ASTRA TAYLOR ON INTERNET SERFDOM
Okay, I promised Sundance posts only for the duration of the festival… but that was before I got grounded in Phoenix. I hope to make it to Sundance tonight, but the weather is not being hospitable. In the meantime, I started reading on the plane the new issue of The Baffler, a beautifully produced journal of arts and ideas that is taking a valiant stand against the technocratic pressures that are dumbing down print journalism. In fact, that process is partially the subject of documentary filmmaker Astra Taylor’s “Serfing the Net,” an essay in which she argues that the ideologies she sees as implicit in the free content movements both devalue artists and perpetuate an oligarchic status quo. Check it out here (and consider subscribing to The Baffler while you are at it).
Obviously we must balance our desire for free stuff with a concern for work. But the open-source software tradition, our final authority on all social questions these days, has little to say about labor, oppression, compensation or collective bargaining. The supposed liberation heralded by those who promote free culture is winner-take-all; exploit or be exploited, as long as you share your code. [Chris] Anderson concedes this point, acknowledging that if we “measure success in terms of the creation of vast sums of wealth spread among more than a few people, Free can’t yet compare to Paid.” Unless artists and their allies organize themselves, it never will. Until then, those who have dreamed up a way to cheat an entire category of workers and call it democracy will get to pose as political radicals, happily cashing their paychecks while telling others to work for nothing.