”]”[Image from http://www.designspongeonline.com/ ~ website dedicated to home and product design]WE CAN DO IT! DIY culture! A world which has always been a produser environment in both the physical and virtual realms is one culture that cannot be missed while looking at the topic of produsage. Unlike all the websites and concepts mentioned in previous blogs that also related to produsage, DIY culture is one that takes on a different approach as it takes place in both the physical and virtual dimensions. DIY culture tends to be one that is highly collaborative and like Wikipedia and other user-led content, the more contributors the better it makes the site.

It is argued by Dewey (in Baron, Field and Schuller 2000, 230) that as individuals we only possess the potential for intelligence, it is through the developments in the social context that stimulates our minds to grasp new feelings, reasoning and understanding. In other words, intelligence cannot be achieved in the mind of one person, it is through a group effort that intelligence can be achieved. This is in line with Bruns’ idea of collective intelligence. Collective intelligence is when understanding is shared in a way which can then be built upon by others in the community, so that collective intelligence of the community can be increased (Bruns 2009). DIY culture is a great example of this. For example on Instructables, one person in the community may post up something they need advice or inspiration for and others in the community can then contribute. It also works the other way around when someone post a new idea or new instructions on how to do something others in the community can then add to that with additional information, ideas or advice.

DIY culture also possesses the other key elements typical of the produsage environment. The four key elements of Produsage are listed by Bruns (2006) as:

  1. Open participation
  2. Fluid Heterachy
  3. Unfinished Artefacts
  4. Common property

As mentioned above with the example of instructables anyone is able to participate in the community provided they have access to the Internet. There isn’t really a ‘special’ place as such for professionals in the DIY culture as it works mainly on collaboration and hence everyone in the community is treated as equals with no distinct hierarchy structure. It is a continuous project as members of the community continues to bring up new ideas and add to ones already existing. Lastly, none of the information or ideas is credited to any one person. It becomes property of the community in which that information or idea are being shared.

DIY websites also provide one special future in which users can specially order certain things to suit their own individual tastes. For example, spoonflower enables the consumer to create their own fabric, Etsy is a website which sells all hand-made items but producer of these items are often open to consumers customising parts of the product and Ponoko allows users to design their own products, make it then sell it. DIY culture is one culture that is of high interest in the business world especially amongst entrepreneurs. As DIY culture allows one to design, make and sell specially designed products at a cheap cost it is an effective mean for any entrepreneur wanting to test the potential popularity of their products. It has also been demonstrated that successful branding could be developed through DIY websites. One such example is Wattle Tots which first started selling items on Etsy then progressing to establish a business on its own.

References:

Bardon, S., J. Field and T. Schuller. eds. 2000. Social Capital: Critical perspectives. New York: Oxford University Press.

Bruns, A. 2006. Produsers and Produsage. http://snurb.info/produsage (accessed May 27, 2009)

Bruns, A. 2009. KCB 201 New Media 1: Information and Knowledge: Week 2 Lecture notes. http://blackboard.qut.edu.au/ (accessed March 4, 2009).

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In a society where produsage is becoming more and more popular it is hard to determine just where the professional and amateur community stands. What is the relationship between that of the professionals and the amateurs? Can they co-exist or must it be the survival of the fittest, most useful, most popular?

The professional and amateur community have always been portrayed as being at each other’s throats. The professionals would criticise the amateurs for their lack of focus and lack credentials to back up their views and opinions. The amateurs would then criticise the professionals for their dullness and technical jargon that’s difficult for anyone but other professionals to understand. The professional community has always been seen as standing on the losing end of the scale due to the scarcity and expenses related to building a professionals-only community (Leadbeater and Miller 2004) and its inability to provide for the convenience and practicality highly favoured in the current society. As Henry Jenkins (in Sternberg 2007) explains, ‘a teenager doing homework may juggle four or five windows, scanning the web, listening to and downloading MP3 files, chatting with friends, word-processing a paper and responding to email, shifting rapidly between tasks’. In a fast paced, multi-tasking society it is vital that information can be found quickly and can easily be understood. A recent survey by Professor Alan Knight shows that many journalism students are now turning to new media instead of traditional news services as they considered traditional news services too impractical as it had to be purchased, has a tendency to fall apart, the articles are too long winded and there are no search engines (ABC news 2009). This is when amateur saturated content such as Wikipedia becomes handy. However as explained in the last blog, Wikipedia too has its imperfections.

