[iDC] Introduction: The Internet as Playground and Factory

Joe Edelman joe.edelman at gmail.com
Sat Jun 13 14:29:16 UTC 2009

Trebor, Michel,

I'd be curious what you think of The Extraordinaries (beextra.org),  
which is similar to mechanical turk, but exclusively for nonprofit use?

Is the thing we call exploitation or expropriation about capital?  Or  
is it about control? (The strategies of large nonprofits are no more  
democratically controlled than those of large corporations; even large  
member coops and democratic nations can only be vaguely said to be  
controlled by the people.)  Or is it about connection?  For me it's  
the later:  if you meet people while you work, and those social  
connections can help you accomplish changing in your community and  
personal life, cross class boundaries, etc, that's a good thing.

So when I look at Mechanical Turk, what I see a way to bring tens of  
thousands together without introducing themselves or making any kind  
of real, helpful connection.  Which is, indeed, dystopian and scary.   
But Wikipedia and the Obama SMS campaign have this problem to some  
extent too.  Facebook Groups and Twitter.. less so!

J.E. // nxhx.org // (c) 413.250.8007

On Jun 13, 2009, at 9:28 AM, Trebor Scholz wrote:

> Michel,
>> Why see this as the exclusive benefit of capital, and be blind to how
>> people are using these services for the construction of their own
>> lives, using what is at hand.
> Hm,... from the conference introduction and my posts here I had  
> hoped that
> it was clear that I am not suggesting a relationship marked by one- 
> sided
> benefit. For the past ten years I have participated in countless  
> social
> milieus and created a few myself. On reflection, I'd now say that  
> the most
> pervasive relationship online is
> a praise-entertainment---expropriation-surveillance tradeoff
> between users and operators. I know, it's a mouth-full but as a  
> German I
> have a deep appreciation for seemingly unending words.
> Google's Image Labeler is a suitable example. The developer of the  
> game
> behind the Image Labeler wrote that he encourages people to do the  
> work by
> taking advantage of their desire to be entertained. It's a triadic  
> mix of
> self-interest ("fun," acknowledgment), network value (the image  
> search gets
> better), and corporate profit (Google's product improves).
> Then there is public-spirited 'interaction labor' on a small number  
> of sites
> like Wikipedia, Project Gutenberg, etc. At least today, they are the
> exception. Only very few of the over 1 billion Internet users  
> contribute to
> these projects.
> And finally, if a worker gets paid $8 for transcribing a 45 minute- 
> long
> video on Mechanical Turk, then I'd call that exploitation in the most
> technical sense of the word. However, it's expropriation and not
> exploitation that rules the net. I added a few comments about MTurk  
> to my
> blog http://is.gd/10JG2
> Surely, I'm not suggesting a simple typology; things are murky.
> Perhaps we can think of exhibitions like Les Immateriaux by Lyotard  
> and
> Chaput in 1984, and artworks with Internet components like Learning  
> to Love
> You More by Fletcher and July (2003) as miniature mirror worlds of  
> today's
> tradeoffs when it comes to the social dynamics of participation...
> Today, it quickly gets dicey, for instance, when the creators of  
> Facebook's
> self-translation application state that they have opened up the  
> translation
> process [of the Facebook interface into some 63 languages] to the  
> community
> because "You know best how Facebook should be translated into your
> language.” I don't think of this as straight exploitation but one  
> user in
> Los Angeles (Valentin Macias) suggested that "people should not be  
> tricked
> into donating their time and energy to a multimillion-dollar company  
> so that
> the company can make millions more – at least not without some type of
> compensation." Others enjoyed being in the position of co-deciding how
> "poking" is translated into their language. At the same time, they  
> have more
> of a stake in the company; they become more loyal costumers of  
> Facebook.
> Nigel Thrift was right when he proposed that "… value is embedded in  
> the
> experiences co-created by the individual in an experience  
> environment that
> the company co-develops with consumers." (Thrift, Reinventing 290)
>> Unless we start peer producing infrastructures ourselves, the
>> sharing mode by itself is not strong enough to sustain itself.
> I could not agree more, Michel, and look forward to developing a  
> strand of
> the conference that is dedicated to that.
> ~Trebor
> =
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