Is (social media) production the new consumption?
The written word is going through a renaissance. OK,I admit, I have been using a keyboard for so long now that I struggle to read my own spidery scribbles, but we are writing more than ever.
The panicky predictions of the web turning us all into anti-social, procrastinating cyber slobs are quickly fading away as we spend more time reading, writing, interacting with, producing and sharing content than ever. The web is rapidly encroaching on TV’s territory, (arguably the most passive of all media), and is not far away from absorbing it entirley.
Production and consumption theory initially wrestled with the problem of how man can produce enough to meet our insatiable demands. Cue the industrial revolution. With that problem solved, somewhere along the line the problem mutated. How can we fuel enough demand to sustain a level of production that keeps workers in jobs and capitalists capitalizing?
So for better or worse, God created marketers:
[Our economy] demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns [...]
We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption.
The question I’m toying with is are we in the middle of a third shift? Is the line between consuming and producing blurring?
Or even, could production be the new consumption?
I’ve been reflecting on Lebow’s words against today’s context when our rituals are increasingly moving into the digital space and so many seek their spiritual and ego satisfactions via online interactions.
“Social status”, “acceptance”, “prestige” – Mark Zuckerburg tapped into some deep primal needs which partly explains the phenomenal growth of 500 miliion Facebook users in two years.
When we use Google or Facebook, we are consuming a digital product, but we are also producing content at the same time. Innocently updating your profile, rating a product, writing a review, sharing a Tweet – all feed the ever growing content snowball as it roars down the fast lane of the super information highway.
The production and consumption of the social web are inextricably linked, there is no one with out the other.
The dizzying number of options to self-publish seems to increase daily, and shows no signs of letting up. Stick any daft sounding nonsensical word into Google and the chances are you’ll find a new obscure social network.
Mobile phones are mutating out of control into the portable multimedia production devices with even a basic model to day will feature digital camera, video recording and dictaphone as standard.
One thing is for sure, the digital ape loves to produce and the means of digital media production are well and truly in his hands.
Looking beyond the sometimes narcissistic characteristics of social media use, the web has empowered us with the mechanic to collaborate, share ideas, solve problems, protest and immerse ourselves in creativity and culture.
As you can clearly see – we are not wasting the opportunity.