With both the professional and amateur communities displaying their individual flaws there is now the creation of a third community, the Pro/Am hybrid community. The Pro/Am hybrid community is one which adopts elements of both the professional and amateur communities (Flew 2008, 149). An example of such a community is OhMyNews where professional news staff is mixed with citizen journalists, with the professionals acting as the mentors for the amateurs helping them develop and refine their skills as journalists (Yeon-Ho in Flew 2008, 149). This new hybrid community is powerful in that in incorporates both the benefits of the professional and amateur communities while reducing the flaws that were once present in these communities. With the hybrid communities, they now have the credibility of the professional communities while also integrating the flexibility and convenience of the amateur community hence bringing together the best of two worlds. However that does not mean that the other two communities are to be ruled off completely, there is always a time and place when these communities are preferred above the others. For example, Amateur communities are best when looking for opinions and topics which professionals are not interested in, while professional communities are beneficial in instances where one needs to gain an insightful and detailed understanding of a certain topic.

Some interesting examples of Amateur culture:

http://www.urbandictionary.com/

(A dictionary-like site filled with everyday slangs. Useful for those words or acronyms that we come across but have no idea about. Is it rude? A compliment? What sort of response should you have? Absolutely vital in a society where ‘lol’ing and ‘rofl’ing are becoming common everyday language.)

http://everything2.com/

(A large collection of trivial articles on almost every topic you can possibly think of!)

http://lostpedia.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page

(A site similiar to Wikipedia but differs in that it is dedicated to only topics related to ABC’s Lost Series.)

An interesting example of Professional culture:

http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Welcome_to_Citizendium

(A site similiar to Wikipedia but with stricter rules.)

An interesting example of Pro/Am hybrid culture:

http://www.imdb.com/

(A site that is dedicated to movies. Employs people to enter information onto the site while also allows users to comment alongside the articles.)

References:

ABC News. 2009. Journalism students ‘don’t read papers’. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/03/11/2513424.htm (accessed May 9, 2009).

Flew, T. 2008. New Media: an introduction. 3rd ed. South Melbourne: Oxford University press.

Leadbeater, C. and P. Miller. 2004. The Pro-Am Revolution: How enthusiasts are changing our economy and society. http://74.125.153.132/search?q=cache:okRjLTyb0ZcJ:openlearn.open.ac.uk/file.php/3843/promo_1.pdf+when+pro+-+Ams+are+networked+together,+they+can+have+a+huge+impact&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=au (accessed May 20, 2009).

Sternberg, J. 2007. KCB104 Media and communications Industries: Lecture notes. Brisbane: Queensland University of Technology.

Wikipedia. What is the first thought that pops into your head when you hear that word? Recently a friend of mine asked me about a new business terminology she had just encountered during a business competition that she had no idea about. After telling her I had never come across that terminology before she went straight onto Wikipedia and told me the definition from it. At that point I was quite curious, I asked her ‘why didn’t you Google it?’ Her response was ‘Wikipedia is so much more convenient. You can find almost anything on it. It’s like my new best friend!’

This, I thought was quite interesting. Wikipedia is one such resource that is often frowned upon in the professional and academic world. Every so often we’ll get hit with news stories like the recent Wikipedia hoax where a student used Wikipedia as an experiment, posted a fake quote and had journalists use the fake quote worldwide or stories where absurd and ridiculous comments and statements have been made about a person, event or thing. Yet, the question remains, why is Wikipedia still so popular?

