DIY design… the pinnacle of produsage and collaboration

•May 27, 2009 • Leave a Comment

DIY design. This post will look at DIY design under the new media guise and explore what I believe is the pinnacle of produsage based applications and collaborative culture. My posts on produsage, citizen journalism, Wikipedia and pro/am divide, all pertained to the collaboration of networked communities sharing, editing, disseminating and creating content and information which is the basis of all these concepts and applications. DIY design also allows a collective community the share information and content, but where it differs from the above concepts is that it permits the members of the community the actively converse with regards to the design of a product which ultimately leads to the creation of a tangible/tactile product (Bruns 2009).

Websites such as eMachineShop, Etsy, SpoonFlower and Threadless all permit the user to acitvley participate in the design process relating to a wide range of products. The advent of these websites have enable the every day user the ability to create products with little financial out lay as well as receive invaluable feedback from a myriad of users within each community via in-site blogs and formuns. The ability to converse about the design of a specific product is paramount in order to achieve the best possible result, futhermore, as a result of the interconnectedness of the Internet this behaviour can be achieved without the constaints of geological locaiton (Bruns 2009).

Threadless is a perfect example of a DIY application in action. This website allows designers to up load their t-shirt designs, which are then voted on by the community. The winning design/s is then put in to production and the designer receives a percentage of the sales of the t-shirt. In addition to this a designer can upload their design to the blog where users within the commuity can actively participate in disecting and critiquing the design in an attempt to achive the best possible product. From an advertising perspective DIY design is a relatively new concept. Some companies particularly car companies have scratched the surface of utilising DIY design in campaigns. Car companies such as Honda and Volkswagon have used minisites that allow potential customers to customise stock vehicles with a plethora of modifications. After they have finished customising their digital car the customer is then able to generate a quote with and approximate cost. Although this is not DIY design from start to finish this approach contains elements of DIY design that have been proven to be highly effective approach to interctive advertising.

Rushkoff in Bruns (2008) gives this concept more clarity by saying that “the rise of interactive media does provide us with the beginnings of new metaphors for cooporation, new faith in the power of networked activity and new evidence of our ability to participate actively in the authorship of our collective destiny”. Relating this statement back to the car manufacturing example, there is eveidence of a shift towards a more participative role for the consumer with respect to car design. Accorrding to Bob McCarty (2009), his predictions is that full scale DIY car design will be a reality in the USA with in the next 10 years. Do these predictions spell the end for the design team at large car companies?

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The Pro/Am. We’re not amateurs anymore.

•May 20, 2009 • 1 Comment

New Media has given birth to concepts such as collective intelligence, participatory culture and produsage that fall under the guise of Web2.0 (Flew 2008). These concepts have given the everyday user (the amateur) the capacity to create, contribute and edit information and content through applications/websites that are inherent in the Web2.0 sphere, in addition, with the aid of software amateurs can produce work of a highly professional standard.  This behaviour has attributed to a blurring of the distinction between professionals and amateurs (Bruns 2008). To further enhance this claim Bruns (2008) notes that (using Wikipedia as an example) “Pro/Ams and committed produsers have blurred them significantly. Strong distinctions may exist in a small number of ‘hard science’ disciplines, but for the vast majority of the topics covered by Wikipedia they are likely to appear rather less clear cut”(referring to the distinction between expert and amateur). This comment exemplifies the complexity that arrives when identifying an ‘expert’ or an ‘amateur’ in a Web2.0 environment.

The Pro/Am revolution has created users that are both passionate about certain topics and strive to produce work that is of a high professional standard. A perfect example of a pro/am citizen is a lady named Lauren Luke. She has made a living selling makeup on eBay and has uploaded hundreds of make-up tutorial on YouTube. Through word of mouth she gained huge popularity and has become somewhat of an expert in the eyes of many people who use her tutorials. She isn’t a professional make -up artist, she just has a passion for make-up and pursues her craft with professional dedication and judges her work accordingly (Harrison 2009). Characteristics such as the ones portrayed by Lauren Luke are what make a pro/am and utilising low cost new media applications gives this concept more realisation.

Linking this concept to advertising I want to draw knowledge from my post on Produsage. Doritos utilised the help of pro/am advertisers to create a commercial for the SuperBowl. The two men that won had no specific training in production and advertising, they just had a passion and a great idea. The strategy that was utilised proved to be fruitful for both Doritos and the men who won. Doritos where able to obtain a fresh new take on their take on their product at a relatively low cost and the two men that won are now making money in directorial roles as a result of the fame that came with winning the competition.

