The new cyber realm of DIY opportunities

Some of you may recognise the growing trend increasingly evident in my posts; a supportive swing towards collaborative produsage and participatory digital networking systems. These concepts are those which underpin this weeks post – here we explore the concept of DIY design enabled through online functions and tools, growing increasingly popular in the materialisation and marketing of physical products.

 

Rushkoff (cited in Bruns 2008, 387) argues “the rise of interactive media does provide us with the beginnings of new metaphors for cooperation, new faith in the power of networked activity and new evidence of our ability to participate actively in the authorship of our collective destiny”. This is elaborated by Jenkins (cited in Bruns 2008, 388) who believes “produsage and its technologies advance processes of convergence, and are involved in a range of crucial conflicts over the shape and balance of our future technological, industrial, economic, cultural, and social environments”.

 

Such evidence is seen through the publication of Australian Better Homes and Gardens Magazine (ABHG), available in online format and highly supportive of users’ collaborative participation. The lifestyle magazine itself is founded on DIY tips for any tasks related to the house, garden or kitchen, so it is to be expected that produsers are intended to use the shared information to apply in a physical sense. Operating on produsage principles, “user innovation communities…develop a collection of information and knowledge sufficient to allow for the industrial production of goods” (von Hippel 2005). With areas of the ABHG site dedicated solely to “DIY & deco” and video streamed cookery (“Cooking with Karen“), users proactively engage in a form of participatory culture where DIY design and the change of artefacts into physical products is a likely outcome. Here, produsage emerges as the vital function enabling the dissemination and far-reaching scope of collaborative intelligence we so often take for granted. Bruns agrees, reasoning “the industrial process is neither the natural nor necessarily the most productive or socially beneficial approach imaginable” (Bruns 2008, 388) for creating content and exchanging information.

 

Would there be a need for blog forums if the information being discussed wasnt relevant to the interests of participating produsers? Would there be a market for the Australian recipe magazine, Donna Hay, if readers weren’t interested in cooking, nor considered applying the recipes published to their own homecooked meals? The “style ideas” area of this website is a DIY dream, where produsers have access to user-generated styling tips for entertainment, food and drink, tabletop, lighting and celebrations to apply to industrial materialisation. Produsers access these sites to collaborate and apply shared intelligence to industrial models; this is seen through such websites as LonelyPlanet, where travellers have wide access to rich information regarding global destinations contributed at the discretion of previous travellers to the area. In this manner, interactive media and produsage enable understanding and preperation of a culture before a traveller has experienced it, informing the reader on ‘must-see spots’, ‘danger-zones’, good restaurants, cheap accomodation and social customs, allowing produsers to apply this from cyber intelligence to physical actualisation.

 

“Overall, then, because they are infused with information, even in such non-intangible, physical realms of collaborative and innovative research, design, and development, produsage may have its place” (Bruns 2008, 391). Certainly in the online magazine industry this is seen, and will continue to proliferate as growing numbers of produsers embrace the capabilities of shared intelligence in the formation of DIY ideas to material creation.

 

REFERENCES

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

Jenkins, H. cited in A, Bruns. 2008. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

Rushkoff, D. cited in A. Bruns. 2008. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

von Hippel, E. 2005. Democratizing Innovation. Cambridge: MIT Press.

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Expert or amateur?

What  distinguishes an expert from an amateur? An increased underpinning of knowledge? More reliable foundations of education? Or even a piece of paper awarding someone a ‘degree’ after years of study? In my opinion, it is the user popularity and scope of reach distinguishing an amateur from a professional in the online arena. Today’s post will explore Bruns’ juxtaposition of am/pro divide between produsers, demonstrating that professionals are not always the graduates with qualifications framed on the wall.
 
