Contrary to mainstream practice – with its residual romanticism of solitary authorship and single-signature value – we at n.e.w.s. contend that value is always collectively produced through linguistic cooperation (polemics or just idle chatter) – that is, through the collective intellect. Of course people already get paid for online content – but they are often the wrong people, because they are not all the people who worked to produce that content. Our paradoxical objective is to leverage the potential of participative technologies and communities to ensure that user-produced value be remunerated. Because n.e.w.s. is a non-commercial platform, without any institutional structural subsidy, we have been investigating alternative models of exchange and collaboration, retooling our critical lexicon: instead of the seemingly self-evident binaries of producer/consumer, we have opted for the more inclusive and extensive category of usership – of the paid variety.
Over the past twenty years, people working in the cultural sector have come to use the web not only as a means of communication and distribution but as a medium for artistic and curatorial production, such as online contexts for the analysis and development of art-related activities. But it is also the place where people engage in discourse about the nature of those precarious forms of knowledge and labour produced within it. The challenge of facilitating return generated not only from attention getting but also from finding means of ensuring sustainability through potential models of gifting, immaterial labour, surplus capital and niche development could all be plausible models for paid usership.
Gift, Debt and Return: speculations on the cultural economy
Okay, so everybody wants to be paid to use. But the very idea continues to sound pretty counterintuitive even to the most open-minded, and downright heretical to orthodox twentieth-century economics. Let’s quickly run through some of the conceptual underpinnings of the whole notion.