Reflections on the Prosumer Studies Working Group by PJ Rey

Reflecting back on my first four years of graduate school (two here and two at Duquesne University), I can honestly say the Prosumer Studies Working Group has been the most inspiring and productive experience I have had.  Over the course of previous year, we met two to three times a month to discuss each other’s papers.  While these discussions were always productive and encouraging, they were often quite critical and sometimes led to intense debate.  The mantra was always, “better I get slammed by you guys than the reviewers.”  Watching how other people’s papers developed and improved over time has been invaluable to me in learning to how to organize coherent and interesting papers for myself.  Prior to this experience, it never quite “clicked” before.

The group included Meg Austin-Smith, Paul Dean, Nathan Jurgenson, PJ Rey, George Ritzer, Jillet Sam, Bill Yagatich as well as several folks outside of the department: Piergiorgio Degli Esposti (Università di Bologna), Shay Hershkovitz (Bar-Ilan University), U-Seok Seo (University of Seoul), Zeynep Tufekci (UMBC).  We primarily focused on prosumption (i.e., the convergence of production and consumption) as it occurs on social media, but the topic of a given session was often broader.

The Prosumer Studies Working Group has a number of projects under way.  We are trying to bring speakers of wide interest to campus on a regular basis.  Recently, over 70 people attended the lecture by Jessie Daniels.  George Ritzer is editing a special issue of the American Behavioral Scientist on the topics of prosumption and social media.  The group is also organizing a one-day conference on prosumption and social to be held next year.

Reflecting our commitment to public sociology, the group has maintained a significant online presence.  We blog and tweet regularly.  Our feeds can be found at our website: http://www.bsos.umd.edu/socy/prosumer/index.html.

The Prosumer Studies Working Group has made several significant accomplishment during the 2009-2010 school year.  George Ritzer and Nathan Jurgenson published an article entitled “Production, Consumption, Prosumption: The Nature of Capitalism in the Age of the Digital ‘Prosumer’” in the Journal of Consumer Culture.  They also published a chapter entitled “Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Web 2.0” in  The Culture of Efficiency, a book edited by Sharon Kleinman.  PJ Rey completed a second-year paper entitled “Alienation, Exploitation, and Social Media.” George Ritzer gave the keynote at the Prosumer Revisited conference in Germany entitled “Focusing on the Prosumer: On Correcting an Error in the History of Social Theory,” which was then published in the proceedings.  Nathan Jurgenson published a chapter entitled”The De-McDonaldization of the Internet” in the third edition of McDonaldization: The Reader.  Nathan Jurgenson also presented “Digitally Obscene: Foucault and the Cultivation of the Self Online” at the 2009 Meeting of the American Sociological Association in San Francisco.  PJ Rey presented “Prosumption and the Internet: a New Epoch of Capitalism” at the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Eastern Sociology Society.  PJ Rey and Nathan Jurgenson presented “Marcuse, the Web and the New Means of Ambient Production” at VII Annual Social Theory Forum on Critical Social Theory: Freud & Lacan for 21st Century.  At the  2010 Annual Meeting of the American Sociology Association, PJ Rey and Zeynep Tufekci will be presenting “Internet Use and Well-Being,” and Nathan Jurgenson will be presenting “McDonaldization and the Internet.”

The group plans to meet through the Summer and again next school year.  If you have ideas for speakers to bring to campus or perhaps a relevant paper of your own that you would like to present, please contact us.

PJ Rey is a second year PhD student.  You can email him at pjrey.socy@gmail.com

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