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in Filmmaking
on Nov 22, 2009

I came across this short video of Doug Rushkoff speaking at the Web 2.0 Expo, and in it he echoes some of the things he spoke about at the DIY Days in Philadelphia, which I attended back in June. In that keynote as well Rushkoff hopskotched through the creation of central currency, detailing the role of governments in controlling the our ability to exchange value. It’s a lot to cover in 12.5 minutes, and while I’m no expert in economic history, there’s plenty to quibble with in his broad shorthand. Like, as a colleague pointed out after his Philadelphia lecture, didn’t the creation of currency also have something to do with the fact that people didn’t want to carry around big bushels of grain around everywhere? This video also has its share of head-scratchers, like his statements that today, “cash has lost its utility value” and “cash is scarce” (perhaps correct for many on an individual level but certainly not correct on a macro level).

In the last four minutes of this video, however, Rushkoff takes some useful shots at the “free” movement as well as what he sees as the wrong conclusions about creative property rights many have derived from the open source movement. (Funny how, after all the hype, Chris Anderson’s Free landed with something of a thud…) He is correct in his pinpointing of how value is being drained from content creators and displaced towards the proprietors of ad-based networks (i.e., Google), and his description of Anderson’s model as being about the constant and ultimately unsustainable leveraging of forms of free content or services is succinct and apt. With two-and-a-half minutes to go, Rushkoff reaches the reason I decided to watch the video: a discussion of alternate forms of currency to facilitate creative value exchange. Of course, the idea of local currency or script, actually being practiced in some communities, has surfaced recently in discussions about local solutions to the current economic crisis, and the idea of peer-to-peer value exchange led in the past to the creation of sites ranging from Craig’s List to Swaptree.

I’d recommend skipping to the end to catch this section, in which Rushkoff talks about “real competition to a Google universe and their economy of ‘faux open-ness” and new sites like Time Dollars, Itex, and, particularly, Super Fluid. He concludes: “If web cubed leads to aggregators and indexes, then genuine peer-to-peer will lead to bottom-up value creation. I don’t think this next era in the internet is about scaling up anymore. I think it is about figuring out how to exchange value rather than extract value.”

The question, then: what other forms of currency would provide value to filmmakers and what types of communities would need to form in order to make these alternative currencies viable?

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