[iDC] The wrong kind of youth and distributed capitalism

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Wed Jan 3 00:13:52 EST 2007


This is a great posting, and I wonder if I could republish it in my own
blog, as an appeal for participation literacy? Do let me know.

I mostly agree with what you said, though perhaps I would to stress the
following points, which I think are actually implied as a subtext (see your
dual account of Amazon).

I think that a too stringent duality between the interests of users, and the
netarchical capitalists (http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Netarchical_Capitalism)
who both enable and exploit participatory platforms, like Amazon, would be

People who do participate in such platforms get a lot of value out of it,
they are not just being exploited. If you write a review for Amazon, you
contribute to the collective intelligence of the system, and you profit from
that. Furthermore, it is part of your identity, and you get reputation
value, as expressed by that youngster.

On a deeper level, socially, we are less and less in a pure situation of
workers/consumers that are exploited by an external force, but rather, we
move in and out of situations, consuming one day, created user content the
other; working in peer production one day, as free lancer the other day, as
employee the third.

Hence, what works best I think is to show the dual nature of those
platforms, that they are both useful, and harmful, that the
owners/organizers are both acting in our interest (because it is what they
live from) and in their own, and that an awareness of the difference is
crucial, and that they are not powerless against such abuses. And of course,
the awareness that they can also create their own platforms, and avoid these
dependencies altogether. (see http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/?p=736)

Like with environmental education, where it has been shown that while direct
participation in nature increases critical awareness, purely critical
approaches actually made youth cynical and apathetic.

So we should go 'with them' and their peer ethics, rather than teach from
the outside.

Don't we all use all kinds of 'corporate' tools, after all they are useful,
allow sharing and participation, give all kinds of value, and furthermore,
it is also 'where the people and their attention' is, so that worldchangers
would be ill advised to isolate themselves amongst smaller but purer
in-crowd projects?


On 1/3/07, Trebor Scholz <trebor at thing.net> wrote:
> I agree with Brian that youth should not be looked at as a prime example
> to be imitated or as a solace for our own bad habits. However, at the same
> time it is absurd to claim
> that today's kids are just the "wrong (uncritical) kind of youth."
> [The phrase "the wrong kind of snow" goes back to a statement by British
> Rail's Director of Operations Terry Worrall, who stated on 11 February 1991
> that "we are having
> particular problems with the type of snow".]
> Youth needs to be educated and what that means changes frequently. Today,
> informal "peer education" plays an increasingly important role. Finding your
> way around
> participatory cultures is crucial for professional life in the "creative
> industries," for citizenship, and for personal growth. This literacy needs
> to be taught and right now many
> relevant skills are mainly taught outside of institutions of learning.
> Kids are not born with a better ability to cope with information overload
> (like a sixth finger to text faster).
> Teenagers don't have dual processor brains. Some of them are more fearless
> and playful in their encounters with technology partially because they grew
> up with networked
> computers.
> However, if you don't know how to deal with the constant influx of music,
> videos, software, email, friends on IM, and blogs and wikis and MySpace
> posts (now also available
> for life on the go), then you will be simply drown in a swamp of data.
> Your attention will be so diffuse that you can't follow through with a
> concentrated, long-term project. It
> will also be hard for you to be present with another person, to actually
> "meet" them.
> We need an ethics of participation! That's part of  participation
> literacy. Do I let myself being taken advantage of by those who pull the
> strings behind sociable environments?
> "Why would I not help out Amazon.com by writing book reviews for them (?),
> they sold great books to me." I heard this puzzling logic from a young
> student. I paid and
> therefore, in return, I give my labor away for free. (It's of course more
> complex than that as arguably  these reviews serve the public as well.)
> Another example:
> In mid-December at the LeWeb 3 conference in Paris a disconcerting project
> was launched: YAADZ. To the realm of viral video and guerrilla marketing you
> can now add this
> site that offers "video advertisement by the people who watch them." YOU
> AD[Z]. Somebody who loves Reebok shoes can now create their own video ad and
> upload it too.
> And it's free. They don't even have to pay for giving their immaterial
> labor away for free.
> <http://www.yaadz.com/>
> Critical participation literacy will make kids aware that projects like
> this exemplify the self-exploiting hell of distributed capitalism. (Many of
> them lack totally this criticality.)
> They have no hesitation to "outsource" their photo memories to Yahoo
> (Flickr) or to leave all their daily life traces with Rupert Murdoch
> (MySpace). The ethics of participation
> need to be taught.
> In a recent survey that I conducted, a participant (age 18) stated that
> she wears MySpace and YouTube like clothes. "They are an extension of my
> identity," she said. If social
> networking sites are an expression of identity, then we need to teach a
> critical awareness of the environments in which kids hang out online.
> Students may be aware that it is
> uncool to wear Abercrombie & Fitch but they don't hesitate to trust
> MySpace with their life. (Abercrombie & Fitch was accused of discrimination
> against minority employees--
> 2004 lawsuit Gonzalez v. Abercrombie & Fitch).
> My argument is clearly against continuous partial attention. In my opinion
> cpa is caused by information overload and the vertigo of choice that comes
> with it. To shape their
> own vision, to follow their own life direction (not remote controlled by
> the carrots of distributed capitalism) youth needs to learn--
> to filter,
> to judge information sources,
> to play,
> to experiment,
> to collaborate with others,
> to be critically aware of the ethics of participation,
> to master cooperative tools and instruments
> -this includes simple email skills
> <http://mleddy.blogspot.com/2005/01/how-to-e-mail-professor.html>
> and to meaningfully distribute their ideas (create platforms).
> It's not the wrong kind of youth, it's merely youth that needs to be
> educated.
> -Trebor
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Basic essay at http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=499; interview at
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