[-empyre-] OSW: open source writing in the network

Dmytri Kleiner dk at trick.ca
Sun Jan 15 23:54:30 EST 2012

On 14.01.2012 12:22, Rob Myers wrote:

> Assuming we are talking about the few cultural producers for whom 
> this
> support is material,

The entertainment industries revenues are more than 50 billion anualy, 
iirc. While this is certainly not big oil or consumer electronics in 
gross figures, it certainly provides material support for many people. 
Now, do doubt, this support is just as unevenly and exploitatively 
distributed as it is in the rest of capitalist industry, but within 
capitalism there is no alternative possible that can exist other than a 
subcultural fringe.

> their social capital has been shown to be
> transferrable to new business models very effectively.

Hi Rob, I'd love to know what you mean here, especially in light of the 
structure of wealth, and the limits it places on potential "new business 
models" by way of restricting their access to accumulated capital. I'd 
like to know what sort of new business models you imagine can absorb the 
masses of cultural workers and satisfy the masses of cultural consumers, 
without first abolishing capitalism.

For instance, step me through how the capital to produce open-source 
versions of films like Avatar, whatever you think of that film, could be 
acquired without access to capital. Actually, not just one such film, 
but the output of the entire industry. And of course, not just Avatar, 
but even Battleship Potemkin or Citizen Kane, or Brazil or Delicatessen, 
all of these would drain the total amount of crowd funding (or any 
source other than capital) towards exhaustion, since the capitalist 
labour market functions to drive the amount of money workers can 
consistently divert from consumption to zero. It's not much of a 
surprise that many of the films actually funded by Kickstarter

Of course, text-based work is far less capital-intensive than film, so 
you could imagine that my examples based on film are irrelevant for open 
source writing, but the structure of wealth works on all levels by 
placing inescapable limits on the amount of funding for what could be 
called "unproductive" consumption, meaning consumption of consumer goods 
that are distributed in such a way that more capital is not captured.

In other words, "alternative business models" that are unable to 
capture rent (such as open-source), could certainly fund any book, even 
if they could only fund films of a limited budget, yet these are still 
limited as to how many such books such models could finance, by the 
structure of wealth.

Not only that, but the platforms on which "open source writing" depends 
will also not be funded by capital, meaning the very platforms that we 
use for open publishing will submerge even deeper into the the mirky 
depth of net subculture, far away from the mediated, centralized, 
capital-control social platforms the masses will use.

While all this can certainly be evaded, for those of us already firmly 
entrenched in net subculture, there is simply no way this can be 
avoided, so long as the logic of capital accumulation defines how 
culture and communication platforms are produced.

> Most cultural workers are under-employed and under-paid.

As it is for most workers in pretty much any significant sector.

> Economic
> studies of musicians and artists demonstrate this. To gain more of 
> them
> "employment" and to improve the "pay" of those who are "employed"
> requires strategies that do not benefit capital via big culture 
> directly.

And yet, we need to find ways to invest in such strategies for them to 
became viable, and this is the part that remains invisible at the 
moment, since the basic function of capitalism prevents labour from 
accumulating capital.

Thus, once you go all the way down the rabbit hole, you realize that 
the political struggle is same as it ever was, and that the way to 
contest capital is not only by way of doctrinaire experiments alone, 
though they may play an important role. The limits to the growth of 
alternative models is still tied to the structure of wealth. Therefore, 
in order to expand the viability of our alternative forms we need to 
confront the age-old battle for wages and public goods, because the 
source of wealth our models draw from is the retained earnings of 
workers, and only by improving basic labour conditions can we give our 
new models the space to function and grow.

>> Is that what we want? Fewer people to be paid for cultural 
>> production?
> If we want *more* people paid for "cultural production" then letting 
> go
> of the illusions of the culture industry and understanding how 
> artists
> actually make a living rather than berating free culture for failing 
> to
> reproduce those illusions is a good first step.

Unfortunately, you need to go deeper than "how artists actually make a 
living," which no doubt most of us here on this list know quite well, 
you need to understand the basic functioning of the economy we are 
working in and how it allocates wealth.

I guess that pretty much sums up my position, so these will be my last 
comments. Thanks again to the organizers of this discussion on the 
Empyre list, and to all the participants. Perhaps I'll see some of you 
at Transmediale! Don't hesitate to come up and say hi.


Dmytri Kleiner


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