February 12, 2007

"Local Content Harvesting" - another honest term for "Citizen Journalism"

I am not making up this headline: Tonight at 11, news by neighbors - Santa Rosa TV station fires news staff, to ask local folks to provide programming

"I have my own silly little term," Spendlove said. "Local content harvesting."

A true moment not to be in the process of hydration, for fear of ruining a keyboard.

Yes, digital sharecropping has many names.

Value-add via an uncommon echo:

http://www.metamute.org/en/InfoEnclosure-2.0

The hype surrounding Web 2.0's ability to democratise content production obscures its centralisation of ownership and the means of sharing. Dmytri Kleiner & Brian Wyrick expose Web 2.0 as a venture capitalist's paradise where investors pocket the value produced by unpaid users, ride on the technical innovations of the free software movement and kill off the decentralising potential of peer-to-peer production

Not the least because of this paragraph in the article:

Graham's characterisation of the "Amateur" reminds one of "If I Ran The Circus" by Dr. Seuss, where young Morris McGurk says of the staff of his imaginary Circus McGurkus:

My workers love work. They say,
"Work us! Please work us!
We'll work and we'll work up so many surprises
You'd never see half if you had forty eyeses!"

[Also remember Nick Carr: "Web 2.0 provides an incredibly efficient mechanism to harvest the economic value of the free labor provided by the very, very many and concentrate it into the hands of the very, very few."]

I'd say something about the people who are cheerleading and enabling this effect (links omitted out of self-preservation), but they have far more power than I do :-(.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in cyberblather | on February 12, 2007 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink)
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Comments

All that has to be demonstrated is that public works belong to the people.

If anyone is being ripped off it's the people who are paying a rate usually associated with high production costs. But then, that's really just an opportunity for a new market entrant to undercut.

Want to broadcast your own news?
Try RawFlow.

Posted by: Crosbie Fitch at February 13, 2007 07:59 AM

"I'd say something about the people who are cheerleading and enabling this effect (links omitted out of self-preservation), but they have far more power than I do."

Love ya, mean it, Seth, but statements like this drive me crazy. Not to conflate anything, but where would various movements/struggles have gone if the leaders were afraid to name the opposition? I seem to recall something like this happening in 1776. The consequences would have been hanging back then. Calling out [whoever] may result in disapproval or disagreement, but I'm not thinking that your a) livelihood or b) life would be in any jeopardy. Unless you were being libelous, or similar.

And yes, I am aware of who has what size megaphone. That doesn't deprive you of the right to speak truth to power.

Posted by: Ethan at February 13, 2007 01:19 PM

Ethan: Unfortunately, you're incorrect. Push it too far, and my livelihood will indeed be in jeopardy. For example, that's why I quit censorware decryption research.

By the way, note the top US revolutionaries did have something in it for them - the country's resources. George Washington was one of the richest men in the entire nation. History is often more interesting than the tales told.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 13, 2007 02:22 PM

But would the mere act of citing an example, such as "[news company] is one such enabler [citing link]" rise to the level of losing/diminishing your livelihood?

Granted, there are times I don't offer a citing link because I figure [whoever] already gets enough publicity, and another link just fuels that flame. However in this case, I personally would feel comfortable calling someone out, if only as one of many examples. This differs from say, reverse engineering how CNN.com works.

(Parentheticaly, I did read the materials concerning your departure from censorware research elsewhere on your site, and while there is much to discuss about it pro and con, I do not see this situation as comparable. We may disagree, of course.)

Posted by: Ethan at February 13, 2007 03:44 PM

Action provokes reaction. One of the fallacies of cyberutopianism is to think that The Internet is some sort of magic place removed from all the evil of the world.

That is, to the extent that calling out any specific names would do any good, it would also entail potential cost. I call this the "negative lottery" - i.e. each ticket is small and likely a dud - but the one payoff can be life-changing.

The point about being driven out of censorware research was merely to illustrate how the process works - can't win, can lose, playing that sort of Russian Roulette eventually blows up.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 13, 2007 04:02 PM

Without jeopardizing anyone's livelihood, is it reasonable or meaningful to point out that KFTY was the closest local news station to Sebastopol? (and also to me, but I get my local news from my local newspapers).

