Prosumers: the new protagonists of the online creative scene in the Web 2.0 and social media era



“Eliot’s Waste Land is collage and so are Pound’s Cantos. The collage technique, that art of reassembling fragments of preexisting images in such a way as to form a new image, is the most important innovation in the art of this century,” wrote Pulitzer-prize-winning poet Charles Simic in Dime-Store Alchemy: The Art of Joseph Cornell (1992).

Simic’s statement could also easily describe the new millennium, seeing that collage and similar methods such as pastiche, appropriation and remixing are the favorite practices of the “prosumer,” the new protagonist of the online creative scene, the place in which the world seems to have shifted.

A combination of producer and consumer, the word “prosumer” takes on different definitions depending on the context. In essence, prosumers are users with a more active role in the creation, production, distribution and consumption of a specific product.

Coined in the 1980s, the term has had a notable revival after the early 2000s, in the wake of phenomena such as Web 2.0 sites and applications. In this evolutionary phase, users of internet services no longer play a passive role (as was the case with Web 1.0), but they have been transformed (thanks to blogs, social media and modern technology that allow everyone to alter and mix videos, photographs, music and just about anything else) into active content producers.

Today, prosumers are the true stars of the internet, users that are able to independently create relatively sophisticated content to share online, perhaps even going viral.

Thanks to this avalanche of anonymous prosumers (henceforth dubbed “creators” in honor of the outcome of their activities, which is ultimately creation), the web of today has seen the breaking down of barriers that once existed between originator and consumer, between the original and its copy.

After all, the ease with which images, sounds, text and videos produced by others can be exchanged and modified leads to appropriation, and potential consequences of appropriation are plagiarism, remixing, collage, mash-ups, quotation, and parody: all techniques that are highly appreciated by the new protagonists of the web.

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