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Re: <nettime> The $100bn Facebook question: Will capitalism survive 'val
lorenzo tripodi on Mon, 5 Mar 2012 13:53:08 +0100 (CET)

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Re: <nettime> The $100bn Facebook question: Will capitalism survive 'value abundance'?

Dear all,
thanks for the stimulating discussion. 
Let me add some reflection from the point of view of an urbanist which considers media and ICT as undistinguished and integral part of the urban field.

In my idea, to a marxist reading of Facebook as a place of labour exploitation, it  would be rather preferable a parallelism with the exploitation of rent.  
The "citizen labourer", who through his everyday-life practices builds the city identity - while in the meantime creating its exchange value - is in fact the agent who produces the rent which the capitalist "rentier" exploits. It is in great part the product of a "free labour" which in my opinion has always existed, that of the citizen strolling in a commercial street, consuming, 'colouring the space with vibrant neighbourhood life' (a copy'n'paste refrain of urban marketing), etc.  
In the same way, Facebook's users build  the exchange value of the "site"  through their everyday practices while enjoying the use of its 'public space' , creating ' rent value' (exchange value) in favour of the corporation which can sell aggregated information by commecial purposes. They both respond to the (non exclusive) role of prod-user. 
An epitome of such dynamics in urban terms is gentrification process, where consciously or not (more so...), creatives and 'urban pioniers' through their social and cultural production (mostly in their non working activities) raise the value of the land, indirectly favouring the diplacement of disadvantage population. Which however does not happens with facebook.  
Yet, the parallel is not complete, as the value of land is strictly connected with its finiteness and the impossibility, in principle, of coexistence in the same place of bodies / activities. The concentration of activities and buildings in urban spaces implicitly builds scarcity, which is not the case of digital information stored in the internet, tendentially replicable and accessible ad infinitum. In this sense, the creation of a great amount of surplus profit from its use derives more from artificlally induced scarcity  given by the exclusive  right  to sell access to aggregated data of facebook (and google etc.), than from a material progressive scarcity of resources. The issue here is if we have to consider facebook as the corresponding of a private developer earning money from renting its spaces, or the manager of a public space which retain taxes to manage it for the best public profit, which should be in my view a more correct way to approach the question. Above all,
  i believe that the struggle for preserving the nature of the internet as a commons, as common wealth,  is of the same nature of the struggle of activism for public space. 
Rent in material terms is constituted over the state apparatuses endorsing the system of norms ruling property under capitalist regime. The internet enhanced a far less monopolistic role of the state as the ruler of a virtual territory, differently from urban territories that fall univocally  under its normative power (but not uncontested by multiple kinds of autonomy claims). This means on one side that there is not a definite player as "the state" to define rules for accessing and producing such a 'public space',  which can be also seen in terms of a step towards a more libertarian or anarchic organization. On the other, that there is not such a player which can univocally and legitimally claim for the defense of the implicit public nature of those spaces of communication and social interplay, if not the 'multitude' itself of its produsers.  
This moves the question from "if facebook" exploits labour", which is true as it always has been in every spatial edification, to:
1)  how can we defend its public nature from the speculatory exploitation of financial capital (it's all about this).
2) how can we imagine and implement better alternatives to facebook and similar logics...


On Mar 2, 2012, at 7:34 PM, Brian Holmes wrote:

> On 03/01/2012 08:23 PM, Jonathan Marshall wrote:
>> To me, the problem is the complexity of what is to be thought, and
>> a general refusal to allow paradox - ie that something can be both
>> good and bad, that it can have contradictory drives - to exist
>> within the same thought.
> I'm generally on board with that.

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