Just a small collection of ideas – ‘Production, Produsage, and the Future of Humanity’

May 29, 2009

“What are you gonna do without a college degree? Drive a forklift?”   – Paris Gellar.

This quote summed up my perception of being a ‘professional’ when I graduated high school in 2004. And I have a sneaking suspicion that many of my generation (Y, if you had to ask) feel the same.

Online convenience stores

Over the last 5 weeks, I’ve discovered produsage across new mediums and through different communities. This week however, we were asked to consider the future of produsage. Last week in tutorials we discussed communities such as Instructables, eMachineshop, Ponko, Spoonflower, Etsy. I had not heard of any of these ‘communities’ before now.

By describing them as communities, it suggests they are not simply not just websites or pages, but are products which reshape cultural, social, commercial and political institutions (Burns 2008, 400). Just in case any of you were a little puzzled about these communities, here is a quick run-down of what they do:

Instructables: Web-based documentation platform where people share their knowledge and collaborate with others.

eMachineshop: A conventional machine shop with low-cost fabrication of custom parts made from designer software.

Ponko: ‘The first online shop for individualised goods’ including specific designer created goods by users.

Spoonflower: Unique user created fabric based around design, craft and fabric communities.

Etsy: An online marketplace to buy and sell handmade items.

The common denominator here is user led communities that also provide open source software to design user created merchandise.

The effect of these communities on advertising lies in the users self-promotion on a viral level. As Bruns (2008, 400) suggests  “peer property spreads in a viral fashion, in a process that we call the ‘circulation of the common’. This is a new phenomenon, and it operates in parallel with the ‘circulation of commodities’ process of the traditional market system”.

The importance of users advertising their own merchandise through viral means, suggests users also become co-produsers of the space (Bruns 2008, 400). This correlates with Nimon’s (2007, 27) suggestion of Generation Y’s self-expression through Internet platforms.  Furthermore word of mouth, peer feedback and viral marketing are elements that both Bruns (2008) and Nimon (2007) are fundamental to produsage environments.

The Future of Produsage

The continuum of knowledge, collaboration, open source software and community communication methods is one that produsage stands. This is the future of communication for active generations. For advertising, being a paid communication portal is something that will probably rarely change, but will instead adapt to new mediums by reaching niche audiences on a global scale. The possibilities for advertising research of target markets as generations adopt personalised approaches to virtual communities and personalities are inexplicitly endless.

As always I welcome your comments, suggestions and feedback to ensure an industrious and dynamic approach to advertising in new media. I hope these last few weeks have sparked interest into what is already a heavily new media saturated take on advertising.

I will leave you with a few wise words from the father of advertising himself, which I believe personifies advertising communication in a new media world:

“I don’t know the rules of grammar… If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular.

– David Ogilvy.


Advertising: Pro or Amateur?

May 22, 2009

Last weeks discussion on Wikipedia got me thinking about the extension of knowledge in a professional sense: Will I still use Wikipedia (and alike) the same way when I graduate? How will produsage communities be of use to me then? My bet is, some of you are thinking the exact same thing.

Wikipedia: the secret Gen Y scapegoat?

Currently I use it as a starting point. To get a general understanding about key terms, movies, books, politics, really anything. In fact, even when I think “just Google it”, 9 times out of 10, I end up at Wikipedia. I often wonder if I’m a typical by-product of my generation or if this will just become another social norm. Apparently I’m not alone in thinking this. Jenkins (in Bruns 2008, 208) suggests the possession of knowledge is not what holds collective intelligence together, but rather the social process of acquiring knowledge.

I have an idea

For advertising, the Pro/Am debate is something, which I think extends beyond Bruns and Sanger’s Wikipedia debate. The community of knowledge creators and curators (Bruns 2008, 213) is one that I believe explains ihaveanidea.org.

Now I know I’ve mentioned this ad-community before, but this time I thought we’d take a closer look at just how the creation of advertising is involved in Pesce’s hyperintelligence. Like Wikipedia, I have an idea also is primarily led by amateurs and Pro-Ams, with very little recognition of their professional personas. While the creatives section at I have an idea, publicises advertising professionals who contribute to the community. This allows them to be ‘organic’ members instead of foreign bodies as revealed by Bruns (2008, 218).

Layers of the Pro-Am Onion

Networking and participation. These two words are crucial elements for any produsage model. They also hold importance in the overall process of layering diverse knowledge across a multitude of tools (Bruns 2008, 220). Tools such as Ning enable users to create, modify and manipulate collective intelligence by creating new social networks and platforms on which to decentralise the human knowledge space (Bruns 2008, 220).The public exchange of information through services such as Ihaveanidea, Ning and even Twitter are just the small picture in a wider community. Johnson’s “cosmopedia” explores how the users (the am’s of pro-ams) space is controlled by their own collective intellect.

Let bygones be bygones?