Bruns (2008, 199) theorises that the contribution of co-produsers to knowledge sharing websites evidences “a kind of folk intelligence: a manifestation of the Web population’s collective intelligence which…is now becoming increasingly visible and accessible”. This is seen through examples such as Wikipedia, as discussed in last week’s post “Society’s misconceptions about Wikipedia: the hidden fountain of knowledge”. Resultingly, this folksonomy deregulates the barriers for contribution, flattening the structure into a heterarchy, and effectively rejecting expert knowledge. Here, it is argued “Such denigration or denial of a previously established and externally accredited status of expertise in a given field of knowledge is directly related to the existence of alternative internal processes for the acknowledgement of contributor merit and the development of largely merocratic heterarchies within produsage” (Bruns 2008, 199). Simply, why be informed solely by “the experts in topical fields”, when knowledge is accessible through countless other portals and informed individuals.
 
For industries such as print magazine production, this may be capitalised upon. Although the expert prescribers in this field are qualified journalists, magazines are seeing a growing trend toward information seeking from inexpert sources, that in fact provide readers greater depth, understanding, and differing perspective towards issues than an expert may. This is seen through regular monthly print articles of Hamish Blake , a comedian, published in popular Australian women’s magazine, Cosmopolitan. Further, this magazine understands the growing user involvement in online convergence culture and networked intelligence, and has established the Cosmo blog, whereby Cosmopolitan journalists offer basic posts about everyday life topics, and users respond. Even print sources heavily relied upon as trustworthy, reliable, and expert delivery of news recognise this social trend. The Queensland Courier Mail newspaper features a regular blog segment, Emily Everwhere, from 104.5 MMM radio presenter, Emily-Jade O’Keeffe, demonstrating that a university degree in journalism isnt always going to get you acclaim; sometimes its just quick wit, interesting ideas and popularity with the crowds.
 
What must be understood by expert prescribers is that although their opinion is trusted and sought widely in the outside world, proceedings within the cyber realm construct entirely new barriers, and “the question thus becomes one of whether even bona fide experts in a field will need to once again earn their status” (Bruns 2008, 199). Essentially ‘real world’ experts should engage old habits and earn  ‘expert status’ in the digital sphere as well if they wish their online opinion to be valued here; as instantaneous status here cannot be automatically assumed when operating between two very contrasting landscapes.
 
As university students, we should consider this perspective. Although a degree may not get us where we want to be in the long run, with technological developments constantly progressing and demand expanding for collaborative intelligence by amateur networks, we see who really are the experts in the new digital economy.
 
 
REFERENCES
Bruns, A. 2008. Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage. New York: Peter Lang Publishing.

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“Society’s misconceptions about Wikipedia: the hidden fountain of knowledge”

As has been an emerging theory through discussions posted on this blog, citizen journalism and produsage have enabled collaborative participation in online communities. Today’s post will discuss the advantages of online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, traditionally discredited as an academically reliable source. This will be linked to the impact on the print press industry, and encourage debate and discussion from readers.

 

In today’s digital arena barriers are desensitised, hierarchies are becoming fluid heterarchies, the user is the ‘produser’, and collaborative intelligence is paramount. Most information is attainable from search engines such as Google, or Dogpile, and unknown terms can be clarified and researched through the functions of Wikipedia. This platform enables instant links to any article, as well as links to similar articles or topics of mention, followed with a legitimate reference to the source used. There are currently over 2.8 million Wikipedia articles available in English, and millions others published in foreign languages. Contrary to ideologies, the scope of topics, instantaneous access to information, and ease of navigation through the website mark Wikipedia as one of the most commonly referred to sources of information. The wordpress blog discussions of Lisa Spiroargue the increasing academic reliability of Wikipedia articles, evidenced through a survey displaying the growing number of academic sources citing them.

 

 

 Creators of the Wikipedia portal define several key principles that the management of the website and contribution of articles work around, in an attempt to monitor reliability of contributive intelligence:

  • Neutral point of view
  • Verifiability
  • No original research 
  • Naming conventions
  • Civility
  • Harrasment; no legal threats
  • Consensus

These policies and guidelines provide a framework for users to work around and respect, intended to work democratically and systematically. Loopholes will arise in any system, however… 

 

In early May of 2009, an Irish student posted a false comment about a recently deceased composer, as an experiment about the effects of globalisation (The Irish Times.com). Despite the efforts of Wikipedia administrators to delete the unreferenced material, the student continued reposting it till it remained on the site for a period of about 24 hours, providing enough time for journalists writing obituaries on the composer to copy and paste it. The Irish Times reports, “It was posted on the online encyclopedia shortly after his death and later appeared in obituaries published in the Guardian, the London Independent, on the BBC Music Magazine website and in Indian and Australian newspapers.” This doesn’t reflect poorly upon Wikipedia, but instead challenges the ethical practice of traditional journalists and creates doubt in readers of print media as to the academic reliability and credibility of cited sources. 

