Participation not markets

Issue 9 of Jacobin has an article theorizing about the economic feasibility of a planned rather than a market economy: http://jacobinmag.com/2012/12/the-red-and-the-black/
There is a discussion of ‘Participatory Economics’ as an alternative to market prices as the guiding signals in an economy. The basic idea is an iterative annual process whereby everyone in a society anticipates their annual consumption of all goods, and this is matched to the society’s productive capacities to generate a set of prices. Based on these prices people go through the consumption projections again, after a few iterations, it is possible to know how to direct economic activity pretty well.

Zara and Public Participation

The NYTimes recently had an article about the clothing company Zara (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/11/magazine/how-zara-grew-into-the-worlds-largest-fashion-retailer.html?pagewanted=all). It turns out that what’s distinctive about Zara is it’s operations. By having a distinctive supply chain and innovation model–definitely a post-Fordist flexible specialization type thing–they’ve managed to grow into this huge company.

So what’s interesting from the PartLab pov is how they crowdsource fashion trends. Basically they use the stores and sales people as information gatherers. Shoppers are giving Zara information about fashion trends when they ask sales people for clothing with particular features. Sales people note these requests and tell them to store managers. In weekly phone conversations with higher ups, store managers pass on the kinds of things their customers have been asking for. When those requests seem to be popping up regularly, they are passed on to designers who instantly start designing clothes that reflect them. Zara’s tight operations make and distribute those clothes rapidly and those fashions can appear in stores like 3 weeks after the trend is first spotted.

This is an FSE that uses its store network to produce a non-self-aware OP and harvest ideas from it. Then it sells the ideas back to the OP in the form of clothes. Also, it cultivates the OP in particular ways: Zara’s distinctive operations put new clothes in stores very quickly and relatively few numbers of each item are produced, things are sold quickly and they rarely go on sale. Thus shoppers that care know there will always be new stuff at Zara, that if they see something they like they have to buy it then (b/c it will sell out and never go on sale), and the small production numbers mean they’re buying something relatively unique that they’re unlikely to see someone else wearing at a party.

A professor I know at Anderson is an operations consultant with the company. He might be someone to interview if we start getting interested in how these kinds of innovation happen off the web, or about how the web’s culture of innovation extends elsewhere. It seems that the information gathering process is barely organized, which is interesting. I’ll have to ask him more about it.

Some recent articles on participation in science

The center for the advancement of informal science education has a report on three cases of participatory science from 2009, which I only just discovered.

A workshop on “Volunteered Geographic Information” took place in april of last year. UCL Professor Muki Haklay wrote three posts that are relevant. He is also apparently director of something called “the UCL Extreme Citizen Science group” (1 | 2 | 3).

Disaster Relief 2.0, publisher march of last year. When will the whole 2.0 thing stop?

Digital Money, Mobile Media, and the Consequences of Granularity

Nicholas Negroponte famously insisted that the dotcom boomers, “Move bits, not atoms.” Ignorant of the atom heavy human bodies, neuron dense brains, and physical hardware needed to make and move those little bits, Negroponte’s ideal did become true in industrial sectors dependent upon communication and economic transaction. In the communication sector, atomic newspapers have been replaced by bitly news stories. In the transactional sector, coins are a nuisance, few carry dollars, and I just paid for a haircut with a credit card adaptor on the scissor-wielder’s Droid phone.

The human consequences of the bitification of atoms go far beyond my bourgeois consumption. This shift or what is could simply be called digitalization, when paired with their very material transportation systems or networked communication technologies, combines to form a powerful force that impacts local and global democracies and economies.

What are the local and political economics of granularity in the space shared between the fiduciary and the communicative? To understand the emergent political economy of the practices and discourses unifying around mobile media and digital money we need a shared language around the issue of granularity.

