[iDC] Virtual Worlds, Education, & Labor

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Mon Mar 5 04:02:56 EST 2007

Hi Trebor,

For years, the left has complained about the stranglehold of mass media, and
how they were dumbing us down, preventing autonomy and sharing etc...

Now we have an extraordinary techno-social development which creates a
multitude of micromedia, some of which, most of which?,  probably are
mediated by an existing political economy and specifically in concrete cases
by proprietary platforms.

But the first thing is to recognize the joy that people are feeling when
they are enabled/empowered to express themselves, share, and form
communities. On that basis, they will learn the impediments that mediation
is forcing on them, and learn to yearn for more pure forms of autonomy.

However, if peer production is non-reciprocal, as I argue, then it makes no
sense to argue about exploitation through derivative services.

Rather, I would argue that in most cases, there is a very well understood
social contract. You provide us with a participatory platform, we understand
that needs funding, and therefore, the provider has a business strategy.
Conflicts will arise out of the balance between participation and
profit-taking, but not on the very principle of profit taking ,since this is
the very condition for the participatory platform to be sustainable. If the
participation breaks down because of the profit taking, as seems the case in
MySpace, then people start to leave, and eventually, the social conditions
for the creation of totally autonomous platforms will arise.

I understand that in academia, being critical is the life-blood for
recognition and that there is a competition towards hyper-criticality. But I
think that the conclusion that most people have suddently become 'dumb',
because they do not recognize the exploitation, is unwarranted. They do know
this, and they mostly recognize it as a fact of life, but they also have
their own interests at heart.

If you criticize that the benefits of the labor of the many go to the few,
does that then imply that you favour revenue-sharing? But in that case, you
kill passionate production, it becomes a for-market activity, the quality of
contributions plummets. Is that what is preferable? Or rather, should we
find ways so that the generated revenue goes back to the community in such a
way that the peer production process is not undermined by direct payments?

I say we need strategies which work with the passion of the peer producers,
that take them seriously (does not assume they are dumb and unaware of


The P2P Foundation researches, documents and promotes peer to peer

Wiki and Encyclopedia, at http://p2pfoundation.net; Blog, at
http://blog.p2pfoundation.net; Newsletter, at

Basic essay at http://www.ctheory.net/articles.aspx?id=499; interview at
video interview, at

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