 

There is no need to discredit Wikipedia academically for these holes in the system, as even when considering this example, users will always find ways to penetrate the boundaries established, and identify weaknesses in different systems. As demonstrated, Wikipedia has established policies to dictate appropriate behaviour, and set measures to encourage legitimate citing of sources. Ultimately, it is the prerogative of users to establish whether they can move past the ‘unreliable’ label awarded to Wikipedia for so long, and start to recognise the benefits of a program with thousands of cited links to legitimate and relevant sources. Perhaps we should start paying more attention to the information reported in newspapers though…..

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Citizen journalism v. traditional magazine journalism: threat or phenomenon?

Freedom of speech and thought may prove to be dangerous privileges in today’s modern marketplace. The notion of Produsage and it’s minimal barriers to content creation and ownership were explored through last week’s blog. In todays issue, I will explore another key issue discussed in KCB201, “Citizen Journalism”.

 

Citizen or participatory journalism is defined as “the act of a citizen, or group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information…to provide independent, reliable, accurate, wide-ranging and relevant information that a democracy requires” (Bowman and Willis 2003 cited in Flew 2008, 144).  Korean citizen journalism site, “OhMyNews” dons the slogan “every citizen is a journalist”. Simply, a citizen journalist is a member of society (produser) who contributes their personal views or understanding about a topic in an online post formatted similarly to an article. Knowledge conveyed through these posts generally adopts a professional stance, however may not be accurate, relevant or reliable, as it has emanated from an unreliable source.

 

This sits in stark opposition to material produced by magazine journalists, and it is imperative to draw a clear line of distinction between roles. This is intended in no way to challenge the academic or educational value of citizen journalist material, however it must be recognised that traditional journalists possess the skills and qualifications gained through years of study and training that the predominance of citizen journalists lack. Further, magazine journalists are paid for their creation of material, gathered from reliable sources. Therefore it is not a hobby, but a career that is in many cases improved upon through years of expertise, education and experience in a field with large exposure to fellow practitioners.

 

Contrastingly, citizen journalism maintains strong advantages, as content is produced at the prerogative of the author, rather than the wishes of a large magazine company. Content is not monitored and modified to suit business models/views, but to suit the needs and beliefs of the citizen journalist and their readers. The speed of internet news is unparalleled, and in a matter of minutes, a news issue may be globalised through citizen journalism coverage in Twitter posts. Alternatively, magazine journalists must submit content that is managed on a deadline basis, only published on specific dates, rather than as news breaks. The news is not coming from their source firsthand by this stage, and the novelty of magazine journalist articles has worn off for readers.

 

Furthermore, a citizen journalist is compelled to contribute to topics they deem relevant, thus attracting input from professionals from niche fields. Expertise in citizen journalism is seen through the works of finance expert and dot-com billionaire, Mark Cuban on his blog “BlogMaverick”. Here, personal experience trumps as more reliable than the material of a journalist writing about a multitude of issues of the publication’s choice. 

 

Magazine and print press journalism has suffered major blows through the technological revolution, with many publishers losing large portions of yearly revenue since the trend towards online data access and integration. These findings are evidenced in a number of bookmarked websites available on my personal Del.ici.ous web page. Many journalists are merging their abilities to suit the large trend towards internet consumption, however it is made increasingly difficult to attract consumer dollars towards online magazine content when there is citizen journalists producing their own content for free, available through a variety of formats and mediums, and easily accessible.  Thus, freedom here threatens the role of traditional journalism, and magazine journalists work harder in an attempt to maintain their career and role in society. 
 
