Monthly Archives: May 2009

Produsage future: what it means for us

(Warning: Just would like to confess that I might make money from this…I’ll explain below…)

The concept of produsage does seem to be working in places like Wikipedia where what the people are trading with run%20rhino%20hires%202each other are information and ideas. But what happens when this comes into the real world? An innovative example is Threadless, an online t-shirt franchise which prints designs that are submitted by users then rated through other users to determine its wear-worthiness. Those whose ideas are accepted by the community and get their design printed not only gain recognition, but get paid actual cash. This is a prime example of “turning artefacts into products” which Bruns (2008) talks about where “a number of ‘user innovation communities’ …develop a collection of information and knowledge sufficient to allow for the industrial production of physical goods”. As more consumers voice their desires and demands to producers businesses are starting notice and take a turn in the way they do things (e.g. Dell). So what kind of implications does this have for us?

What does it mean…

…for consumers?

Consumers will get to have more of a say in what they want and be able to participate in the production process. With the example of threadless, people not only get to be designers (create the design for shirt), but also are able to be fashion critiques (score and comment on it to advise the designer), models (post photos of them wearing the shirt) and part of the advertising team (by posting or sending a link to threadless to promote the website). More user participation means more brand loyalty; as people will feel more attached to the product if they have a stake in the production (Norman 2004).

…for businesses?

 They will need to open their doors for user participation, and be genuine in their efforts to benefit consumers. People have to come to respect Threadless because their owners prioritise the benefits of the communities they foster and retained their independence from investors in order to ensure customer interests always go first. With this new business model, placing profit-margins over the needs of consumers will be suicide. Only through the support of the community, creating, collaborating, monitoring, and refining ideas will the business strive. Of course, there are some limitations for produsage in the physical production (e.g. the actual shirts getting made) which will have to be covered by manufacturers and service providers (Bruns 2008). But if these trends continue, what and how these products and services are made will be directed by consumers, not the businesses, and businesses will merely be facilitators of this proccess (Owyang 2009).

…for advertisers/marketing/communicators?

I’m guessing most of my readers are communications students and therefore wondering where they fit in with this produsage business mix. According to Jeremiah Owyang (2009), in the future PR practitioners will turn their focus from representing brands to representing communities. According to him, instead of persuading people to buy/support certain brands, marketing roles will change into those where they step-in for communities with certain demands for a product/service and communicate them to businesses who will then have to meet them. I think this view is interesting but still seperates the producer/consumer divide. If the produsage model was fully adopted, the users will be the primary advertisers. Word-of-mouth and viral marketing are powerful tools that Threadless has tapped into with their ‘street team’ intiative that actually pays users to spread the word. That’s right folks, if you click here and then actually went ahead and bought a shirt from the site, I get $1.50 credit for the sale! (hey, at least i’m being honest).

 So would this mean an end to Advertising/Marketing/PR practitioners?? Probably not. I think brand image will still be something that will be powerful and have to be maintained, and those in the IMC/PR profession will probably still have to come up with ways that will attract the most interest, foster and maintain relations, and provide the tools which produsers and producers will be communicating through. In the end, whether we’re buying shirts with our slogan, orchestrating a new e-business, or promoting a brand we like, we’ll all be playing our part in the produsage process and being a part of a community of collaborators. Want to join the club?

References

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

Linderman, M. 2008. 7 Reasons why Threadless rules. http://www.37signals.com/svn/posts/68-7-reasons-why-threadless-rules (accessed May 25 2009).

Norman, D. A. 2004. Design & Emotion.http://www.design-emotion.com/2004/12/15/getting-emotional-with-donald-norman/ (Accessed 25 May 09).

