‘A Workers’ Inquiry 2.0’: An Ethnographic Method for the Study of Produsage in Social Media Contexts

Brian Brown, Anabel Quan-Haase


In this paper, we propose a new ethnographic method for the study of produsage (Bruns 2008) in social media contexts. The proposed method is based on three lines of thought: Marx’s method of ‘A Workers’ Inquiry’, the autonomists’ method of co-research, and recent critical theory of Web 2.0. To show the applicability and usefulness of the proposed method, we first compare it to other Marxist inspired methodological approaches and then we describe a case study to illustrate the method’s diversity and its potential for providing new insights into the processes of produsage and the commodification of audiences as described in previous work by Smythe (1977), Bruns (2008), Cohen (2008), and Fuchs (2011). The case study consists of a critical examination of the mode of produsage as it takes place in Flickr, one of the largest photo-sharing communities on the Internet.


Internet; Critical Theory; Immaterial Labour; Flickr; Social Media; Web 2.0; Digital Ethnography; Produsage; Research Methods

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