Under the old hierarchical structures, producers would produce goods and services to be consumed by consumers. The producers, of course, would try very hard to produce goods and services that customers would be willing to pay for. They would monitor their customers and business trends to determine what the market wanted, and then they would create those goods and services and try to sell them. Though the successful business tried very hard to attend to its customers and the market, there was always a deep division between the producer and the consumer. The producer used its capital (money, equipment, people, and processes) to invent, design, build, and market those goods and services that it thought people would buy. The consumers used their capital (money and credit) to buy, or not buy, the goods and services that producers offered. The roles were well-defined and complimented each other, but seldom bled into each other.
Now the roles are beginning to bleed into each other as consumers are wanting a piece of the action in production. They want to be producers as well as consumers, or prosumers. Many producers, accustomed to control over the goods and services that they produce and put on the market, are uncomfortable with this shift in roles.
So why do consumers want to be producers? In short, because they can. Tapscott & Williams mention two forces that enable consumers to become prosumers:
- consumer use of "the Web as a stage to create prosumer communities" (128), &
- producer realization that they can "tap the insights of lead users [to] gain competitive advantage" and to learn "where the mainstream market is headed" (128).
Now with a computer and some audio software, prosumers can record their own music, sample the music of others, and mashup new music. Prosumers can write blogs that can reach hundreds, thousands, even millions of people around the world, a capability once reserved for only large, rich media companies. With relatively inexpensive cameras and computers, prosumers can create photographs & movies to share with a select community or with a world-wide audience. Prosumers can use an inexpensive electronics toolkit and free Linux software to crack open their iPods, iPhones, and PlayStations to create a new, enhanced product that does what they want, and then they can share their techniques with their online communities around the world. As Tapscott & Williams say, "This new generation of prosumers treats the world as a place for creation, not consumption. This new way of learning and interacting means they will treat the world as a stage for their own innovation" (127).
- What goods or services does GCSU offer its consumers?
- In what ways are teachers producers and students consumers, especially in the traditional sense of producers & consumers?
- How can you as a student become a prosumer of your education?
- What tools do you have available to help you produce the things you learn?
- What insights into the educational marketplace can GCSU gain from its leading students?
- How can GCSU use these insights to attract more and better leading students and then involve those talented students as prosumers?
- How does the student as a prosumer change the traditional relationship between students and teachers? students and school?
- Would you really want to be a prosumer, or is it easier to just remain a consumer of education?