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Produsage


There is this, in my view terribly misplaced, myth that while using off the shelf software is an unavoidable evil, everything that gets built inside that software should be made by you. Painstakingly. Path by path. Or writing the code (that particular myth especially). Taking your own photos. Sculpting your own 3D models.

Otherwise you are not really the "real thing" as a designer or an artist or whatever. I am not a big proponent of this idea that it is somehow more virtuous or more creative that one should make everything oneself, from scratch.

Instead I am a big fan of using resources. Things that others have made, that they either give to me freely (usually with an attribution request) or that I buy and I can then build on, combine with other things, transform. That my stuff has this both implicit and explicit relationship to all this other stuff. That creativity today, at its very best, is a collective effort. It is an exchange stretching over time, between people who are unknown to each other. And yet the collaboration flows from one to the other. A bizarre and quite wonderful link and node relationship.

I wrote a paper about this some years ago and intend to do an update on it at some point since these chains of creativity (that I am most willingly a part of) really intrigue me. The whole process actually has a name in academia - it is called "Produsage." The person who coined the term is Axel Bruns, and he even wrote about Second Life as an example of collective creativity. The two most intrinsic properties of produsage, acording to Bruns, can be described as follows: That the output is community-based and that within this community the roles of creator/user remain fluid and interchangeable at all times. So, according to Bruns we are both content creators and content users at the same time, since in order to create the content we also need to be consuming pre-existent content.

And that is how I see this also. Not this rarefied, slow moving, effete, exclusive thing. But something that is quite dynamic and also unpredictable since what you find very often also informs what you make out of it. Influences you. 

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