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Web 2.0 – “New Economy” of Enclosure


Web 2.0 is often referred as type of social networking providing “power to a user and democracy for everyone (...), as incubator of innovative forms of media and free cooperation” among its users. But, what if another point of view is added to this innocent image? We simply have to be able to comment, discuss and criticize something that is loudly (and successfully) represented as a new form of “information superhighway” bringing everyone “equal rights” to create and distribute content. One of the points in this comment is exactly proliferation and application of terms “equality”, “free cooperation” and power-to-the people” to Web 2.0, which are actually standing for: centralization, new form of venture capitalism and free/voluntary labor.

Many critics directed to basis of Web 2.0 are dealing with its ability to democratise content production which “obscures its centralization of ownership and the means of sharing” (Dmytri Kleiner & Brian Wyrick). According to those two authors, Web 2.0 seems to offer a new economical framework and new mode of production of internet content, which is based on enabling community of users/consumers to create, modify and share content, but not to receive any compensation for their participatory work. Having one own video realized in the new public space of YouTube is award by itself? Well, it shouldn't be so simple. Those two mentioned authors say that Web 2.0 is a business model and that it means private capture of community-created value. Further, the real value of, for example, YouTube is not created by the developers of the site (cause its technology is rather trivial), but it is created by the people who upload videos to the site. What is important here is that we have to look at the bigger picture then of pleasure of short participatory momentum, that is YouTube was bought for couple of billions dollars worth Google stock where question is how many of those stock is acquired by those who made and uploaded those videos? The answer is clear since the whole capital stays with the owners of “Web 2.0 company”, which creates certain situation of precarity. Kleiner and Wyrick further add that private appropriation of community created value is betrayal of the promise of sharing technology and free cooperation. In difference to Web 1.0 which made possession or access to hardware and software for manipulation of images, texts and videos with still needed technological skills - mandatory, Web 2.0 is more “flexible” in that terms, offering to the users possibilities of editing content directly through browser without major technical skills. While Web 1.0 investors have had to finance software development and content creation, those of Web 2.0 mainly and only need to finance innovative marketing strategies to attract free/voluntary labor of their users/consumers.

Communication and fluid exchange via digital networks becomes basis of contemporary production process, even more – human communication becomes “the queen of production forces” - which doesn't mean that subordination to those facts is obligatory. If we know all of this, why are we still using and, in a way, supporting such a centralized and privately owned structures? What about less-known decentralized and commons based peer-to-peer networks (that exist and are free to be used) are not of our interest? There is a need to look closer to the ways/models of how our own practices are being facilitated and on what kind of principles is this facilitation based and carried out...


The Proper Place for Copyright

There was a very interesting lecture today at the ISEA 2008 today in Singapore called 'The Proper (and Essential) Place for Copyright' by Lawrence Lessing, which would be wonderful for you to have attended, because it relates so much to your subject and the questions you pose. But I guess his theories are widely spread, so no problem for you to get a hold on them. I was quite a lengthy lecture but one of the answers Lessing provided to your main question: 'Communication and fluid exchange via digital networks becomes basis of contemporary production process (...) If we know all of this, why are we still using and, in a way, supporting such a centralized and privately owned structures?' was his observation about one of the main problems of present day society regarding our technological revolution, namely that our copy right-laws are completely out of sync with technology.

What he meant by this is that the current copyright law-system is in conflict with the so-called read-write-culture, i.e. a culture in which the professional as well as the amateur can use and remix ('rewrite') all kinds of images and materials and exchange information published on the internet in very creative way. One of the very funny examples that he gave was the publication of a YouTube film of a young child dancing on the music of Prince at the background. The copyright defenders of Prince's music traced the video and demanded it to be removed from YouTube. Another example was a price-winning documentary film at Cannes, just edited on a Mac using old film material of the director he filmed during his whole life, mixed with existing film material. While the production budget of the whole film was no more then 200 dollars, they estimated the total amount for getting all the needed copyrights for using the material at 200.000 dollars! In both cases the copyright system is completely in conflict with the creative and 'fluid exchange via digital networks', as you refer to it. Getting back this freedom of exchange and creativity for the expert as well as the amateur, basically comes down to changing, or adapting the copy right system laws.. For me as an art critic it is interesting to notice the way this theory fluently blends in low culture in high culture (in the arts) and vice versa. Hereby i'm referring to one of the things Lessing quoted: 'It's very important that these professional scenes (art, music, et cetera, all professional cultural production) exist, but we also have to recognize human diversity.' Maybe this might be one of the solutions (and let me stress: just one of the solutions) of the contemporary art scene to escape the art market-driven reality which makes everybody so skeptical.

