Open Service Provider

This is a contribution to the discussion started with Trebor Scholz‘s “A critique of sociable web media” email on the IDC mailing list.

So what can we do against networked exploitation?

I think an obvious strategy is to exploit those exploiters. Google Will Eat Itself (GWEI) and Amazon Noir are good examples for finding the holes in sociable web media systems and using the holes for reverse exploitation.

I think another strategy is to stay in context for collective action while all those sociable web media giants are fighting with each other for your attention (aka attention economy). There are many ways to stay in context such as email lists, forums etc. and all that social software actions as Trebor Scholz mentioned: commenting, tagging, ranking, forwarding, linking, moderating, remixing etc. Tools and environments for such actions are mainly provided by giant corporations, and under US laws, one who aggregates information owns it. But we can make our own web services for staying in the context, just like the way we can setup and maintain an old email list technology.

So this brings in the discussion of “open service provider”. As open source software development communities demonstrate, we can collectively create value independent from the capitalist exploitation. If we are in the software-as-service era, support and use open service providers as much as you support open source software. It is very important to intensify and redirect our collective techno-cultural production to a territory that is formed more by individual’s free-will than capital’s interests. But of course making one open alternative for each commercial-social web tool/environment is not all that relevant, it sounds just like making the free version of MS Office. So open service providers can use existing techniques but I think they should invent new types of interaction and aggregation for the good of the community.

I use software-as-service strategy in my artwork. They are not commercial services nor utilitarian. I believe that building an open service is closer to making a cultural product than making a commercial one. As Steve Kurtz of Critical Art Ensemble puts it here, the relation of the creative expression to social processes is as important as the materials, processes, and products.

3 responses to “Open Service Provider

  1. This problem is identical for any and every business.

    We (the users/consumers) do not control the composition or price of ANYTHING we purchase.

    The owners have fooled us into believing we can ‘demand’, but in the end it is only the OWNERS that decide.

    Why can’t we have simple hybrid vehicles such as Henry Ford’s experiment with the model A? Why can’t we buy food or medicine that is safe and natural while paying only the costs (including the workers’ wages) for it’s production? What if WE owned the petrol fields, drills, pumps, tankers and trucks? We would most likely pay the workers more than they currently receive while our price at the pump would be far less since the externality of profit becomes meaningless when the consumer (say of an apple) is the OWNER of the physical Sources for that object (the land, trees, tractors, water rights, tools, etc.).

    Do you realize Forbes magazine called water “The Next Oil” in terms of profitability? Who owns your water supply? How much do you pay? How close is that price to cost? Does it matter? What about toothpaste, burgers, taxis, television, cell-phones, socks?

    We (the users/consumers) will continue to cry and beg from the owners until we finally awake from this dream and become OWNERS of the physical Sources of Production ourselves under an agreement/contract/treaty/constitution that causes control to flow to new users in a manner similar to what the FSF’s GNU GPL already does for information.

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