Saturday, May 10, 2008

Prousage- An Application to Science 2.0

Axel Bruns has written in new book, Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond, and has a website devoted to his ideas about "produsage." He suggests that the distinction between production and consumption of media no longer fits the ways in which material can be created in blogs, wikis, and so forth. As a result he suggests that "produsage" be used to describe this process and gives this definition:
"the collaborative and continuous building and extending of existing content in pursuit of further improvement."
He writes,
"In collaborative communities the creation of shared content takes place in a networked, participatory environment which breaks down the boundaries between producers and consumers and instead enables all participants to be users as well as producers of information and knowledge - frequently in a hybrid role of produser where usage is necessarily also productive."
The example that he gives that makes me think about learning and scientific work in new ways is the example of reporting on events like climate change or other long-term ongoing events. He notes that traditional news reporting relies on "breaking news" or a new angle in order for it to "make the news." He notes that the problem with this approach is that the "breaking news" often leaves out important context, history or changes. This immediately made me think about news reporting of "new scientific findings" that report on a single finding in a new study without any sense of the body of knowledge within which this study is embedded. This has led to many non-scientists completely discounting science because one day they read that some food or activity is good for you and the next week they hear it makes no difference. The general reader of science news rarely is ever offered a thoughtful summary of the general knowledge about a topic in the news-- this isn't news!

Bruns suggests that Wikipedia and other collaborative knowledge projects are much better vehicles for creating useful, context-rich understandings of events and the world. It provides a way to "update" the story as new information is gathered. It reminds us that our understanding of events, news, new findings, etc. change or are enriched over time. These collaborative knowledge platforms also remind us that their are multiple views of information and that our knowledge is always incomplete.

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