Granularity

Granularity is the reduction of symbols to binary-type simplicity such as lines of computer code or small economic integers. Granularity means to break down money or media into symbolic and quantitative units for digital delivery and reconstitution. Granularity and networks are what gives bit-based media and money its mobile advantage over its cousins–film stock that needs to be “bicycled” to theaters and precious metals that need to be stored in fortified treasuries. Granularity is the physical principle that allows the discourses of money and media to meet. With granularity come two conflicting social worlds –the financialization as well as the democratization of media and money.

More philosophically, the media/money verisimilitude reveals the already tenuous analytical separation of thought and action, discourse and practice, and rationalities and tactics.

Financialization and Democratization of Money/Media

Digital money and mobile media, in a state of fine granularity, are symbolically opened for innovative as well as manipulative financialization and potentially wide democratization. Granularity, by refining things into ever-smaller units, increases the opportunities for access to previously closed systems. On the one hand, this can be empowering as peer-to-peer media and financial transactions can increase and, for a time, transpire under the radar of regulators and speculators. On the other hand, media/money granularity can also result in “flexible accumulation,” the post-nation manufacturing of information/financial/mathematical tools such as seen in the derivatives market that is increasingly difficult to regulate, litigate, or access if you are a citizen.

Digital Money as Democratizing

The granularity of digital money can create opportunities for access by materially poor people to small investment-able capital. This form of capital democratization is dependent upon new technologies and networks. Digital money, largely a numerical system within ornate cultural contexts, is easily made granular and digitally shared via phone or internet from person to person, micro-lender to person, and employer to person. Such transactions on unregulated communication networks has democratized new forms of money sharing, saving, and transfer.

While it isn’t popular in the United States, mobile granular financing has exploded in Kenya. For instance, Vodaphone affiliate Safaricom started m-Pesa, a mobile money transfer in Kenya in 2003. M-Pesa has 12 million users out of 17 million mobile phone users representing 70% of the mobile market in Kenya and 21% of the Kenyan GDP flows through the system, wrote mPay Connect founder Menekse Gencer in 2011. It works and it’s profitable for Vodaphone shareholders. And yet its commercialization balances any breathless optimism about m-Pesa’s democratizing impact.

This democratization of capital provides an opportunity to re-acquaint ourselves with the overbearing symbology that is money. It also invites us to reconsider basic issues of financial autonomy and agency. How will mobile money challenge, magnify, or articulate with local customs? As digital currencies evolve will they be pegged to national or international banks? How will they be regulated and by whom? How are they insured and what backs their legitimacy? As these pragmatic questions are answered and applied digital money will likely move further from democratization and nearer to financialization.

Financialization of Digital Money

Few have bank accounts but the 1.7 billion materially poor people will have a cell phone in 2012. This phone can be used to make calls, many can take photos and videos, upload them to the internet, and, increasingly, receive and give money. Even before this form of digital money there were banks micro-lending. Following CK Prahalad’s claim that the collective material wealth at the bottom of pyramid can make development profitable, a number of microfinance organizations went into non-profit “business.” Kiva, who started in 2005, the same year as YouTube, is the most recognizable microlender for Westerners. Kiva founders were inspired by a talk by Muhammad Yunus at Stanford. Yunus, of course, started Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, the first microfinance organization. Kiva, Grameen, Yunus and the following, Banco Compartamos, are all vigorously successful and have all claimed to alleviate poverty. Such philanthrocapitalism is rich with contradictions. The World Bank, for instance, is the largest micro-lender in the world. The problematic financialization of granular money is evident in Banco Compartamos that started as a non-profit micro-lending bank to materially poor Oaxacans, took a shot at becoming private in an IPO, raised a billion dollars, and made its shareholders wealthy. Yunus was outraged by the high interest rates and simple bald privatization of the now profitable banco.

While the granularity of digital money can create capital access and capital democratization, it can also create access for corporate financialization. By financialization I refer basically to commercial or market tactics and discourses; of tacking profit generating financial instruments onto each grain of digital money and a charge onto each node it its circuitous pathway through the technological and social network. This is an important facet of “flexible accumulation” which refers both to the global mobility of capital as well as the instrumentalization of social life.