What I have learnt from Wikipedia and produsage communities is: nothing is tangible. Not even information of knowledge. It cannot be classified or classed as it has in the past. It cannot be seen viewed as naïve and simple. Pro-Ams challenge it, alter it, and tweak it to ensure the collective community gets the best out of what is available. Now you’ll probably note my view of past knowledge, like Bruns (2008, 222), is holoptic. It is representative of a clouded truth, based on naivety and mass production. But I wonder if network-centric mindsets are really that different. Yes, they underpin collective intelligence in all of its grandeur, but does it really represent the truth? Or does it merely present a quasi-semi-qualifies Pro-Am view on a certain subject?

Wikipedia – young and naïve or old and wise?

May 14, 2009

Wikipedia confuses me. Not through functionality or its content. But through its ability to represent and preserve humanity’s collected knowledge through collaborative creation of content (Bruns 2008, 167).

And my guess is, if I think that, there is a good chance that many others feel the same way. Today is your day. Come out of the shadows of your social networked universe, hold your Macbook high and scream, “I am not alone!”

Okay, so it’s probably not best to scream anything out aloud, particularly if you’re in a library. But you can virtually. You can do almost anything virtually – shop, sell, create, learn, be entertained, trade, communicate, produce, distribute, or even just exist online.

The complex platform of Wikipedia incorporates many of these elements. The most important of all is that of collective intelligence (Bruns 2008, 151).

However I believe the importance should lie within produsers of topical communities (Bruns 2008, 151). Evaluating user generated by topical experts is significant to Wikipedia entries. Wales (in Bruns 2008, 147) highlights a negative component of this school of thought, which begs the question: “what role is available within produsage environments for a project’s originator”. Similar issues have been raised with open source and originators of produsage projects. By focusing on maintainenance and participation in social networks with adhocrativc governance, Wikipedia can benefit from topical communities without getting wrapped up in irrelevant outcomes (Bruns 2008, 147).

Governing Wikipedia is an area of interest to academics (Bruns 2008, Viegas, Wattenberg and McKeon 2007) and rightly so. Users can edit and produce content with little moderation. Wikipedias community self regulation, administration and governance outnumbers negative issues surrounding editing (Bruns 2008, 140).

Though this heterarchial models of governance has attracted criticism from “disruptors and miscreants” (Bruns 2008, 140). So much so that in 2006, a right-winged “Conservapedia” was developed because creator Andy Schlafly thought Wikipedia had a liberal, anti-American, anti-Christain bias (Seigel 2007). Topics such as homosexuality and Barack Obama have created a stir among the public sphere. Administrators remain Conservapedia differs from Wikipedia in that its articles have a neutral point of view (NPOV). While Wikipedia administrators have are generally ‘requested’ (Bruns 2008, 142), Conservapedia employs a merit system and a traditional hierarchy.

Ultimately Wikipedia follows the principles of produsage as laid out by Bruns (2008, 142-3). Does its popularity and ability to deal with vandalism at a rapid speed enable its virtual existence? Has Wikipedia’s lack of organisational structure at the beginning of this project forced them into ad hoc community involvement?

I need to hear your thoughts on this one, but in the mean time I hope this has provided some virtual clarity.

No news is good news, right?

May 7, 2009

Q: Who makes good news? A: You Do!

Say goodbye to the user that remains naïve and passive. And hello to birth of the Citizen Journalist!

Last week focus on Bruns’ produser saw the user becoming the producer and distributor of content. Users are increasingly aware of how in control they can be of news and content, which leads into discussion on Citizen Journalism.

And who can blame you? Gatewatchers create blogs critiquing what the ‘major five’ leave unsaid, open source software provide platforms to create, distribute, and publish content and WiFi and mobile technology provide access virtually anywhere.

The role of citizen journalism in news-related sectors remains the centre of academic literature as seen in Flew (2008) and Bruns (2008). However as an advertising student I would prefer to focus my attention on user generated advertising blogs such as Copyblogger.

Copyblogger was set up by new media and marketing entrepreneur Brian Clark. Teeming with praises and awards from professional advertising blogs (AdAge), user generated blog search engine (Technorati), and even online press (The Guardian). In short Copyblogger provides copywriting tips for online marketing success.

Yet it doesn’t just function for copywriters alone – for any writer, blogger, rhetoric, eBay user, or twitter user. Drawing on basic literary theorists, basic grammar, and article techniques Copyblogger provides you a unique combination of user-generated problems on a decentralised journalist platform (Bruns 2008, 80).

Now some of you might consider this effort as a “crisis of democracy” where traditional media are under pressure to change to online media. Under the 2008 US political campaign many citizen journalists honed their craft. In tutorials we discussed TheUptake.com and video blogger Steve Garfield. Obama’s use of new media in the US Political campaign in 2008 acknowledged a wide decline in deference to established forms of elite and authority (Flew 2008, 157).

Have a peak at Garfield beating CNN to the punch here.

This goes to show traditional journalists are too close to the corporation from which they must report (Flew 2008, 153).

If you want a comprehensive advertising effort, make sure you check out Ihaveanidea.org. This community provides a collaborative effort extending outside the normal parameters of traditional journalism as suggested by Bruns (2008, 81). Does it constitute a virtual public sphere as Flew (2008, 164) discusses? It comes pretty close if you consider it facilitates discussion, which promotes the expression ideas and opinions.

