[iDC] Don Tapscott's Wikinomics: A Dismal Netology?

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Thu Aug 23 07:03:48 UTC 2007

Just a quick reply to this one.

I think that the various attempts to make sense of emerging passionate and
collaborative production outside the institutional frameworks of the
for-profit world, such as this one, are legitimate. But indeed, I think
there is a key differentiation to be made, and that is the following:

1) between all those, and that includes both liberals such as
Benkler/Tapscott, but also left commentators (does Trebor belong to this
category) who believe that peer to peer is entirely immanent to the current
production system, a simple appendage to the market

2) and those, such as myself, who believe it has a 'transcendent' potential
as well. Taking the latter view does not mean upholding any automaticity,
nor denying the immanence, but simple accepting that the immanent aspect is
not sufficient, that both the system-confirming and system-transcending
aspects and potential have to be held at the same time, to make a full sense
of the phenomena.

This being said, both communities and institutions need to take account of
each other, and to undertake processes of adaptation, and this is what the
Wikinomics book addresses, from the point of view of the for-profit world,


On 8/20/07, pat kane <scottishfutures at googlemail.com> wrote:
> *From: *pat kane <playethical at gmail.com>
> *Date: *19 August 2007 21:51:29 BDT
> *To: *iDC list <idc at bbs.thing.net>
> *Subject: **Don Tapscott's Wikinomics: A Dismal Netology?*
> Hi all
> Trebor asked me to post this - I've been reading Don Tapscott's Wikinomics
> for a review for the Independent, a UK 'quality' tabloid. It's not up to the
> usual levels of theoretical precision that abounds on iDC, and you'll all
> know most of the references, but it might at least be a thought-starter. It
> also has a reference - I think the first newspaper reference ever! - to the
> work of Micheal Bauwens, our resident integral net-sage. Any (and better)
> responses welcomed.
> Pk
> Pat Kane
> http://www.theplayethic.com
> http://theplayethic.typepad.com
> http://www.newintegrity.org
> http://www.scottishfutures.net
> http://www.patkane.com
> All mail to: patkane at theplayethic.com
> *Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything*
> * *
> *By Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams*
> Reviewed by Pat Kane
> A spectre is haunting the information age – the spectre of communism. And
> if you don't believe me, listen to Bill Gates<http://news.com.com/2102-1041_3-5514121.html?tag=st.util.print>.
> In a 2005 interview, when asked whether the idea of intellectual property
> was being challenged by the net generation's ingrained habit of downloading,
> using and sharing content for free, Gates disagreed.
> "I'd say that of the world's economies, there's more that believe in
> intellectual property today than ever. There are fewer communists in the
> world today than there were", mused the uber-geek. "There are some new
> modern-day sort of communists who want to get rid of the incentive for
> musicians and moviemakers and software makers under various guises. They
> don't think that those incentives should exist."
> Gates' views <http://www.openoffice.org/> have since been ridiculed widely
> throughout the tech community (though they recently received some elegant
> support in Andrew Keen's *The Cult of the Amateur*<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Andrew_Keen>).
> But the tycoon's anxieties weren't baseless. In particular, Microsoft faces
> a swarming battalion of services on the internet which promise to provide
> everything the software giant does in your computer – email, database,
> operating system, everything – for nothing.
> These services (Open Office <http://www.openoffice.org/>, Ubuntu<http://www.ubuntu.com/>,
> Firefox <http://en.www.mozilla.com/en/firefox/> and many others) have
> mostly been created, and developed, by digital idealists committed to a
> vision of knowledge and culture which – if not communist – then at least
> revives the old idea of a 'commonwealth<http://www.bostonreview.net/BR27.3/bollier.html>',
> a realm of resources available as of right to free men and women, and places
> it bang in the heart of the late-capitalist West.
> The flurry of brand names from web culture that we conjure with in our
> daily news stories – Google, YouTube, MySpace, Facebook, Flickr – are
> fuelled by the free labour, and avid attention, of the netizens of this new
> commonwealth. And the only sustainable way these Web giants have found to
> make any money is by demonstrating to advertisers that potential consumers
