I wanted to know if you are all willing to bring a little something for our last class so we can share in ringing in the end of the semester, celebrate this amazing class, as well as, the holidays. Feel free to bring desserts, savory, or chips…basically whatever you’d like! 🙂
see you all tomorrow.
I really enjoyed this class. When I signed up I didn’t know what to expect, however I was pleased to have learned all of the historical background surrounding digital media. Some of the main themes and ideas that I am taking with me are the influences of large corporations and advertisements in digital media and the effects it has on people’s daily lives. Astra’s Taylor’s book shed some light on the inner workings of digital media and what is so wrong with it today. She also shed light on the notion that we should be more cognizant of how our digital use affects the world and us while emphasizing what could transpire if we do not take a bigger stand and make modifications. It started some really interesting and engaging conversations in class about what rights we truly have online, and the concept of power and control.
I will also take away an understanding of the motive behind formulating THE WELL, its self-governing plan and the key players behind the movement that influenced the counterculture of media we see today. Beginning with the way scientists and differing disciplines all collaborated during the war to utilize technology. The way the hippie movement had an influence in the thinking behind John Barlow, and Rheingold’s notion of technology and the online culture. Before this class, I was unaware of the impact of The Communalist, the New Left and the divide that essentially shaped the digital online culture and its progression.
I enjoyed Astra Taylor’s book since I found it to be a bit of an easier read. However Fred Turner’s book really went into depth on the economy and a detailed historical account. His book put things into perspective and I was able to see the bigger picture and understand it. Turner’s book was more challenging, but necessary and helpful in comprehending the course as a whole. The course definitely made me more interested to read more than the one or two books I have read on Marx to connect how those theories correlate with this notion of labor/leisure.
I have mentioned in class that I could never go back to thinking and seeing digital media as I once had before taking this course and I mean that. It truly expanded my thinking on media use, and its influences.
The Well was one of the first online websites created by Stewart Brand in 1985. This came from the already existing Whole Earth Catalog, which featured stories, news, and articles online. The Well allowed the users to have discussions in real time. Brand’s motive behind the site was to have it run in a nonhierarchical manner, giving the users the power. This two-way conversation was ground-breaking and the system of self-governing, the users producing and writing was unlike anything before.
The site was ran by managers that had small interactions and rarely intervened. Users were producing meetings and a community that they felt proud to be a part of. In doing so, the site has the ability to grow in value. Not only producing a monetary gain for the user, but also giving the users the control to create the environment they are engaged in. This also placed most of the liability on the users making them responsible for their own actions online.
Brand had goals in mind when creating this site, one that mirrored the New Communalist model of self-governing. With it, he envisioned a cyber space where as the users contribute, the site will change and evolve and he planned on learning and changing along with it. His intent was to have a more step back approach and observe. This type of management increased involvement and revenue. The community online discussed many topics forming longtime friendships and professional relationships.
Turner’s chapter, “Stewart Brand Meets the Cybernetic Counterculture”, begins with the story of Stewart Brand and his upbringing. He formulated a negative response to technology upon the dreadful conditions of the Soviet Union during the cold war. He had a fear of seeming not as an individual that paralyzed him for much of his life. This however was altered when he met Buckminster Fuller. His ideology was one that was new to Brand and stimulated his mind to think differently. Fuller’ viewed a world that was a collaborative technological revolution. He believed the way to conduct this ideology is by using “Comprehensive designers” who organized resources on a larger scale and would utilize material production for the advantage of the world, mankind.
Fuller sees the world as an opportunity for technology to contribute to the ever-changing world while supplying “products and techniques of industry and redistributing them in accord with the systematic patterns”. The Comprehensive designer would serve as all positions needed to carry out the job while being an outsider from a bureaucratic position. It puts them at an advantage to use this power instead of being controlled by hierarchies.
Fuller’s ideas had such an impact on Brand and he had similar views of how an individual can influence and create needed resources for the world. This evolution would benefit humanity rather than harm it. Brand adopted this view and changed much of what he thought about technology and its power. Brand was intrigued by what could be accomplished and the possibilities for advancement in society.
