explores the possibilities for citizen journalism beyond the tactical moment, as it transcends the industrial journalism/citizen journalism two-tier structure first described (though not exactly in those terms) by Herbert Gans so many years ago. Will citizen journalism remain tactical, and thus perhaps excuse itself from attempting to exert a more permanent, strategic influence on public life? Will it 'sell out' and go mainstream? Or is there a third, hybrid option which retains its strengths as a bottom-up movement while developing more permanent, sustainable forms?

My suggestion in the chapter (which I've called "Gatewatching, Gatecrashing: Futures for Tactical News Media") is that we may see a development of citizen journalism that's not unlike the trajectory charted by the evolution of extra-parliamentary opposition groups in 1970s Europe into credible political alternatives (and here especially the Greens parties). As a German, the obvious case in point for me is the career of Joschka Fischer from street protester to German Foreign Minister, ultimately commanding grudging respect even from old political enemies - and in citizen journalism, I think we're beginning to see the potential for similar transformations. In the chapter, I do go so far as to call OhmyNews' founder Oh Yeon-ho "the South Korean Joschka Fischer of journalism", though with tongue in cheek - guess you'll have to wait for the book to come out to see whether you agree with me on that one. It's now listed for pre-order on Amazon.

Any Graphics Artists in the Audience?

Brisbane.
I'm back in the country (and off to the Mobile Media conference in Sydney tomorrow), and I'm continuing to work through my produsage book, whose working title may have shifted again - we're looking at Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: The Shift from Production to Produsage as an option now.

In the book, I'm working with a number of graphs to clarify the concepts I'm using. For one of them, I'm coming up against the limits of my design skills, so in true produsage style, I'm wondering if anybody reading this may be able to offer their talents? I'll acknowledge your contribution in the book, of course! Below is the passage in question, and my first sketch for the graph. What it should show is the tall peak and soft slope I'm talking about - basically a version of the classic 'long tail' graph turned 360 degrees around its vertical axis, perhaps with an overlaid texture that indicates the location of interest community clusters clusters on the soft slope. Any takers? Email me... (The image will need to be hi-res, and work in black & white print on paper, of course...)

Whoa.

Boston.
OK. 11.5 days of writing (I started on 23 May), for 14 hours straight on some days - all up I've been writing for about 143 hours so far, Word tells me (that's 12.5 hours per day, on average). 363 pages. 156,000 words. That's 1090 words per hour, but includes quotes, of course. 12 chapters written so far, and four more to go. If I haven't blogged for a while, it's because I've used up my allocation of words for the day.

Steam CafeSo, writing the produsage book is going OK, but it will need some editing - the final book is supposed to be only 300 pages, or 135,000 words. (Hey, I could stop right now...) Just as well, though, because it's not quite right in a few places yet, and I'm throwing in altogether too many quotes at times. That's always been an issue for me - lots of research, lots of interesting quotes from the research, and I'd love to use them all, but I can't let them overwhelm what I'm actually trying to say. So, I'm learning to throw out more than I'm using. Slowly.

Produsage in The Australian

There's a nice piece by Rosemary Sorensen in the Media section of today's Weekend Australian newspaper, called "Time You Turned On the Tube", discussing the implications of the recent rise to prominence of YouTube and other user-led content sites. Rosemary spoke to me at length for this article, and I'm very happy with the way it's turned out - sometimes such articles end up being little more than mainstream media hacks' attempts to denigrate what they don't understand, but this article balances an enthusiasm for the changes being brought about by such sites with the legitimate questions of intellectual property rights, quality, and economic sustainability which can be asked of them.

Coming Up...

Leeds.
The past few days have been nothing but productive, even if I've taken some time off my research for the book. Instead, I've completed and/or revised a number of conference papers and other articles that are due over the next few months - clearing the decks, or indeed the desk, before I fully descend into book mode.

2007 is going to be a very productive year for me, as far as papers, articles, and other publications are concerned. I've managed to combine my stays here at Leeds University and later on at MIT in Boston with a few conferences in the UK and the U.S., respectively, and there are a number of further conferences in Australia and elsewhere as well. There's also a couple of book chapters and at least another journal article, but most those I can't say that much about yet. I have now posted some of the completed conference papers on this Website, though, so please feel free to have a look (and to comment, of course!).

Spreading the Memes

Over the past few years, I've created a few neologisms - terms such as 'gatewatching', 'newssharing', and of course 'produser' and 'produsage'. While some might frown on this (hi, Jean), in my view it's absolutely necessary for researchers to abandon traditional terminology when it becomes overly limiting, and obscures important new features of their objects of study. So, for example, the traditional journalistic process of gatekeeping is giving way to a new mode of gatewatching in news production; for journalists and other news commentators this is "a shift from the watchdog to the 'guidedog'" role, as Jo Bardoel and Mark Deuze have put it.

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