Posted by: Dori at February 13, 2007 05:47 PM

That Mute article is great, but I think it's a mistake to assume that P2P is naturally opposed to Web 2.0 sharecropping. Consider "P2P 2.0" companies like Skype, where users provide the bandwidth and network effects, but a single company effectively owns the network by controlling the software, the identity database, and ancillary services (e.g. SkypeIn/SkypeOut).

Also, the article started sounding a little Marxist at the end. I'd prefer to build systems that preserve most of the benefits of Web 2.0 but give people the ability to choose whether to capture the value of their own content or to contribute that value to a community. Unfortunately, I think such systems require content creators to actually pay for their own bandwidth (gasp), which is a tough sell.

Posted by: Wes Felter at February 14, 2007 02:46 PM

Wes: Good point. I don't think it's a perfect article, since as you point out P2P can be co-opted too. As to being a little Marxist, well, I'll forgive that, given the overdose of Libertarianism that plagues net discussion :-)

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 14, 2007 09:05 PM

Ethan:

And yes, I am aware of who has what size megaphone. That doesn't deprive you of the right to speak truth to power

Ethan, that's a quintessentially American approach to politics, one in which success or failure is secondary to self-expression. Where speaking (but not being heard) is an end in itself.

... "Who cares if I lose, I've used my God-given right to express myself!"

The ego and individualism must be paramount.

On the internet, which has lowered the barrier to self-expression but made consensus-building much more difficult, "activism" is reduced to little more than badge wearing. The net has the potential to be the authoritarian's best friend - we just need to get everyone on it.

Posted by: Andrew at February 16, 2007 07:01 PM

"Ethan, that's a quintessentially American approach to politics, one in which success or failure is secondary to self-expression. Where speaking (but not being heard) is an end in itself."

That's one way of looking at it. Another is to say, move to a magical place called "Texas" from another state, and left wondering if there is anyone who shares similar views, or if not, is at least capable of having an intelligent discussion without resorting to bumper-sticker sloganeering. I watch the election results very closely, because while it is thought that a vote against the prevailing opinion is a "waste", every little bit counts.

Do I read you comment correctly then, that we may only say, speak truth to power when we are guaranteed a "win"?

Not to call Seth on the carpet as such, but IF the greater issue is that Seth isn't being heard on THIS web site, then perhaps a change of venue is in order. Writing for the Guardian certainly qualifies.

Posted by: Ethan at February 16, 2007 10:15 PM

I don't think Seth's problem is that he doesn't have a loud enough megaphone. A failure to get institutional backing for a cause would be enough to discourage any activist - but Seth can speak for himself. But your comment suggests you're looking in the wrong place.

Successful politics requires coalition building, while institutional support saves a lot of bloodshed.

Maybe the American left never had a taste for conflict - it did duck awfully fast when the Pinkerton's bullets started flying. Or maybe it never had any appetite at coalition building - why change hearts and mind, when there's ME to look after, and always a new frontier to strike out for?

For whatever reason, it has now retreated into a kind of simulacra, a virtual reality game in which "hacking the media" is a proxy for achieving any kind of real world program.

(Parallel to the European left's equation of material or media consumption as essentially radical acts in themselves).

The internet offers "progressives" an infinite hall of mirrors to play out such fantasies.

"Do I read you comment correctly then, that we may only say, speak truth to power when we are guaranteed a "win"?"

A wise man chooses his battles carefully.

In the long term a failure to do so, and to consistently squander the good will of one's constitutency, only profits bumper sticker printers: with the consequence that activism is merely a pose... or "lifestyle" .

What the internet has added is an ability to generate fictional causes for progressives. Ethan, see my story about "Net Neutrality" for a good example -

How AT&T chewed up, spat out, Net Neutrality.


This is genuinely new phenomenon, I think. It's entirely hermetic. Now the bourgeois progressive can complete the cycle of "activism" - from anger, to mobilization, and onto defeat - without ever encountering the real world.

As a consequence, shrewd corporations can now play the "netroots" like a harp.

Posted by: Andrew at February 17, 2007 07:02 PM

There's the global problem of activism in America even the world, and the local problem that I'd really like remain in a position to earn a living, i.e. not acquire even more "baggage". Institutional factors affect both these issues :-(.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 18, 2007 12:21 AM