[iDC] Introductions

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Sat Jun 6 14:27:11 UTC 2009

Thanks for your introductions, Frank, Howard, and Rob. Frank Pascale asks if
the amount of control and cash that the operators get is commensurate with
their own contributions to the site¹s order and maintenance?

This mutually beneficial tradeoff is not merely an exchange between pleasure
or social utility and profit. When millions of people are concentrated in
one experiential nexus, then the potential for control is vast and not
unrelated to the ideological effects of cinema. The 'free service' comes at
a price that goes beyond our conscious or involuntary 'cyber service' and
the social cost of corporate and governmental surveillance. In a sense, we
are paying with our life by committing ourselves, our navigational tracks,
our bodies, our relationships, our time, our knowledge, our attention, and
affect. What are we doing to ourselves?

The most important thing to understand is that the goal for any for-profit
organization is to earn a profit. Despite the tension between continuous
speculation and actual revenues the operators that we discussed are
profitable and a quick look at the numbers shows that: Facebook hopes to
make $300 million this year but its speculative value is at least $10
billion. In 2006, MySpace¹s annual operating budget was $40 million. In 2008
alone, the company made more than $700 million from advertising.

Howard Rheingold suggests that it is time to closely look at the way profit
motives have made available useful public goods. Sure, most of the
'interaction labor' that is performed online is mutually beneficial for
users and service providers. I think of it as a triadic mix of
self-interest, network value, and corporate profit. Then there are the black
swans, the exceptions, where corporate profit does not come into the picture
(i.e., Wikipedia, SETI at Home, etc). And finally, there absolutely are fairly
isolated examples of clear cut exploitation in the most technical sense!!

Trebor Scholz
New School University November 12-14
Twitter hash tag #lc09

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