Prosumer

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Term coined by Alvin Toffler in his Book "The Third Wave" (1980)

Description

From the Wikipedia: "A contraction of the word producer or professional with the word consumer. The term has taken on multiple conflicting meanings: the business sector sees the prosumer (professional–consumer) as a market segment, whereas economists see the prosumer (producer–consumer) as having greater independence from the mainstream economy." (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prosumer)

Katarina Stanoevska-Slabeva:

"Most of the concepts for Internet-based innovation are based on or draw from the concept of active customers that are at the same time producers. i.e. prosumers. The vision to involve customers in the production process has a long tradition and goes back to Alvin Toffler (cited in Klein & Totz 2004), who introduced the idea to involve consumers as co-producers, i.e. prosumers, into the value chains of companies in 1972. Under the pressure of increasing price competition in the 90s, and enabled by the Internet, companies started to involve customer through digitalized processes to voluntarily take over part of the value generation. A well known example are banks, which based on e-banking involved the customers in services such as cash collection through automated teller machines, self-processing of payments and similar." (http://berlinsymposium.org/sites/berlinsymposium.org/files/crowdsourcingenabledinnovation.pdf)

Comment: From Prosumer to Produser

1. Franz Nahrada:

Recently, to take into account the emergence of the P2P Phenomena, the term Produser has been suggested as an alternative. It refers to the fact that the material of production is not so much a "consumed" commercial article (which includes buying and selling as exchange modes even between prosumers) but the result of other "produsers" productive activities in a non - market environment. Thus it might simply be a return to Tofflers original concept that was "hijacked" by some authors. See below and build your own judgement.


2.

"Bruns produser differs from Toffler prosumer. Bruns acknowledges that the Internet embodies technosocial affordances that provide the means for a many-to-many, collaborative and communal production process, with the convergence between user and producer (Jenkins 2006). This differs from an ad-hoc participation of consumers in altering the material products they purchase, which was foreseen by Toffler. For Bruns, prosumption ‘‘describes merely the perfection of the feedback loop from consumer to producer’’ (2008, p. 12) without radically altering the traditional production value chain that goes mono-directionally*from the producer to the consumer, and in which are still present the separation of roles and vertical hierarchies. The phenomenon of produsage is, instead, a significant change in which [T]he production value chain is transformed to the point of being entirely unrecognizable*in the absence of producers, distributors, or consumers, and the presence of a seemingly endless string of users acting incrementally as content producers by gradually extending and improving the information present in the information common. (Bruns 2008, p. 21)

Similarly to Tapscott and Williams, the concept of produsage, proposed by Bruns, is based on a list of essential elements and key principles that are supposed to explain the new paradigm. These principles are indeed a sort of necessary condition for the produsage productive process and specifically are: the open participation of people to the produsage, a fluid heterarchy with leadership roles emerging bottom-up, unfinished artifacts always open to modification, and re-appropriation and common property of the final product." (source?)


More Information

Christina Ritchie's Bibliography

The following work by Christina Ritchie is licensed under the same Creative Commons License as this wiki.

Prosumers

Dignam, Conor. 2002. “Prosumer Power". Marketing, March 14. pp. 24-25 (accessed via ProQuest, August 6, 2005)


Dignam idetifies “three main factors that marketers identify in the rise of the prosumer", being two-way technology, such as SMS and the web, greater brand literacy, and the possibility of mass customisation. This enables increased communication between the consumer and the producers, more to the benefit of the consumers, as the various examples illustrate. Dignam acknowledges that that the concept of a consumer who “becomes an integral part of a brand’s inception, development, and delivery" was predicted by Alvin Toffler in 1980.

The article also brings up the point that some politicians support legislation to limit advertising in order to protect so-called passive consumers, which Dignam portrays as being an inappropriate viewpoint because consumers are far from passive, and choose any brands that they wish to communicate with. Instead, he states that brands are more vulnerable due to the two-way communication, due to “consumer vigilantes" that may speak badly about brands publicly.

From the perspective of brands and corporations, it is obvious to see from this article that to make the most of the rise of the prosumer, they must form lasting and beneficial relationships with these new consumers.


Kirsner, Scott. 2005. “Are you a prosumer?; Take this handy quiz; [Third Edition], Boston Globe, June 13. pp. C.1 (accessed via ProQuest, August 6, 2005)


This article describes some aspects of the modern day prosumer, after explaining that the term no longer refers to the mesh of producer/consumer, rather, it is used to refer “to a segment of users midway between consumers and professionals". It explains that prosumers are often not motivated by monetary gain, but by a passion for their creative pursuit, many of them willing to devote much time and money to help them excel and perfect their craft. Although difficult to provide for, due to their lack of experience and, thus, need for more support, the prosumer market is important for technology companies. This is shown by a quote from Carter Holland, spokesman for Avid Technologies, who states that they have purchased a line that is designed to “to extend [video editing] to people who aren’t professionals". The article concludes by raising the issue that prosumers require better channels for distribution of their work.

Although this article does not use the term in the same context as was first intended by Alvin Toffler, the term is still relevant to media technologies because it reflects how the nature of average users has become more sophisticated.


Toffler, Alvin. (1981). The Third Wave, Cavaye Place, London.: Pan Books, Ltd ISBN 0330263374

The term prosumer first appeared in this book, used to describe the merging of the producer and consumer in the “third wave" - the information age. The book accounts a history of the producer/consumer relationship during what Toffler terms the three waves – the agricultural revolution, industrial revolution and the information age – stating that the second wave divorced the producer and consumer and replaced it with a market where majority of goods are exchanged and individuals are no longer self-sufficient.