Owyang, J. 2009. Future of PR: When Agencies Represent Communities –Not Brands. http://www.web-strategist.com/blog/2009/03/29/future-of-pr-when-agencies-represent-communities-not-brands/ (accessed 25 May 09)

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Malcolm Turnbull and Blogs about Dogs

Thought I’d share this just for fun. Check out: Malcolm Turnbull MP > Dog Blogs This is part of the official website for Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull, where the minister blogs, well, quite literally about his dogs! Or more like on behalf of his dogs…here’s an excerpt:

They say chocolate isn’t good for dogs and unfortunately I think our owners tend to agree. But Daisy more than made it up to us over the Easter long weekend by taking all four of us doggies (I think we may have even outnumbered the humans) on an excursion to the country.

dog

It’s an interesting way that new media has been taken up by a politician. I guess it makes it more personalised and make him seem more personable. It’s not just about winning votes from Dog-lovers, but creating an image that goes away from the hard and crusty politician. However, some critics say it’s just a publicity stunt. Whether it’s effective or not in the long-run, I’m not sure (but he does get comments). And whether the NLP leader himself reports on the blog is even more doubtful (of course not, it’s his dogs that write it dummy!) It did, however, change my perception of the politician. Well, maybe I’m just a sucker for dogs…

What do you think about politicians blogging about their dogs?

Think not what the internet can do for you…

The other week, one of the guys from my Uni class made a Facebook group for the subject so people could share information about how to study for this exam. (for his privacy i won’t link the site) He used the space so people could share their notes and resources and it was really interesting how people came to participate so freely, while others just joined the group and didn’t contribute (I plead guilty). But the biggest contributor was the creator of the group himself, and for that many (including me) were grateful. I admired and was challenged by how he was freely sharing information for the benefit of the community, without requiring people to give anything back to him.

Feeding the internet or feeding off the internet?

As discussed in previous blogs the opportunities for more people to contribute online has expanded. New media surpasses many barriers that traditional media has, allowing peer-to-peer communication, convenience to access information, open interactivity, etc. (Flew 2008). However, studies have found that 90% of internet users are mere ‘lurkers’ rather than contributors, where only 0.2% out of the millions of users of Wikipedia actually contribute to the site. Further, two-thirds of the edits done in the site are done by a mere 0.003% of the most devout contributors. So who are these hard-core contributors and what makes them different to the majority?

 Pro-Ams: nerds with a cause

With the internet breaking down the barriers and hierarchies of traditional mediums, allowing anyone to contribute, there has been an emergence of experts called the ‘Pro-Ams’ who dominate the majority of online content. Leadbeater and Miller (2004 cited in Flew 2007) define Pro-Ams as “innovative, commited and networked amateurs working to professional standards”. So in simple terms: they are nerds. But I’m not saying that in a patronising way; ever since Bill Gates, I think it’s become apparent that nerds are cool .  This is because they’re usually very knowledgable about a range of topics or very informed about a particular topic, and now web2.0 allows them to share their wealth of knowledge for the common good. But just putting a lot of information out there doesn’t make it valuable. The internet isn’t just some kind of data-processing machine, but a common meeting place for an inter-connected community of people. And those who acknowledge that and contribute in a way to build, refine, and deepen communal knowledge will be the ones who get the most respect from their fellow produsers (Bruns 2007). But not everyone can pull that off, and hence we have this “participation inequality” discussed above.

I’m not an expert! What knowledge can I share?

So what do I have to offer the world wide web of knowledge? I don’t think I know enough about anything worth sharing…Yet equipotentiality suggests “that while the skills and abilities of all participants in the produsage project are not equal, they have an equal ability to make a worthy contribution to the project” (Brun, 2007. p.23). We’ve all got our own experiences and interests, and tend to be well informed about things we like; even if it’s just knowing where the best coffee is served in Uni (oh please do tell!). Furthermore, since the quality of information is defined by the community sometimes it might be just finding that group of people who holds a common interest with you. And who knows, you may just know something that may serve a specific need to a particular group at a particular time. It was certainly the case with the uni students’ Facebook group; and perhaps these new media blogs are examples of it too.

Reference

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

Flew, T. 2008. New Media: an introduction. 3rd Ed. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press

Nielsen, J.(2006) Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute. http://www.useit.com/alertbox/participation_inequality.html (accessed 20 may 2009).

