Etsy, a website which allows users to buy and sell handmade products, provides an instance of DIY culture in the online environment.

Trendwatching, is another example of the produsage DIY culture. Trendwatchers propose upcoming consumer trends including ideas, concepts and inventions.

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Elites vs the rookies. When it comes to produsage who is in what role online?

Increasingly, amateurs are becoming the professionals. In the online environment, the distinction between these two roles are becoming blurred, the gap is bridging between the Pro/Am Divide. They’re becoming the “Pro-Am hybrid” where “innovative, committed and networked amateurs are working to professional standards”  (Bruns 2007, 212;30) . Stemming from citizen journalism, Oh Yeon-ho founded Oh My News, the online newspaper where “every citizen is a reporter”. Only 20 per cent of the online news comes from the emplyed staff (professionals) who simply guide the citizine journalists (amateurs), placing power in the hands of the South Koreans who post news on thte site (Flew 2008, 143). This demonstrates the fluid heterarcy and ad hoc meritocracy reflective of produsage culture, that is the “equal ability to make a worthy contribution” (Bruns 2007, 26).  

Communal evaluation allows for these amateurs to reach their professional potential as they continue to edit, add or contribute to produsage communities. Using myself as an example, I am currently an amateur, but as I continually build upon this blog, with the guidance of tutors, lectures and drawing on relaible sources, learning how others blog, I can begin to develop the quality work expected from pro’s. As long as I persist with my original contributions, I can learn to illustrate professional characteristics. And, as long as I take on board the evaluations from my peers, I can build upon what knowledge I have gained.

ProAm’s take an innovative approach, without the commercial operators, committing to their work and engaging with produsage communities all in the rewards of developing quality outcomes. Bruns (2007, 23) argues “the more participants are able to examine, evaluate, and add to contributions of their predecessors, the more likely an outcome of strong and increasing quality will be”. Take Wikipedia for example, in my post Wikipedia: the best things in life are free… for some, I discussed how those who continue to contribute misinformation become outcast from the community. These outcasts represent amateurs who will remain amateurs until they commit to actively creating usuable material.

Perhaps an exceptional example of the Pro-Am hypbrid is Perez Hilton, a popular culture blogger. Intially Hilton established a blog for personal reflection and opinions on celebrities, which has now evolved into a successful celebrity blogger influencing traditional media channels. This transformation from an amateur to an amateur professional is becoming a common process amongst many bloggers and citizen journalists.

 perez

Although citizens may not have the professional title of a “journalist” nor a degree in journalism, they can still prove to be professional journalists. Amateurs who stay actively involved with produsage, always adding or editing to the produsage process, will reveal themselves a professionals, and be recognised by their peers, as a significant part to the ongoing process of the produsage community. If I establish myself sufficiently in this blog, its possible I’m an AMateur PROfessional. Yet, professionals will always contine to be imperative to the produsage process. As Bruns (2008)argues, “expert knowledge continues to be valued and respected, enabling professional journalists to continue to play a leading role in hybrid models”.

Wikipedia manifests as a significant example of produsage through its open participation and communal evaluation.

It’s a place for collaboration, for editing, for contributing…
It’s demonstrates a key theme of new media: collective intelligence…
It’s a concept which has redefined research, namely the ease of it…
It’s a form of wiki software which serves an instantaneous platform for finding out what you want…

Wikipedia:

“A free encyclopaedia built collaboratively using Wiki software. Wikipedia is an encyclopaedia written collaboratively by many of its readers. It is a special type of website, called a wiki, that makes collaboration easy. Many people are constantly improving Wikipedia, making thousands of changes per hour, all of which are recorded in article histories and recent changes” (Wikipedia.org 2009).

During my high school years Wikipedia was a saviour for researching , as much to the agreement of my fellow peers and siblings. You could search anything on Wikipedia and the collective knowledge about that particular topic would provide a detailed understanding. However it was quickly – to the distraught of many students – banned as a resource for collecting information for assignments due to the ‘unreliability’ of what people added or edited on it. Yet it did prevail as a spot for basic comprehension before attacking assignments. Now, enter my university days and this is promoted as a key wiki/encyclopaedia for understanding the infinitely changing online world.