The Doritos example show a significant shift towards a user created content approach, whereby advertisers actively seek the help and collaboration of the pro/am advertiser in order to attain specific campaign objectives. This approach of collaboration is an excellent option for advertisers to employ in order to cultivate fresh and exciting ideas with regards to creativity with a relatively low financial outlay.    

In summary, I feel the only distinction between a professional and pro/am is training, both possess a passion and desire to create high quality work, what has aided the pro/am in today’s world though is that they have access to technology and information that permits them the capacity to facilitate work that is on par with professionals standards. So watch out professionals the pro/am are moving in.

Wikipedia… Fact or fiction, a tale of credibility.

•May 14, 2009 • 1 Comment

Wikipedia is an online encyclopedia that has been written by the collaboration of many users since its inception on March 2000, and is one of the applications leading the way in open, collaborative and produsage methodologies with regards to creation, collation of information and knowledge within the web 2.0 sphere (Bruns 2008). One of the main benefits of Wikipedia is that it allows any user the capacity to add and edit information and content contained within the pages on the website. This feature of Wikipedia has been paramount to its success and is one of the reasons why it has become the most popular online encyclopedia. This behavioural shift towards a more participatory nature is one of Wikipedia’s strengths but also one of its greatest criticisms.

This post aims to find out the extent of Wikipedia’s credibility with respect to the information and knowledge contained within the website and how a collaborative approach employed by Wikipedia has helped or hinder its credibility. Wikipedia’s credibility issue has been a thorn in its giant digital spine since it began to gather momentum and popularity, and as such been a centre of debate for many academics.

An article published by Ithacan online senior writer Katie Maslanka (2006) looks into how credible the encylcopedia really is. She interviewed English professor Michael Twomey, who discovered many factual errors and misleading statements pertaining to an article that he was reviewing and blamed the editing process for such errors. He said that he could edit an original entry, but the original writer could easily change it back (Maslanka 2006). He also noted that the editing process has become a battle between contributors of information relating to who has more credible information regarding a specific topic, and that this behaviour has further amplified Wikipedia’s lack of credibility (each writer believes that their information is more valid). Mr Twomey finished by saying that he advises his students to not rely on Wikipedia because he feels that the information is not completely precise (Maslanka 2006).

In an attempt to put this argument about credibility to rest Thomas Chesney conducted an empirical examination of Wikipedia’s credibility and found out of the one million plus articles contained on the site, roughly 13 percent contain mistakes (Chesney 2006). He also noted that cynicism was an attributing factor with regards to Wikipedia’s credibility. In the summation of his study he found that the articles credibility were quite high, but also noted that this result should be taken with caution as the means of the articles’ credibility where only significant in one aspect of the study (Chesney 2006). These results are not conclusive evidence to make suggestion that Wikipedia is a credible source or not, further research into this topic has to be performed in order to gain a more complete answer.

From an advertising perspective (really a PR perspective) it has given users the ability to defame and insult people and companies (this behaviour is known as ‘vandalism’). In 2008 Wikipedia was taken to court over claims that Barbera Bauer (a New Jersey Literary agent) was defamed when users wrote that she was the “dumbest of the twenty worst literary agents” (Nichols 2008). This example of ‘vandalism’ can easily be applied to an instance involving a company. For example, there is nothing stopping a disgruntled employee/customer from writing disparaging content about a particular business.  Behaviour such as this has further attributed to Wikipedia’s credibility issues.  

I believe that Wikipedia’s open, collaborative approach has been an integral factor which has aided its increase in popularity and not a hindrance, but I do believe that there is a lack of credibility as non-experts can add whatever they feel which further amplifies its lack of credibility (maybe that’s the cynic in me). I think that Wikipedia’s credibility issue will be minimised over time as natural filtering devices of collective intelligence cohorts take over and reduce the amount of mistakes and ‘vandalism’.

Citizen Journalism… Pro Journo RIP?

•May 7, 2009 • Leave a Comment

Citizen journalism is the a concept whereby regular citizens of society can partake in the collection, reporting and analysing of news and information through new media platforms such as blogs and websites (Flew 2008). The main objective of this behaviour is to deliver reliable and relevant news and information to society under a democratic form of governance (Flew 2008). Citizen journalism has been criticised since its inception for been an unreliable source of information that lacks credibility, particularly the amateur journalists that publish said information. Some professional journalists and academics claim that these amateur journalists lack the meticulousness and ethical practice that professional journalists obtain, which are integral tools to possess in reporting news and information. Are these criticisms factual or are they just an attempt by professionals to tarnish citizen journalism as the future of their craft is potentially at an end?