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4 wise ways to wield Wikipedia

Recently, an Irish student put a fake quote on a Wikipedia entry for a French composer, which got used by several obituaries on mainstream newspapers (Student’s Wikipedia hoax dupes newspapers). He was doing it for a social experiment and was pretty surprised how far it had gone, eventually emailing the newspapers himself to tell them the quote was fabricated by him. The journalists would have gotten into a lot of trouble for misusing the online encyclopaedia as a reliable source – but how does one correctly approach Wikipedia?  

Wikipedia – love it or hate it, it is one of the most popular and resourceful sites today; catering for over 200 languages, with over 2 million articles just in English covering topics from Britney to Bronchitis . But problems like the sham composer quote arise when people expect the online encyclopaedia to be something that it’s not – a totally reliable, credible academic resource. Even the creators of the site warns students not to cite it for their papers as an academic source. Because that’s not what Wikipedia is for, nor does it claim to be so (for more on what Wikipedia is not go here).

 So what is Wikipedia’s true purpose? Bruns (2008, p.103) claims that the collaborative online encyclopaedia’s aim is to present representations of knowledge, which, unlike traditional encyclopaedias, does not try to “encapsulate the current state of accepted knowledge itself”.  What this means is that the articles are an aggregation of information that represent what is known by people of a particular subject, which is continuously updated as new or different information is found. To achieve this, it  incorporates the “open participation and communal evaluation” principles of Produsage by allowing anyone to edit (Bruns 2008, p.103). 

Obviously, as discussed above, there’s been a lot of crticism by people’s misconception of Wikipedia, but in this blog let’s have look at a few unique benefits of checking out Wikipedia.

Here are four correct ways to approach Wikipedia:

  1.  As a starting point to research: Two of the major principles of Wikipedia are called ‘No Original Research and Verifiability where contributors are prohibited to present their own ideas or conclusions and are required to cite other sources instead. Therefore, what they have are “second or third-hand summaries…[that] are excellent starting points for learning about something” (Liu 2007). The articles are easier to find, read and understand than traditional textbooks, online thesises, etc. and can often lead to more credible resources through its reference lists.
  2. To get an unbiased view: The other major principle of Wikipedia is Neutral Point of View where it allows multiple perspectives to be presented without favouring one or the other. This is done by allowing users to add different perspectives, as long as they’re verifiable,  and monitored through community evaluation so that one perspective is not valued as valid over the other (Bruns 2007, p.131). Because the source of information is more decentralised, it is more likely that you will get the full picture rather than one POV which you’re more likely to get through blogs or organisational websites.
  3. To find information on contemporary and unique topics:  Because it allows easy editing without limitations of time-consuming review processes or print and distribution processes, often the most up-to-date information is found on Wikipedia and Liu (2007) cliams it can often have comprehensive coverage on very recent topics, often from popular culture and technology. Some acamedics have even referred to Wikipedia to describe participatory culture and contemporary cultural opinion (Spiro 2008). However, again because these articles are not conclusive it is advised to carefully check the ‘history’ and ‘discussion’ tabs to evaluate the validity of information (Liu 2007). You can also find information on the most obscure topics as well, which may not be covered by traditional encyclopaedic sources.
  4. To be part of a knowledge-sharing community: Finally, Wikipedia is in the end about a online community that is passionate about sharing knowledge. While it is argued that most contributions are made by a minimal critical mass, the quality of the site will improve as more users contribute to refine the content (Brusn 2007, p.111).  To encourage this, Wikipedia encourages more people to take part in bettering the site through providing tutorials and tips on how to contribute to articles.

So why not visit the site to give, rather than to take, for a change?

Reference

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

Brisbane Times. 2009. Student’s Wikipedia hoax dupes newspapers. http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/technology/students-wikipedia-hoax-dupes-newspapers-20090507-aw7k.html (accessed 9 May 2009).

Liu, A. 2007. Course Materials:Student Wikipedia Use Policy. http://www.english.ucsb.edu/faculty/ayliu/courses/wikipedia-policy.html (accessed 11 May 2009).

Patrick. 2006. Founder of Wikipedia Advise Against Academic Use of Wiki. http://kairosnews.org/founder-of-wikipedia-advises-against-academic-use-of-wiki (Accessed 10 May 2009).

