[iDC] the politics of journalism

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Fri May 4 22:29:09 EDT 2007

On 5/4/07, Bernard Roddy <bproddy at yahoo.com> wrote:
> Hey, Michel:  Thanks for the reply.  What you say strikes me as addressed
> to the initiated, and purposely not to me.  But perhaps I could try out some
> translations.  Can we define what you call "communal validation" as what
> people are prepared to actively support, and say that such support generally
> comes in the form of payment in some form?  You know, like the extent of
> validation is measured in terms of the extent to which profitable
> enterprises can flourish in the community.  Are there other forms of
> validation?

Dear Bernard,

Communal validation is explained here at

It is the new process whereby the distributed production aspects of peer
production is matched by a distribution of the selection and quality control
of what has been produced. It differs from the modern forms because it no
longers uses credentialism and a priori control, but is anti-credentialist
and uses 'a posteriori' communal validation processes of what has been
freely produced by the community of peers. Anti-credentialism is explained
here at

So communal validation has nothing to do with monetization, at least not
directly. To anticipate your paragraph on social reproduction, the new forms
of it have the main aim of preventing the crystallization of fixed
representation, of collective individuals that form out of the community and
separate from it, taking control over the process. It takes many forms,
usually collective choice systems. Here are some links to the current
systems that are emerging at

In the web 2.0 model, the sharing sphere of individual expression is matched
to a for-profit platform which monetizes the attention, and of course, in
this particular environment, the items which come on top through communal
validation, are the ones that generate the most income, and in some cases,
there is a return to the original producers in the form of revenue sharing
agreements, see http://www.p2pfoundation.net/Revenue_Sharing

I was also struck by the reference to social reproduction in your reply.
> You give three processes that make such reproduction possible, but what
> exactly is the value of reproduction here?  What is being reproduced?  I am
> accustomed to questioning such reproduction, to seeing most of what is
> reproduced as problematic.  As a result, at this point I am beginning to
> feel like the economic and social arrangements of a capitalist system are
> taken for granted, and that the objective for devising such processes as you
> list has more to do with succeeding under the terms of such a system,
> accepting the discursive formations of "free enterprise."  We are a long way
> from any consideration about resistance, it seems.

I am talking about the social reproduction of the system as a whole, of the
specific social relationships embedded in peer production, peer governance,
and peer property, or if you like the input, process and output aspects of
this new form of producing, governing and distribution. No social system can
survive without creating an institutional framework and social processes
that guarantee this. I like Nick Dyer-Witheford's descrption of this as the
"Circulation of the Common", which matches the circulation of capital, see

The relationships between the new mode of production and the capitalist
system are complex, and certainly not taken for granted. The best approach
is to examine in depth which are the immanent aspects of peer production,
i.e. how it is incorporated in the current system, and which aspects of it
are transcendent, go beyond it and are post-capitalist in nature. This
cannot be captured in a simple opposition with capital (as neither was
capitalism simply opposed to the feudal order, in which it was incorporated
before it became dominant), rather it has transgressive elements (illegal
p2p filesharing), constructive elements (the new institutional and legal
frameworks such as GPL and CC licenses), and reformist/revolutionary
elements (conflicts with existing frameworks). In terms of consciousness,
peer producers cover a wide variety of social and political points of view,
ranging from pro to anti-capitalist with many varieties in between. You are
completely wrong to say the discourse of free entreprise is  reproduced, or
that there is no consideration of resistance. In fact there are many
thriving social movements (ranged under the open/free, participative, and
commons oriented umbrella's) which are actively thinking and practicing
transgressive/constructive/resistance oriented projects.

When you mention the "selection for quality," I want to ask how is this
> different from determining what is profitable?  You know, rather than one
> person one vote, we have one dollar one vote.  I would say that the notion
> of "quality" gets introduced when hegemonic priorities try to naturalize
> their objectives.

Peer production has a complex relationship to the monetary sphere, in which
it is embedded, but from which it is also different since it works without
monetary compensation (if it is compensated, it is not peer production). In
the web 2.0 model, it is the attention which is monetized, in the
commons-oriented models, it is the value-added services, derived from the
commons, but not destroying it (since those companies are dependent on it),
which create the for-profit models. Quality is not inherently capitalist, on
the contrary. The notions of quality in capitalism are inherently weak,
since planned obsolesence is the only way to maintain scarcity in the
market; the quality model of peer production, based on an infinite striving
for the best possible solution through passionate production, is inherently
subsersive to that model, and reconnects with the premodern notion of
quality. So again, it is the exact contrary of what you say.