Put simply, because of the open source platform ihaveanidea’s success focuses around the following:

  • Open source platforms (Not just another blog or website – provides information, search and other portals)
  • Participatory media (Job Board for employer and candidate)
  • User-generated content (Blogs by you, for you)

The relationship of citizenship, democracy, news and journalism is complex. New media platforms such as Copyblogger, ihaveanidea, and TheUptake have shifted paradigms of informed journalism and new production. Above all, the best thing for an advertiser in this situation is you can have control and research at the same time.

That’s really the Holy Grail for advertisers right?

Produsage: Dark Knight or Joker?

April 30, 2009

Gotham City isn’t the only community plagued by this superhero battle.

Like any Batman fan, the latest installment of Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight in 2008 was for me personally, highly anticipated for many reasons. For you it may have been the excitement in seeing the sequel to Batman Begins from 2005, or the chilling and captivating, posthumous performance of Heath Ledgers’ Joker, but my own personal motive was to witness an effective collaborative viral marketing campaign come together, where the roller coaster storyline was a mere bonus.

Before you read on I recommend you check this video link of whysoserious.

About a year before the release of The Dark Knight, at San-Diego’s International Comic-Con event, thousands of tweaked “Why So Serious?” one-dollar bills appeared everywhere. This “money” linked participants to online website whysoserious.com, where map co-ordinates (for San-Diego Zoo) and a bomb was counting down. The response online was instantaneous. When participants turned up at 10am the next morning with Wi-Fi devices in hand, they were sent on an online and offline scavenger hunt to be recruited as the Joker’s next henchman.

From face painting to girl scouts selling cookies, to sky-writing, balloons and mobile phones in baked cakes, online and offline users worked together to crack the clues. The hopeful “Jokers” used countless online and offline media outlets – posting photos to their Flickr accounts in real time, tagging blog entries on Digg, accessing Google Earth to find coordinates, both professional and personal blogs and forums running hot by online participants and using photo, email and post across the United States. While one (un)lucky man received the ultimate prize, hundreds received movie props, and the other collaborators helped unlock a highly anticipated teaser trailer viewed by over two million. Users not only participated, but also helped produce a highly effective and collaborative viral marketing campaign.

Joking about open participation

So what does all this have to do with produsage? Apart from being a unique and entrancing viral marketing campaign by 42 Entertainment, its success is solely based on participation of content creation communities (Bruns 2008, 23).  Forums with participants from all over the world scrambled to locate a San-Diego local who could be on the ground at the event. Originally, when users participated in a website revolving around the politician character, Harvey Dent (Two Face), they we to capture images to remove pixels and reveal the Joker character and clues. Different online communities with a general interest around The Dark Knight and the Batman Franchise were networked together by user-led contributions (images of captured letters). The promotion of open participation and communal evaluation of revealing the next clue outlines the significance of Bruns’ (2009, 24) principle of inclusivity. Social networks of fan forums, movie networks, comic lovers extended the impact of promotion available to specific communities.

Joker: all round anarchist

The nature of Ledger’s Joker is centered on anarchist ideologies, where the world knows no boundaries or rules. While the fundamentals of the campaign did not follow any traditional format, Why So Serious respected Ledgers passing and toned down the focus on the Joker, and moved to Harvey Dent (Two Face). The rebellious and sadistic nature of content reiterated a loose hierarchy of control as discussed by Bruns (2009, 26).  Virtual communities such as Second Life have taken this concept further determining leadership through a degree of community merit known by Bruns (2009, 26) as Ad hoc meritocracies.

Produsage is no Joking matter

It’s true: produsage is no Joking matter. While this campaign encompasses elements of produsage, it merely offers a light at the end of a very dark tunnel named ‘advertising through social networking’. Produsage outcomes as artefacts rather than products present a dilemmas for advertising agencies wishing to make the transition and target often-unreachable online communities. How will advertisers survive and generate revenue when communities are no longer hierarchal and corporate driven? Advertising has in the past always meant achieving sales. As the medium changes will this philosophy, or will the creative conditions change from traditional methods to interactive, engaging mediums?

Who is part of your posse?

www.posse.com is a free ticketing service, which encompasses peer-to-peer networking, offering a percentage of generated revenue to the user by selling tickets to events to their social network of friends. If you’ve ever been the one to organize tickets for a bunch of friends, and spent numerous pain-staking hours organizing times and money and numbers, you’ll agree that by the end of it all you feel like you deserve a reward – the best thing is, this website does just that.  You win, the company wins, but does the advertiser win? Not necessarily. The emergence of Pro-Ams particularly through websites such as eBay and Amazon, have blurred the lines between professional and amateur. For advertisers this may mean, no matter what medium, users will always fall into some form of hierarchy or are agencies to become non-existent as Pro-Ams generate part of their revenue?

Perhaps this produsage flurry is something advertisers should concentrate on at a community ‘bottom-up’ approach by getting consumers involved in decision-making. Or perhaps the way to the produsers’ heart is by turning an effortless objective on a captivating audience by asking a simple question like, why so serious? But wait a minute, they’ve already done that.. HaHAhA