The Prosumer Complex

Harbison, Isobel. 2015. The Prosumer Complex. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

Text (The Prosumer Complex)
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Abstract or Description

‘The Prosumer Complex’ regards prosumerism as a new productive mode of online image work. Prosumerism, I claim, recuperates practical elements of artistic practice and looking as labour, and puts these to work in a new kind of viewing. As prosumers we are discouraged from assessing the function of our viewing, the nature and outcomes of our production. On websites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram we ‘share’ personal images as a form of interplay on prosumer platforms that claim to enable communion, communication and creative freedom for users.

In this thesis, I regard the recent history and changing meaning of the term ‘prosumerism’, the new industry of images it has created and how its recent critiques relate to theories of the capitalist recuperation of artistic labour. I outline specific film and performance works by artists Mark Leckey, Frances Stark and Ericka Beckman and analyse how they probe, dramatise and disturb the activity of prosumerism. The intrinsic and extrinsic aspects of prosumerism are played out within the work and thus become reflexive, showing the social and economic conditions in which they are produced and performing the exhibitionary tendencies those conditions create.

These reflexive works elicit a more complicated and differentiated mode of viewing than the uniform regard prosumerism encourages. They provide unique models for exhibition making that expose a common contemporary subjectivity with a voracious, growing appetite for images as well as its relationship to productive display platforms for and from which these images are produced and consumed. Manipulating and exposing this co-production by implementing the curator’s subjectivity and agonist display architectures, ‘The Prosumer Complex’ becomes a curatorial form of ‘détournement’ where the exhibition visitor sees prosumerism at work within the exhibition’s elements. Thus the prosumer complex becomes a mode of reflexive curating and an affective advance from prosumer critique.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


Prosumerism, stock images, microstock images, Facebook, affective labour, precariat, digital humanism, contemporary art, film theory, performance theory, self representation and digital culture, Mark Leckey, Ericka Beckman, Frances Stark, Exhibitionary Complex, subjective curating

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31 March 2015

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

15 Apr 2015 11:05

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 09:08


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