Thus, as I understand you, quality is not supposed to be the product of a
> social process that has historical roots in various expressions of power.
> Instead it is supposed to be an inherent characteristic of the content
> itself, as if it were born in the product and not a reified result of social
> desire, ideology, or economic inequality.  For me the very idea of quality
> is politically suspect.  This concern applies equally to the concept of
> "talent," which can often be measured in terms of profitability but is then
> mystified into some intrinsic criteria only true "experts" can pick up.

Quality is absolutely rooted in the social process of peer production, and
its practice of power. I think the general problem with your approach, is
that you are so obsessed with the enemy, that you have given it all your
mental power. Because you cannot divorce yourself from its power, you are
feeding the beast with your negativity and permanent critique. On the
contrary, if you let the beast for what it is, but built alternative social
practices,  you frustrate and make it powerless. It has made you believe it
is invisible, and you believe it. You cannot hold the paradoxical situations
whereby humans are both possible of creation, while being conscious of the
existing structures, and are striving to change it, all the while aware of
how they are still part of the existing structures. These humans need not
accept or reject all of existing reality, but can navigate the existing

Bernard, contrary to popular belief, the roman empire never fell, but it
died and was replaced by pre-existing alternative social structures.

(In your reply you make reference to "anti-hijacking" processes and refine
> this as "procedures against private appropriation."  This sounds like a
> reference to issues surrounding intellectual property, to measures designed
> to prevent private interests from using public resources for private gain or
> from placing constraints on the capacity people have to access or use ideas
> that ought to be available to anyone.  But the language would also suit a
> CEO who is concerned about protecting company content from being "hijacked"
> by other private individuals, artists and such.  In the context of a
> discussion about such things as quality and talent, hijacking - so familiar
> from the language of terrorism - would seem to allude to fears held by the
> status quo.)

Again you are using your familiar trick. Because a set of ideas, can or is
also held by the forces that you hate, you have already disqualified the
discourse. The only thing that rests is to critique all the alternatives,
since by definition, they have already lost the game, the proof being that
the beast is thinking similar sounding thoughts. What remains is the cynical
position that the only pure position is that of negativity.


> Date: Wed, 2 May 2007 10 <javascript:void(0)>:07:17 +0700
> From: "Michel Bauwens"
> Subject: Re: [iDC] the politics of journalism
> To: idc at mailman.thing.net
> Message-ID:
> Hi Bernard,
> Not sure what is business school about communal validation, wish they were
> indeed talking about such things there.
> But more seriously: any mode of production/governance/distribution has to
> take care of 3 processes if it is to socially reproduce itself: 1) the
> cumulation process (which is now distributed in p2p); 2) winnowing, i.e.
> the selection for quality process (which happens through communal
> validation, i.e. is distributed as much as the production is); 3)
> anti-hijacking processes (procedures against private appropriation, the
> tragedy of the commons, etc...)
> On 5/1/07, Bernard Roddy wrote:
> >
> > For what it's worth, this post from Joshua Levy is encouraging. I follow
> > efforts by death row inmates on Texas Death row, and the MySpace and
> penpal
> > journalism phenomenon holds a powerful potential for some serious
> reflection
> > on an issue that corporate media has a strangle-hold over. Of course
> we'll
> > take the "professional" journalist, but only when they know what they're
> > talking about. (To say there's no call to replace traditional media is,
> > perhaps, minimizing a problem, of course.) By contrast, I was
> disappointed
> > by the discussion raised by Michel Bauwens and Robert Labossiere.
> Bauwens
> > says something about "the key" to successful projects, making reference
> to
> > "community validation" and "quality," and answering Labossiere's call
> for
> > ideas on "talent" and "agents." This just sounds like business school to
> > me.
> >
> > Bernie
> >
> ------------------------------
> Don't get soaked. Take a quick peak at the forecast
> with theYahoo! Search weather shortcut.
> _______________________________________________
> iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity (
> distributedcreativity.org)
> iDC at mailman.thing.net
> http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
> List Archive:
> http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/
> iDC Photo Stream:
> http://www.flickr.com/photos/tags/idcnetwork/

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

The work of the P2P Foundation is supported by
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/attachments/20070505/9cc823f9/attachment.html

More information about the iDC mailing list