It's also one of the basic presumptions behind N.E.W.S. of course: a truly free exchange of information and knowledge between professionals (and a more general public that can access the website), not being attached to any kind of institutional entity or productive discipline. (By which i mean that there is no any other goal then openly respond and exchange information with each other)


Oh, I'm familiar with his "theory"!

As I said, I'm familiar in Lessig's practice and I've been at a lots of his lectures so far. Well, I must say that I'm not really into that, although for example, the group that I'm working with is one of the localizers of Creative Commons initiative in Serbia - we are thinking of it more as a modus to start up wider debate about "enclosure of information" today in many different ways and directions. I actually quite object his reformists and liberal strategies, which make out of CC quite of international enterprise. I don't think that those strategies gives us any kind of another point of view then strictly legalistic alternative to harsh copyright laws of today... It' not changing of a framework of how things function at all... This kind of “temporary autonomy” has influenced the appearance of many different “open and 'free' licenses”, which actually have respect for IP laws and they are based on a “tin” regime of Intellectual Property. Cultural producers are questioning the scale of property, but not property itself. It is not really an obstruction of the law or a “system of domination”. There are many producers who have faith in the legal framework and public policies of Intellectual Property as a neutral arbiter that could lead to some order, which should be of interest for all of them at once. This is clearly a semi-reformist position.


diggers all!

"Private appropriation of community-created value" strikes me as an extremely important issue, perhaps the most crucial facing us today, and one that's almost inevitably destined to get still crucialer in the near future. It's useful to have framed it is such hard-headed terms. Artworlders would do well to pay heed, because they have been largely complicit in developing and test-driving this business model: non-monetary remuneration, single-signature appropriation of collective labour (remember that swindle called "relational aesthetics"?), etc. The fact that "intellectual property" is a contradiction in terms and that privatizing everything right up to and including the very languages we use is tantamount to cutting off one's nose to spite one's face will not likely deter the business community (another contradiction in terms).

So, perhaps exodus is the answer. I'd be interested in knowing what lesser-known commons-based networks you are thinking of.


I'd be interested in knowing

I'd be interested in knowing what lesser-known commons-based networks you are thinking of.
Maybe we should make a post/some other n.e.w.s. page that collects together, links, and gives info about those we know of. I can think of a few obvious ones, but collectively it'd be a small resource that could be updated whenever.


that was Mia by the way.

note to self: log in before commenting.


links of lesser-known commons-based networks

Yes, that is also something that has come up, sharing links at n.e.w.s. This could be done with sharing our specific bookmarks, together using for example del.icio.us or that we make a separate section on the front page with a listing. It's in the Road Map, open for discussion.



"... Exodus is the transfer to political praxis of the heuristic procedure, [. . .] which the mathematicians define as ‘variation of data’: giving precedence to secondary or heterogeneous factors, we move gradually from a determined problem: subjection or insurrection, to a totally different problem: how to realize a defection and to experience forms of self-government which were previously inconceivable." Virno

I guess in mentioning "exodus", there is quite of a reference to Italian/French legacy of the word and thought, before all of Paolo Virno, who is speaking about the typology of joke and exodus as its possible as a kind of innovative and creative action, that could be appearing in many ways - arising not only from the small differences that acure through repetition, but also from mistakes, false conclusions, and misjudgments; unusual combination of given elements; to make varied use of the same verbal material; by displacement, "that is to say by an abrupt deviation in the axis of discourse"; as G. Raunig explains it, at the linguistic level, displacement means changing the topic while a conversation is already proceeding along well-defined tracks. In the political field, displacement is actualized as leave-taking, as defection, as exodus." According to Virno, exodus is a non-dialectical form of negation and resistance, or rather, of defecting and fleeing... This could be exciting notion of exodus: "The exodus transforms the context in which a problem has emerged, instead of treating the problem by deciding between given alternatives." -> This is where I can recognize political notion of the very term...

To answer about lesser-known commons-based networks, there are a lots of them. Those are peer-to-peer networks such as PeerCast (mentioned in the text by Kleiner and Wyrick that I was referring to), V2V (Video Syndication Network), EngageMedia, some of them (more into distribution of video activists production) could be found here http://transmission.cc/participants