[iDC] Relation of my work to conference on "The Internet as Playground and Factory, "

Michael H Goldhaber michael at goldhaber.org
Sat Jun 13 07:21:57 UTC 2009

Trebor Scholz has asked me to offer a brief comment as to how my work  
relates to the conference on "The Internet as Playground and Factory," https://lists.thing.net/pipermail/idc/2009-June/003445.html

To properly understand the nature and role of “digital labor” requires  
understanding the nature of current society and how it seems to be  
evolving. My work on the Attention Economy suggests that the best way  
to do this is in terms of the emergence of a new, post-capitalist  
class society. (See , e.g. http://www.uic.edu/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/519/440

Btw, I originated the term ‘Attention Economy  in the 1980’s, but is  
now too often used in a way that deviates markedly from what I mean; I  
am using it in the original way here.)  This new class society  
revolves around the scarcity of the attention available from other  
human beings (and its desirability, even from immense audiences). The  
two new classes are then those who have succeeded in getting much more  
than an equal slice of attention (for brevity I label these  people  
“stars”) and those who obtain less attention than they pay out  
(“fans”). In other words, I argue we are passing from one dyadic class  
system (capitalists and worker) revolving around money, routine labor  
and standardized material goods, though  not to a classless society  —  
as Marx had hoped — but instead to a new dyadic class system of stars  
and fans, revolving around various forms of expression and the  
attention such expression hopes to garner.

The interplay between these two dyads (the four classes named above)  
is complex and changing, with alliances and antagonisms springing up  
in every possible permutation. The same person can certainly be in an  
old class as well as a new one, and might identify as a member of two  
as well ). One aspect of digital labor would then be what I call  
“fan’s work” which is apparently voluntary (unpaid) but supportive of  
and conditioned by the wishes of one, or more often a few or more stars.

In my view, we are already farther along than it might seem in the  
transition to the dominance of the new kind of economy.  I have a  
loose calculation ( http://goldhaber.org/blog/?p=80 ) to support that  
contention. Also, even in the current  downturn of the old economy,  
the attention economy continues to gather strength.

Michael H. Goldhaber

michael at goldhaber.org
mgoldh at well.com
blog www.goldhaber.org
older site, www.well.com/user/mgoldh

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