[iDC] Don Tapscott's Wikinomics: A Dismal Netology?

pat kane scottishfutures at googlemail.com
Thu Aug 30 09:29:01 UTC 2007

As ever, such an interesting post from Keith. On this point:

> they have not yet offered anything like a credible
> challenge to capitalism. I suspect that this is because their model of
> closed local circuits of economy negates money's chief attraction  
> -- its
> ability to span our most inclusive associations and most immediate  
> concrete
> desires and obligations. It just isn't enough to float these things as
> local welfare relief.

Isn't the "ability to span our most inclusive associations and most  
immediate concrete desires and obligations" what we also love the  
internet for? Yet the weird thing about the net is that is also  
allows our "inclusive associations and immediate concrete desires" to  
play to a potentially global audience - ie, the Borgesian plurality  
of YouTube. I always enjoy stories like this from the BBC -  Let  
staff use social network sites, say trade unions http:// 
news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/6969791.stm - because it makes the collision  
between life-lived-under-the-universal-value-of-connection, as  
opposed to life-lived-under-the-universal-value-of-money, very explicit.

Like Tiziana, I'm always interested in the philsophical leaps made by  
recent Italian autonomist thinkers like Negri, Virno and Lazzarato,  
where they look at 'the network society' and see the general  
intellect/affect in operation - to me, the irrepressibility and  
rhizomatic, kudzu-like nature of socio-technical networks really does  
prove their point.

But the point at which this autonomist thought even touches the  
possibility of state policy - a guaranteed social wage, which returns  
to the 'multitude in their general communicative productivity' some  
of the wealth they generate thereby - instantly shows the gap between  
bottom-up and top-down that I mentioned in my last post. Oh for the  
glory days of Jacques Delors and Lionel Jospin being inspired by  
Andre Gorz and Alain Lipietz, where 35 and 30 hour weeks could be  
imagined as a limit to capital that would encourage existential self- 
development! It's funny, but the vigor of social networks - currently  
pushing 'life' against 'capital', as we see from the BBC story -  
would so thrive in that lost social-democratic European moment of  
social reform. (And let's not forget about curious high-tide  
watermarks like France's Minitel, bolted together at the height of  
Mitterandian rule). Like Wilde said about socialism, we don't have  
enough evenings to realise the full potential of p2p collaboration -  
when we need evenings and afternoons. (Of course, hackers take their  
time on the job and using corporate facilities to build their  
commons, but can't we get to some social acknowledgement of the  
'generality of productiveness in the network society' that's more  
*dignified* and *manifest* than that?)

Wise words about the operations of the state, though, Keith. I'm  
watching what's happening in Scotland, where an SNP government is  
trying to use digital networks to foment a 'national conversation'  
about an extension of powers to the Scottish Parliament - all for  
impeccable, pacific, Scandinavian reasons - but I'm now wondering  
whether, as a 'top-heavy bureaucratic' exercise, it will indeed  
squeeze the life out of the citizen deliberations it wants to  
encourage. See my website www.scottishfutures.net for coverage on  
this. I've also written a paper on 'The Democratic Interact' which  
may be of interest to iDC'ers. http://scottishfutures.typepad.com/ 

best, pk

Michel bangs on about the 'transcendental' aspects of p2p  
collaboration through networks.

On 29 Aug 2007, at 21:07, keith at thememorybank.co.uk wrote:

