Knowledge workers of the world unite!

The Internet enables like-minded people to find each other and work together. I started this blog to begin to understand how this ability to form ad-hoc teams information-sharing teams was revolutionizing media.

Now in an essay titled, “The Political Economy of Peer Production,” Michel Bauwens takes the revolutionary potential of the Web to a Utopian extreme. Bauwens, a European author teaching in Thailand, argues that peer-to-peer production systems – like Linux and Wikipedia – allow many people, each owning their own means of digital production, to share labor and cooperate. He linked that idea to a school of though called “cognitive capitalism.” As I understand it, cognitive capitalists think the wealth gained through technology belongs not to individuals or corporations but to “knowledge workers” as a class. Or rather to the entire society that supports these pampered smarties. So instead of making Bill Gates or fill-in-the-blanks rich, wealth should be poured into a common pot and redistributed as a “universal basic income.”

Bauwens opened his essay thus:

” Not since Marx identified the manufacturing plants of Manchester as the blueprint for the new capitalist society has there been a deeper transformation of the fundamentals of our social life . . . a new human dynamic is emerging: peer to peer (P2P). As P2P gives rise to the emergence of a third mode of production, a third mode of governance, and a third mode of property, it is poised to overhaul our political economy in unprecedented ways.”

That’s a mouthful of a statement and a departure from the business-as-usual of this blog, but a statement that bold demands to be considered. It took about 30 minutes to read the essay last night on my train ride home, and was loaded with idealistic, often unrealistic and yet provocative notions such as:

“At a time when the very success of the capitalist mode of production endangers the biosphere . . . this still nascent P2P movement, (which includes the Free Software and Open Source movement, the open access movement, the free culture movement and others) which echoes the means of organization and aims of the alter-globalization movement, is fast becoming the equivalent of the socialist movement in the industrial age.”

To further explore these thoughts visit Integral Visioneering, which appears to be the e-newsletter of the P2P utopians.

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Meanwhile it appears that the intermediate P2P idealists, as exemplified by the Wikia posse surrounding Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales, are moving into media production. In an article for Red Herring, Jennifer L. Schenker writes from Paris about OpenServing.com, the new P2P news site being organized by Wikia CEO Gil Penchina.

“Open Serving will give authors free, managed hosting space, a collaborative news blog, customer support and let them keep all revenue from adverts placed on their site, Mr. Penchina said. He said he had no idea how Open Serving would make money from the project. But, by creating the platform for a whole generation of new types of zines based on open source software and open content he figures Open Serving will become an on-line publishing powerhouse.”

Schenker’s piece offers a taste of Web 2.0 hype ala Europe.

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Before I forget let me point to an open source toolkit geared toward media educators. It was compiled by Trebor Scholz, a European artist living in New York.

In a final P2P note, le me also briefly reference this MediaPost article that called the Venice Project “a new model for cost-effective distribution of video and a new platform and business model for content producers–both big and small–to monetize their creations.”