The issue therefore surrounding this fast-growing information pit stop is the reliability of information added to it, as anyone who has access to the internet has the ability to modify information. Could this be something society should scold for allowing people to rely upon information which could potentially be false, misleading or biased, or should it be praised for bringing people together to collaborate and illustrate collective intelligence, where knowledge is far greater when people collaborate. Wikipedia demonstrates a problem inherent in the Internet as a source of information. According to Graham (in Flew 2008, 28), it is much a “powerful” tool for “missinformation” as it is for knowledge, potentially producing “erroneous belief”. Alternatively, it harnesses collective intelligence – “deriving the benefits of large-scale ongoing participation and use co-creations and peer review of content to continuously improve the quality of the service” (Musser & Reily in Flew 2008, 18).

 In my opinion, Wikipedia has dissolved the physical barriers of learning to catalyse the education of theories, cultures, people, technologies, and business. Whether that be the financial instability of purchasing such books as encyclopaedias, the incapacity to reach other countries, or the general inability to access the right knowledge through libraries, tertiary education etc. It includes an appropriate framework for preventing unscrupulous editors. However, another form of protection comes from the users themselves, possibly being even more effective. Those who try to deceive audiences by adding misleading information become outcast from the Wikipedia community. Due to communal evaluation being an integral concept to produsage, Bruns (2007, 25) finds “participants who consistently make such unusable contributions will also themselves drift to the outside of the community”. I guess those who are dishonest should watch out.

In relation to Public Relations, it has had little impact.  Yet it had the potential to be a crucial instrument for PR practitioners.  Firstly, PR practitioners could utilise Wikipedia as a tool for creating “mutually beneficial relationships” for their clients. PR practitioners could create a wiki page for their clients portraying them in a positive light. Ethical considerations then come into mind as this could indicate an exploitation of Wikipedia for organisational promotion. Nevertheless, PR organisations should begin to contemplate how they can incorporate Wikipedia as a platform for practical communications, in that it can depict their clients constructively. The PR practitioners would then have to keep updating the page and monitor it if any unhappy stakeholders of the client have added detrimental information. Possibly, PR could take it a step further and ask for feedback on clients through their Wikipedia page. On the contrary, could such use of Wikipedia by PR professionals signify an example of the previously mentioned unscrupulous user who will be excluded from the community? Should the PR industry be wary of Wikipedia as an element for communications?

Apparently, yes! Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has previously issued a warning to PR agencies against writing about companies they represent in the popular online encyclopaedia.

Ironically enough, Wikipedia and PR have been influential on a more personal scale. When I began my degree in PR and media & communications, I had no idea what PR really was – not the vaguest, smallest idea. I had only chosen it as a major out of pure elimination of other business majors. When I came to my university orientation day for PR major students, we were asked to write down what we thought it was and share it with other students. I didn’t have the faintest clue what to right down and could not offer my interpretations of public relations. Although other students gave their contributions about PR, I still didn’t comprehend what it involved. Then when I came home, curious as to what PR was (especially as I was going to be studying it for the next four years), I searched on Wikipedia. What a wonder Wikipedia provided. I could now understand what PR was.

There is a flipside to this great space for collaborative knowledge.

After studying PR I have now realised the Wikipedia page for ‘public relations’ provides a very limited approach. It is not what I now know to be as public relations. It provides a generous amount of information about ‘spin’; a term PR has fought for some time now to be abolished for the business industry vocabulary. ‘Spin’ and ‘spin doctors’ are what PR professionals are conveyed as to practice and be; an insult to the profession and industry. Therefore is Wikipedia really advantaging PR as to what people perceive it to be?

This could be due to the differences in opinion across countries as to what public relations is defined as, or it could indicate the need for an update on the page. Maybe it’s time I contribute to the public relations Wikipedia site and edit the page to what I know and have learnt it to be.

So Wikipedia may be this fantastic produsage platform that everyone can use for free… but does it come at a cost for PR as practitioners are “banned” from using it?

