Researchers in Residence
The Institute for Distributed Creativity develops texts and advanced production in the field of collaboration in media art, technology and cultural theory. Two Researchers in Residence join the Institute every year.
Researchers in Residence give one public lecture and contribute to graduate seminars. Residencies last between 2 to 6 weeks. The residencies enable artists and media theorists to develop projects. Each researcher/artist in residence works with one theme-based research group of the iDC to test and develop ideas and projects.
‘Anyone Can Edit’: Understanding the Produser
Dr Axel Bruns
Creative Industries Faculty
Queensland University of Technology
residency schedule for Dr. Bruns
Recent decades have seen the dual trend of growing digitization of content, and of increasing availability of sophisticated tools for creating, manipulating, publishing, and disseminating that content. Advertising campaigns openly encourage users to ‘Rip. Mix. Burn.’ and to share the fruits of their individual or collaborative efforts with the rest of the world. The Internet has smashed the distribution bottleneck of older media, and the dominance of the traditional producer > publisher > distributor value chain has weakened. Marshall McLuhan’s dictum ‘everyone’s a publisher’ is on the verge of becoming a reality – and more to the point, as the Wikipedia proudly proclaims, ‘anyone can edit.’
The effect of these changes is not simply more (and more informed) consumption, however – we are not turning into Alvin Toffler’s ‘prosumers’: consumers with an almost professional level of knowledge about what they consume, but consumers nonetheless. Instead, the networked and hypermediated persona that emerges is a very different beast: users are becoming active producers of content in a variety of open and collaborative environments. Whether it is as members of the distributed development and testing community for open source software projects, as authors, editors, and fact-checkers for one of the multi-lingual Wikipedia sites, as reporters, commentators, and pundits in open news publications ranging from South Korean citizen news site OhmyNews to tech-nerd haven Slashdot, or as global explorers and annotators for Google Earth, they are no longer producers or consumers, publishers or audiences, but both at the same time. They are not prosumers, but user-producers: produsers.
While born perhaps out of a collaborative, open source ideology, produsing is now increasingly recognized as both a challenge and an opportunity by business and governments alike. For example, the Sims range of games relies overwhelmingly on its users as content produsers – 90% of content in The Sims itself is contributed by user-produsers. Similarly, Brisbane-based games company Auran has established a community of produsers around its popular train simulator Trainz, with some 200,000 ‘assets’ (locomotives, carriages, scenery and other elements) prodused so far. BBC News Online and other agencies now regularly call for their users to send in camera phone footage of unfolding events. And Trendwatching.com even sees a whole ‘Generation C’ of produsers emerging before our very eyes.
More broadly, the Chinese government is in the process of initiating a shift in its economic focus from ‘made in China’ to ‘created in China’, aiming to turn the country from the world’s factory to the world’s ideas generator. This shift, with its strong links to the recognition by European and Australian governments of the creative industries as a key economic driver, also builds on the move from users to produsers – it seeks to harness collaborative, grassroots creativity as a means of generating new ideas and new content (while at the same time attempting to maintain state control of the process).
So who are these produsers – and how will they fare in the light of increasing business and government involvement? As economic interests begin to explore ways to generate revenue from produsage, will they undermine its collaborative foundations, and will they reintroduce a regime of stricter intellectual property licensing? Or can the grassroots movement of produsers effect lasting change in our engagement with content, establishing a solid foothold for creative commons and other alternative IP licensing systems, and developing an equitable approach to relationships between the produser community and commercial partners?
About Axel Bruns
Dr. Axel Bruns teaches and conducts research about online publishing, electronic creative writing, online communities and popular music in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. He is the author of Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production (New York: Peter Lang, 2005), and a founding editor of the online academic publications M/C – Media and Culture and dotlit: The Online Journal of Creative Writing
He is currently preparing Uses of Blogs (with Joanne Jacobs), an edited collection of scholarly work examining the range of current approaches to blogging (forthcoming from Peter Lang in 2006). More information about this book and other research projects and publications can be found in his blog at http://snurb.info/.
Hypermedia Research Institute
University of Westminster, London (UK)
Dr. Richard Barbrook
Hypermedia Research Institute / University of Westminster
In the modern world, our understanding of the present is often shaped by sci-fi fantasies about what is to come.
Ironically, the most influential of these visions of the future are already decades old. We are already living in the times when they were supposed to have come true. In his presentations, Richard Barbrook will analyse the origins and evolution of three imaginary futures: artificial intelligence; the information society; and the gift culture. By showing that the future is what it used to be, he will argue that it is time for us to invent new futures…
Dr. Richard Barbrook was educated at Cambridge, Essex and Kent universities. During the early-1980s, he was involved in pirate and community radio broadcasting. He helped to set up Spectrum Radio, a multi-lingual station operating in London, and published extensively on radio issues. In the late-1980s and early-1990s, Richard worked for a research institute at the University of Westminster on media regulation within the EU. Some of this research was later published in 'Media Freedom: the contradictions of communications in the age of modernity' (Pluto Press, London 1995).
Since the mid-1990s, Richard has been coordinator of the Hypermedia Research Centre at the University of Westminster and is course leader of its MA in Hypermedia Studies. In collaboration with Andy Cameron, he wrote 'The Californian Ideology' which was a pioneering critique of the neo-liberal politics of 'Wired'magazine. In the last few years, Richard has written a series of articles exploring the impact of the sharing of information over the Net, including ‘The Hi-Tech Gift Economy’ and ‘Cyber-communism’. He is presently working on a book - ‘Imaginary Futures’ – which is about how ideas from the 1960s and 1970s shape our contemporary conception of the information society. A selection of Richard’s writings are available on the Hypermedia Research Centre's website.