The Role of Audiences in the Digital Economy
The digital economy has completely changed all major business concepts. However, it did not happen unexpectedly: the digital model had to pass a few phases in its gradual development. These stages are mostly connected with the roles of audience, which, at first, had to use fixed and static Websites, and, then, received an opportunity to participate in the process of their creation. Axel Bruns had spotted the main tendencies in the digital economy and proved the theory based on these alterations. He recognised the starting point when customers became an important part of a business strategy. Later, two sides began to merge making many controversies and conflicts associated with new information environment. This paper is dedicated to the changing roles of audience in the digital economy, professionally described in Bruns Theory of Produsage.
The Digital Economy Definition and Description
The digital economy has developed on the basis of digital technologies, which were influencing it along with their evolution. Additionally, digital technologies helped to decrease the cost of storage as well as the time spent on computation. These advantages could not be ignored, and their benefits lead to more active participation of audience to solve business problems through studying its needs in details. The most popular representatives of the digital economy are: Facebook, Amazon, Google, eBay. All of these companies work on a global scale, and their impact is progressively increasing. However, the digital economy also comprises small firms, which can easily enter this market due to low marginal costs of production and distribution.
The digital economy helps not only to study better customers needs, but it changes such industries as retailing, media, and entertainment products as well. For example, it raises such important question as price discrimination, which results in more productive business strategy for many enterprises. The influence of non-managerial people on companies decision-making is a new phenomenon in business environment. The company's usual objective includes choosing correct direction for the future operations as well as its survival under conditions of the strict competition. Thus, due to the digital economy a circle of stakeholders has significantly increased. Moreover, the strategic trend promises even more openness in a while, which demands bigger involvement of audience. Contemporary companies have realised the benefits of non-managerial participants to the full extent, and, for this reason, they apply new social technologies not only for planning, but in the daily routine, too.
However, this evolution started with the Internet infrastructure: commercial services derived from it in a particular period of time. In fact, Bruns theory comprises two stages, and they are associated with the functions of prosumption and produsage. Companies regard the Internet as a market of platforms where they can implement their business plans. As it has been already mentioned above, their intentions are impossible without active audiences participation. Consequently, all stakeholders shape the Internets infrastructure and change it in accordance with customers needs and organisations objectives.
The digital economy has helped consumers to get more information about businesses together with a bigger choice of various opportunities. Companies, from their side, use commercial Internets structure as a complimentary resource for their current and future development. However, a gap between rapidly developing technologies and audiences acceptance of them creates conflicts in the company-customer Internet relations. Moreover, organisations notice that their market world is more diverse, which develops many uncertainties. For example, individual security of information and piracy are two big topics both for the digital market and other types of multinational companies. Such modern issues promote the lack of trust between enterprises and consumers. As a consequence, it may decrease audiences participation in the digital economy, because people tend to avoid risks and hide private information.
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The History of Digital Economy Development and Its Influence on Audiences Functions
The concept of prosumption is identified as constant wealth creation where companies substantially dominate over consumers. Nevertheless, the period of prosumption already includes audience participation in enterprises strategic development. Thus, the cause of such one-sided relations included an inability to create the interactive platform. On-the-fly Web page AJAX was the first technology that allowed to customise consumers preferences as well as to select the most interesting information for them. However, it was not enough for the audiences multiple activities as well as for receiving its comprehensive feedback. AJAX together with other data-base driven technologies needed a significant extension to combine effectively the whole information coming from users. Moreover, the second step included their active collaboration together with the crucial understanding of how it was going to be presented.
In 1970 Alvin Toffler identified an industry where companies attempted to employ partially knowledgeable consumers with their production, as prosumptuous. Already at that time they realised that their economy of scales demanded the comprehension of basic customers incentives while the purchasing process. They wanted to know the point of seduction of buying their items together with the reason for preferring products of other companies. The second stage of such cooperation included consumers engagement in companies marketing strategies, which was the most significant step in the development of the digital economy. Thus, the roots of this industry derive from organisations clever marketing moves that were made together with consumers regular contribution.
Web 2.0. was another new invention, which changed the face of company-customer cooperation. It enabled the online space where people could express various ideas and share their own vision about a topic. Some people use it by mistake as a marketing term, although it has always been an interactive and creative platform . Such confusion is natural, because Web 2.0. is regarded by many companies as a strong marketing tool: with its helps they can gradually direct the public opinion. In general, this platform had created new information environment, which helped to customise the Internet information in a more progressive way . Additionally, the Internet users have acquired more freedom in their actions, various cultures have received a good chance for self-recognition, and a big number of individuals has considered Web 2.0. as an opportunity for personal growth.
Wikipedia was among the first good examples of how different web users could apply their skills and knowledge to the electronic page creation. The main idea was to create universal vision on various topics, without prejudices, actively using different points of view. In particular, this project is one of the best collaborations of the company and amateurs that could additionally involve other individuals around the globe. Wikipedia was developing its page in the way that would simplify users participation and make it not time-consuming. Moreover, when it faced a competition from other similar projects, the company started to speculate about how it could lower barriers for taking part in its vision while saving the information quality.
