Justin Lincoln's notational productions. Thoughts, text, images, sounds, and videos.
We must embrace the reality that we are at the beginning of a global shift from copy to access: many of us will be happy with just having access to content, anytime, anywhere, on the best screen available, rather than wanting to ‘own’ (i.e. download) it. If ‘the cloud’ proves that it works we will make the switch - just like we switched from printed maps to navigation devices.
This article is replete with misguided techno-futurist optimism and annoyingly buzzy neologisms, but I was thinking about this while I was packing up my increasingly inconvenient-seeming CDs and LPs yesterday. The materiality of this stuff is starting to feel useless and wasteful. I would prefer to simply access media rather than owning it (with the exception of physical books, though we’ll see how long I hold on to that particular urge), and most of the time, that’s exactly what I do.
Where this commentator is the most off-base is his all-too-common assertion that there’s lots of profit to be made in the decentralized, cloud-based, p2p media economy, and that said economy can and will be effectively monetized. Which is not to say that it won’t be monetized (God knows lots of people — Netflix, Rdio, Spotify, etc. — are trying) but I seriously doubt that it will ever effectively renumerate producers the way the old system did. This is because the model of consumption-by-access rather than ownership is essentially communistic. Money can only be wrung out of it through artificially-imposed constraints.
This kind of consumption, unfortunately, exerts downward pressure on the value of media and eliminates more jobs than it creates. Communistic consumption disenfranchises producers when the economy as a whole remains capitalist. The response of old media (and even old-fashioned consumers) is to urge or enforce a return to more capitalized forms of consumption by fighting piracy and promoting the ownership of goods and encouraging us to treat digital commodities the same way as physical ones.
The obvious response is that, instead of trying to re-capitalize consumption, we should communize production. If I understand them correctly, this is where Hardt & Negri put their optimism. Immaterial labour (hugely problematic concept, I know) generates this new space of commons, and this kind of naturally emergent communism works to discredit capitalism. The problem, though, is that in the meantime, all the free labour that we pour into social networks drives down the value and availability of actual work. More and more people want to monetize our attention in order to sell us stuff that we have less and less money to buy.