Document Type

Article

Publication Date

11-2010

Journal

Ephemera

Volume

10

Issue

3

First Page

439

Last Page

454

Abstract

Since the hybrid producer-consumer – the prosumer – was conceptualized three decades ago, prosumption has been embraced by both mainstream and progressive analysts. With digital technologies enabling more people to engage in an array of online prosumption activities, one shared claim is particularly striking: the empowering and humanizing implications of prosumption will mark the end of human alienation. In this paper, I assess this extraordinary prediction by, first, establishing that the core of Marx’s conceptualization of alienation is capital’s dominance over human relations, compelling people to become mere tools of the production process. Second, I assess both general and specific digital prosumption developments in light of this understanding of alienation. Third, my analysis concludes that people will participate in prosumption in at least three discernible ways: most will remain relatively powerless tools of capital; some will act as capital’s creative tools; and a minority (those possessing extraordinary capabilities) will have the potential to employ prosumption in ways that redress their alienation.

Notes

Originally published in EPHEMERA: THEORY AND POLITICS IN ORGANIZATION.


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