One common reason is, of course, convenience. Where else would one be able to find the latest information on new and upcoming books such as Matthew Reilly’s the five greatest warriors or information about global epidemics such as the swine flu. Another possible reason for Wikipedia’s success is the speed at which articles on topics could be created. For example, articles on swine flu could be up on Wikipedia in a night and can be modified and added upon as new information becomes available. However it probably wouldn’t be in any official encyclopedias for quite a while as the steps to publishing an article is lengthy and complex. Wikipedia, with its flexibility in terms of structure and involvement allows for convenience and speed to occur as it gives everyone the same editing and publishing capacity (Stalder and Hirsh 2002) hence more people are able to join in and as a result more articles are published covering a broad range of areas and interests.

However with these advantages come disadvantages, one of the biggest debate associated with Wikipedia is vandalism and unreliability. As the media is quick to pick up on, by utilising produsage and enabling an open structure anyone is able to edit on Wikipedia. There have already been many cases where articles have been vandalised or misleading information have been published. These mistakes are not long lasting though, with over six million visitors to the site per day the errors are often identified and corrected within a couple of hours (ABC News 2009).

Despite its weaknesses Wikipedia should not be ignored; it is a great example of what collective intelligence can bring forth and a great resource. No information source is guaranteed to be accurate sometimes even the most reputable sources can make mistakes (BBC News 2005). However, what one must learn in this information drenched economy is to critically evaluate all the information available. Wikipedia is a great starting place to find basic information however checking the information obtained and further research is vital.

References:

ABC News. 2009. Student’s Wikipedia hoax dupes newspapers: report. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/05/07/2562940.htm (accessed May 7, 2009).

ABC News. 2009. Vandals prompt Wikipedia to ponder editing changes. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/01/28/2476045.htm (accessed May 9, 2009).

BBC News. 2005. What is it with Wikipedia? http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/technology/4534712.stm (accessed May 9, 2009).

Stalder, F. and J.Hirsh.2002. Open Source Intelligence. First Monday 7 (6) http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/961/882(accessed April 27, 2009).

twitter

I was happily browsing the Internet the other day when I happened to come upon an interesting article from ninemsn news about how Logies host, Gretel Killeen, was being tear down via twitter (article here). As it happens, celebrities at the ceremony were twittering away in real-time, their opinions and views, about the host when the ceremony hasn’t even been officially broadcasted. This is a perfect example that could be used to explain this rising trend of citizen journalism or otherwise known as grassroots journalism or participatory journalism.

Citizen journalism is defined by Bowman and Willis (2003) as ‘the act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analy[s]ing and disseminating news and information’. Citizen journalism like produsage is able to give voices to those who originally were only given the options to take it or leave it. Dan Gillmor gives a very good insight to Citizen Journalism in his lecture given at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (2007), ‘traditional forms of journalism is like a lecture – journalists say ‘here’s the news’, then we buy it, read it, might send in a letter with our opinions and they might decide to publish it.’ It was really only a one way process as the consumers were only able to accept or reject what was given to them. Citizen Journalism, however, is different in that it provides news in a more interactive manner – more like that of a seminar of a conversation.

With the rise of the Internet and the ease at which news and information can now be obtained and distributed, audiences are now seeking an alternative to the perfectly digested, regurgitated and often decorated version of events by professional journalists (Bruns 2008). Audiences are now produsers who wants to have an active role in the production of news and information. It is this new culture where people are not afraid to speak their minds and would actively seek to correct or disagree with the ‘Big Media’ if they deem it necessary.

Another thing that could have also contributed to the popularity of citizen journalism is this idea of having news in real-time and often in first hand. Like how we saw in the case of Gretel Killeen, the news of what was happening at the ceremony was out before most people even got to see the ceremony! Another great example of citizen journalism at work was after September 11. In the days that followed there were better reports on the event online than through the news channel on television. People within New York were blogging about the event first-hand. What they saw, heard, felt, smelt and not only so, it was the events in either real-time or near real-time. Other people from other parts of the world were able to go online and see exactly what’s happening through these blogs right then.