> are watching. So it would seem that, at least at the networked end of
> things, capitalism is parasitic upon collaboration. No wonder Bill Gates
> would rather try to mitigate Aids in Africa<http://www.gatesfoundation.org/default.htm>these days, than deal with this Monday-morning head-splitter of a problem.
> If there's any group poised to profit from the bewilderment of executive
> managers in the midst of turbulent markets and trends, it's business
> consultants. And Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams, as they say in these
> circles, are certainly built to last. The extremely gimmicky title of their
> book draws inspiration from one the less satisfying aspects of this digital
> "mass collaboration" culture, the wiki. (Apart from Wikipedia, have you ever
> used a real wiki? To a nineties'-era newspaper hack like myself, it
> sometimes seems like as if the most fiddly aspects of page-setting software
> has been perversely elevated to a new economic paradigm).
> At times, Wikinomics reminds you of the famous quote from the nobleman in
> Giuseppe De Lampudesa's The Leopard<http://observer.guardian.co.uk/euro/story/0,,977706,00.html>:
> "If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change". Meaning
> that if the corporate West wants to find a way to keep making money out of
> the circulation of information and culture, then the whole way they do
> business will have to turn on its head.
> Tapscott and Williams present themselves quite self-consciously as the
> hand-holding guides of trembling CEOs and senior managers through this scary
> landscape. A land where copyright can barely be protected; where powerful
> companies have to open up their products and services to collaboration with
> hackers and amateurs; where new technologies largely propelled by
> irrepressible geeks can threaten and unravel existing commercial markets.
> They do their best, but most of the writers' attempts to bolt the usual
> scarcity-and-control models of money-making on to these alarmingly
> collective processes are remarkably tenuous. For example, they suggest that
> the most active participants in YouTube or Flickr be given star status, and
> granted a small but proportionate share of the ad revenue that their
> impassioned participation helps generate.
> But can you imagine the resentment that would build among such playful
> enthusiasts, each currently with as much right to access and status as the
> other, if a lucrative star system began to appear on these platforms? The
> very altruism and creative spirit that vitalised these networks would
> quickly evaporate, and all manner of gamings and distortions of the system
> for profit would ensue. Talk about 'not getting it'.
> Many of Tapscott and Williams' other recommendations to big business are
> inspired by an ideal of scientific practice – peer-support-and review, the
> open sharing of knowledge – which is as much about Enlightenment as it is
> about capitalism. And let's not forget that the Web itself, the platform
> that dynamised this whole situation, came out of the purely scholarly vision
> of Tim Berners-Lee<http://www.cnn.com/TECH/computing/9910/21/berners.lee.interview.idg/>– a physicist who wanted to help his fellow researchers freely exchange
> information.
> There's a weird blindness at the heart of this book, with its gushing
> celebrations of how world-wide corporate collaboration might produce the
> next Boeing airliner, or a new kitchen surface wipe. As the peer-to-peer
> visionary Micheal Bauwens <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michel_Bauwens>has eloquently written, the problem is that we regard what is truly
> plentiful as scarce (information), and what is truly scarce as plentiful
> (our finite natural world).
> There is virtually zero consciousness in Wikinomics of the kind of limits
> to global corporate activity that our acute environmental crisis must
> necessarily impose. Indeed, with an award-winning cheesiness, the book opens
> with an anecdote about a goldmine – revived, of course, through wikinomical
> means.
> As Jeffery Sachs noted in his BBC Reith Lectures this year<http://www.bbc.co.uk/print/radio4/reith2007/lecture5.shtml>,
> mass collaboration through informed networks will be one of the key tools
> whereby we might heal the planet, environmentally and geopolitically. But
> you'd hardly learn of that grand ambition from this rather comically
> opportunistic book. The spectre of consultantism hangs over it more
> oppressively than anything else.
> Pat Kane is the author of 'The Play Ethic' (www.theplayethic.com).
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