shu and joe

Prosumers

Published on December 8, 2008

For the past few days I’ve been thinking a lot about production and consumption. About what it means to be a consumer. About the word “consumer,” which tends to leave one with a kind of cupronickel mouthfeel. We don’t like to think of ourselves as consumers. The notion evokes images of Macdonald’s-eating, Suburban-driving, Walmart-shopping drones. Always on the take. Languishing in guilty, greasy pleasures. We prefer the idea of producers – artists, designers, architects, writers, musicians – the people toward whom our culture-making edifices lend their mortar and trowel.

Michel de Certeau tried to upset this distinction between producers and consumers by recognizing that consumption often contains elements of play and invention. He wanted to investigate the ways that people adapt everyday products, spaces and situations to meet their own needs. He preferred to talk about “users” rather than “consumers” at a time when the internet was still an ARPANET project. Anyway, the important point de Certeau made was that the economy of production and consumption is a dialogic process, not a one-way transmission. I think that recent developments in social media have both complicated and illuminated this issue. With so much information available to us, and so many channels through which to gather, ingest and reproduce that information, I’d say we’re giving new definition to the term prosumer. Check out the video below to get an idea of what I’m talking about. This kid’s 12.

Now, Tavi G would like to have a word with you.

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