Mobile Media Democratization

The democratization of digital money is spiritually linked to the tactical and discursive interventions of local entrepreneurs who “hacked” into public systems –satellite television, electricity, water– that had been privatized. My research into the history of cable and satellite “guerrilla television” producers reveals how techniques and rationalities are mobilized by marginalized producers to gain access to systems of media power closed by economic or political power. The process goes something like this. A disruptive network communication technology evolves out of tinkerer communities (radio, cable television) or large-scale federal investment (satellite, internet). The indigenous or local innovators are either responsible for the technology, as in the case of radio and cable television, or adapt to exploit it like early internet hackers, public access television producers, and phone phreaks. Examples include TVTV, a psychedelic television producer community who created an opening on cable television in the 1970s and Deep Dish TV, a progressive producer collective who exploited inexpensive satellite rents to distribute their anti-war message. They used their policy discourse and interventionary practices to exploit an opening in an otherwise closed system. These opening can provide the context for the democratization of (capital) production. These examples of media democratization are from the pre-digital phase, how does granularity impact media democracy as well as the financialization of media?

Mobile Media Financialization

Granularity impacts two forms of media financialization: personalization and fragmentation. The obsession the Google founders Page and Brin have with artificial intelligence is dutifully documented by Nick Carr in The Big Switch. They hope to know enough about each of us through recording our search records to be able to recommend consumer solutions to life. This they call personalization, the individualization of search. This ‘give-them-what-they-appear-to-like’ mentality includes searches we do on politics as Eli Pariser explains, keeping us in homogenous “filter bubbles.” Just yesterday it was reported that Google’s personalization ambition has been branded as “Search,  Plus Your World” to honor how they merge their search data with the person data we freely give them on their fledgling social network Google+. The point is that every granular piece of personal data has a price. It is on these grains of identity that Google and Facebook hang their future business plans.

Google is financializing another stream of granular data, the video clip. Beginning back in 2007, I began documenting the transformation of amateur to professional YouTubers. By the end of 2011, this transformation is now complete and YouTube is fully prepared for the convergence of broadband home entertainment by creating the Partner program, buying Next New Networks, and recently enshrining 100 top video producers. Many of the professionalized channels are vloggers whose work is not granular in the traditional sense of the term (micro-payments or lines of code) but it is granular in reference to the lengthy documentaries, over-cooked television talk shows, and studio call in shows of the past. They are short and often include ever more granular clips. Ray William Johnson, the most subscribed and viewed YouTube celebrity built his business around making fun of little clips. Kind of like America’s Funniest Home Videos for tweens. Taken as a whole, from the semi-famous vloggers making almost a million dollars a year from revenue sharing with Google to the one-hit wonder who uploads an addictively watchable cat video and who make a few thousand dollars for Google and herself, granularity is part of the financialization as well as democratization of visual media.

Possible Social Consequences

What are the possible global and local impacts of the theory that granularity is turning money and media into objects easily interchangeable, financialized, and democratized? In essence I am concerned with the manufacturing and exploitation of desire, the commercialization of bio-politics, and the death of democracy. I worry about the emergence of a corporation capable of exploiting the verisimilitude of money/media and developing financial/media instruments that can control and monetized the smallest units of both symbolic systems. I worry about the capacities of these money/media corporations to manufacture ubiquitous entertainment environments that can extract financial rewards based on phenomenologically inconsequential but altogether quantifiable granular units of sensual attention. I worry about the media, which includes journalism, being colonized by financial interests to such a degree that there is no media (and no journalism) without a financial product immediately inscribed in its metadata. That would negate any democratization granularity would produce.

And yet, I have faith in the rationalities and techniques of the indigenous innovators, phone phreakers, “guerrilla television” producers, and hacktivists to intervene in this worrisome future.

