Fact: I now feel uncomfortable when people talk about Web 2.0 as a philosophy.

Last night, I had a free-ranging conversation with my longtime friend and occassional coworker/coproducer Danielle Martin centered around her developing thesis on “ Participatory Media Catalyzed by Ouside Facilitators” at MIT.

In developing her thesis, she had been referring to Web 2.0 as a philosophy—something I have done and had many, many other people have do as well—in a conversation with Henry Jenkins. Who (and this is hearsay, I admit), said, “Don’t. Web 2.0 is a business model.” And he’s right.

Tim O’Reilly, says this: “Web 2.0 is the business revolution in the computer industry caused by the move to the internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform. Chief among those rules is this: Build applications that harness network effects to get better the more people use them.” This is business model.

Instead, Danielle pointed me to the work of Axel Bruns and his conception of Produsers and Produsage: produsers engage not in a traditional form of content production [producer -> distributor -> consumer], but are instead involved in produsage – the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement.

Bruns, in an interview with Henry Jenkins, lays out 4 principles of produsage:

  • Open Participation, Communal Evaluation: the community as a whole, if sufficiently large and varied, can contribute more than a closed team of producers, however qualified;
  • Fluid Heterarchy, Ad Hoc Meritocracy: produsers participate as is appropriate to their personal skills, interests, and knowledges, and their level of involvement changes as the produsage project proceeds;
  • Unfinished Artefacts, Continuing Process: content artefacts in produsage projects are continually under development, and therefore always unfinished - their development follows evolutionary, iterative, palimpsestic paths;
  • Common Property, Individual Rewards: contributors permit (non-commercial) community use and adaptation of their intellectual property, and are rewarded by the status capital gained through this process.

These ideas, much more so than Web 2.0, seem to encapsulate what my peers and colleagues are trying to get across when we talk about social media and networked production of knowledge.