 
In the new economy in which we find ourselves, there is a large drive for instant access to data and deregulated barriers to news dissemination. The success of citizen journalism is clear, however is it fair to strip the jobs once traditionally dedicated only to trained writers in journalistic areas such as magazine production, or should we embrace the changes new media allows? ….
 
 
REFERENCES
Bowman. S., and C. Willis. cited in T. Flew. 2008. New Media: An Introduction. 3rd Ed. South Melbourne: Oxford University Press.

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Produsage – the realities of a new digital era

In the digital era in which we live, access to information is invaluable, avenues are numerous, boundaries are becoming increasingly difficult to distinguish, and networking with contacts continues to proliferate. Technological advancements have improved the functions of web 1.0 to 2.0, with a noticeable shift from web-generated content to unlimited access by any users. Web 2.0 provides internet users the ability to larger access to varieties of content, in an increasingly deregulated arena, where user contribution is enabled and encouraged. The distinct differences between web 1.0 to web 2.0 are highlighted in Carmode and Krishnamurthy’s (2008) peer reviewed online journal, “Key Differences between web 1.0 and web 2.0“. This journal nominates increased social networking, improved web site design and useability, and collaboration in content creation as key functions present in web 2.0 that were not available in the former. Increasingly, users are encouraged to participate in web contexts that exude limitless information access and deregulate ownership and content creation boundaries.

This accurately describes ‘produsage’ – a term supported by QUT professor, Axel Bruns. Bruns incorporates this onto his personal blog ‘Snurb‘, as “Relations between brands and their users continue to be affected by a traditional perspective that sees the producers and consumers of goods and services as inherently different animals. In the emerging information and knowledge economy, and especially in online contexts, this model is no longer sustainable. Instead, spearheaded by the Web 2.0 phenomenon, there is a trend towards the fusing of production and usage as a new, hybrid process of produsage (Hamburg 2009). Prosumers (consumers of produsage) are the collaborative users of content, where their contribution extends scope of research, variety of information platforms available, increases ideas networking and allows collaborative participation with fellow prosumers. Bruns theorises that 4 key principles apply in the produsage environment, regardless of the objects behind the collaborative purpose:

  1. Open Participation, Communal Evaluation
  2. Fluid Heterarchy, Ad Hoc Meritocracy
  3. Unfinished Artefacts, Continuing Process
  4. Common Property, Individual Rewards

Produsage possesses noticeable benefits – the desensitisation of content opens numerous portals for prosumers to share and contribute to discussions of interest. As shared intelligence proliferates, so too do ideas and notions, and essentially, the open participation component allows prosumers free insight to a number of thought avenues they may not have considered. This is evidenced through websites such as Delicious, where websites are bookmarked and tagged with relevant descriptive labels that any user may access and share. Futher, the ‘work of art’ nature embedded in the produsage concept means that all entries are ‘unfinished artefacts’, and may be continued upon, mistakes edited, changed, deleted, enhanced, added to and cross-referenced at any time by an author. Bruns’ concept of ‘fluid heterarchy’ in the key principles enables all users instant and unbiased collaboration abilities, where the heirarchy structure is disassembled to allow prosumers equal access rights to content.

Alternatively, however, produsage tends to eliminate barriers of authorship and content creation, drawing on Bruns’ fourth key principle, ‘common property’. In platforms where data is produced through a shared effort, ownership cannot be attributed to one creator, and editing is done at the discretion of all users. This is seen in websites such as Wikipedia, where articles that are produced may be edited or even completely deleted by other prosumers within the Wikipedia network. Information here is added according to the findings or personal beliefs of individual authors and may or may not be academically reliable. Creative Commons licenses may not be sought to copyright information that has been collaboratively produced, therefore ownership issues arise from produsage.

Essentially, web enhancement has introduced users to much-anticipated developments in web access and participation. Resultingly, advantages and disadvantages are evident from any occurrence such as this, however it is the prerogative of the prosumer whether he/she decides to take advantage of produsage benefits in web 2.0, or prefers older style systems that inhibit creative contribution, but protect ownership.

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