This post is largely inspired by Anke Schwitty’s excellent 2011 article, “The financial inclusion assemblages: Subjects, technics, rationalities” in Critique of Anthropology 31[4]:381-401.


Participation and governance in new times

In a recent article in New Statesman (Nov 16 2011) social theorist Will Davies reflects on the “new times” that seem to be emerging through the unfolding crisis which began in 2008. One possibility seems to be the end of the period of “neoliberalism”—or at least the end of some of its intellectual foundations, if certainly not all of them. The basic idea of neoliberalism is that government intervention or collective planning is always doomed to produce problems. In all but the rarest cases, unfettering the self-interested, calculative behavior of individuals would produce greater welfare than collectively planned redistribution. Davies notes that this moral vision has been discredited in particular by the group think and panic behavior of bankers and investors that were the most proximate sources of the crisis. But this failure hasn’t produced a return to a paradigm of regulation, collective decision making, and redistributionist social democracy. Rather it is generating a new way of thinking about human actors as constitutively afflicted by all sorts of cognitive limitations, bounded rationality, subconscious irrational drives, rather than seeing these as marginal deviations from the rational actor. Davies argues that what might emerge is a new political economic paradigm with tools of governance that are based on this view of actors:

“By this account, we are simply waiting for the new paradigm to emerge, with a common expectation that it will draw on neuroscience, behavioural economics, complexity theory and data-mining techniques. Already, the assorted crises of neoliberalism are being framed in psychological terms, be it the hedonism of teenagers, herd behaviour of investors, bad nutritional decision-making, and so on. There is an expectation that financial regulators and central banks will take on expert responsibilities similar to weather forecasters, seeking to depict emergent financial and macroeconomic trends in real time, rather than constructing rationalist models of them.”

What does this have to do with participation? Basically, participation is where the data come from. A basic function of these participatory technologies is to build huge sets of correlations between objects. Google uses our inputs to identify the most useful searches, but it can also help identify flu outbreaks. That’s a crude example, heaven knows what else. Data about purchases from “rewards clubs” do more than target coupons to you; at least, it seems that they should allow companies to identify consumption trends, manage inventory, target what products are likely to succeed in the future. What can be done with the rich network and taste data in Facebook or the health data in Google Health or PatientsLikeMe?

Since the 1960s “participation” has become a powerful political discourse and source of institutional legitimacy. Chris and others are working on this genealogy. Participation, from the Port Huron Statement to Total Quality Management, was conceived as a solution to problems of democracy, bureaucracy, management, efficiency, and so forth. But participation was always more than a technical solution that delivers better “results”. It is also a moral discourse that evokes individual capacities and power, but in a communal, civic, responsible mode—not simply the empowerment and unfettering of the self-interested actor. Indeed the “participant” is something of the cooperative, altruistic counterpart to the purely selfish rational actor. This means that “participation” has a strong normative and ideological force.

Today governments, corporations, non profits, all gain authority by introducing participatory processes into their projects. In biomedicine, for example, these range from comment processes and periods in regulatory decisions; bioethics, IRB, and community consultation panels that include non-expert, “community” members; the NIH even offers grants to patient advocacy organizations to foster their participation. The cultivation of participation is crucial to these institutions’ legitimacy. Thus the meaning of participation is changing, and to think of it only in terms of the problem of cracking open closed and powerful institutions and making them more publicly accountable misses the ways that participation has become a stake in broader political struggle with many actors fighting to define it to their advantage.

The ironic twist here is that participation is fueling the intellectual apparatus (i.e., the correlational knowledge of behavioral patterns) of what may be a new paradigm of governance that is deeply technocratic and non-participatory. The vision of the governance paradigm that Davies sketches isn’t one where decisions are made openly in partnership with human subjects conceived as political stakeholders whose will and investment in decisions must be respected. Rather it is one where human subjects are complex and irrational whose behavior (and happiness) must be managed and optimized.

