Thursday, April 22, 2010

Free Labor = Crowd Sourcing, Friday 11am Section

The article “Free Labor: Producing Culture for the Digital Economy” by Tiziana Terranova made me think hard about current internet trends. I find it interesting that this was written in 2000, well before Youtube , Facebook, and Wikipedia. The “free labor” that she discusses is called “crowd-sourcing” and is a key factor controlling affecting the success of social media companies. The arguments being presented here are stronger than ever and I would not be surprised if others felt this paper was ahead of its time. I find it hard to understand what it was that she had in mind when writing this and don’t think I would have believed her if I read it in 2000.

My favorite part of the reading can be found on page 37 where she writes:
“Free labor is the moment where this knowledgeable consumption of culture is translated into productive activities that are pleasurably embraced and at the same time often shamelessly exploited.”
This, in a nut shell, summarizes the rest of the paper and perfectly encapsulates emerging internet trends. Fan fiction, as was described in class on Wednesday, is a perfect example of this. Fans love reading the new material, but the original writers themselves can take advantage of it without any compensation to the fans. Facebook’s user-agreement stipulates that any original material on the social networking site is property of Facebook. In other words, crowd-sourcing is the name of the game on the internet these days because of all the useful material that free labor produces. Terranova calls these new workers “digital artisans.” I also find it particularly interesting that the younger generations seem to be adopting these new trends quicker. Although I consider myself a heavy internet user, I have never contributed to Wikipedia, been an active member of an online community, and have never uploaded a video to Youtube. On the other hand, there is no limit to how many 13-year olds upload video after video of them ranting nonsense. I think modern crowd-sourcing sites are the beginning of this trend toward harnessing the power of crowds online and am excited/scared to see what comes next.

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