Bruns Theory of More Active Participation and the New Digital Technologys Vision
The first problems of Wikipedia were simultaneously creating new opportunities for all stakeholders, which was forming more advanced information surroundings. Such strategies were fostering the creation of novelties in collaboration with audience, which consequently lead to the Theory of Produsage. More convenient ways of making an input in websites development were attracting more users as well as becoming more approachable for wider audience. Additionally, new interactive pages made sure that nobody felt as an intruder in an already established community, which increased an interest in many various projects. At the same time, in order to approach the problem from different perspectives, a group of participants had to be relatively diverse to possess information from various fields. All of these questions gave a push to a big shift from prosumption to produsage.
Companies struggling for broader audience understood that to win a competition they had to become even more open for constant usage. Such phases as development and testing had to be also open for public view, which simultaneously created stratification between various users who could join one of the processes at a later stage. The participants also were rated according to their overall contribution: for example, more active users were more valued than people who joined a particular community from time to time. However, an important point includes the fact that produsage is not a substitute of production - it is rather a manner of social organisation. Blogs and YouTube are another good examples of a new active company-consumer cooperation, which demand much creativity from users, but still keep the control over the character of information production and its structuring. At the same time, these projects are the best indicators of results, which emerge from the synergy of various peers participation.
Produsage significantly differs from industrial production: it breaks the traditional product cycle and makes products information more open to audience. The concept promotes a novelty in power relations, because a common individual may play the central part in a goods making without having special knowledge in economics. Such relations are called a Fluid Hierarchy or an Ad Hoc Meritocracy as well as they presuppose that a person gets a reward in terms of collaboration with like-minded participants. Thus, the contributor feels that he or she is related to a particular community and sees a result of his or her work at the end of an effort taken together with other active peers. Such shift in users consciousness is already the big achievement, because it happens during a complex interaction process, which has many different aspects.
For the first time usual consumers understand that they can adequately influence the production process, which becomes possible only in the digital economy. Web 2.0. has further developed to grant four basic possibilities: free participation as well as evaluation according to its amount and frequency, never ending production development, the psychological reward from building relations with equal members, and the intention to gain importance for the sake of a leading position in appealing environment. Contemporary projects are all forced to stick to these four principles if they want to have integrity within their frames. The rest of companies regard these rules as the next aim as well as speculate on how they can interweave them with their own initial vision.
Discussion of Audiences Roles
In such a manner, a chosen team of professionals has been replaced by motivated users who gained their freedom of expression. Moreover, they are able to educate each other while pursuing the common aim. Produsage presupposes that peers constantly evaluate all participants and make necessary improvements on a regular basis to earn the community approval. As a result, the quality of content is controlled from both sides: the company develops the major rules for an access to the web resource, and the community judges everybodys input to the overall discussion. Moreover, the major principle of produsage is inclusivity, because a bigger number of opinions creates more interesting information based on peoples diversity. For this reason, this trend will be gaining popularity in the future, because it needs to promote structures, which attract wider audience. Practically, the digital economy does not exist without users interest and, moreover, without their active participation. Another important distinction between prosumption and produsage includes the strong dedication to the overall objectives. Usual and non-motivated consumers are temporal participants who may act non-consciously and, thus, they cannot be loyal and reliable. Produsage creates the atmosphere where people become self-motivated as well as they gradually turn into fans of the overall business. Thus, the digital companies receive the best opportunity to complete their initial mission and to add value in societies with the help of their genuine interest in the organisation. As a result, the enterprises productivity increases through studying users needs and expectations during their liberal participation.
The collaboration with the help of Web 2.0. technology assists in discovering more potential customers who emerge as a result of building social connections. Additionally, all participants develop good psychological support for various stakeholders, because they get a possibility of self-expression as well as they know that they will be understood. Like-minded peers are always ready to listen to other users opinions as well as they feel that each persons input plays a big part in the overall future progress. Another positive element, which also derives from such friendly environment comprises collective problem-solving, which exists due to the absence of significant resistance between parties. Participants do not regard the process of produsage as additional work: otherwise, they would stop their membership. They continue to discuss common topics, because they rest emotionally during this collaboration. For this reason, all disputes do not carry a negative character, because people have positive attitude towards all peers from the beginning. Additionally, the boundaries between media professionals and audience disappear, too, because both parties ally their final aims. Thus, produsage is a phenomenon that involves collaboration of many stakeholders who fulfil their hybrid roles. They act simultaneously for the overall benefit, pursue the general mission, add value to the business using various perspectives and promote the environment of equality and psychological satisfaction.
The digital economy had to go through its own path of evolution to be as developed as people know it today. The possibility to interact has emerged together with the development of technologies. Especially, Web 2.0. had helped with starting a new page in the company-consumers relations. The initial point included the understanding on the side of various organisation of the fact that they would not be able to win a competition without attracting consumers ideas. In a while, they developed a productive marketing system that was implemented on various Internet platforms. Pursuing their economic strategies companies continued to change audiences role in their production process, which resulted in the digital economy. Users liked an idea that they could make their contribution in the creation of value at the digital market. As a result, they actively united their forces while receiving psychological satisfaction from sharing their knowledge with like-minded audience.