Citizen journalism “acts a a corrective and a supplement to the output of commercial, industrial journalism” (Bruns, 69). It consists of three elements, according to Flew (2008, 145); open publishing, collaborative editing and distributed content.

 Mark Glaser suggests one of the main concepts behind citizen journalism is that mainstream media reporters and producers are not the exclusive center of knowledge on a subject — the audience knows more collectively than the reporter alone.

Does this therefore present a new issue or opportunity for PR professionals to embrace? 

As previously noted in the Produsage blog, the online environment opens up a new world of ability for PR.  However, with this also comes the negative facets, particularly in this case the ability to control what citizen journalists place at the centre of their stories. Citizen journalists aim to break news first, challenging the role of their corporate counterpart. Traditionally, PR practitioners would distribute their media releases to maintstream broadcast and print media. It would then depend upon these media organisations whether or not would promote these.

Crisis communication is a difficult aspect for PR experts to perfect , and now with citizen journalism it remains an even more complicated thing to control.  Citizen journalists have the power to continually dissect and examine a PR crisis long after the crisis has occurred. There are no boundaries for time.  Bloggers have the potential to demolish the reputation of large organisation’s or the most favoured celebrity, proving a difficult consideration for PR practitioners to address for their client. PR professionals must implement preventative measures or appropriate reactive practices in crisis communications. On the flipside, however, popular bloggers also have the prospects of enhancing the idenity and image of a PR’s client.

Do PR professionals need to work in alliance with citizen journalists just as they have with traditional journalists? If yes then this could potentially thwart the role citizens journalists have as “playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information”.

Picture this: A person may upload a video on YouTube of their favourite fight scene from a movie. Another person may see this video then make a montage video of their favourite fight scenes using background music they found through a recommendation on last.fm, then upload it onto YouTube. Another user may come across this and find it intriguing so dedicate their daily blog to it. Another person may not find it so interesting so leave a comment on this blog describing their opinion and also link back to the montage video to leave a one-star rating. A fan of the blog may then be very defensive of this person’s comment and comment back. A random user which has come across this blog which is gaining popularity may link to the video then share it with their friends on Twitter. 

Society, particularly those immersed in new media, are witnessing a phenomenon spread across the online environment, permeated through Web 2.0. No longer are people on the receiving end of power-led produced content.

They are consuming then regurgitating. They are engaging then appropriating. They are creating then publishing then criticising then adapting.
They are produsing.

Society originally perceived traditional forms of production where the industrial model of production began with a producer, transferred to the distributor, then consumed by the consumer. It was a linear framework, with limited innovation and collaboration. The new model of produsage, however, defines a concept of creativity and collective intelligence. Axel Bruns coined the term ‘produsage’ describing it as ‘collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further’ .

The Produser

On personal levels, masses of internet users are contributing to produsage and are therefore engaged in the limitless produsage process. When people create a facebook page and interact with other users, connecting with more people they are produsing. When users design their own blog and receive comments or comment on other blogs they are produsing. When people provide feedback on forums as to how an online movie can be improved they are produsing. It’s one infinite process.

However, it’s relevance to PR is currently stunted as many PR practitioners find it difficult to accommodate the concept and practice it in their work. Yet, in these dark clouds for the PR industry, there is a website paving the way for the produsage process in PR. PitchEngine is a “social platform to quickly and easily create, host, and share visually rich and dynamic Social Media Releases”. It ignores traditional PR tactics and engages audiences, to not only consume the content but to contribute. Unlike old media releases where receivers simply had to consume the content in a rigid process, PitchEngine allows flexibility for the creator and the audience. The site allows PR practitioners to incorporate applications such as YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter into their media releases, always building upon them. In summary, PitchEngine is “a social platform that enables PR to effectively package stories and share them with journalists, bloggers and influencers worldwide via the social web”.

So produsage does have a place in the PR indsutry, it’s simply about discovering how to and where to incorporate it.

 pitchengine

 

“Good morning starshine, the earth says hello” (Johnny Depp in the 2005 Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and ‘Hair’ musical)

As a third-year student of Public Relations and Media & Communications, the following blog operates around a piece of assessment I am obliged to execute. It focuses upon New Media and incorporates academic work, research and my own opinion.