Do you love tinkering with your hands, writing reviews, creating a website, fixing a car, writing reviews, or using internet banking? You are one of the prosumers.
Have you ever painted your own room or restored your dresser? Weaving a basket or making a bookshelf? Maybe you live in a house equipped with sewage treatment equipment? Do you garden? Or are you creating a website where you share professional knowledge? Are you one of the editors of Wikipedia or do you write book or movie reviews? If so, you are a prosumer! None of the above? But maybe you are raising children or caring for sick parents? Do you happen to fix your car, electrical appliances or clothes without getting paid for it? Do you use a washing machine? Write reviews on online auction sites? Do you use internet banking? One affirmative answer is enough to still include you in the number of prosumers.
Prosumerism can be most simply defined as the simultaneous production and consumption. The prosumer (co) produces some kind of goods - intellectual, material or services, and at the same time uses them. In a slightly different, but similar meaning, prosumerism is understood as proactive consumption. That is, an active search, and often the creation of opportunities to meet their needs instead of simply responding to the goods and services being sold on the basis of the “buy - not buy” principle.
There are more and more definitions of prosumerism, but their core remains unchanged: firstly, it is relative or complete independence from money. Their acquisition and spending is not the essence of prosumer activity. Secondly, they act as relatively independent authors of the works they create. They are distinguished by independence and creativity.
Thus, they cross the border between production and consumption, which was typical for industrial societies, in which a person was engaged in monotonous activities from morning till night in order to earn money, and then spend it not a few available goods. This relatively passive model of functioning was especially characteristic of the capitalist systems of the era before the advent of the Internet. To these systems, the prosumers show a big, grown up on their concepts of individualism and well-being, a fig.
Utopia of the Land of Free Time
Not so long ago, in the second half of the 20th century, many futurists who followed technological and socioeconomic changes foreshadowed the advent of an era of universal happiness - the emergence of the Land of Free Time, where people who are not limited by the need to earn their living do what they want. This should have been foreshadowed by two phenomena: firstly, the development and implementation of inventions that would begin to perform human work; and secondly, the assumption of human rationality, according to which all of humanity could use such inventions.
However, even the most sophisticated machines will most likely never learn to perform one of the most important tasks: they will not be able to take care of other people, including raising children. And we are rational only sometimes, for example, when we earn a living with the help of logical thinking. In addition, people are largely guided by the desire to survive, manifested in the desire to increase resources.
The land of free time turned out to be a fiction. Not only because we did not pass the examination on rationality, including on the reasonable sharing of benefits with loved ones. But also because we need work. Designing a land of happiness based on free time is as pointless as imagining that a tiger in a zoo will be fine if we provide him with the amount of protein he needs to survive every day. Tigers, like other animals (including humans), cannot stand monotony and boredom. They need the challenges that the activity provides. They need actions that produce tangible results.
Regardless of how much Alvin and Heidi Toffler (Alvin Toffler, Heidi Toffler), when describing the phenomenon of prosumerism for the first time in the book "Third Wave" published in 1980, took into account the psychological role of work in human life, they hit the bull's-eye. According to their concept, humanity has gone through several technological waves in its development. During the first, which was the result of the agrarian revolution, most people lived off the work in the fields. This work was hard, and its outcome depended on many factors, such as weather or social disasters led by wars. After about 10 thousand years, thanks to the invention of the steam engine and as a result of industrialization, a second wave came, which drove people from the countryside to work in urban factories. This work was also hard, often under strict supervision and was cut off from other areas of life. It was the work of the second wave that began to bring money to a large number of people, which could be considered its plus, if not for the fact that they were earned at the "price" of the loss of satisfaction from observing the results of their own efforts.
After the Second World War, as a result of a technological and informational breakthrough, developed countries entered the third phase, which continues today. Its characteristic feature is the use in paid work, more of the mind than the strength of the muscles, manifested in an increase in the provision of services to the detriment of production.
It was at the turn of the second and third waves that futurologists, sympathizing with their ancestors, who had been forced to do hard work in the fields and factories for millennia, invented the Land of Free Time for future generations. They created the idea of prosumerist work: partially or totally immeasurable, unreported and elusive to the tax authorities. Work that cannot be translated into economic coefficients, and therefore unaccounted for in the mainstream of the economy. Work that is done as if casually.
Reward and protection system
Who am I? This is one of the questions facing people today, in which it is not enough to be a worker or the wife of your husband. Falling into the next technological waves, people transformed the culture. Along with the second wave, in spite of factory standardization, individualism began to develop. Over the past several centuries, we have moved from defining ourselves through categories of the role we play, to creating more complex personal descriptions. If several hundred years ago a young man could ponder whether his parents would allow him to marry the girl he loves, and not the one with more land, now he is faced with the task of describing a set of elusive personal traits that determine his identity in worldview, professional, as well as sexual, environmental, nutritional and many other aspects.