In Fred Turners book, he discusses the differences between the two groups, The New left and The Communalists. They saw the Internet as flexible working systems. Material world as an information system. The computer was used for military purposes during the war. A world free of bureaucracy. The New Left sought to bring to light the issues of social rights such as Free Speech. The movement was a breakdown of a power structure that arose from the doings of protests of University students. They insisted on being heard by these means and expected to seek change in society this way. By the 1950s more people grew increasingly fearful of military’s industrial institutions and their influences. The Left saw society as “ a society dominated by pyramidal organizations” and demonstrated their distaste through rejecting and was viewed as a political movement who had activist for their cause.
The New Communalists on the other hand, seemed more liberal in their thoughts and approach to digital association and contribution to the people. They embraced the technologies that governed cyberspace innovations. They were not set on political arguments and looked towards a peaceful order within society. They were according to Turner the ones who “turned toward technology and mind as foundations of a new society”. It was more of a rebirth of a new counterculture. They felt the mind was the key to being released from their current social conditions. Rather than use politics, or activism, they rejected “industrial-era technocratic bureaucracy”.
The essay “Whatever Blogging” by Jodi Dean discuses the forms of communicativity through the continued use of media, specifically blogging. She explains the notion that by participating in social media sites and engaging by posting, adding, and sharing we are not really formulating a sense of being. She speaks of “whatever being” as a term that describes those who attempt to connect online to anyone who will listen, however has an interaction that asserts a more of a “whatever” attitude. The word “whatever” expresses indifference and Dean believes that although it is not completely ignoring the situation or the words spoken, there is no real relevance for obligation felt for a response to be given. She explains the notion of “belonging” and the writers/bloggers attempt to connect through these social media channels.
Dean also discusses Buck-Morss view on the manipulation and influence of cinema to the masses. Dean looks at mass media as an influence however sees bloggers as “individuals who invite singular readers to consider what they have to offer” (175) Mass media unites people into beings, where bloggers do not. She believes that within social media there is this sense of no identity. It is a morphed, commitment –free, fragmented reality of one’s self. Dean does not see blogging as a space for connectivity that creates a sense of unity or a grander sense of belonging.
The connection Aytes was trying to make between the chess playing machine from the 18th century also known as The Turk and Amazon’s new platform Mechanical Turk was the similarities in the motivations behind the creation as well as the function. In 2005, Amazon formed their application called Mechanical Turk (AMT) and a digital labor market was established. Human intelligence tasks (HIT) were presented and workers are paid anywhere from one cent to a few dollars to do tasks as Aytes mentions, “such as transcribing audio, answering surveys, translating text, and gathering information on products.” AMT uses real people instead of artificial intelligence systems to do the work and pays them less than 10,000 a year. 33% of the workers are from India, which makes a big part of their business conducted internationally.
Compared and named after the chess-playing machine from the 18th century, Mechanical Turk, it impressed many and served as a form of entertainment. The machine was a robot, an automaton that stood over a chessboard and made the audience believe it could play the best game of chess against humans. However it was all an elaborate lie with a human operator controlling the moves giving the illusion that the machine can predict the next move.
She calls Amazon’s Mechanical Turk a “reincarnation” of the chess-playing automaton. Chess-playing machine was a fraud and had someone controlling it from behind the “curtain”. This same concept is being applied to our computers today through Amazon’s mechanical Turk. Tasks and programming is being done through crowdsourcing from regular amateurs, not necessarily computer programmers. Requesters, the companies, are paying out different hourly wages for different tasks. People gravitate to these jobs, however it is difficult to make a living from this small monetary compensation. The labor performance of workers is important and controlled by the digital networks to make a profit for major companies. Multinational companies are using crowdsourcing to maximize on these profits.
Chess playing machine much like the computers we use today has made the audience believe it had power but in reality it all lies behind the scenes. This machine was theorizing the system of labor, almost grooming the mind for production while there are people conducting the work for miniscule compensation.