Part of the task of our lab should be to think of participation as something analogous to the population in Foucault’s famous analysis of biopolitics and governmentality. What happens when “participation” becomes an object of knowledge and manipulation, public and private power, pastoral authority, (even ethical self care)?

‘All Books Are Participatory': Interview with Adam Hyde at FLOSS Manuals.

Adam Hyde is the mastermind behind FLOSS Manuals, a set of wiki-editable collaboratively written how-to textbooks for open source software. I talked to Adam about the next steps for his project, the future of publishing (the one where a book is ‘alive’ and each author can take a cut), and the worldwide spread of the booksprint format, a process enabled by Adam’s Booki software that brings together a group of people to produce a book in 3-5 days.

Morgan Currie: Can you describe the original climate that FLOSS Manuals came out of?

Adam Hyde: Well the climate was bad documentation, undernourished documents in free software organizations across the planet, and a feeling that I could do something about it because no one else was.

MC: Why do you think this was the state of things?

AH: Because free software projects are run by backend people, 99% men who talk C+.

MC: Would this imply that they’re not plugged into an institution that can push things along?

AH: No no, many come from large organizations, but they do not understand or give sufficient attention to the ‘end user’ as someone who needs some love and attention. For example I recently did a sprint with a very established free software project. It was their first document in the eight years they had been running. Some organizations do not do manuals because they feel people ‘just get it’.
Of course its also good to remember that using a manual for training people to use our software is only the starting point. Manuals have a bigger role and value.

MC: Can you describe this larger role?
AH: Advocacy, PR, marketing, funding acquittal documents, helping other parts of the organization sell ideas ‘further up’ the chain, funding application materials, internal discussion documents, feedback processes, pre-sale aids, post sale-aids, etc. Docs live outside of ‘how to use the software’. Imagine if you are a developer or a consultant and you work with Drupal. You take along a customised printed manual of drupal to the potential client and that manual has your company’s branding all over it. Like you wrote the doc. Very powerful. Or imagine a funding acquittal – you get some funds, and you give the funder a BOOK as one of the outcomes of that funding. They love you and give you more money. Funders hardly ever get tangibles.
MC: So FLOSS Manuals allows people to personalize the use of the documents to that extent. You could make a fork of it, essentially, and put your own branding on it.
AH: Yes. It’s federated publishing. Take a book, and do with it as you like. We can’t stop people from taking off the attribution stuff, but I don’t expect they do.

MC: Can you describe how these manuals have been taken up by communities?

AH: That’s a biggie. Civicrm is a good case. They talk consistently about the book in their lists and point to it from forums all the time, and they have annual book sprints. They are depreciating the wiki and using the docs as their official docs. They now want to sprint with other humanitarian organizations to do bigger sprints with like-minded software document teams.
MC: Is the entire project then taking on a shape you didn’t foresee from the start? If so how?
AH: FLOSS Manuals is now starting to realise some of the things I hoped for it when I started it. It’s a slow process. You have to create a culture…that takes time. For example, it takes time to break down people’s ideas of publishing. They come with a pre-installed idea. Tell them anyone can take your book and publish it and make money…they feel queasy. Checkout A Webpage is a Book, in the chapter ‘About this book’. It documents how you can make money from this book. You can sell it yourself. We have all the tools so that this would take you two minutes to do. Try to explain that to someone, why they would want to do this?! It is the future, I am sure, but it doesn’t make sense to many people, so you need to build this up in a community culture, to get them used to ways of working, to challenge them, to show them what the advantages are and help them to experience them.
MC: Do you consider participation a part of this process?
AH: Participation is all over this – all books are participatory.
MC: It’s even a participatory way of injecting a never-finished collection of ideas into a market.
AH: I would not say never-finished. I would say ‘alive’.
MC: Do participants have some say in the overall management of the site, the licensing tools, the direction it’s taking?
AH: There are three tiers to this: one, the board of five people, two, the language associations – some separate organizations, and three, the communities. Tiers one and two exist to make three’s job easy.
At first the organization was invisible. Now it has more muscle since we had a meet up in Berlin in October. There is a stronger board that will be separate from the English FLOSS Manuals, so we’ll have all equal language foundations, all on the same tier, with the flossmanuals.org helping each wherever it can. The Dutch organization is the meta organization. There will be French, Finnish, English, all autonomous. The meta organization is there to fuel the greater picture and help the language organizations when needed.