We need to be Someone: extraordinary, exceptional, special. Work is one of our main activities, which takes up about half of our time. Willy-nilly, we define ourselves through her. But who would like to be "a person who receives the average salary in the country." Or "a living accountant / scientist / salesperson"? Being “an accountant who runs a video blog with gluten-free recipes in her free time” or “a sociology teacher and a passionate entomologist raising a daughter” is something else!
Prosumerism, interpreted as non-commercial production or as proactive consumption, allows you to satisfy the need for individuality, to break out of the crowd. It provides an immediate reward, which is rarely received by people who are engaged in mental labor for the sake of earning money in the third wave. A teacher performing his daily duties does not actually see the result of his actions. My students' marks on the exam may depend more on whether they received a list of exam questions from the previous course than on my enthusiasm in the lectures. Because of this, when the school year ends, I really want to paint some wall. Because when I do it, it will be white, I can look at it and even touch it. Prosumerism, which provides immediate reward, gives a sense of accomplishment - an impact on reality. If my students do well on the exam, I will not be sure that this is my merit. I could just come across a capable or hard-working group. But if the wall in my apartment turns white in two days of working with the roller, I will know for sure: I made it this way!
The sense of accomplishment is gaining more and more importance for modern man as the experts take possession of reality: not only those who possess "secret knowledge", but also simply outsiders to us. Our great-grandmothers knew how to cope with a cold or sadness, and if not, they could turn to a knowledgeable neighbor for help, and bake her a cake as a reward. Our fathers knew how to fix Fiat 126 themselves. As a result of the increase in the volume of knowledge, their structure and specialization became more complex. Now a person no longer knows what is happening in his body, soul, heart, in increasingly complex devices. In need of help, he turns to specialists on whom he has to earn money. By paying them, he loses control of his own life. Practicing prosumerism, that is, independently acquiring knowledge and using it: checking information on the Internet and offering doctors or mechanics ready-made solutions, a person regains a sense of control over his own life.
In addition, prosumerism protects against the "affluenza syndrome" (affluenza): this term in English consists of two words: affluence - well-being, wealth, and at the same time oversupply, abundance; and influenza - flu. Affluence, like prosumerism, is a complex of phenomena. One of them is an indomitable desire to increase material values, to be richer, to surpass the "Kovalskys from the next apartment." This desire is psychologically deadly, because it cannot be satisfied. If only because there is always someone who has more wealth: if not Kowalski, then Novak or Gates.
The desire to “have more” is usually expressed in practice in making money, since the number of things - houses, cars and other items, not to mention sooner or later perishable products that we can have, is still limited. Since the desire “to have more than others” cannot be satisfied, it triggers an avalanche of negative feelings: feelings of inferiority, anxiety, fears, anxiety, which can degenerate into depression. Doomed attempts to satisfy this desire can lead to workaholism and shopaholism. And the refusal to realize other, in fact, more important needs: hobbies, communication with nature, enjoyment of daily activities, love. As a result, the desire to “have more” leads to dissatisfaction, a lack of happiness.
Another phenomenon that is described by the concept of "affluence" is the inability to understand the meaning of one's own actions, arising from a privileged financial position. Are you aware that the desire to give your children special experiences, such as a school trip to Venice, leads to social exclusion of children from less affluent families? Or that your pursuit of a unique custom-designed home on a single nesting site for rare birds will lead to their complete extinction? Or that your comfortable commuting to a well-paying job in a diesel car is robbing other living things of healthy air? British psychologist and psychotherapist Oliver Jones emphasizes that affluence leads to an increase in social inequality, which lowers our human standard of living. To save yourself from this, instead of multiplying money and consumption, you need to concentrate on prosumerism.
The system lies in wait and repels
A business based on the principles of capitalism would not be itself if it did not try to use prosumerist tendencies for its own purposes. The next sectors of the economy are introducing "improvements" that allow them to save money, and we, consumers / prosumers, are loaded with additional work.
Let's take a look at the banking industry. Everyone liked the introduction of ATMs: it became more convenient to take money (our own, usually hard earned and given to banks so that they could use them and thanks to them function!) Anywhere, without queues and time constraints that we encountered when contacting the traditional bank window. However, using an ATM is at least two minutes of work, for which banks not only do not pay customers, but until recently, with the general consent of customers, took a commission. The situation is similar with Internet accounts. Using them is associated with additional work, and allows banks to cut jobs, gaining benefits.
Corporations have learned to translate pro-Sumer tendencies into money. It happened that after a purchase in an online store, the seller expected you to rate him and rushed him with letters, as if saying: “You spent money from me, most of which is my personal earnings. Work for me a little more by writing a review that will help me get even more "?