How does Terranova categorize the relationship of subcultural movements to capitalism? Explain what you think Terranova means when she argues that such movements are to be appropriated by capital from the outside?
Terranova describes the relationship of subcultures to capitalism as a culture that is being constructed and contributed to a digital system that is already capitalism. She states that instead of viewing it as incorporating from the outside, it is already existing and producing creative cultural production. Users are acting out of a desire to produce culture. The work they put out is creative and being knowledgeable is essentially what makes it not capitalism in the traditional fashion, however there is no denying that capitalism is intertwined within subcultural movements. The movements have made companies an enormous amount of money. Any subculture regardless of the their motivations to create it, is either consciously or subconsciously adding to capitalist ideals.
There is not an exploitation blatantly occurring, however even though users volunteer to engage in these communities, once they are created, they are within capitalism. Terranova touches on the notion of labor and the larger pool of social and cultural knowledge and production. There are forms of production that do not immediately showcase labor in the form that we are accustomed to, instead are activities such as posting, updating, blogging etc. It is this that expands and has contributed to the “collective labor” which in turn enhances “capitalist business practices”. Like Barbrook stated with the gift economy concept, he believes that people are more inclined to have collaboration without the mediation of currency and politics. Instead “network communities form through mutual obligation of gifts of time and ideas”. The more people share, the bigger the cultural production is.
The new trend on cheap labor is what Ross calls “crowdsourcing”. In a time where businesses once utilized tools such as outsourcing, sending jobs overseas where it costs less to run a business, are now using everyday people to gather a plethora of information to gain the most revenue at the lowest possible cost. This type of legal solicitation of groups of talented individuals is just one example of the cheapest form of labor. More and more companies are capitalizing on communal work environments where shared information is the new innovation. They have succeeded in the ability to have writers, artists, and musicians, participate is the end goal, while getting nothing in return.
This extraction of cheap digital labor as Ross calls it, is how companies are able to continue to make a profit while online users are forced to “work” for minimal if not any pay at all. He uses the example of interns and how they are utilized. For “white collar/no collar interns”, engaging in this form of work environment leaves them with little compensation and are made out to believe the greater benefits to their future is worth working for nothing. When in reality, the companies are gaining all of the benefits of a full working week, tasks completed, for a fraction of the cost it would be to hire a full time employee.
With the rise of digital media, digital “free” labor has, according to Ross, expanded.
One example that deserves mentioning is the self-proclaimed online celebrity. YouTube videos of musicians or online personalities sharing their lives and talents for free with the hopes of gaining fame has only increased in recent years. This activity can be viewed as unpaid labor. The more views, and subscribers, the more money YouTube has made. Youtube has even started advertising on buses. It is a way to draw people to watch with the belief that they have a chance too.
We have seen a drastic change in how the economy produces. Where it was once the exchange of goods, which began with the industrial revolution, has now turned into an exploitative version of mass production. Only this time, it is not just underpaid workers banging out merchandise at record speeds, but online activity that is considered free labor. Andrew Ross describes this as “attention economy”. Essentially, what the online users draw their attention to is what the CEO’s of major web companies such as AOL, FB, of today are aiming to grasp, analyze, gather, and gain revenue from. Ross examines this idea and discusses the case against Arianna Huffington, Ceo of Huffington Post, where she blatantly denied her users/bloggers the right to be compensated for their activity. Many were appalled at her brazen responses to the idea of “being paid”. The case found that the owner had no obligation to pay for something that was never agreed upon in any form of contract between the two parties. This kind of behavior is precisely the type of behavior that promotes attention economy, where users attention is measured more as a product and consider the findings of data to determine their “next move” as a motive for further advertising. It is all largely motivated by dollars and branding. The deliberately placed ads in our computers are constantly drawing us to a specific place. However with the underlying compulsion that grips people to be in constant connection on social media and share digital content without the thought of compensation is the driving force behind the success of this ongoing reality on the web.