Wednesday, April 27, 2011

(empo-tymshft) Will Facebook users have to abandon Lutheranism?

When I write my "empo-tymshft" pieces, I take great delight in tying a current item, such as cloud computing, to something that existed decades ago, such as the initial CompuServe.

But what about tying a current item to something that happened centuries ago?

That's exactly what Marina Gorbis did when discussing the suit against the Huffington Post and AOL by the unpaid staff.

The suit, however, brings to the fore tensions inherent in a new kind of production that is emerging today—what we might call “social production.” This kind of work involves micro-contributions from large networks of people who often receive “payment” in the form of fun, peer recognition, and a sense of belonging—that is, in social rather than monetary currencies. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Flickr, and many other stalwarts of today’s digital economy are enablers and beneficiaries of such production....

But the Huffington case brings us face-to-face with the reality that we, as social producers, are all becoming digital peasants. By turn, we are the heroic commoners feeding revolutions in the Middle East and, at the same time, “modern serfs” working on Mark Zuckerberg’s and other digital plantations....

[T]here is a potential dark side to social production, and the way we structure such efforts is critical. This is where the lessons from manor economics become relevant. Just like digital manor economies today, the manorialism of feudal society in medieval Europe integrated many elements of commons production. In most manors, peasants and tenants were assigned rights to use the commons—pastures, forests, fisheries, soil—within each manor’s boundaries. Some of the early principles of commons production we write about today were first evident in manor economies, where inhabitants had to agree on rules for cultivation, grazing and fishing.

The dark side of manor economics, however, lay in the fact that it perpetuated huge inherited disparities in incomes. So while most of the population in these Middle Age pastoral settings survived at subsistence levels, the lords of the manor were able to live lavishly off the rent, taxes, and free labor the tenants were obligated to supply them with, as well as various fees tenants had to pay for the use of resources such as mills, bakeries, or wine-presses.

And here the similarities emerge. Digital manor economies are driven by technologies that, at their core, are commons-creating.

Read the entire post here.

In effect, Gorbis is drawing a parallel between today and the Middle Ages - before the Renaissance, before wide availability of books, before the printing press...and, in my case, before Lutheranism. So much for "Here I Stand" - Zuckerberg might put me in the stocks.

I'm mulling over this one...
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