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Produsage is a portmanteau of the words "production" and "usage", popularized by Australian media scholar Axel Bruns in the book "Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage". Produsage refers to the type of user-led content creation that takes place in a variety of online environments such as Wikipedia, open source software, and the blogosphere.[1] The concept blurs the boundaries between passive consumption and active production. The distinction between producers and consumers or users of content has faded, as users also play the role of producers whether they are aware of this role or not.[2][3] The hybrid term produser refers to an individual who is engaged in the activity of produsage. This concept is similar and related to commons-based peer production, a term coined by Yochai Benkler.

Characteristics of produsage[edit]

According to Bruns, produsage has four defining features: 1) Open participation and communal evaluation; 2) Fluid heterarchy through ad hoc meritocracies; 3) Palimpsestic unfinished artifacts in a continuing process; and 4) Common property and individual rewards.[4]

Open participation[edit]

A key characteristic of produsers is that they collaborate to create content rather than working as individuals. The creation of a content is frequently done by a number of different users rather than one single author.[5] The existing materials are then open to evaluation and further development by other members of the community. The produsage environment often encourages collaborative engagement by having preconfigured tools or architectural structures that enables a open discussion about the material.[6] An example of this discussion feature is the Wikipedia Talk page which facilitates an open discussion between among users in evaluating the quality of work created by previous users.[4]

Participation in a produsage model is also voluntary, and task selection is organized on a modularization of granular tasks that can be self-selected rather than as a predetermined division of labor.[7]

Fluid heterarchy and holoptism[edit]

Another characteristic of a produsage environment is that there is often no clear hierarchy or centralized leadership in place. In order for produsage sites to function, they need to attract a large number of participants thus arise the need for balancing between open participation of the users and sense of cohesion without being oversight by other individuals.[6] Bruns identifies the balance of governance in produsage sites as fluid heterarchies organized through ad hoc meritocracies. This means that governance is not formalized but based on an ad hoc principle of a heterarchical regime. For example, administrators can be chosen at random or chosen based on seniority in terms of the amount and quality of their existing contributions. An 'ad hoc' or temporary 'benevolent dictator' may also arise from the community with limited power through a voting system.[4]

Community leaders or administrators are thus chosen based on merits and only tentative. Their leadership is only recognized as long as they respect the heterarchical power structure of the produsage model.[1] While traditional corporate production is based on panopticism, where a few leaders watch over the production process, the produsage model employs a holoptic approach.[7] This dictates that information must be available to all users and participants, and any contributions but be watched over by the whole community, which eliminates uncertainty and ambiguity [8]

Palimpsestic artifacts and granularity[edit]

In relations to open participation and communal evaluation is that a produsage content is often unfinished and in a continuous process of development. Since virtually all users can contribute to an existing content, there is always motivation to further improve upon it. Bruns identifies this characteristics as a stigmergic collaboration,[4] with the example of a Wikipedia article being likened to a 'mark' or a palimpsest: a repeatedly over-written, multi-layered piece of document.[6] Any user can have access to palimpsest and add on their contribution to the original mark. Most often, the produsage sites would offer the architectural tools to record the history of development of the materials, thus users are able to trace back the evaluation of materials through its various stages. An example is the produsage site ccMixter,[6] a community music site using open source multimedia management system to allow users to create music remixes. The site allows the tools for retracing the music track back to its original form.

In order for a production to be palimsestic, the goal for its content must be granular, which means that it must be divisible into different components each of which can be individually and independently produced by different users. This allows for the accumulation of skills and knowledge from a diverse background, rather than from a concentrated number of producers [9]

Common property, individual rewards[edit]

Bruns argues that with the creation of collaborative contents, strict enforcement of conventional intellectual property rights is likely to stifle the palimsestic collaboration of users to work on the materials of their predecessors. On the other hand, completely discharging all materials created in the public domain would be refusing the produsers the acknowledgement and recognition of their work.[6] Thus an alternative to imposing intellectual property recognition is needed for a produsage site to function.[5] Bruns states that a produsage content is treated as common property and that each constructive contributor will be able to receive individual reward from their collaboration.

Motivation for contributions, however, is not always determined by legal ownership of the contents but in other aspects, such as the sense of communal participation. Bruns identifies an informal, individual merit system for rewards in Wikipedia of experiencing a sense of seniority for the amount and quality of contributions.[4]

Examples of produsage[edit]

  • Wikipedia was used by Bruns as a primary example for qualifying important characteristics of a produsage model.[1]
  • Open source software with its source code made available for which the copyright holder provides the rights to change the software to anyone and for any purpose.[10]
  • ccMixter, a community music sites that allows collaborative music remixing [11]
  • Citizen journalism websites such as Slashdot and Indymedia
  • Clickworkers a small NASA experimental project that uses public volunteers for scientific tasks
  • The online community call The Exchange of The Sims, an online simulation video game [12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Bruns, Axel (2007). "Produsage: Towards a Broader Frameworkfor User-Led Content Creation". Creativity and Cognition: Proceedings of the 6th ACM SIGCHI conference on Creativity & cognition, ACM, Washington, DC.: 99. 
  2. ^ Volker Wittke and Heidemarie Hanekop; Volker Wittke, Heidemarie Hanekop (2011). New Forms of Collaborative Innovation and Production on the Internet. Universitätsverlag Göttingen. p. 158. ISBN 978-3-86395-020-0. 
  3. ^ "Produsers and Produsage | Snurblog". 2006-03-25. Retrieved 2012-11-16. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Bruns, Axel (2008). Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond. From Production to Produsage. Peter Lang. p. 21. ISBN 978-0-8204-8866-0. 
  5. ^ a b Bruns, Axel (2008). "The Future Is User-Led: The Path towards Widespread Produsage". Fiber Cultural Journal 11. Retrieved 16 February 2013. 
  6. ^ a b c d e "idc_texts: Some Exploratory Notes on Produsers and Produsage". Retrieved 2013-02-16. 
  7. ^ a b Bauwens, Michael. "Peer to Peer and Human Happiness". 
  8. ^ Bauwens, Michel. "Peer to Peer and Human Evolution". Retrieved 28 March 2013. 
  9. ^ Benkler, Yochai (2002). "Coase's Penguine, or Lenox and The Nature of Firm". The Yale Law Journal 112. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Bruns, Axel (2008). "Reconfiguring Television for a Networked, Produsage Context". Media International Australia incorporating Culture and Policy 128. Retrieved 15 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Bruns, Axel (2010). "From Reader to Writer: Citizen Journalism as News Produsage". International Handbook of Internet Research: 119. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  12. ^ Destiny. "The Sims - Produsage at Its Finest". Retrieved 3 April 2013.