The main motive behind this post is to indentify if the advent of citizen journalism has brought with it the demise of professional journalism. Many academics and professional journalists have published articles on the credibility of many citizen journalism blogsites, in particular Tom Grubisich (2005) who reviewed ten citizen journalism sites and found that the sites in question were lacking in both content and quality. In 2006 Tom Grubisich published another article (‘Potemkin Village’ Redux) whereby he reviewed the same 10 sites that were previously scrutinised in 2005 and found that the sites had improved dramatically. This improvement is a result of produsage theory, whereby over time the quality of content and information improves as natural filtering processes are employed to achieve to best possible result (Bruns 2008). This occurrence of improved editorial function could lead to the notion that, eventually as citizen journalism sites gain experience in journalistic activities  in time they could rival sites that are administered by large corporate counterparts, thereby making the position of professional journalist invalid.

I don’t believe that there will be an end to the position of professional journalist. However there is a significant shift towards a more participatory role for a community in reporting news and information. James Carey said that “the end of journalism simply means carrying on and amplifying the conversation of the people themselves” (Bruns 2008). This paradigm of conversation and collective participation highlights the shift towards more community based news where more people can have their say on specific news stories, as well as, add topics that they think are valid. In the long run this is a more democratic approach to news and information production (the essence of citizen journalism).

There will always be a role for the professional journalist in the mean time. I just think that as a result of this concept of citizen journalism and the shift that has occurred that they have lost some power to the masses, as new media has given people the capacity to portray and publish their own thoughts.

Here is a question to think about. If a citizen journalist becomes more respected by the community within a particular citizen journalism blogsite and over time as the site becomes more popular and eventually they generate an income from reporting on the said blogsite, aren’t they a journalist in a certain sense of the profession?

The advent of citizen journalism has been a positive step forward with regard to the advertising world. Advertising blogs such as Adverblog showcase outstanding advertising attempts being performed by leading organisations around. The blogs are posted by advertising professionals around the world and are a great source of information relating to everything “advertising”. This community based participatory culture paradigm is evident in Adverblog’s online sphere, and as a result of people posting Adverblog has become a very comprehensive tool to all advertising professionals. It allows them to see what is going on in the world, as well as, permitting them the capacity to harness several ideas that feature within some of the posts.

Produsage and Advertising

•April 23, 2009 • 6 Comments

Produsage is a concept penned by media and communications expert Axel Bruns. Produsage is a decentralised system where a large collection of users can, participate, collaborate and create content, which can be accessed and changed by any other user with in the community (Bruns 2008, 2). Produsage differs from traditional industrial production models in the sense that it closes the gap between producer and consumer, meaning that the consumer (according to this concept) can take part in the creation of a product (information, knowledge and creative work), where as in traditional models there is a strict hierarchical process (producer –> distributor –> consumer) (Bruns 2008, 9). Good examples of produsage environments would include anything that has used led generated content as a basis of information, knowledge and creative work, websites such as Wikipedia, YouTube, and blogs are ideal examples of produsage in action.

The main purpose of this post is to look at Produsage from an Advertising perspective and identify if this concept has allowed for any new opportunities for advertisers to further enhance their ability to connect with the everyday consumer. According to Axel Bruns’ blog, it is unclear how user-led generated content will affect the advertising industry in the future, so any suggestion here will only be hearsay and conjecture. What is clear regarding the impact of this behaviour is that sales have been boosted in consumer electronics and ICT goods and that there is evidence of a significant shift towards used-led generated content.

Looking at examples of user-generated content may give us some idea of how this concept of produsage will affect the advertising industry.  In 2007 the advertising industry attempted to experiment with user created commercials that were shown during the Super Bowl, this was the first time that amateur ads were broadcasted during a globally televised event. Employing same concept Doritos held a competition for consumers to create an ad for the chance of it being shown during the Super Bowl and a $1 million prize. By allowing the consumer the capacity to tailor a product or put his or her own twist on it permits for a greater and more in-depth experience with the brand (a real connection is made).

Sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Myspace and Wikipedia are the leaders in the field of user generated content as well as being in the top ten most visited sites on the Internet. They attracted a huge number of visitors and this is what the everyday advertiser seeks, a large easily accessible audience that they can communicate a message toward. User generated content is starting to become big business as advertisers are cluing on to the benefits of this particular behaviour.
If employed effectively an advertiser can use the concept of produsage to aid their ability to strike a note with a consumer. By allowing the consumer the ability to confer their views on how a product should be produced not only permits for a superior brand experience, it also delivers a myriad of valuable consumer information regarding preferences, tastes and perceptions.

These links offer very insightful information regarding Produsage and User led content creation.

Reconfiguring television for a networked, produsage context.

Produsage: Towards a broader framework for user-led content creation.

User-led innovation: A new framework for co-creating business and social