Beyond Utopia?

New terminology emerges only when new concepts have the need to be coined. In this sense, Produsage introduces an ideal (not totally unheard of) paradigm where the status of community and equality stand up again. Collaborative, user-led creativity through the web is a revolutionary way of conceiving work and knowledge, especially in an ever increasing individualist and competitive world.

As Alex Bruns says in Produsage: Towards a Broader Framework for User-Led Content when he is talking about a working definition: ”Participants in such activities are not producers in a conventional, industrial sense, as that term implies a distinction between producers and consumers which no longer exists…”
Because we now live in the so called informational era, that no longer deals with the prosaic procedures of industry and fixed products, but through web 2.0 moves more fluidly towards an endless intangible stream of information and knowledge, a continuous and progressive process of creation is made possible and everybody has the same chance to contribute and to share.

This new democratic paradigm brings a profound change into society, one could say that a new polis is addressed: Public participation and public domain are crucial issues on the table for discussion. Knowledge is no longer conceived of as the privilege of a few but more as a cooperative self regulated embodiment.
When describing the Key Principles of Produsage, Bruns expresses: “Leadership is determined through the continuous communal evaluation of participants and their ideas, and through the degree of community merit they are able to build in the process; in this sense, then, produsage heterarchies constitute not simply adhocracies, but ad hoc meritocracies.” Following this idea, artists too, are challenged to adapt to this meritocratic regime; surely they still undergo the same lonely mysterious encounter with their inspiring muse, but now, in a highly technological collaborative environment, they must assume that they are part of the ever changing whole in which no man stands on their own for their own purpose anymore. This does not mean that personal talents or efforts receive no rewards, the nature of a social web understands the importance of recognition and motivation, from the beginning, every participant is encouraged to go as far and as deep as they want (spontaneous leadership), and because they do, short sighted lazy contributors are automatically and naturally expelled. Meritocracy is the key word in this new model, it holds a magic power, and might be what guarantees this new paradigm’s success: No more rigid hierarchies in the academic field, no more arrogant structures in culture, instead, roles and boundaries become relative, more flexible, there is a new understanding, a true sense of collective work, a new conception of ownership and credit, more support, more efficiency, and the encouraging feeling that there is no such thing as Utopia, because it has been the lack of a fair scenario, that made dreams feel impossible, not some inherent condition of humankind.

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4 Responses to Beyond Utopia?

  1. cinzia1 says:

    Liliana, it is interesting that you point out how Bruns describes this new paradigm in ideal terms. It sounds very much like a utopia, where everything always functions like clockwork. Many of the people who are involved in collaborations resent this smoothing-over, as the difficulties are precious ways of developing both forms and ‘products’ of collaboration (and, as you rightly say, of democracy). But perhaps ‘collaboration’ and ‘produsage’ should be understood as different concepts and left separate … what do you think? As an example, have a look at the links below – they are part of the planning of Open Congress (, an event organised at Tate Britain in 2005, which lead to the beginning of Critical Practice (
    The roots of CP’s adoption of rough consensus can be run from here

    Where they discussed the difference in working consensually and using ‘rough consensus’
    There is also an earlier link here

    Where the comments (at the foot of the page) reveal their finding of Open Organization guidelines.
    And there is a forum skirmish here

  2. diana008 says:

    In response to Liliana’s text:
    “short sighted lazy contributors are automatically and naturally expelled… No more rigid hierarchies in the academic field, no more arrogant structures in culture, instead, roles and boundaries become relative, more flexible…”

    1.I feel that in this produsage environment whereby contributions to the environment are judged by the relevance in to the discussion by peers in a ‘communal evaluation’ whereby those contributions deemed useful are further built on and improved by others, and those considered unpractical or non-useful are excluded, as Produsage:key principle points out, ‘they drift to the outside of the community’.
    In my opinion does not warrant for those contributors to be regarded as lazy, as any contribution good or bad I believe aids in development of the product or creative knowledge and as with any task or subject undertaken there cannot be good ideas without supposedly bad ones present as it is part of brainstorming and thus development stage therefore, crucial and as much relevance as indeed the favoured contributions.

    2. Furthermore, I strongly feel that even with the emergence of this framework of User-Led Content Creation, ‘Produsage’ environment, this platform will not obliterate the industrial conventions of content production as we have known it.
    As it is highly unlikely that people will get rid of the old and in with the new because people rely and are accustom to rigid hierarchies in societies, and whether they are conscious of this or not I feel it is unjust to abandon essentially the systems that have indeed pave the way for this new technology. Which I feel maybe incidental in the grand scale of things to come, though regardless hierarchy structures will remain.

  3. Pingback: weaving responses to the art of produsage « tiip: T(h)I(nk)I(ng) P(ractices), critical dialogues in contemporary art and media practices

  4. Pingback: weaving responses to the art of produsage « tiip: T(h)I(nk)I(ng) P(ractices), critical dialogues in contemporary art and media practices

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