The voice of capital declares war against"information wantsto be free" (was: Rock and roll rebels)

Doyle Saylor djsaylor at
Thu Jun 1 00:39:04 MDT 2000

Title: Re: The voice of capital declares war against"information wants to be  free"
 (was: Rock and roll rebels)
Greetings Economists,
   Carrol Cox responds to Jose Perez's ruminations about digital media this way,
A cultural product the value of which I would like to see made
vanishingly small is the textbook. This would not, I would assume,
be possible on an individualist basis -- but given some radicalization
of large sectors of the educational work force  interesting
possibilities open up.
Well I understand Carrol to mean here that textbooks could be cheap.  And he
puts this in the context of perhaps some kind of social movement arising in some
specific sector of the educational workforce.
My view is that aside from the possible low cost of producing text books in
electronic form, digital media represent a shift that is about two things, one
productivity gains, and two how things would be different from the current
culture in the sense of a dramatic gain in the exchange of product as the basis
for the increase in production.  Both of these issues would shape the society of
workers movements in profoundly new ways from our present system.
It is already clear for most of us that a blizzard of product produced in the
current commercial media would simply overwhelm our ability to absorb what we
are getting.  If we look at this as some kind of result of a radicalization in a
sector of education (as Carrol suggests), we could anticipate a rise in quality
of media produced since a wider talent base in the human population could be
tapped.  But a rise in productivity with higher quality would still leave us
overwhelmed with product, and that spells a critical problem with productivity
gains in the current cultural industry.
We see here on this list, where the primary meaning here and on other lists is
the conversation over threads.  This sort of jointly produced meaning reflects
what I think would be the outgrowth of a glut of cheap media.  Most commercial
movies depend upon immense audiences to make money.   But a stupendous market
exists to simply make possible exchanges between people, and the increase in the
complexity and importance of that process.
The movement away from small scale production of movies has been continuous
since the movie industry started late in the nineteenth century.  The commercial
movie is a one way lecture to a mass audience in the hundreds of thousands or
millions or billions.  It cannot help but be that, because of production costs
of the medium.   Prior to digital media that is.
Therefore the sense must be widespread that an exchange between people in
communication has always been stunted by the form of the industry that arose.  Partly
a technical problem of how to lower costs of production in significant ways, it
has never been practical to exchange communication in the way that e-mail shows
us can happen in electronic media.
Any form of motion picture that we currently have cannot grow (produce more)
without a growth in exchange between small groups and individuals.  Production
for mass audiences forces upon the media a need to be universal that cannot
transcend the one way process of the current industry.
However, once bandwidth allows exchange to begin in earnest with pictures and
sound, it is inevitable that interests not so far voiced will arise in the mass
of people.  That is the only way for production to really increase and the
market to expand.  It may be true that the costs of the media will force upon
commercial movies difficulties.  To have a mass audience requires an interest in
your material on a mass scale.  A competing cheap medium with new potentials
being built up in significant fractions of the population would be difficult to
compete with in terms of very large audience needs by our contemporary
multi-media the movies.
On the other hand producing for example, motion pictures that are for small
niches would force upon the business structure to lower the costs of labor.  So
that now movie stars costs millions, good talent would have to go down in costs
just as much as does the hardware of the culture and the assumptions that color
our expectation of what we want from the exchange process.  The primary
expectation we might have would be shaped by what we are used to, and have to
move toward something hardly understood as possible.
To summarize, as digital media become practical, to increase production it will
be necessary to move away from mass audiences as the target of media production.
 In those terms where labor becomes more important to production, the need to
hold costs down grows, and the wages of cultural workers must come down from the
present star system, in order to facilitate greater production for smaller
The second part of this process is the focus upon exchange that also becomes
more important.  It not so much that a small audience is where the media point,
as that the exchange of media becomes critical which by necessity issues from a
small source to a small source.  The best example being like an e-mail list,
only with multi media instead of writing by itself.  Returning to Carrol's
desire for cheap textbooks, if exchange becomes important, then the costs of
exchange become very important.  If I must pay three dollars rental every time I
exchange with you a video movie, I will be unwilling to do that hundreds of
times with each person I encounter.  In order for exchange to flourish, the
costs of materials exchanged must come down to a level where the relative costs
are offset by the need to be able to exchange in such a society.  This is more
or less what we get in telephone conversations.
I propose then that the direction for electronic media must be toward exchange
processes between people, lowering the costs of labor that produces media,
therefore effecting a depression in the great cultural centers as an exchange
process arises.  This is the only obvious way to increase production, in so much
as production for a mass audience cannot be used in exchange ways.  As media
constructed for an exchange market grows in importance it forces aside any media
that is not as productive as an exchange electronic media.  Forces upon society
a kind of shift in how media is used, which I see as irreversible, since the
previous medium couldn't be exchanged to meet such needs and therefore can't be
used in a culture shaped by exchange.  Exchange being necessary since it is the
only avenue that really can increase production.
Doyle Saylor

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