Some interesting examples of citizen Journalism:

OhMyNews – http://english.ohmynews.com/

Malaysiakini.com – http://www.malaysiakini.com/

Action Network initiative – http://www.bbc.co.uk/dna/actionnetwork

Crikey – http://www.crikey.com.au/

New Matilda – http://newmatilda.com/

On Line Opinion – http://www.onlineopinion.com.au/

Indymedia network – http://www.indymedia.org/en/index.shtml

Huffington Post – http://www.huffingtonpost.com/

The Uptake – http://theuptake.org/

iReport – http://www.ireport.com/

References:

Bowman, S. and C. Willis. 2003. WeMedia: How Audiences are Shaping the Future of News and Information. Reston: The Media Center at The American Press Institute.

Bruns, A. 2008. Blogs, Wikipedia, second life, and beyond: from production to produsage. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

Dan Gillmor Lecture. 2007. Streaming video recording. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ghns_WJ-e90 (accessed May 5, 2009).

Davies, S. 2009. Twitterati tear down Gretel Killeen. Ninemsn News. May 4.

I can’t really say I cared much about this idea of produsage until sometime last week when my 12 years-old sister happily came home from school and excitedly told me about how the latest ‘cool’ thing in her grade was editing onWikipedia! This isn’t so scary a thought until I thought deeper about it and realised that the classmates of my 12 years-old sister would also be 12 years-old and how I almost always approach Wikipedia first if I wanted to get some background information about a concept or idea I was not familiar with. As I sat there thinking more about it, I cannot help but start to wonder how much of the information around us, on the Internet, on Wikipedia was actually written by people who actually know what they’re talking about and how much was written by amateurs like my little sister’s classmates. And just so it happens this idea/concept of produsage just came up in my New Media class, I suddenly realised that this may be something worth probing deeper into.

This idea of produsage, is a term used to explain the current online sphere in which the distinctions between producers and consumers/users have been blurred. Instead of being two distinct groups the consumers/users are now also playing a part as producers and hence the terms ‘produsage’ and ‘produser’ (Bruns 2008). Produsage was given life by the Internet. The Internet gave greater freedom to the users by enabling them to communicate and engage with other users on a greater scale where they are not limited by geographical location. They have access to a broader range of free information, which then can be easily and quickly shared with other users in a way which then can be reconfigured, modified and then recombined by those very users (Bruns 2008). It’s this idea that information is now not only easily and efficiently distributed but also collaboratively evaluated (Stalder and Hirsh 2002).

However problems with the quality of collaborative materials have arisen. As produsers tend to collaborate rather than work by themselves as individual content producers (Bruns 2006), materials may take a period of time before it reaches a good standard. As a result, some collaborative materials may be very refined and accurate whereas others may just be starting out and are not yet as polished. Although there is this case of possible inaccurate and incomplete collaborative materials due to produsage, there is still a heavy emphasis on this idea and especially so in the business world. In the April 2009 edition of the My business magazine there was an article by Michelle Gamble on the importance of such user-generated content. According to Gamble, getting in terms with this new trend of involving the consumers/users is beneficial to businesses as it is able to generate awareness, immediacy and most of all offers ‘word-of-mouth on steroids’ for the business. It adds to the business in that it generates more credibility and builds a sense of community – not just shown what the business wants you to see but for the people by the people.

After looking at this topic of produsage I have come to realize that although amateurs may have taken part in the collaborative project by bringing forth their opinions and views as relevant and irrelevant as they may be the question remains – is it really that bad?

References:

Bruns, A. 2006. Towards Produsage: Futures for User-Led Content Production. http://produsage.org/articles (accessed April 29, 2009).

Bruns, A. 2008. Blogs, Wikipedia, second life, and beyond: from production to produsage. New York: Peter Lang Publishing Inc.

Gamble, M. 2009. Creating your community. My business magazine.

Stalder, F. and J.Hirsh.2002. Open Source Intelligence. First Monday 7 (6) http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/viewArticle/961/882(accessed April 27, 2009).