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precarious since 1997 | by maryann johanson

question of the day: If we aren’t “consumers” of entertainment, what should we call ourselves?

In response to yesterday’s QOTD — about whether we are reinventing ourselves as people who watch movies and TV, listen to music, read books, and play games in light of the ever expanding choices we have for how we do these things — reader LaSargenta commented:

I take umbrage at having to call myself a “consumer” like it is an identity. I’m a person, a citizen and, because one does if one is alive, I do consume stuff — air, food, bed linens, books, movies, whathaveyou — but, I am not a Consumer. (And, yes, I noticed that MAJ did not capitalize the word up there. It capitalized itself in my brain.)

She makes an excellent point.
Just to be clear, I don’t think of myself as a Consumer, either, and I also dislike the notion of “Consumer” as an identity. What’s more, the word consumer implies a passivity that does not apply to me, nor, I suspect, to most people who read this site: Part of what makes entertainment different today is not only the array of options we have but that we are no longer passive in the face of it. We tweet our reactions to a movie; we create fan sites and write fan fiction; we edit mashup videos; we discuss the latest episodes of hot TV shows on Internet forums. (Indeed, much of what is very popular today on TV, from Lost to American Idol, would not exist without the back-and-forth between and among audiences and creators.) Critics and very serious, very intense fans have always pushed back against passivity, to a certain degree. What’s new in the last 15 years or so is that many, many “ordinary” “consumers” of entertainment do this. (And it was happening on a smaller but still notable scale going back perhaps 25 years or more, with printed-on-paper fanzines, videotape exchanges, and other fan activity.)

But if you’re going to watch movies and read books and listen to music and play games, you have to get ahold of that material somehow. That’s all I was referring to when I used the word consumer. I’m all for finding a better word.

If we aren’t “consumers” of entertainment, what should we call ourselves?

Fan and its synonyms (buff, enthusiast, etc.) don’t quite cut it. Activist is perhaps a little closer but comes laden with associations of its own that are wrong for this usage.

I’m flummoxed. We need to invent a whole new word, perhaps.

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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