Tuesday, April 20, 2010

"State of the art", Wed. Section

The “manifesto” has come up several times now throughout the course (in keeping with the networked structure, no doubt). Firstly, the idea of cyberspace was discussed in John Perry’s declaration of the freedom of cyberspace (not a manifesto per se, but akin to one). The utopian view extolled by Perry seems to resemble the “the digital worker” who “achieves fulfillment through work and finds in her brain her own, unalienated means of production” (37) as discussed by Terranova. The similarity is found through the simplicity both the ideas of Perry and the mythical digital workers possess. A cyberspace community completely free of government interference seems as idealistic as a digital worker that achieves fulfillment through work, despite a lack of pay. Government and money can’t be dismissed quite so easily, though.

Terranova addresses this as she begins her argument with the NetSlaves, arguing that it “points to a necessary backlash against the glamorization of digital labor, which highlights its continuities with the modern sweatshop and points to the increasing degradation of knowledge work…the NetSlaves…embody a complex relation to labor that is widespread in late capitalist societies” (33). She later references the “Marxist alienation” that the gift economy was supposed to bring (38), which again goes back to the very idealistic stance taken of the digital economy. But in the end, just like Jenkins, Terranova claims that the solution isn’t all that simple, but is rather categorically complex. The Internet doesn’t embody or break with capital (54), which dismisses any kind of simple, reductive nature of the Internet and its relation to capital.

This seems very different from what Stallman is pushing for in his “GNU Manifesto.” The heavy emphasis of community, and the loyal commitment to the “state of the art.” (3). In light of the AOL Sweatshop, this seems perhaps a bit too idealistic. The Manifesto is meant to inspire, but it demands a lot. In a sense, it seems like a manifesto calls for an overhaul, but Cyberspace, unfortunately for Perry, isn’t so detached from the rest of society that it can function completely independently of capital.

From the moment the Internet was heralded as Cyberspace, it seemed to open up and complicate many different dualities (reality/hyperreality, producer/consumer). The free/capital duality seems to be yet another one. So how can the idealistic works such as the GNU Manifesto be viewed in light of analytic works that say the state of new media cannot be so simple? Do idealistic views of new media have any sort of agency if capital will inevitably come in and complicate them?

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