Alle-hjælper-alle-altid samfundet

Skrevet af
Vi står på tærsklen til et nyt samfund, hvor etik, reel brugsværdi og distribueret produktion afløser traditionel kapitalistisk økonomi, og hvor forbruget af materielle ressourcer begrænses, mens forhindringer for udvekslingen af de immaterielle fjernes. Vi skal bare lige have fundet modeller for at belønne bidragsydere retfærdigt samt overført den distribuerede produktion til det fysiske. Det er budskabet i dette interview med Michel Bauwens, en ledende figur blandt netværksøkonomiens fortalere.

Mikkel Holm Sørensen (MHS): Thanks for taking time for this interview, Michel. Let’s start from the top. We are going to talk a lot about P2P processes, so please briefly describe what is Peer to Peer (P2P) processes and why are they so interesting?
Michel Bauwens (MB): I define P2P as the relational dynamics in distributed networks. It’s how people relate in a specific form of network organization, which I believe is becoming the mainstay of society. In other words networks where every individual is free to engage with another person or to create an action without asking for permission from any hub beforehand.


MHS: Are the networks of P2P different from ordinary distributed networks?

MB: Yes, I make a strong difference between a decentralized network where power is subdivided in groups and the hubs are obligatory. E.g. you take a plane from Minneapolis to New Orleans, and the plane goes down in Atlanta as a hub. You don’t have a choice as an individual, you just have to follow. In a truly distributed network on the other hand, it could be the roads for instance, there will still be a big hub in Atlanta, but you can go around it. So the hub in a distributed network is the result of the accumulated choices of individuals rather than a structure imposed by somebody else.


MHS: Since Kforum is a community for communication professionals, could you please sketch the main challenges for communication professionals in the new P2P mode? What are the changes we are witnessing, and what are the consequences from a communication perspective?

MB: One way to frame it would be the following: The traditional way of doing things would be to assume that you have isolated individuals who need to be socialized through mass media and institutions. Individuals who are captive in some way and with whom you can have a uniform communication. And there’s a form of dependency of them towards you. In a P2P environment you will assume that all those individuals are always already connected in a variety of peer networks. That they are not dependent on you, that they don’t have to ask you permission to do things. And therefore it becomes a matter of engaging with those peer communities or facilitating their life needs, of constructing relationships with them. Further I will argue that if you don’t have a captive audience ethics becomes a primary concern in the way you do business.


MHS: Does that mean that companies need to be more ethical or merely that they will have to interact differently with stakeholders?

MB: I think that Google’s ‘Don’t be evil’ is a good example. I’m not saying that Google is not evil, but you see that they have to walk a fine line between empowering and facilitating. Mainly the creation and sharing of documents which requires an open attitude and no censorship and on the other hand the need to sell the attention as a company competing with other companies selling attention. Attention depends on scarcity, so Google is dependent on enforcing some kind of scarcity to obtain an attention platform. I use the old metaphor of the dolphin vs. the shark. For a company, openness creates enormous value, creates abundance, and creates a commons. But to capture that value you need to create some kind of scarcity that you control. How to do that in an ethical way is the key question. That creates a polarity between a company which is enabling, empowering and profiting from the sharing and a community which has its own separate interests. I would actually claim that there are two economies. There is a sharing and a commons economy on the one side and the economy of attention on the other side. In the sharing model it starts with an individual who want to share his expression. He has weak links with other individuals and therefore he needs a third party to build a platform. In a commons oriented mode like Linux or Wikipedia people need to actively work together to create a common product and therefore they have strong links. Usually they create their own infrastructure like the Wikimedea Foundation that has its own infrastructure, its own servers etc. that expresses the needs of the community.


MHS: It seems like it is only or mainly the social and individuals gaining from all this. What is the upside for organisations and institutions in all this?

MB: I would say that historically a commons creates a lot of value to everybody. You can create a wide variety of businesses around a commons, e.g. Linux, that can profit from all the positive network effects. This being said there is also a lot of issues arising in this mode. For instance what I would call ‘benefit sharing’. In a P2P producing community where there is voluntary engagement you cannot pay some people and not others. This is called ‘crowding out’. People would tend not to volunteer if only a few of them profit from the common work. So for revenue sharing you have to practice benefit sharing which is usually finding ways to sustaining the community as a whole. Some companies won’t do that and off course that creates tensions within the community. Another issue is that the amount of use value created in Web 2.0 kinds of communities doesn’t correlate with the monetary value generated. People are creating the value. You create a video for fun, for status or whatever. You do not create to sell it. But the platform, YouTube for instance, needs money to sell you attention and the distribution. For instance when you say that 100 mill. people are watching online videos every day, what does that mean for the lives of those people? You cannot measure that. So people are mainly left to create movies and other productions in their spare time. And that increases exponentially through network effects. And it’s abundant. But you cannot have a market with abundance. A market is a tension between supply and demand. You have this exponential growth of use value but only a linear growth in monetization of that value. This creates a problem. More and more value created that is not being monetized. And companies and we need money to live. So the P2P mode is sustainable on a collective basis, but creates problems for individuals.


