Death to the consumer

Death to the consumer

: I was just thinking how wrong the word “consumer” is today — especially in the world of news, information, and media. For we don’t just consume anymore; it’s not a one-way world now. We produce. We report. We write. We edit. We improve. We amend. We remix. We comment. We argue. We correct. We distribute.

And then I saw Paul Ford say:

The word “consumers” makes me sad for this world. Whenever someone tries to convince you of advertising’s nobility, remember that word — the industry looks at you and sees not a human, but a gobbling creature with money to spend.

Kottke adds:

I can’t recall where I heard this, but my favorite definition of a consumer is “a wallet with a mouth”.

And then I saw Ernie Miller at Corante riff beautifully on the matter of consumption versus whatever it is we do now:

…We aren’t at the beginning of an era where we numbly accept content. The beginning of that era was when Edison first set stylus to wax cylinder, the beginning of the era of mechanical reproduction. It was an era of unchangeable physical format that could only be produced and distributed efficiently en masse. That era is dying.

After less than a century of dominance, I believe that people are waking up from the consumerist coma induced by the era of mechanical reproduction. What we are seeing is the birth of a new era, an era of empowerment, where people are both consumers and producers of content, a wonderful bricolage of both old and new. Blogs are one example (if you are reading this, you aren’t reading only what traditional publishers put out), but so is the Grey Album, Phantom Edit, machinima, and the whole modding community (among others).

We need a new word for what we are and what we do in media. I despise the word “prosumer.” It reminds me of “proactive,” an awkward, made-up, management-meeting word I refuse to dignify with use.

I call this world of weblogs, forums, wikis, videologs and all that “citizens’ media.” But what do we call the citizens, the former members of the audience, and what do we call what we do in this new, two-way media world?