Consumers in the Digital World

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With the emergence of « Web 2.0 », and more recently its direct evolution « Web 3.0 » or « semantic Web », it is clear that the consumer no longer holds the same place in the digital domain than the one he occupied during its creation. Initially the Web had a unilateral vocation: the consumer (ie the Internet user) was not intended to create content, and even less to be its main source, but only to be its recipient which emanated from a small minority of privileged ones.

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This evolution in the digital world can be compared to another more general one endured by our economic models. Indeed, if the industrial revolution and the generalization of wage labor had marked the advent of a consumer society which dissociated the roles of producer and consumer, to the detriment of the traditional place of self-production, latest models mark a fundamental break with this system. Thus, increasingly, we are seeing the emergence of a co-production logic (corresponding to the consumer’s involvement in the production of goods and/or services it consumes), and it is undeniable that the digital revolution and the development of production processes (standardization, personalization etc.) has amplified and accelerated this trand by facilitating the fact the consumer is « put to work ».

This profound change of our system has led to a shift of the consumer’s role, who has  evolved from being a mere spectator to a real actor, hence the term highly acclaimed these recent years of « consum’actors ». This change is observed at all levels, in all areas, and thus won’t escape from the digital sector, on the contrary, it has been a real factor of development for this phenomenon (which it is well showed by the internet’s platforms transfering to the consumer more and more tasks, such as printing tickets or invoices, the information from administrative records, mutual aid within user communities etc.). Thus, at the present time, there is not a single digital player which not use this kind of method of « enslaving » the consumer by an integration (at least partially) in its operating mechanisms…

Although this vast transformation can be justified in many ways, it is very clear that this transfer of tasks from the producer to the consumer is often motivated by the reduction of production costs. However, whatever may be the considerations that lead to the transfer (as honorable may they be), certain legal rules must continue to be respected, which is not always easy…Thus, besides the important issue of sharing the added value that the mobilization of consumer generates, exploitation of consumers’ personal data is an issue and a major problem at social, economical and ethical levels.

While these disruptions are causing many problems, however, it is not excluded that the development of co-production can also be a source of opportunities by reinforcing, for example, the autonomy of the consumer and its influence . One thing is sure, the emergence of these new patterns of consumption affects the lifestyles, the organization of work and employment and, ultimately, our social’s system and model, effects that should be, in the coming years, precisely measured to be fully effective.

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