MHS: So for future companies to become more than mere platforms for cooperation and actually make money they must somehow introduce a meaningful scarcity in the abundance of commons?

MB: This is pretty straightforward. I give you my own example. I have my own commons the with resources that everybody can read. But if you want to listen to me I can only be physically one place at a time. I make a living of the scarcity which is my physical presence. And this is basically the mode that is being tried out by artists and musicians right now. They use creative commons for licensing. That way they get known. Their music gets played and shared and they don’t mind. Through the reputation they build up they can sell concerts and merchandize – probably for a premium.


MHS: So we’re actually reintroducing the physical world?

MB: Yes, and that also points to the political aspect of P2P. I would say that what is wrong with society today is that we have it backwards. We assume that nature is infinite – which it is not. We have a system of infinite growth. The capitalist system can’t stay put. It has to grow or it collapses. But it relies on pseudo abundance. We are destroying the world with the capitalist model. On the other hand we have artificial scarcities where there should be none, in the world of the immaterial. Something that is freely shareable like ideas, digitalised music or movies, why should you create artificial constrains for that? Just look at the music or movie industry. In a true P2P economy you would have these things reversed. Respect for the physical, relaxation toward the immaterial.


MHS: So the successful company of the future is the one with the meaningful and sustainable scarcity model; the one that introduces scarcity only for critically scarce resources but allows for abundance of e.g. knowledge and creativity sharing?

MB: Yes, and that company will also sustain the commons from which it profits.


MHS: Getting back to communication; how do you think the role of communication professionals will be in the future?

MB: I would suggest changing the mindset. Instead of thinking ‘I’m working for a company looking for consumers’,communication professionals should rather start thinking how they can facilitate communities of P2P producers. What are their needs and their desires? How can we create mechanisms like Doc Searl’s ‘vendor relationship management’ to sustain their communication, finding who they should engage with to have better viral marketing processes etc.? That’s going to be necessary, the kind of oil that makes everything fluid.


MHS: So it’s actually an extreme form of ‘pull marketing’, to empower consumers to find you when relevant?

MB: Yes, exactly.


MHS: And off course, as a company, you need to earn any attention?

MB: I’m thinking of these new models where people aggregate intentions and needs and then find the company that will deliver the relevant goods or services. This is both attention economy (cf. Google) and an intension economy or vendor relations oriented economy.


MHS: Finally, a lot of the things characterising this entire exciting tendency of P2P dynamics and related trends reminds me of some of the late sixties’ hippie movement dreams and arguments for changes in organisation and social orientation, sharing, openness etc. Why is this tendency different? Why should it not get absorbed by business as usual?

MB: I think the key difference is that now we have got the enabling technology. I think that what has happened historically is that your can have a participatory mode at local and small scales. But as soon as it consolidates you have this bureaucratization setting in and everything starting to resemble what you wanted to change in the first place. It’s a recurring issue for every social movement. I think that what we now have is different. We have a kind of technology that allows for global scaling of small group dynamics. This is key. So what is at the margins of society suddenly becomes the core of society. It becomes the dominant mode of interaction. We are in an emergent phase where people are using tools invented in the seventies by engineers, and by using them they actually change their mindset. The producing class, what we can call knowledge workers, is slowly changing to a P2P producing logic and it’s changing their outlook. They can see the potential of distributed modes of labour. Just like Italian merchants invented new kinds of tools for trade like banking etc. in the fifteenth century. When people started using the tools it changed their mindsets to finally overturn the feudal society and enter the merchant society. We are in the initial state of an emergent phase, but there are a lot of similarities to other historical changes.






Basic essay:

Relaterede artikler

Ældre Sagen ændrer sagen - Indflydelse på mediestrømmen kræver gode relationer til medierne. Det siger sig selv. Men mange steder er der langt fra ...

Giv din stemme

5 stemmer


Få nyhedsbrev

35 JOB

Strategisk rådgiver – Corporate Communications

Se alle job Indryk job

Få nyhedsbrev

Få nyhedsbrev

Alt hvad du behøver at vide om kommunikation i din indbakke.

Ud over nyhedsbrevet får du max to andre faglige e-mails om ugen.