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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

Tag Archives: Chictopia

In the first two chapters of Axel Brun’s Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond: From Production to Produsage, the idea of produsage is discussed. Produsage is the action of a hybrid producer/consumer that collaborates with a community in order to create and interact with constantly-evolving content in a social media environment.

Produsers act as producers, distributors and consumers as each of these roles have shifted into a vast grey area with the use of the read-write web, or “Web 2.0.” Bruns mentions data feedback loops, which we discussed in class:

“…the very acts of using Google to search for information, of traversing the Amazon online catalog, or indeed of browsing the Web itself, now create data trails which when analyzed and fed back into the algorithms of search engines and content directories contribute to subtly alter the browsing experience of the next user.”

It is very interesting to examine the ways in which a user produces new variations of Web experience without actively working to do so by providing feedback about their usage of the interfaces and content.

A more overt example of produsage exists within Chictopia, an online community that I frequent. Chictopia is a sort of social networking site for those interested in fashion. It is very photo-oriented, focusing on daily looks and galleries of users, runway looks and current trends. The product that is Chictopia is a sort of hi-tech street fashion mag that is being constantly updated by ordinary people. Think Cosmo, but way cooler, more accessible, and in real-time. Users make individual photo contributions and contribute their opinions through comments and on the forums section of the Web site. The site is free and open to the public. There is no real hierarchy on Chictopia—all users have the same ability to post and discuss topics. Also, there is no end-point of production. The subject matter is constantly changing as fashion is a fleeting thing. Also, new users continually join and old users become less active. There is an abundance of fresh faces and new ideas and perspectives. Chictopia is an ongoing project that is being updated and advanced by all users involved. The benefit that users gain is in the form of social capital. Many of the fashion bloggers who post their “looks” and make a name for themselves on Chictopia end up landing jobs in fashion merchandising or fashion publications. Furthermore, if a user of Chictopia frequently updates their Chictopia profile adding new content and is ranked favorably by other users, they earn “Chic points” giving them access to special features and labeling each of their photos with the exclamation “Chic!” under the browsing function. According to Bruns,

“ This holoptic model of communal evaluation in produsage, in which each contributor is able to see and evaluate everyone else’s contributions, also acts as a driver for a continuing process of socialization of participants into the community ethos: being able to view all of their peers’ contributions provides individual members with a clear understanding of the forms and formats their own contributions may take, and the quality and quantity of input required of them if they wish to become a more central member of the community; being subject to evaluation by potentially anyone of their fellow participants encourages them to be particularly careful and diligent in their contributions if they wish to retain their status in the community.”

Beyond their basic interest in the world of fashion, this evaluative feature of the produsage community is perhaps what pushes users to remain informed with up-to-the-minute information about fashion news and the trends that they might consider embracing.

What’s I find especially interesting is the amount of time that produsers put into their interactions with these Web communities. How much is an hour of a produser’s time worth in social capital? Do produsers who actively produce Web content do so for purely altruistic reasons, or is there a threshold of gain that must be met before they continue to produce?

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