Value for value

Note: Re-writing this Thought Experiment post has helped me work some ideas. Last updated on 16 December 2022.

Bernard Stiegler championed the notion of a “contributive economy” — in which everyone can be a contributor, emitting their own symbols. In his economy of contribution, people are so much more than consumers.

The contributive economy reconsiders the relation between the human and the machine and restores the knowledge lost to the industrial, then the technological, machine. The knowledge that we have lost includes even social knowledge, which was usurped by the proscription of branded epistemologies. Knowlege of how to live was preempted by objects designed to increase reliance on prefabrication and continued (passive) purchasing. This has supplanted knowledge of how to co-contribute.

In the economy of contribution, productive activities are remunerated in such a way as to support transindividuation: allowing us to help each other actively realize ourselves through collective action.

Stiegler discusses these ideas in an interview translated by Kinsley, which makes a good introduction to the subject. He put his ideas into practice in three communes of Plaine Commune — and was very serious about the urgency of the need to restructure how we live if we are to put out the dumpster fire of the Anthropocene.

It should perhaps be stressed that the contributive economy benefits the market as well as people. The official defninition, coined by the activist think tank he co-founded, Ars Industrialis, is in French here. It is translated into English here by Sam Kinsley.

Stiegler suggests that participating in the free software community is one way to realize a contributive economy. I covered that in my LibrePlanet2022 talk and in an article I wrote for Educational Philosophy and Theory about my own software implementation in the courses I teach.

I think it is worth exploring—as a thought experiment—the collection of initiatives known as Podcasting 2.0. Other exploration follows. An introductory resource about its technical aspects is this github page. Chris Fisher’s take on it on Coder Radio was my personal inroad to the subject. I think it was episode 464 that gave me pause to think — I definitely committed that episode number to memory because there were multiple thought-provking points made about the tech/capital crossover.

One of Podcasting 2.0’s initiatives is potentially controversial because listeners can send podcast hosts small amounts of Bitcoin every minute if they are listening via certain podcast apps. It is problematic as it has been promoted by figures that ruffle feathers, its promoters are bullish on features not everyone agrees on, it perpetuates harms to the environment, and the “2.0” label can be considered a loaded term. Bitcoin can be sent by “using the experimental <podcast:value> tag in your podcast feed”, which is supported by a variety of apps.; this is called value for value. This is at least raising the question of how we can try to support creative endeavor while returning value to creators.

In Chris’s take, value can also be returned to podcast makers in other ways, such as through information sharing or writing content that directs new listeners to the podcasts. He was far more eloquent about these values than I am being here. Sadly Coder Radio has no public-facing transcripts for me to quote — but in Podcasting 2.0, transcripts could be served together with the podcast itself.

Feeds can be further enhanced by rich content like images and even video. To my mind, this means the possibility of additional employment: creating opportunities for visual artists to also be contributors to podcasts.

It was Chris’s take on what “value for value” means that prompted me to see podcasting 2.0 as a form of (re-)starting conversation about the contributive economy. But of course, any change will only work if people change their habits and engagement patterns. Is it too much to access the podcasts we listen to by using a new app to access it? Would the gains far outweigh any resistance or reservations, like environmental impact?

There are other areas where some of the above ideas could be applied in different ways. One is using Activity Streams; another is to rethink ways to organize what is shared, e.g. here.

It is so easy to agree with valuing value and so hard to agree on how to implement ways to achieve it. My own unfinished thought has to do with environmentally sustainable protocols that can stand the test of time but also on practicing discovery-based, hermeneutic social networking skills that bridge over the technology and move at a different tempo.

By way of conclusion, I will end with an excerpt from Kinsley’s translation of the Ars Industrialis definition of the contributive economy:

The hyperconsumerist essence of the concept of the creative economy . . . must be surpassed by societies and territories of contribution based on collaborative cultural technologies. If the Internet makes possible an apparently contributory economy – typified by free and open source software – it is because it is a technical environment in which the recipients are put in the position of senders: it is dialogical. The Web (2.0 or 3.0) therefore contributes to an economy of contribution as it is:
  1. an infrastructure: systems for sharing and publishing knowledge online (such as: CMS, wikis);
  2. mechanisms for desire: in the classical industrial system, consumption drives desire – which, however, deteriorates and decays tendentiously and inevitably into drives – while in the case of Web 2.0, desire operates around personal creativity and work shared in online spaces (YouTube, Flickr, MySpace, Wikis in general);
  3. digital technology which empowers and enables the development of the economic model (in the same way that the tourism boom was made possible by advances in transportation technology, web technologies allow the appropriation of read / write content).

But the rapid success of the internet will only be a truly economic success (in both senses of the term) if it makes itself the subject of a public industrial policy, moving beyond the spectacular dynamics of new industrial enterprises emerging in this contributory milieu, currently dominated by search engines and social networks.

Page generated 02O05. Last edited 02Y14.

Posted By: