Last week in class, we briefly discussed the concept of user-generated production. In my understanding, this is when the consumers themselves become part of the process through things like surveys, point cards, and check-ins. A great example of this is Yelp, a website where users can search for restaurants and other business according to a number of different criteria. What sets Yelp apart from many other restaurant guides, though, is that the site encourages a lot of user interaction. Users are invited to create an account on the site so that they can “check-in” at various establishments, rate the business, and post reviews of they experience. They are no longer passive consumers, simply absorbing the products being sold to them; they are now an active participant in the consumption experience.

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What these users are producing, however, is not necessarily something tangible. Unlike other producers, they are not creating a material product to be exchanged for money. Rather, these users are facilitating the production of sociality and of community. For instance, when a Yelp user writes a raving review of a restaurant and a group of other users agree, they all become part of what Garcia Canclini calls an “imagined community”. These people most likely don’t know each other in the outside world, but they have all bonded over their feelings toward a product and perhaps feel a sense of solidarity. At the same time, they are producing an individual consumer identity for themselves. By using features such as the check-in, or the point card, users are openly displaying their buying patterns and personal preferences to the rest of the world.

In many ways, this can be seen as free labor for the companies producing these products. Continuing with the Yelp example, restaurants can go onto the website and see exactly how customers are feeling and what they can change to make the reviews more positive. Companies no longer have to rely on market research to find out what consumers are responding to and what they like or don’t like; the consumers are providing that information voluntarily. Moreover, these user-generated modes of production allow for a lot of word-of-mouth marketing, and give companies more targeted marketing strategies for selling their products.