In the third wave, Toffler theorizes that the market will encounter change, where a fusing of the two previous economies will occur. This is because the market is established, and civilization no longer needs to concentrate their energies on it, and rather can focus energies inwardly. The effect of this is that prosumers will once again become prominent in the economy, and communicate with companies to produce products to their specifications.


Changing Context of the Term

Freeman, Jan. 2000. “Presuming to coin a new meaning for ‘prosumer’. The Boston Globe, October 1. pp. 1 (accessed via ProQuest, August 6, 2005)


This article examines how the context of the term prosumer has changed since first coined by Alvin Toffler in 1980. The original reference, to a consumer who participated in the design process, has so far not been utilised to its full extent due to the slow progress of the “consumer-producer feedback loop". The article states that the term was then picked up by marketers as they believed it to be a more flattering term than “amateur with aspirations". However, Freeman believes that consumers have not, as of yet, associated the term with themselves.


McFedries, Paul. 2002. “Prosumer", The Word Spy. [1] (accessed August 7, 2005)

This website is an online dictionary for new terms that appear commonly in the media, as the webpage for ‘prosumer’ indicates. It provides four meanings for the term, and also provides the two words that it could be a blend of. For example, “proactive" + “consumer" may be a consumer who takes active steps in correcting problems encountered with companies. Another definition is the “producing" + “consumer", who not only consume what they themselves produces, but may also sell it as well. Along with these four definitions, McFedries provides citations of their use in various sources.

This website is important, as it illustrates the various contexts that the term prosumer may be used in.

Quinion, Michael. 1999. “Prosumer", World Wide Words. [2] (accessed August 6, 2005)

This webpage is a simple description of the two common usages of the term prosumer. Quinion first refers to Alvin Toffler’s description of the prosumer, the “blend of producer and consumer" who is involved with companies in the production and design of goods. He also states that Derrick de Kerckhove has labelled this phenomenon as mass customisation, which is the context which most marketers use it as. Secondly, Quinion refers to how the term is used as a blend of the words professional and consumer, which is often used to describe consumers who purchase technical equipment of higher standard than that of average consumer gear. These consumers are often enthusiastic about their purchases and are considered by marketers to be akin to early adopters.


Implications for Corporations

Bardakci, A., Jeryl Whitelock. 2003. “Mass-customisation in marketing-The consumer perspective", The Journal of Consumer Marketing. 20 (14/15). pp. 463-480 (accessed via ProQuest August 7, 2005)


This article is taken from the marketing perspective, as how best to reach the consumer who has individual needs and wants. In order to do this, the marketer must first know what the consumer wants and requires, and this is done through thorough communication via a real relationship with them. The ideal version of this mass customisation is that every consumer has a product that was designed with their help purely to their requirements, however, this is often not possible for many companies due to the increased price and invested time required to produce these designer products. Therefore, the article details, in order to compensate, many product categories are being proliferated with options, such as the increase in cereal brands. The theory is that although companies cannot produce a product for a specific individual, by providing a range of differing options, the consumer can find one that is close enough fit to their requirements.

The article states that having a relationship with the consumer where they participate in the design and production of the product is not only beneficial to them, because they receive what they want, but it is also beneficial to the company. This is because the customer is more likely to end up happy with their purchase because it is exactly what they want, and they are therefore more likely to purchase with them again, thus building brand loyalty.


M2 Presswire. 2000. “Prosumer Solutions- New Scots visionary about to transform e-commerce", M2 Presswire. June 14. pp. 1 (accessed via ProQuest, August 6, 2005)


This article shows how the need for the corporate world to accommodate to the prosumer is opening up business opportunities, as James Littlejohn has done with his new company Prosumer Solutions. The entrepreneur has invented a ‘smart system’ that is designed to “empower the consumer" when purchasing products by sorting through masses of data and returning only information that is relevant to the consumer. The article states that many economists and market analysts believe that this program will help propel the success of e-commerce because it makes purchasing from the web more accessible to the average consumer as it is designed for their benefit, rather than the vendors.


Salzman, Marian. 2000. “Rise of the Prosumer". Print. 54 (6). pp. 141-142 (accessed via ProQuest, August 6, 2005)


The author, Salzman, declares that the marketing world needs to take a new course of action because “the days of the passive consumer are behind [them] forever" and that they now face the “rise of the prosumer". The article attributes this to a cultural shift, such as the empowerment of people and personal rights, and economic shifts, such as a declining focus on production and an inclining focus on consumption. Improvements in technology and the Internet have also given consumers access to more information and thus power, because they increasingly want to know why the product is worth while for them as individuals. Marketers need to acknowledge and understand the prosumer, because for them it means that “the key to selling today is not about presentation, it’s about motivation and listening", and catering to the individual.


Trendwatching.com. 2005. Customer-Made. [3] (accessed August 4, 2005)

This webpage claims that many consumers are becoming empowered and conducting global conversations revealing their true thoughts and ideas about companies. However, it is not necessarily with the companies that they are communicating with, but with other consumers. The article gives various examples of companies that are communicating with these consumers to form better relationships with them, which the article also advises as a smart strategy, as it “taps into the most awesome reservoir of intellectual capital ever assembled" for the company.

The article does not stop short at simply saying that consumers should be in the design process of products, but their creative input should also be utilised in various other facets of corporations, such as their advertising and marketing, and could even lead to the recruitment of these consumers. The article does illustrate one possible drawback for this trend, and that being that these producing consumers could end up being competition to the companies. However, it is important for companies to take this step with forming a real relationship with the consumers via two way communication, other wise the company may be shunned by these empowered consumers instead.


End quote Christina Ritchie