Prosumption is the combination of both production andconsumption (Ritzer, 2015). Whilst prosumption has always existed the rapidadvancement in technology, especially with the creation of the Web 2.
0 and itskey characteristic ‘user generated content’ has led to a gradual shift over thepast decade (Ritzer, 2015). Previously businesses had full control, whereastoday we as consumers hold the influence and power. This essay will go intofurther detail about prosumption, the shift and the influence and power we holdas a consumer. There will be a particular reference throughout to thesuccessful e-commerce Chicago T- shirt company Threadless.(Ritzerand Jurgenson, 2010) The term “prosumer” is typically affiliated with AlvinToffler (1980). In his research Toffler recognised ‘three waves.’ However mostsignificant to explaining the concept of prosumption and the prosumer is hisThird Wave, whereby Toffler sees contemporary society moving away from theseparation of production and consumption and shifting towards the joining of theboth processes ultimately resulting in the ‘rise of the prosumer’ (Toffler,1980:265, as cited in Ritzer and Jurgenson 2010).
A contemporary example of thejoining of consumption and production is the E-commerce T- shirt website’Threadless.’ Threadless runs design competitions, members are able to submittheir ideas for T-shirt designs and vote on the best. The winning design isthen transformed into a design that can bought (Chafkin, 2008). In Toffler’sview (1980) this new sense of freedom we hold as a prosumer means that ourlives “will be less monotonous, more varied, more well rounded, more creativeand ultimately, more satisfying” (Toffler, 1980, as cited in Ritzer, 2015,p.15).
Through prosumption we are given the freedom and ability to shape ourown identities and even fashion choices, for example we aren’t limited to theclothes ready in stores anymore we hold the ability to design and customise. Incriticism to Toffler’s view of a “more satisfying life” (Ritzer and Jurgenson,2010) argue that capitalism has found a new technique in exploiting the labourpower of society. From a neo- Marxist perspectiveprosumerism is criticised due to the idea of differing ownership in terms ofmanufacturing.
“It is the owners, not the consumers, who own the productiveresources and it is this that gives them the ability to exploit customers.”(Roemer, 1982 as cited in Ritzer and Jurgenson, 2010, p.26). There are laws inplace to prevent businesses from exploiting workers, yet consumers do unlimitedwork. We as consumers have to do much of thework in designing the Threadless T-shirt which would have been done by a paiddesigner, the consumer does it for no pay, saving the business money on labourcosts.
Consequently, this independence and freedom hold arguably leads to jobcuts and the rise of “temporary employees” (Humphreys and Grayson, 2008, ascited in Ritzer and Jurgenson 2010).It is through the Web 2.0. that saw the substantial growth inprosumption (Ritzer and Jurgenson, 2010). A key feature of modern dayprosumption on the Web 2.
0 is through social networking sites like Facebookwhich enables users to create profiles based of images, text and communities(Boyd, 2006, 2008a, 2000b as cited in Ritzer and Jurgenson, 2010). Whereasbefore we didn’t have the technology or the capability. Baker (2008) made thecomparison “Threadless resembles these Web 2.0firms” and this is especially due to communication and community element.
As stated within the article (Baker, 2008) “Hundredsof thousands of people were using the site as a kind ofcommunity center, where they blogged, chatted about designs, socialized withtheir fellow enthusiasts…” Here Individuals have a chance to discuss andultimately rebel against designs through the online community. Beforetechnology advancements this discussion wouldn’t have been possible, thereforemaking it harder to connect and talk with businesses, giving us little optionsand chance for our own designs. Moreover, the ability for people to communicateand interact is a massive advantage for businesses like Threadless as they areable to see customers design preferences. Ultimately in long term they will saveon production costs as if there was no community and discussion elementThreadless wouldn’t be aware of preferences and customer wishes.
As mentioned throughout Prosumptiongives us the ability to customise and choose what we want. The Threadless businessmodel and the concept of prosumption goes against Marxist viewpoint “People aredistanced from the production of objects and their full materiality, resultingin experiences of estrangement and alienation…
” (Lury, 2015, pg.37) We arebrought closer to the product as we get to see it through the stages “ideageneration, marketing, sales forecasting…” (Chafkin, 2015) The Threadlesscommunity ultimately has a relationship with the product right from the startthrough to the end.
We have seen a shift from going into a store, selecting anitem of clothing already designed and marketed for us and purchasing it. Now wenow hold the power to make decisions for ourselves and tailor to our needs.Above all, it is important when explaining prosumption toremember that it is the combination of both production and consumption (Ritzer,2015) and that it has always existed within society. Prosumption activelyencourages people to engage giving them more choices and opportunities.However, it could be argued that capitalism has entered a new form and we are stillbeing exploited.