Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Understanding Free Labor

Terranova’s description of the simultaneous exhaustion and sustainability of free labor in network was intriguing. Late capitalism both sustains and exhausts free labor. The need for constant work within the production of the network results in a continuous process of establishing ties between information, users, and other nodes in the net. Certainly, this description holds true in my use of the internet – sites that are updated less often means that I check them less often, and usually those that are too slow to update get dropped off of my radar. There is a direct relationship between the newness of the information on a site and my attention to that site. Certainly one work around for that issue is the mode that turns the reaction of its users into newsworthy events itself. A comment or post is repositioned as new information in and of itself, tapping into the new common modern wisdom that the best way to keep a site thriving is to enable the users to build the site itself.
Yet that transition, from dormant user or consumer of the information into the role of productive is more involved than Terranova gives it credit for. My understanding of a network involves identifying some nodes within its system as passive or dormant. What is to be said for the mix of generating the architecture for networked communication alongside initially generating information and content that is compelling enough to work with in the first place? It’s not as simply as, “If you build it, they will come,” or else we would all be on Google+. So my question is, how can you get it as wrong as google did for its social networking platform? If free labor is so inherent to the internet, how could a platform for free labor burn out before anyone really started using it? I think working through the explanation of that dud, and other cases of failed sites, might further the understanding of how we communicate in network culture.

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