Business corporations, by definition, are focused on making money from people, so their desire to use our creative and prosocial inclinations, even if it results in all sorts of manipulations, is not too surprising. However, modern states also feed on prosumerism, taking advantage of the free domestic work of their citizens, for example, their involvement in raising children or caring for elderly or sick relatives. The state system imposes taxes on goods and services. The tax collection system looks like a paradoxical and outrageous form of using prosumerist inclinations: the taxpayer must keep track of his "obligations" towards the state "in his free time". For work, the current or past performance of which (because pensioners also have to pay tax) ensures the existence of this state. If you do not pay properly, you will face severe financial penalties.
To an increasing number of modern people, the current social and cultural structure seems unhealthy. Once in the third wave, they are looking for themselves. Its strength, self-sufficiency, creativity. They shake off the second wave that separates them from the results of their own labor, and want to independently, creatively and as fully as possible use their own skills. This is gradually undermining the capitalist rules of the game, along with their inhuman ideals and inert structures.
Inherently resourceful prosumers devise clever ways to evade tax-related cash flows (an example is wymiennik.org, an online barter platform that avoids unpleasant systemic decisions). But more and more often they enter the money market, offering others goods and services that they previously produced for themselves and their loved ones. A person who has sewed bags or restored furniture as a hobby, having heard praise from others, can start selling them at an online auction, which will eventually allow him to leave his job at the corporation. Someone else mastered the art of massage for several years, then created a website about a healthy lifestyle, and now lives thanks to a constant group of clients and online advertising.
Strength, self-sufficiency, creativity have always been in a person. Therefore, humanity has overcome such an incredible path of development: from retelling stories by a fire and spending nights in cold huts to sharing knowledge on the Internet that is created and multiplied in warm houses. Transformed from creatures who threw weak children and sick comrades into those who take care of them. Because a person loves to create - to find objects and methods of action that will be better than the previous ones. He loves to work - doing things for himself and others. And money has little to do with it.
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And you are a prosumer too
We offer a small experiment. Make a list of things you do in your "free time." Many people work not for two (at work and at home), but even for three rates. Use the following examples as a starting point to keep track of your own activity.
Learning is also prosumerism. Schoolchildren and students invest their youth and abilities in the acquisition of knowledge and skills that are consumed both by themselves and their environment (not only future employers). This is what older people do by learning and working on themselves in various ways, such as going to the gym or meditating regularly.
Classic prosumerism is about household chores: cooking, cleaning, washing. Your list may include: doing laundry, ironing, grocery shopping, cooking meals, checking the oil level in your car, responding to emails and Facebook activity (often in some way related to your professional activity), additional training. If you are working with loved ones in need, the list may also include: cooking homework with your daughter, teaching your son to use the potty, reading to the child at night, playing with him, explaining and demonstrating the rules of social life to him, washing his father, looking after a sick mother … If you are concerned about a healthy diet, you can list regular trips to the market or weeding your garden. If you don't have the funds for a car (for a new one or none at all), you can mention frequent visits to the auto repair shop or walks to the bus stop.
Buying washing machines, vacuum cleaners, stoves, toasters is not so much consumption as it is prosumerism. We buy these appliances in order to produce fresh linen for our own consumption (and often for our loved ones), delicious and nutritious meals, clean houses in which it is more pleasant to live.
If you are a responsible parent, actively raising a child, you will add up by investing your time and skills for free in preparing them for life in society. If you take care of decrepit parents - too, as you do free work, removing it from the health care system. If you belong to the "sandwich generation", and, therefore, on the one hand, you are engaged in children, and on the other hand, the elders of your family, then you will double up.
Third-rate prosumerism is about doing unnecessary things that we could do without. Many of us renovate our apartment or house (at least partially) on our own, and then decorate it without resorting to the services of an interior designer. In doing this, we, most often, use the tips of other prosumers who have posted on the Internet detailed instructions for laying the floor, replacing sockets, making Christmas compositions or other decorations for free. In the home sphere, we often summarize due to the fact that we do not have the money to pay professionals. However, financial problems are not a good enough reason for prosumerism, because we do not need clean and beautiful walls, functionally placed sockets or pictures that meet our taste in order to survive. We put our efforts, time and knowledge into them because it gives us pleasure and satisfaction. More than the usual extra work to make money and spend on expert services. And by summing up, we get the added value that economists love: the things we do ourselves meet our individual needs, which no one understands and therefore cannot satisfy as well as we do.
Prosumerism of this type forms Internet resources thanks to thousands of simple authors who every day follow the reality and comment on it, and experts who make their own knowledge and experience. Thanks to this, we can install operating systems and office programs on our computers that allow us to edit texts such as this one without paying regular tribute to their creators. Third-rate prosumerism makes our shared reality better with volunteers who work for free in nursing homes, hospices, or animal shelters.
When your list is ready, list the monetary value next to each activity. How much would you pay for regular shopping, healthy and delicious food, keeping your home clean, babysitting, checking the condition of your car, or taking a taxi to work? Add up the total: this is the financial value of your prosumerism.