> Pat,
> I would have replied to this one, even if you hadn't mentioned me  
> name.
>> Hoping I can contribute a few broken thoughts to this debate, which
> the reanimated magi of the Scottish Enlightenment would doubtless
> shape much better than I can...<
> Come back, Adam, all is forgiven.
>> My only experience of non-establishment money systems are a few LETS
> schemes in Scotland - which work well in hard-bitten social
> situations, where community solidarity can be reanimated around these
> 'socially'-fuelled systems of allocation of resources, talents and
> people. I also remember that the local money systems that emerged in
> Argentina did so in the wake of extreme economic crisis. I suppose
> the general point I'm making is that it has taken a pretty large
> capitalist meltdown, or an sustained experience at its sharp end, for
> alternative money systems to seem credible. Our acute and urgent
> ecological awareness of natural finitude may be able to draw a very
> thick line around the endless expansions of capitalism - and I'm then
> wondering whether the state legislators who still lay down the laws
> for capitalism's operations will realise that local money systems, or
> at least the recognition of the social dimension of currency and
> value-markers, might have a role to play in social order.<
> I have summed up what I have learned about community currencies in  
> a French
> book chapter of which this is the translation:
> http://www.thememorybank.co.uk/papers/common-wealth
> You are not wrong about the appeal of LETS and similar cc schemes in
> economically desperate circumstances. Michael Linton
> (http://www.lets.net/)invented the original in the context of a  
> slump in
> British Columbia. The Argentina example is well-known, but the  
> movement
> collapsed equally rapidly. Alternative currencies have emerged  
> mainly in
> capitalist countries like Canada, Britain, Japan and France,  
> perhaps in
> more deprived areas (which is not certain), but they have not taken  
> off in
> a quarter-century of operations. It seems that, whatever their  
> concrete
> advantages in providing additional purchasing power, there is  
> widespread
> resistance to adopting them. This may be partly a question of  
> persuading
> people that their inured money habits are not inevitable. It is also
> because they usually mimic the stand-alone model of nation-states  
> and tend
> to become introverted and clubby. At the very least these  
> experiments are a
> source of political education and spread ideas about non-capitalist  
> forms
> of economy, even if
>> Again, to pick up another point of Michel's, trust-based resource
> management pops up in the most interesting places, at least in the
> relatively material process of newspaper production - the Guardian
> now explicitly proclaims that its trust status is a guarantor of its
> editorial quality, freedom, and innovativeness. So the attractiveness
> of an ideal of social affect as the basis for running an enterprise,
> service or organisation - wikinomics, in Tapscott's sense - is
> already out there. I'm always wondering - and perhaps Keith Hart can
> help here - whether 'top down' is always oblivious to 'bottom up', or
> whether there might some imaginable state policy reform that could
> fecundly generate a whole range of collaborative enterprises. I'm
> thinking of the discussion around the PSP (public service provider)
> going on in Ofcom in the UK, where websites and gamemakers can bid
> for public money on the basis of providing a 'public service'; or the
> Swedish state subsidy for local newspapers, to protect press  
> diversity.<
> I like to start from Max Weber's notion of legitimation. Power works
> alright as force, but it helps if you can persuade people that it  
> is right.
> There are specific social consequences of the claims that rulers  
> make to be
> rightful. If the king claims divine right, it will not do to  
> arrange the
> murder of the head of his church. Sticking with the religious  
> analogy, the
> World Bank is like the Vatican in the High Middle Ages. Even if  
> cardinals
> then were corrupt and compromised by power, the fact that the  
> church was
> Christian obliged them to go through the motions of caring for the  
> poor.
> The fact that the Bank is supposed according to its constitution to
> alleviate global poverty means that there is ideological pressure  
> to be
> seen to do more than merely implement the White House's policies. This
> leads the Bank to take up notions like the informal economy and social
> capital which appear to address the real lives of the poor  
> everywhere, But
> of course, since it is a top-heavy western bureaucracy, it kills off
> whatever initiatives it touches. The institutional desire to reach  
> down to
> the people, however, is at some level sincere, if maladroit. The  
> same could
> probably be said of Brown and the British government or even the  
> Guardian
> newspaper. It is in the nature of power of want to be right. This  
> doesn't
> mean ordinary people can influence the powerful. That was Emile  
> Durkheim's
> problem, not Weber's and the idea of a moral politics seems even less
> relevant to our times than it did to his.
> Best,
> Keith
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