Information Wants to Be Free

You can find links to all the posts by all authors tackling these 95 theses and what they mean, according to their interpretations here.

There’s one @sushi_goat who wrote this little diddy that I think is worth reading, and I’m glad he’s entered the conversation. He even cited something I can’t wait to read. But the points he elucidated are very cogent, and he asked “Are Conversations also Markets?” An interesting question, and one I hadn’t touched since my fellow interlocutors had touched on advertising and its impacts. Anyways, do us all a favor and read this.

I feel the need to pull out of this question a fundamental aside before we can move on.

“Are Conversations also Markets?” Big Data seems to think so, yet the people say otherwise. Privacy concerns are the talk of anyone who’s watched things like targeted ads. Currently, I work in advertising, so I get to enjoy watching ethical dilemmas and their discontents, or occasionally get asked by a client how much we can know about the people engaging their website.

The question of whether conversations are markets is an important one. As we sit on the cusp of another digital spy bill that allows the government to engage in warrantless wiretapping at whim. Not only is the government interested in turning conversations into markets, they’re actively recruiting.

I need to get to thesis 4, but I thought to leave you with this little bit of questioning about what it means that markets have assumed the very inverse of the first thesis.

Anyways, thesis 4: “Whether delivering information, opinions, perspectives, dissenting arguments or humorous asides, the human voice is typically open, natural, uncontrived.

It’s a bit wordy, but related to thesis three.

You’ll remember that based on the previous two, I stated “Markets among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

The author[s] of the theses then go on to say that when humans engage each other, often they are typically open. Human actions are full of agency. Going back to thesis one for this one, Markets are a body of text. They are a conversation, a locus where exchanges happen, primarily and often the exchange of ideas.

Agorism is rising among libertarians and other kinfolk of theirs who long for markets that aren’t defined by the commoditization of basic human necessities, and who long for markets that aren’t defined by a very thin market philosophy. They long for a more critical economics, which I think will be our century’s version of the Enlightment’s “more perfect union” By thin market philosophy, I do not mean a market in which the trade volume is low, but rather, a market defined only by trade volume in commodities. There are others who have quested after this.

The internet and digital services have shown that tangible goods are not the only means of organizing trade, or exchange. Open source communities have redefined sharing, markets, goods, services and so on ad infinitum. These markets are open, unconstrained, organic, in other words, they are communities. I don’t know that i can say much more, I’m actually very, very tired. But needless to say, check out this link on critical economics, and think seriously about the commodifcation of communities, and what it means to you.

Is there really no other way to live than in the thin world of markets defined by economic goods? I think we’re beginning to move past that, but there’s also a serious counter-cultural trend asserted by the major players in media. Media, is attempting to bring the everywhere else right onto the internet and make it as droll, fascist and asinine as every other ad filled place we go. From pay walls to censorship, it’s a cold, harsh internet, and I feel less safe. I’ve watched closely as the internet has gone from a wild and untamed free space into an increasingly commoditized exchange. Data aggregators have turned connection, community building into product. Social networks sell you, they sell me, and they see little wrong with this.

I guess I was finishing this post when the coffee kicked in so: What are thick economics?

I guess I’d define thin economics as a market philosophy concerned with the exchange of things. It is the market as defined by the over excesses built into capitalism. I gather the next quote from Jakob, the Sushi Goat:

…it is groups, and not individuals, which carry on exchange, make contracts, and are bound by obligations; the persons represented in the contracts are moral persons—clans, tribes, and families; the groups, or the chiefs as intermediaries for the groups, confront and oppose each other. Further, what they exchange is not exclusively goods and wealth, real and personal property, and things of economic value. They exchange rather courtesies, entertainments, ritual, military assistance, women, children, dances, and feasts; and fairs in which the market is but one element and the circulation of wealth but one part of a wide and enduring contract.


The Gift: Form and Reason of Exchange in Archaic Societies – Mauss, Marcel

In late capitalism we’ve seen the corporation demolish all other affiliations, even affiliations to life itself. Leaks, corporate espionage, patent wars, etc., have made for a world where civics are less and less important. In fact, most of our civics happen in or as markets, and not the benevolently free kind. Every day, public education, city transit, prison policy, punishment, police work and police brutality march forward in the commons. They are not the only things there, but there they are, and increasingly, these various institutes, schools, hospitals, and more, have come under pressure to privatize.

This excessive focus on profits is a very thin market philosophy. It’s an economics devoid of culture, an algorithim without a real world to measure. It can calculate freight, or GDP, but it cannot contend with the essential humanity of the market.

Thick market philosophy contends with Mauss, and connects identity to economics in ways both inside and outside pure numerical exchange, and does so for the good of all involved. I’m not an idealist wishing for a granola laden toga party, but I am saying that thick market philosophy goes deeper than just the numbers on a billing sheet, or the invoices going in and out every day.

Thick markets are about communities in exchange, which brings us back to another point I made “The market isn’t autonomous, but rather what emerges from its participants.” A market is the conversation of a people. Markets aren’t the nebulous otherworld ethereal demi-gods that economists make them out to be with maxims like ‘the invisible hand,’ and the agnostic implications about the ethics thereof. Thick markets understand their place in the wider world, a place defined not only by trade and exchange, but by environment  community, identity and history. They understand the link between history, civics and the nature of exchanges. Thick markets are where civics and markets meet, without commodifying the commons, or turning citizens into products.

We have to listen and understand one another if we are going to participate and be in a conversation.” –Les

Increasingly the ability of both markets and the civic square to deliver the freedoms that both markets and civil rights are supposed to guarantee are under attack. This is no accident. And yet, information wants to be free.