Comments: Wikipedia, and the difficulties of criticizing digital-sharecropping

As somebody who used to work offshore on oil rig supply boats, I find the idea of someone writing in their blog being described as "unpaid labor" rather laughable.

Posted by hugh macleod at October 25, 2006 06:54 PM

Umm, why? Aren't you just posturing that white-collar work isn't real "work" compared to blue-collar work? Sure, being an oilrigger is much tougher than being a copy-editor. But an unpaid white-collar job is still unpaid, even if it's not a blue-collar job.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at October 25, 2006 07:44 PM

I don't regard blogging as white collar "work", any more than I regard watching TV, making a phone call, reading a magazine, meeting a friend for a beer, or doing the crosswords as "work".

Posted by hugh macleod at October 25, 2006 08:32 PM

Secondly, you're fond of portraying the internet [the blogosphere in particular] as a place where a few people profit handsomely, at the expense of the countless exploited many.

I think if that were actually the case, the internet would never have become the fastest growing media in the history of the planet.

Posted by hugh macleod at October 25, 2006 08:47 PM

For example, while the generic "making a phone call" is not generally a compensated activity, there is a job of "telephone solicitor". This is often paid employment. To say it is not "work", because all it entails is making telephone calls, is, I think, an unreasonable objection to the usage employed. It's confusing the senses of the word "work" which can mean both "job", and also, "physical effort", and then implying anything which does not involve phyical efforts is therefore not a job, which is transparently fallacious.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at October 25, 2006 08:50 PM

You second point simply does not follow. To put it very simply, lotteries are situations where a few people profit at the expense of a huge mass which provides that profit. They are nonetheless very popular.

More deeply, the entertainment industry is utterly notorious for dishonest accounting and exploitative conduct, but remains popular.

There's a lot of reasons for this, and let's skip the trivial Panglossian rebuttal, please. Denying it happens is just ludicrous.

Posted by Seth Finkelstein at October 25, 2006 08:59 PM

I have some of the same concerns in the free software/open source area. Given the liberty offered by the GPL, great potential exists for reducing the great divide. And yet, with freedom extending in a commercial sense and closed source products allowed in the mix, there is a risk of "stone soup" emerging slowly, almost undiscernibly over time.

It is conceivable that control will never be wrestled from the hands of few, and the world could wind up with an even worse predicament if this volunteer work force, driven by noble cause, simply infuses free labor and innovation into the technology industry but winds up further disenfranchised.

I am not at all certain how we monitor and guide this force but I believe the answer will end up being determined by whether or not 'community' in the open source world turns out to be the next “yuppie fad/resume builder” or a committed and fully empowered democracy.

Strong parallels, of course, to what is going on with intellectual capital -- which should come as no surprise since both emerged from the same source.

“He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”

Even 200 years ago, Jefferson understood there was no disadvantage to him personally for his knowledge to flow freely. And, as long as no one tries to break free from the pack, and run for the finish line, we should be able to walk there together.

In the entire history of the world, when have we ever witnessed that degree of universal restraint?

Posted by Amy Stephen at October 25, 2006 09:11 PM

Yep, and some people will use the phone to broker million dollar deals, while other poor souls will only use it for phone sex a.k.a. unpaid labor. So I guess the phone must be a lottery, too. Heh.

Posted by hugh macleod at October 25, 2006 09:34 PM

Phone sex = unpaid labor? For one half of the participants, maybe.

Posted by Ethan at October 30, 2006 12:47 AM