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Time and Value in the Digital Sphere

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Image: Blockchain worm, from McGinn, Birch, et. al., Visualizing Dynamic Bitcoin Transaction Patterns, in Big Data Journal Vol. 4, Nr. 2, 2016

by LF (art historian based in Berlin)

The political economy of the free services, like music streams, porn trailers, social media feeds, all this, reshapes the economy of the flows of life into information feeds: it is ever-present tele-vision of commodities. In the end it reshapes our idea of freedom: we do not want to work, we do not want wage, so our activism demands basic income and a world that we do not even want to shape. It should all come like a feed: mother capitalism should nourrish us, from her breasts: we just register our like for our favourite taste of milk. but the point is, there will never be a passive situation. there is a global reconfiguration of class structures, for all the passive consumers there are active miners and brokers: people that shape nature into commodities (for example the precious metals for your computers) and people that circulate them.

Also we are seeing the future: we will be all integrated prosumers in the culture industry, creating and remixing and reshaping “content” and mixing it with personal information and feedback. while we run in a gymn we will vote on netflix releases that show cultural interactions and stories that are not our personal history in any way. We saw how the city became the factory, and we are proud that our office is in our hand. We should not stop here. We should organise in production units and charge for our work, in order to calculate our efforts. Instead of spending an endless youth online and getting paid in dreams.

The internet is fully developed now, the financialisation of all its content has begun. Let’s build alternatives to the internet: with mesh structures we can have local information networks that will expand globally according to our needs – opposite to the present day structure where it is more easy for me to talk to a member of my western subculture in another part of the world than my neighbor that I will never meet because I never find what needs we have in common, they stay in “their” house and me in “mine” and we never even speak about housing even though we are embedded in the same local housing policies. Same applies for wage, food, care, etc.

And all content will become labour again in a chain structured net, where labour is not profited from by the capitalist network compagnies, but where the contract is coded into the commodity, re-attaching the workers to their data commodity. This content will be valued by others on the use that they find in it, for example information that helps them, or visuals that inspire them. Money has to be re-introduced into the game, instead of re-calculation lifes by saying income has to be universal and basic. This is a corrupted idea as there is no basis for even the idea of universal approaches, the global underclasses are the basis for the system, we have to solidarize with them and find out how we can stop their misery that is basis for our wealth, instead of promising each other pocket money.

The myth that art supplied the contemporary capitalism with its dogmas like creativity and self-management is not true. Art is just a prominent relict of the 19th century consciousness structure. Just for example like love, scientific disciplines, gender structures, notions of exotism vs. rationalism, penal system and state, policing, urban spaces, architectures like shopping malls, processes like finance, speculation, all that. as our form of capitalism with it’s powerful motor of production-capitalisation-circulation-consumption was basically polished back then, the associated social and desire machines are heavily rooted there.

So when today art is central to contemporary modes of production, just as love is (the like economy of facebook, social networks for cruising and mating like tinder and grindr), it is because it’s associated commodities are so emotionally strong and financially hard to calculate. Capitalism needs these uncertainties in order to have a speculative push forward. New profit-rates appear, they are not falling, they are flexible. In a world where there will be only two publishing houses left, facebook and google, and we only have “projects” that are quickly marketed and then burned and added to their content farms, it is mandatory to have specialised markets again, like local farmers markets for information. A market that is shaped by the people that use it, and not by market-makers that use markets as a tool to play with the flexible profit rates of high-capitalism commodities like love and art, and derivates on food, health and housing.

Other possibilities and approaches have to be further researched, for example how to organise the users that are facing the most powerful treat: things that cost somethings are given apparently for free, by rendering the work invisible. We should re-introduce the clock in order to arm the people for the battles around their time. To feel the pain of a calculated life instead of staring at the feed, necessitates to calculate your efforts, and organize with others in order to organise the shaping of the world and life, to re-enter the flow and to hack the feed. We don’t need free culture, we need to renogotiate the value of the work that is done and identify the modes of profit that are behind all that appears free.

Right now the tech companies are profiting from the open source community. Only those that will give back will be economically successful in the next years (like google, who wants to replace not other tech companies, but shape the knowledge industry. Same goes for Amazon, who trade books and other hosts of information, like cloud servers). Others who focus their business on hardware will have problems soon, like Apple who started to build creepy hardware like filming glasses, irreplaceable batteries in phones that you cannot open, laptops without cables where you have to transmit everything wirelessly in a radius around you, and who force you to have apps instead of software to your hardware. It is not software and hardware anymore, it is aluminium covered blackbox appleware with apps, the more they close their hardware and software as they are actively doing right now, the more they will loose trust eventually.

In another future we will have switches on everything again (switch on and off your camera, your antenna, your microphone, your gps, your wlan). We will have hardware that we understand, combined with software that is not based on consumerism, but on adjustable code. We will not enter a contract with a corporation, that will only give us luxury options like “healthy” “secure” “ecological” “social”, but the technology will be shaped by social organisations with their own values.

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3 Trackbacks / Pingbacks

  1. New essay on time and value in the digital sphere | shituationist institute
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