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The Handbook of Political Economy of Communications by Janet Wasko, Graham Murdock, Helena Sousa

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18

From the “Work of Consumption” to the “Work of Prosumers”

New Scenarios, Problems, and Risks

Giovanni Cesareo

As the MacBride Report emphasized in 1980, “readers, listeners, and viewers have generally been treated as passive receivers of information.” It is still the case today that many people who are concerned with information and communication technologies (ICT) take for granted that the “consumer” is somebody who passively receives what is offered to him or her in the universe of information/communication.

But this is not true. Information is manifold. It is a product, but also a source. It is a material that, when consumed, offers the possibility of producing new material, and so on and on. However, it also must be constantly processed to produce significance, and therefore to be used. That is why we can say that the consumption of information always requires specific work, which is what I call the “work of consumption.” This implies that the output is deeply influenced by the quantity and quality of this work and therefore by the user’s competence, skill, and purpose. Moreover, the “work of consumption” producing significance brings about new information material: so it is also a “work of production.” That is why we can say that consumption is always productive, even if at different levels.

It must be considered also that when information is “consumed,” it is not destroyed. It can be transferred to others and still remains in our possession and may be consumed again and again. ...

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