The countdown has begun. Well, a number of countdowns, really. All happening simultaneously. The first is the countdown to the end of this course that I have been engaged with, Literacy in the New Media. The second is the countdown to graduation. Having successfully passed this course, I will have satisfied the requirements for graduating with a degree in adult education. And finally, the countdown is on toward the end of this blog as I (and others who have read it along the way with more than a passing interest) have come to know it. The blog started out as an experiment in critical reflection and then morphed into a tool for ongoing reflection upon my learning and a place to post some of my work and other extraneous thoughts to finally playing out as an exercise in produsage, a “merging of … producer and consumer in an interactive environment” (Bird, 2011, p. 502).
In the remaining weeks of this final course, we have been tasked to reflect upon our experiences within the course, utilizing all that the World Wide Web has to offer in terms of the opportunity to contribute to the digitized cultural landscape, and consider whether or not we are encouraged to continue our produsage. We have been asked what ‘intimations of deprival’, or what feelings do we have, if any, that something will be missing in society, as we move toward an increase in produsage. Put another way, as interactivity replaces passivity, in the words of Sterne (2012) what will be the cost, what will be lost?
I have to admit, I was born and raised in the television-era. Passive consumption of media was king. I grew up with 2 channels that changed to 5 when I came of age and we got cable (well 6 channels if you considered public TV a channel back then…we certainly didn’t). That consumption ramped up when more channels were added via a VCR that had the digital capacity to reach numbers beyond the 13 on our TV’s dial. I still recall the dark days between getting cable and getting a VCR when the dial on our 19” Magnasonic became stipped after repeated attempts to change from channel 6 to 10 with the lightening twist of the wrist. Many months were spent trying to tune the TV with a pair of vicegrips. Those of you over the age of 40 will be able to conjure up the image, I’m sure. But, I digress. The point is that my consumption was entirely passive.
In the words of Lunenfeld (2007) “television doesn’t improve so much as metastasize, spreading out from the den, to multiple incarnations in every member of the family’s bedrooms, into our cars, onto our PDAs, and into ultra-bright “outdoor models,” recently reserved for the ultrarich but soon to be in every backyard space near you” (p. 8). Well, we didn’t have a television in every room in our house growing up. And I don’t have that many TV’s now, much less one in my yard, these many years later. But his point is well taken. The television acts as an entrancer, a penatrator of consciousness lulling you into a passive consumer state, drinking it all in with little effort. Contrast this to the age of interactive computer technology: “Contemporary media beg for and sometimes demand active participation. They ask their users to intertwine them with as many parts of their lives as possible. It is not just so-called social media (a misnomer if there ever was one—since all media are by definition social). Magazines and newspapers implore us to write back and explore on multiple platforms. TV shows ask us to go online and participate in discussions and games, books get their own Facebook pages where readers are asked to “like” them, software companies put together “street teams” of users willing to promote them in a manner analogous to what concert promoters used to do” (Sterne, 2012).
So am I more willing and eager to go forth and engage as a produser in this brave new world of interactive media? And do I have any concerns about what we are losing as we move from passive to interactive engagement? The answers are no and, relatedly, no. I work at interactive produsage all day long already. It is integrated in how I make my living and how I continue to grow my career to ensure that I can continue to make a living in the future. I have to interact with the digital world because it is both a source of information and a place to share and grow. I am committed to lifelong learning. Long ago, I learned that buying into that concept was really the only way to ensure some sort of stability in my life. The World Wide Web is the place where much of that lifelong learning can take place. So, I am not willing and eager to go forth and interact even more than I do now. The truth is that I like to take a break from that interaction from time to time. I think that most people do. They are interested in simply sitting back and just consuming. And I don’t think that there will ever be a time when that balance between produsage supersedes consumption.
Lunenfeld (2007) speaks about consumption and produsage in terms of uploading and downloading. Consumption is downloading and interacting and contributing to cultural content is uploading. He speaks about the symbiotic relationship between the two: “to claim that downloading is inherently harmful and uploading innately positive would be nonsense. The two syndromes are complementary, but to function in an evolved mode, they should be balanced. The watchwords are to be mindful in the consumption of culture, or downloading, and meaningful in the production of it, or uploading” (p.11). I couldn’t agree more. In the days ahead, my blog will undoubtedly change as I try to strike a new balance in my own produsage in the face of completing this course and my degree.
Bird, S. E. (2011). Are we all produsers now? Cultural Studies. 25 (4-5), pp. 502-516
Lunenfeld, P. (2007). History as Remix: How the Computer Became a Culture Machine. Rue Descartes no. 55: Philosophies entoilées. Online [PDF]
Sterne, J. (2012). What if Interactivity is the New Passivity? FlowTV. 15.10. Online
"Stacking Stones" image by Michelle Meiklejohn, freedigitalphotos.net