Here’s the extended abstract for my final research paper entitled SuperFan 2.0 – Exploring the Produsage Qualities of Hockey Fans.
Introduction and Problem Definition
Professional sports are a billion dollar industry as fans attend live events, collect merchandise and gamble on outcomes. Information is also a major product of professional sports and has been used by sports fans to predict outcomes, participate in fantasy league contests and to interact with other fans. Past research has depicted fans as simple consumers of professional sports. Fans have various reasons to follow sports and use various technological tools to stay informed and interact with other fans. There was found to be a lack of research regarding the role hockey fans play in the creation, development and distribution of information. The advancement of technological tools, combined with the participatory culture fans operate within, has given fans more opportunities to be creators and distributors of information.
This study is designed to answer the following research question:
Based on the key principles of produsage (Bruns, 2008), can hockey fans be considered “produsers”?
This study used a qualitative content analysis to examine a single fan generated hockey blog. Content from this blog, including the homepage, options for users of the blog and blog articles, was coded using the following four key principles of produsage as a guide:
- Open Participation, Communal Evaluation – Produsage environments are open to all to get a wide array of experience and contributions.
- Fluid Heterarchy, Ad Hoc Meritocracy – Leadership within the project depends on the contribution the individual makes. Those whose contributions are valuable to the project will elevate their status within the community.
- Unfinished Artefacts, Continuing Process – Rather than a finished product, the aim of produsage is to evolve and continuously improve the shared content within a community.
- Common Property, Individual Rewards – Individuals working within a produsage environment are motivated by their ability to contribute to a communal purpose. Produsage environments ensure that the shared content will not be exploited and will remain available to those who contribute to the project.
Findings are based on the activity of hockey fans on the selected blog. These findings are then categorized by produsage principle and reviewed to ensure reliability and validity.
Based on a review of one hockey blog and its users, hockey fans can be considered produsers. Hockey fans who engage with the game through blogging meet the four key characteristics of produsage. Fan activity has changed the traditional production-consumption model as fans are now taking on a greater role in producing content. The blog articles and corresponding comments function as an example of a fan community sharing content and developing information within a participatory culture.
The research question is addressed by comparing the findings of the content analysis to the four key principles of produsage. How professional sports leagues such as the National Hockey League can engage with their fans in a produsage environment is discussed. The weaknesses of the study, as well as areas for further research are also addressed.