[iDC] Introduction: The Internet as Playground and Factory

BURAK ARIKAN arikan at burak-arikan.com
Fri Jun 12 19:26:06 UTC 2009

Hi all,

I am Burak Arikan, I've also been invited to this conference, to  
develop discussions around labor in the age of socialized and  
commercialized internet. I am an artist and researcher focusing on  
creating critical networked systems. My work confronts issues on the  
theme of user labor, participatory economy, cultural sustainability,  
and governance in the networked environments.

Since June 2007, we've been running an experimental stock market, Meta- 
Markets ( http://meta-markets.com ), for trading socially networked  
creative products. These products are basically the web profiles  
flourished by users of the social web services such as Facebook,  
Flickr, Delicious etc. For example, a Meta-Markets participant does an  
IPO of their Facebook account and open the shares for trading.  
Discussions and transactions of shares among the participants define  
the speculative market value of the share, which then becomes an  
ephemeral reference, an approximation to the real / fair value of the  
account. If one cares, this information can be useful to debate with  
the service providers.

If you ask founders of such social web services, they say "you use  
free services, so you pay with your data", which is being used for  
marketing, targeted advertisement etc. But we have a question here:  
How much value I generate for the service, how much value the service  
generate for me? This difference is unknown, for us. Obviously this  
ambivalent zone is being exploited since the beginning of the 20th  
century. Nicholas Carr points to the same issue in one of his post:

“First you get your users to entrust their personal data to you, and  
then you not only sell that data to advertisers but you get the users  
to be the vector for the ads. And what do the users get in return? An  
animated Sprite Sips character to interact with.”

Think the difference between Guy Debord’s Society of Spectacle and  
today’s networked society of spectacle. Today, the spectacle is  
digitally measurable, carried in the activity streams, analyzed in the  
silos, sold to elsewhere. The measurability of the spectacle raises a  
newly found company's value to 15 billion dollars in a few years. One  
of the reasons this happen is the exploitation of the difference  
between the value we generate for the service, and the value the  
service generates for us?

Today what boosts measurability is the data standards. Of all kind,  
RSS, ATOM, microformats, etc. To be able to counter act against such  
user exploitation, we proposed a new data standard, User Labor Markup  
Language (ULML), to outline the metrics of user participation in  
social web services. We believe that accessibility of user labor  
metrics will ultimately lead to more sustainable service cycles in  
social web. You can see more here http://userlabor.org.

I'd like to cut short here, will go on later. Like many of you, I am  
looking forward to seed a more critical Internet culture in this  


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