How to Be A Prosumer

The term 'Prosumer' was originally coined by the futurist and philosopher Alvin Toffler, and is a combination of the words 'producer' and 'consumer'. It expresses the idea that the traditionally very separate economic roles of producer and consumer have begun to merge, and the hope that this trend will continue.

The corporate world has attempted to corrupt this term, producing professional grade products for hobbyists and labelling them as prosumer along with the false claim that it derived from the terms 'professional' and 'consumer' (this is particularly common with photography equipment, but can also be found elsewhere). This, however, is not the original derivation of the term and is not the one used here.

The Prosumer Revolution

The shift towards a prosumer economy is all about cutting down the role of the corporation, and increasing the role of the regular consumer in the process of production.

This shift has been facilitated by technology, and new technologies promise to continue the same trend. You can see this shift already at work in many areas. Whereas once the publishing industry controlled what we read through a small number of channels, for example, today many people are participating in the industry by writing blogs, social media posts, making videos and so on. Sometimes they make a little extra money from this - but it is not a career. They are primarily consumers of media products who are participating in the processes of production. The music industry has seen a similar shift away from the power of record labels and towards individual music lovers sharing their creations, and a wide range of other industries have been affected too.

The growth of Peer to Peer technologies has been the main driving force behind this, as people are empowered to take control of both the means of consumption and the means of production. Peer to peer digital currencies promise to push this trend much further, as do a range of potential new applications built on the blockchain technology pioneered by Bitcoin (NameCoin's distributed DNS, Ethereum's smart contracts etc.).

Other technologies are also helping to feed this trend. For example, although 3D printing is still at an early stage in terms of its economic viability, it promises to have the same effect on the way we produce and consume physical products as the internet had on the way we produce and consume media products.

A prosumer economy is one in which the people succeed in attaining what the communists always wanted - taking control of the means of production - but without the oppressive government control and suppression of innovation which went along with communism. It is an economy which is controlled by the people themselves, and corporate entities exist primarily to facilitate individual economic relationships between people rather than to control and direct large parts of the economy. If this trend continues then within a few decades we may reach a situation in which most people either work for a company part-time or not at all, and instead make money through their hobbies and enjoy cheaper products which they and the communities they are involved with have built purely for the love of it rather than for the profit.

There are lots of ways that you can get involved and become a prosumer. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Choose free, open source products rather than buying branded ones.
  • Get involved in customizing and improving those products wherever you can.
  • Don't give yourself away cheaply - try to use sites which share their revenue with users.
  • Use peer to peer digital currencies.
  • Learn to make stuff - then share it, sell it, or teach others to do the same (perhaps through articles or videos on a revenue sharing website!). DIY can be way more than just putting up a few shelves: it can be anything at all, from artwork and music, to cushion covers and clothes, to gardening and cooking, to building gadgets and computer programs.
  • Consider buying yourself a 3D printer.
  • Support independent artists of all kinds, and be willing to pay them a little something if you like what they are doing (perhaps with Devcoins!)
  • Spread the word and support this economic revolution!

Category: Economics

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