Reading Raymond’s article, I was struck again by the surprisingly close relationship of the the internet’s democratic and capitalistic tendencies.
“Linus was keeping his hacker/users” constantly stimulated and rewarded––” Raymond writes, “stimulated by the prospect of having an ego-satisfying piece of the action, rewarded by the sight of constant (even daily) improvements in their work.” The constant present of the internet allows for constant “reward [at] the sight of … their work,” meaning that the developers/beta testers are lured into consuming internet time because of its constant alteration (I think something along these lines was mentioned by Terranova as well). But the constant present of the internet at the same times allows the constant access and participation of anyone (with the abilities––the internet remains a capitalism-like meritocracy) at anytime, regardless of their physical circumstances (except of course access to a computer).
Throughout the article, Raymond discusses the necessity of “listen(ing) to your customers,” of treating them like your primary resource so that they can become your primary resource. Of course what’s magnificent about this idea is that means that “anyone”, as I described, can really get involved in the process of creation. Its an ego-boost, as Raymond so excellently describes/demonstrates. If the most successful websites, as according to Coleman, are those that require the participation in creation of members of the user/customer base, then certainly it is true for programs as well. The pleasure of the internet, and the digital medium generally, as we’ve been studying, is creating an effect. And the pleasure of the internet is creating your own free path through cyberspace––in other words, being free on the cyber-frontier to explore its vastness as you please, having control over the creation of your own cyber-destiny and cyber-identity. So this idea of involving individuals in the construction of a cyber-realm (Linux) is obviously very appealing.
But then there are red-flag words, like “customer,” “consumer,” “successful” and to an extent, “users” (as in a drug user (I loved that pun)) who are constantly “stimulated and rewarded”. The most loved, most successful websites are simply selling the ability to create them. In the same way, Linux and Fetchmail are selling the ability to create and improve them. Raymond discussed the point at which he found it necessary to appeal to larger markets if he were to make Fetchmail (and himself) successful.
Because of the internet’s vastness, it simplifies to an incredible degree the push for larger markets. And capitalism loves such a vast, accessible market whose products are constantly changing. And so do users, because it makes them feel free and their life feel exciting and productive. And capitalism loves happy, addicted users.
Because of the Net’s democratic accessibility, and it’s democratic ability to allow networking, it means that it can be used by corporations to get more labor without the extra costs of communication and coordination (or even the labor itself) that Brooks warns against. And capitalism loves that. So in short, in the case of the internet, the things that make it democratic, also make it capitalistic.