Craig Brozefsky on Sun, 29 Aug 1999 05:30:01 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Fragments of Network Criticism--Communities of content

Felix Stalder <> writes:

> Who does the translation? This is exactely the question. Right now,
> advertisers are doing it and for their kind of translation a mass
> audience is necessary. But what other ways are possible. Linux
> points to one which goes like this: I value what you do so much that
> I invest my time in making it better. Attention is translated into
> participation.

You have given me an example of a different target for the
translation, participation rather than absorption, but you have not
told me anything about who is doing this translation.  As a
participant in the Free Software "community" I can see several
different translators in play, the following are quick summaries of
what I see: Richard Stallman who translates into cooperation, Eric
Raymond who translates into a free labor pool, IBM who translates into
a new market, RedHat who translates into a new business and a flush of
investment capital, Microsoft who translates into a threat,
who translates into banner hits, ZiffDavis translating into a new
magazine and another OS War, Michael McClagen translating into cash,
MBNA translating into debt.  There are many more.  

Alas, it seems that Linux points to dozens, maybe hundreds.  Of those
I listed, only one really provides the user with power, and that is
the Stallman, FSF translation into cooperation, the removal of the
software from exchange by making it freely available to all, and not
allowing it to be privatized and removed from the commons(the GPL
'virus' clause).  The user is empowered by being given access to the
source code and being allowed to do whatever they wish, provided they
do not attempt to remove the work from the commons.  Noone loses
anything when I grab a copy of the source code, and I do not need to
give anything in order to get a copy, it is literally my right with
the copyleft to get the source code.  This "software commons" removed
from an exchange itself is the basis for nearly all of the other
translations which we see collectively as th eLinux phenomena.

It seems the only translation there that I can find which empowers
users also happens to be one which could never be a "true community of
content" based on exchange of value!  The others may indirectly
benefit users tho, but they are not directed towards empowering users
in any real manner.  They translate the software commons into
products, services, and the like.  These perhaps resembles "true
communities of content", but I think it's easier to call them what
most other people do, businesses.  How do you reconcile this example
of the Linux community with your idea of the "true community of
content" which will empower users?

> Here is a also where community of content comes in.  Building up
> communities around the exchange of content important enough that enough
> members devote enough time to developing this content that it becomes
> valuable for others.

Yes!  Free Labor pools!  You are commanded by an ethico-aesthetic
imperative as a member of this community to produce value for others!
Felix, I'm really having a hard time with your notion of communities
built around exchange of content which is then translated into value,
particularly in the context of empowering users.  

That notion of community feels quite sterile to me, a reduction of a
widely varied and diverse phenomenon into some essentialzed ideas
which are then dealt with thru some very conventional mechanisms of
economics.  I think that such an economic analysis can be informative
in some cases, but it should not be mistaken for the whole of the
phenomena we are studying, that is dangerous, and regretably a fairly
common occurence nowadays.  It does offers us insights into how to
fund the things we like to do, such as write Free Software, but it
should not be mistaken for how we should structure what it is we like
to do.

If you need information about anything related to the Free Software
community, feel free to ask. I have been involved with it since 1993,
when I got my first computer, and I participate hevily in various
projects, like Debian.  Perhaps we could come up with something more
fertile than "true communities of content" to describe what we see
there.  Thanx for your time.

Craig Brozefsky                         <>
Free Scheme/Lisp Software
I say woe unto those who are wise in their own eyes, and yet
imprudent in 'dem outside                            -Sizzla

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