So when I started to read John Lanier’s article after Brun’s (lengthy) “Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life, and Beyond,” I was instantly intrigued with his allusion to digital collectivism resulting in users “drowning one another out”. The idea presented was fundamentally different from the positive produsage text that I has just spent the greater half of an hour absorbing and highlighting (fun!). Bruns’s work was in essence an ode to convergence culture that did not adequately prepare me for the rant that was to follow in Lainer’s article. As I read Lanier’s “World Wide Mush,” I got angrier and angrier at Lanier’s outright attack of the structure of our digital world.
Lanier makes the bold claim that the “problem” with digital collectivism is “When you have everyone collaborate on everything, you generate a dull, average outcome in all things. You don’t get innovation.” He also states “Youthful fascination with collectivism is in part simply a way to address perceived ‘unfairness’.” Reading these quotes, I found it hard to believe these statements, and almost cast Lanier off as a lunatic right then and there. But, the absurdity of someone attacking a system that I support, and that is so globally used and accepted, kept me interested. Surprisingly, as I kept reading, I began to consider his point-of-view a bit more.
Now, I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I agree with Lanier in that our “framework isn’t working,” but there definitely is something to be said about people going along with the status quo unquestioningly. Whose to say that it is working? Why do we put so much trust in online collectivism? Without a comparable alternative, the current digital world is of course going to be perceived as the best option. But, what if it isn’t? Should we employ some “boundaries” as Lanier suggests? I know that personally, boundaries help me focus and get work done. You can’t think “outside of the box” without there first being a box to begin with, right?
So I clearly agree that questioning the status quo when it comes to digital collectivism is a practice that probably should be done more often. Hey, maybe we do need to make some changes and stick to some boundaries. Figuring that out would be a whole different animal however, since no one technically “owns” the Internet, and we can’t necessarily go back on that now and privatize it. However, this is exactly what Lanier would want to happen. Lanier’s argument that monetary gain should rule our every decision and play a larger role in our actions is not only ridiculous, but it shows his selfish personal nature. His argument is built upon the fact that personal and social happiness is fundamentally valued less than monetary value.
Maybe its just because I am one of the idealistic youths that Lanier speaks of and I wont fully “get” his point of view until later on in my lifetime, but money isn’t everything, buddy. Lanier looks down upon earning “kudos instead of money” and frowns upon profiting from advertising, rather than profiting from the knowledge itself. News flash: this isn’t new! Profit from advertising and other sources has been around for years!
By making a payment structure for the Internet and privatizing it, we would be fundamentally excluding potentially millions of people from produsing online content. This would stratify the users and take away from the beauty of true digital collectivism–contributions from everyone (not just a snooty academic community with the means to pay). I get that everyone who is involved with online work is “getting poorer,” but these people are well aware of what their job entails financially, and if they’re really worried they can look for work elsewhere. These “kudos” may not mean a lot to Mr. Lanier in exchange for a dollar, but to those who contribute content, the feeling of social community/belonging and happiness or “Kudos” is enough to keep the content coming.
Oh, and as a shameless plug (and to hopefully get some kudos myself):