MC: How is FLOSS Manuals sustained?
AH: We don’t have any funding and are now looking for some. We have no employees but want some to help the communities do what they want to do. We just started now looking for money four weeks ago. We have had project funding for Booki development when features were needed, etc, but that’s about it. We have 40k in the back, which will last six months, and in that time we have to make it work and meanwhile find more money to keep that ball rolling.
MC: Can you describe your user population? Where are they mostly, which are most active, what typifies a FLOSS contributor…
AH: Definitely free software people, but maybe ones that can talk to other people. Free software geeks with a human interface (usually).
MC: How critical are the book sprints to the manual’s development?
AH: If you are talking about ‘a’ manual, then there are many ways manuals can come into existence. Book Sprints are one way. But if you are talking about how important sprints are for FLOSS Manuals, that’s different. The community has had massive growth spurs because of book sprints, and this in turn helps the effort at large. So book sprints help specific books and the community in general, and book sprints help the profile of FLOSS Manuals because they are very news worthy.
MC: How many are happening these days?
AH: In the last four weeks…lets see. We did four parallel book sprints at once at the Google Summer of Code event. There was a French arduino sprint in Dakar. There is a “making free fonts with free software” sprint in France next week. There is a one day thunderbird update sprint in Toronto next week. And there is a freedomfone sprint in Zimbabwe next week.
MC: It would be interesting to compare all of these…the differences between European and African sprints, with the differences in technical resources.
AH: Yeah, in Africa there’s power outages and low net bandwidth.

MC: what’s your measure of success for the project?
AH: There is my measure and the one for the goals. I measure success by how much people tell say we are doing magic, and that happens a lot. But I think the real measure is how sustainable we can make this. That’s the real hard measure, and we are not there yet. I worry that I am too much the container for a lot of information others don’t have and also I don’t see anyone as committed as me who would take over as the main whip if I stepped out. There is a lot of cultural stuff that needs to be internalized. That takes time. So we have a lot to do to get there. I want to be expendable. And maybe I am already but I fear that I am not quite.
MC: Do you see FM doing more than manuals on FLOSS, with people taking up the platform to build textbooks on all sorts of topics?
AH: www.booki.cc is for books about non free software topics. We push that stuff there. I started this: www.booksprints.net to push book sprints into this area, and the book i am writing is to try to get people to start their own FLOSS Manuals type organization for their own interests.
MC: We aim to compare different organizations’ approaches to participation to map the ways it can shape the public’s voice and change the value an enterprise creates. Do you have a statement to make about this re FM? Participation for you happens on so many levels, which automatically makes it quite distinct.

AH: I think the book is a powerful tool for building communities and publishing has locked this off from the world for a very long time. One of the principle models for building knowledge online is going to be the book and the fact that it is so valuable a community building device makes it ripe for participatory knowledge building.

Fold it participation

Apparently a major discovery of the structure of a key retrovirus protease was made with the help of online gamers playing “Foldit”. Not only are the players helping scientists with the “drudgery” of research (as in distributed computing or people submitting animal sightings), but these game players are “providing answers beyond the capabilities of experts in the field.” Thus good game players have some kind of very specific expertise that scientists don’t have.