Spiro, L. 2008. Is Wikipedia Becoming  a Respectable Academic Source? http://digitalscholarship.wordpress.com/2008/09/01/is-wikipedia-becoming-a-respectable-academic-source/  (accessed 10 May 2009).

 

 

Citizen Journalism: Proceed with evaluation

Did you hear that Steve Jobs had a heart-attack?

Of course you didn’t; because it wasn’t true. But last year, a fake or misinformed report on the ill health of the CEO of Apple prompted a momentary plunge of it’s stock before official sources rectified the false alarm. The market regained itself after the clear up, but it showed how much people were taking information on the net for granted.

The misleading report was posted on CNN’s iReport, where anyone is allowed to post “Unedited. Unfiltered. News”. The website embraces a growing online phenomenon called “citizen journalism” which has been defined by Bowman and Wills (2003 cited in Flew 2008, 144) as “the act of a citizen, or a group of citizens, playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and infroamtion”. As I mentioned in my last blog post on becoming a produser, with the rise of new media technologies, more and more people are able to state their voice to the public. But the downside of letting everyone and anyone have a say is, as the fake Steve Jobs heart-attack news showed, how do we know if we can trust what they say?

Before we believe anything we read on the internet, there are few evaluations we can do to determine the reliability of the information, and the QUT Library site gives a pretty comprehensive list of things to consider, but here are some major points:

  1. Research what others have said about the same topic
  2. Regard the credibility of the person who posted the information
  3. Check their references (and do they have any in the first place?)

But trying to do this alone means, at least for me, it’s going to take more time and effort. Sure it’s important to get your facts right, but it is easier if the journo’s did all the research, pursued interviews, and went to the scene of crime, while I just have to sit on my couch and listen to their 30 second run-down of their essential findings… However as the limitations of professional journalists become clearer, more people are turning to citizen journalism for the ‘whole truth’. But ‘finding the truth’ isn’t necessarily up to an individual to discover in citizen journalism; it is a continual process by the community.

Bruns (2007) has suggested that artifacts from produsage processes are never completed because it continues to be edited, updated and refined by other participants. This ‘communal evaluation’ allows people to identify and pick out infortmation that is unreliable  because “those contributions deemed useful and and relevant will be further improved upon, while those leading to dead ends of development…will remain un-used” (Bruns 2007, p.25).  In the case of the eariler example, once other sources revealed the error of the post, the administrators of CNN’s iReport quickly pulled it off the web. Many of the online news sites, like CNN’s iReport,  only allows select people to edit content, while there are more open sites that allow more blatant ‘collaborative editing ‘ (Flew 2008 145) such as wikinews.

More common ways in which ‘communal evaluation’ of news takes place , however, is by participant ratings (sometimes externally -e.g. Digg) and comments, where the more popular news posts can be regarded as the more important or relevant news to the community (Bruns 2007, 76). On the other hand,  therefore, if someone posts news that is dishonest or misinformed, others will be able to discredit their information by refering to other sources, or people will simply ignore it, and the reputation of the citizen reporter as being a trsutworthy source will definitely disintegrate.  Of course, this also happens to untruthful news reporting by traditional journalists; and in fact. one of the major roles of citizen journalism is said to be ‘Gate watching’ where news that comes through the conventional ‘Gate keeper’ news outlets are monitored by citizens to discern what news is most relevant to the community (Bruns 2007, 74).

So in a nutshell,  in traditional journalims it is the responsibility of the journalists to present to us the unbiased objective ‘truth’, while in citizen journalism the responsibility of ascertaining the ‘truth’ falls to us, the citizens.

But hey, don’t take my word for it.

 

References

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

Flew, T. 2008. New Media: an introduction. 3rd Ed. South Melbourne, Victoria: Oxford University Press.

Schonfield, E. 2008. Citizen “Journalists” Hits Apple Stock With False (Steve Jobs) Heart Attack Rumour. http://www.techcrunch.com/2008/10/03/citizen-journalist-hits-apple-stock-with-false-steve-jobs-heart-attack-rumor/ Accessed 3 May 2009.

QUT Library. Evaluating information. http://www.library.qut.edu.au/learn/learnhow/evaluatinginformation.jsp Accessed 4 May 2009.

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