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11

A Peasant's Kingdom

0
terms
4
notes

Taylor, A. (2014). A Peasant's Kingdom. In Taylor, A. The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age. Fourth Estate, pp. 11-38

20

[...] The online sphere inspires incessant talk of gift economies and public-spiritedness and democracy, but commercialism and privatization and inequality lurk beneath the surface.


This contradiction is captured in a single word: “open,” a concept capacious enough to contain both the communal and capitalistic impulses central to Web 2.0 while being thankfully free of any socialist connotations. New-media thinkers have claimed openness as the appropriate utopian ideal for our time, and the concept has caught on. The term is now applied to everything from education to culture to politics and government. Broadly speaking, in tech circles, open systems—like the Internet itself—are always good, while closed systems—like the classic broadcast model—are bad. Open is Google and Wi-Fi, decentralization and entrepreneurialism, the United States and Wikipedia. Closed equals Hollywood and cable television, central planning and entrenched industry, China and the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However imprecisely the terms are applied, the dichotomy of open versus closed (sometimes presented as freedom versus control) provides the conceptual framework that increasingly underpins much of the current thinking about technology, media, and culture.

While openness has many virtues, it is also undeniably ambiguous. Is open a means or an end? What is open and to whom? Mark Zuckerberg said he designed Facebook because he wanted to make the world more “open and connected,” but his company does everything it can to keep users within its confines and exclusively retains the data they emit. Yet this vagueness is hardly a surprise given the history of the term, which was originally imported from software production: the designation “open source” was invented to rebrand free software as business friendly, foregrounding efficiency and economic benefits (open as in open markets) over ethical concerns (the freedom of free software). In keeping with this transformation, openness is often invoked in a way that evades discussions of ownership and equity, highlighting individual agency over commercial might and ignoring underlying power imbalances.

very similar to what Morozov says in his Baffler piece

(this inspired my open web talk. I swear I didn't actually read it before I wrote my logic piece though, even though it feels eerily similar. i did read that NLR review of it - maybe that's why?)

—p.20 by Astra Taylor 10 months ago

[...] The online sphere inspires incessant talk of gift economies and public-spiritedness and democracy, but commercialism and privatization and inequality lurk beneath the surface.


This contradiction is captured in a single word: “open,” a concept capacious enough to contain both the communal and capitalistic impulses central to Web 2.0 while being thankfully free of any socialist connotations. New-media thinkers have claimed openness as the appropriate utopian ideal for our time, and the concept has caught on. The term is now applied to everything from education to culture to politics and government. Broadly speaking, in tech circles, open systems—like the Internet itself—are always good, while closed systems—like the classic broadcast model—are bad. Open is Google and Wi-Fi, decentralization and entrepreneurialism, the United States and Wikipedia. Closed equals Hollywood and cable television, central planning and entrenched industry, China and the Encyclopaedia Britannica. However imprecisely the terms are applied, the dichotomy of open versus closed (sometimes presented as freedom versus control) provides the conceptual framework that increasingly underpins much of the current thinking about technology, media, and culture.

While openness has many virtues, it is also undeniably ambiguous. Is open a means or an end? What is open and to whom? Mark Zuckerberg said he designed Facebook because he wanted to make the world more “open and connected,” but his company does everything it can to keep users within its confines and exclusively retains the data they emit. Yet this vagueness is hardly a surprise given the history of the term, which was originally imported from software production: the designation “open source” was invented to rebrand free software as business friendly, foregrounding efficiency and economic benefits (open as in open markets) over ethical concerns (the freedom of free software). In keeping with this transformation, openness is often invoked in a way that evades discussions of ownership and equity, highlighting individual agency over commercial might and ignoring underlying power imbalances.

very similar to what Morozov says in his Baffler piece

(this inspired my open web talk. I swear I didn't actually read it before I wrote my logic piece though, even though it feels eerily similar. i did read that NLR review of it - maybe that's why?)

—p.20 by Astra Taylor 10 months ago
24

Open standards, in general, foster a kind of productive chaos, encouraging innovation and invention, experimentation and engagement. But openness alone does not provide the blueprint for a more equitable social order, in part because the “freedom” promoted by the tech community almost always turns out to be of the Darwinian variety. Openness in this context is ultimately about promoting competition, not with protecting equality in any traditional sense; it has little to say about entrenched systems of economic privilege, labor rights, fairness, or income redistribution. Despite enthusiastic commentators and their hosannas to democratization, inequality is not exclusive to closed systems. Networks reflect and exacerbate imbalances of power as much as they improve them.

—p.24 by Astra Taylor 10 months ago

Open standards, in general, foster a kind of productive chaos, encouraging innovation and invention, experimentation and engagement. But openness alone does not provide the blueprint for a more equitable social order, in part because the “freedom” promoted by the tech community almost always turns out to be of the Darwinian variety. Openness in this context is ultimately about promoting competition, not with protecting equality in any traditional sense; it has little to say about entrenched systems of economic privilege, labor rights, fairness, or income redistribution. Despite enthusiastic commentators and their hosannas to democratization, inequality is not exclusive to closed systems. Networks reflect and exacerbate imbalances of power as much as they improve them.

—p.24 by Astra Taylor 10 months ago
30

[...] The cultural field has become increasingly controlled by companies “whose sole contribution to the creative work,” to borrow Cory Doctorow’s biting expression, “is chaining children to factories in China and manufacturing skinny electronics” or developing the most sophisticated methods for selling our data to advertisers.

damn that's brutal

—p.30 by Astra Taylor 10 months ago

[...] The cultural field has become increasingly controlled by companies “whose sole contribution to the creative work,” to borrow Cory Doctorow’s biting expression, “is chaining children to factories in China and manufacturing skinny electronics” or developing the most sophisticated methods for selling our data to advertisers.

damn that's brutal

—p.30 by Astra Taylor 10 months ago
33

More troublingly, at least for those who believed the Internet upstarts would inevitably vanquish the establishment dinosaurs, are the ways the new and old players have melded. Condé Nast bought Reddit, Fox has a stake in Vice Media, Time Warner bet on Maker Studios (which is behind some of YouTube’s biggest stars), Apple works intimately with Hollywood and AT&T, Facebook joined forces with Microsoft and the major-label-backed Spotify, and Twitter is trumpeting its utility to television programmers. Google, in addition to cozying up to the phone companies that use its Android operating system, has struck partnership deals with entertainment companies including Disney, Paramount, ABC, 20th Century Fox, and Sony Pictures while making numerous overtures to network and cable executives in hopes of negotiating a paid online television service.

—p.33 by Astra Taylor 10 months ago

More troublingly, at least for those who believed the Internet upstarts would inevitably vanquish the establishment dinosaurs, are the ways the new and old players have melded. Condé Nast bought Reddit, Fox has a stake in Vice Media, Time Warner bet on Maker Studios (which is behind some of YouTube’s biggest stars), Apple works intimately with Hollywood and AT&T, Facebook joined forces with Microsoft and the major-label-backed Spotify, and Twitter is trumpeting its utility to television programmers. Google, in addition to cozying up to the phone companies that use its Android operating system, has struck partnership deals with entertainment companies including Disney, Paramount, ABC, 20th Century Fox, and Sony Pictures while making numerous overtures to network and cable executives in hopes of negotiating a paid online television service.

—p.33 by Astra Taylor 10 months ago