Interestingly the scientists offered authorship to the game winners, but they declined and only asked for recognition for their Foldit teams. The sharing of credit is interesting, and uncommon. But also it seems that there might be an interesting OP dynamic here. Competition in the game seems to have been key, also teamwork. An interesting question for us: where did the teams come from? Were they preorganized or did they organize through the game? What makes the team superior to a bunch of individuals working on the game separately?

http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Online-gamers-crack-scientific-puzzle-2176747.php

Prosumption digital divide

Jen Schradie, a grad student at Berkeley Sociology, has just published an article on the digital divide in user-production on the internet. doi:10.1016/j.poetic.2011.02.003

It enters the digital democracy debate not along the lines we’ve been accessing it (democratic participation vs. exploitation) but in terms of inclusion (democratic participation vs. unequal access/exclusion). She comes down on the exclusion side suggesting that even for those already online there is an extra class gap between those who use the internet for consumption and those who use it for productive activities. She links this to class inequality in two basic factors, control of internet tools (having a good connection at home and a bunch of gadgets) and endowment with a “Internet-in-practice and high-status information habitus” (to coin a phrase). She demonstrates this with data from a large Pew internet use survey.

The overall results aren’t that surprising, and I won’t get into the details very far. There were a couple of curious things; for example, the racial inequality picture is complex or maybe muddled–whites are more likely than other groups to post pictures and videos but less likely to have websites and blogs (actually differences are only significant for whites vs. blacks). Hispanics are more likely than nonhispanics to have websites and post videos. Etc.

Anyway, there are a couple things that might be valuable to us. One is the dataset and analysis that might give us some background information on the demographics of participation as we move forward.

Another thing is that this study, and most like it, pitch the debate at the individual level–the “public” as an inchoate mass of individuals. We’re interested in organized publics but most of the literature is implicitly concerned with THE disorganized public (in the singular).

So here’s at least one question in our different approach. Are the OPs we’re considering all already selecting from the productive, or prosumptive, “elite”? Does everyone already have the “information habitus”? Or do OPs ever draw people from the less “elite”, more ostensibly “passive”, segments of the internet population? Do OPs ever inculcate habitus in participants? Are there differences of habitus in different FSE/OP combinations or is it all just people who are “facile at doing crap on the internet” (to coin a phrase)?

Cooperation with the Corporation?

Kperogi, Farooq A. 2011. Cooperation with the corporation? CNN and the hegemonic cooptation of citizen journalism through iReport.com, New Media & Society, 13: 314-329 http://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/2/314 (Accessed April 3, 2011).

Can user-generated content, promoted and contained by a corporation, constitute an alternative or resistance to mainstream media? This is Kperogi’s timely question. Its asking portends a new era of realistic criticism of the once ballyhooed liberatory capacities of “peer production” and “participatory culture.” Kperogi’s answer is a resounding no. CNN’s iReport project to stimulate and aggregate user-generated news is not the threat to mainstream news but instead plays into the economic and hegemonic designs of the non-fiction industrial complex. In this argument Kperogi goes too far, failing to problematize his primary distinctions between mainstream and alternative journalism, ignoring the agency of iReporters, audiences, and UGC producers, and forgets to discuss the particular affordances of video and internet systems. Continue Reading →

Bastard Culture! and Peer Production Studies

A relevant book and a bevy of articles on peer production emerged recently:

Bastard Culture! How User Participation Transforms Cultural Production by Mirko Tobias Schäfer

…and New Media and Society bringing it in the recent edition:

The limits of peer production: Some reminders from Max Weber for the network society by Daniel Kreiss, Megan Finn, and Fred Turner, New Media & Society 2011;13 243-259 http://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/2/243

Factors influencing the willingness to contribute information to online communities by Xigen Li, New Media & Society 2011;13 279-296 http://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/2/279

The ‘popular’ culture of internet activism by Tatiana Tatarchevskiy, New Media & Society 2011;13 297-313, http://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/2/297

Cooperation with the corporation? CNN and the hegemonic cooptation of citizen journalism through iReport.com by Farooq A. Kperogi, New Media & Society 2011;13 314-329, http://nms.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/13/2/314