P2P The Hi-Tech Gift Economy - Apache, Linux and Napster

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"... when Ben Slivka suggested that Microsoft consider giving away its browser, à la Netscape, Gates exploded and called him a communist. During the Sixties, the New Left created a new form of radical politics: anarcho-communism. Above all, the Situationists and similar groups believed that the tribal gift economy proved that individuals could successfully live together without needing either the state or the market. From May 1968 to the late Nineties, this utopian vision of anarcho-communism has inspired community media and DIY culture activists. Within the universities, the gift economy already was the primary method of socialising labour. From its earliest days, the technical structure and social mores of the Net has ignored intellectual property. Although the system has expanded far beyond the university, the self-interest of Net users perpetuates this hi-tech gift economy. As an everyday activity, users circulate free information as e-mail, on listservs, in newsgroups, within on-line conferences and through Web sites. As shown by the Apache and Linux programs, the hi-tech gift economy is even at the forefront of software development. Contrary to the purist vision of the New Left, anarcho-communism on the Net can only exist in a compromised form. Money-commodity and gift relations are not just in conflict with each other, but also co-exist in symbiosis. The 'New Economy' of cyberspace is an advanced form of social democracy.


read The Hi-Tech Gift Economy by Richard Barbrook


Dr. Richard Barbrook was educated at Cambridge, Essex and Kent universities. During the early Eighties, he was involved in pirate and community radio broadcasting. He helped to set up Spectrum Radio, a multilingual station operating in London, and published extensively on radio issues. In the late Eighties and early Nineties, Richard worked for a research institute at the University of Westminster on media regulation within the EU. This research was later published in Media Freedom: the contradictions of communications in the age of modernity (London: Pluto Press, 1995). For the last few years, Richard has been coordinator of the Hypermedia Research Centre at the University of Westminster and was the first course leader of its MA in Hypermedia Studies. In collaboration with Andy Cameron, he wrote "The Californian Ideology" which was a pioneering critique of the neo-liberal politics of Wired.

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