Adam Arvidsson: The advantages of peer-based measurement systems

Here is a third excerpt from Adam Arvidsson’s essay:

” The advantages of such peer based measurement systems are that they are emergent. They are not imposed by managers, NGOs or other organizations who might have little knowledge of the actual productive realities of particular practice, and who tend to impose ‘codes of conduct’ which easily degenerate into mere bureaucratic exercises. Instead they are generated by the community itself, and hence tend to give a more realistic estimate of the social impact of a product, organization or person. And we can envision that such peer-based valuation systems will become more efficient with technological development. With a mobile internet and developed RFID tagging it could be possible to sweep one’s mobile phone over a sweater or another piece of garment to instantly acquire a quantitative estimate of what several thousand people, placed all along the production and distribution chain say about its environmental impact, respect for worker’s rights, adherence to particular religious practices, or what have you. It might also be possible to use your cell phone to easily acquire products with alternative currencies, like units of credit earned writing for a blog or hosting someone on your couch.

The perspective for the immediate future is that the monetary capitalist economy will continue to loose its monopoly over the measurement, and hence also the organization of productive processes. This is natural, since that monopoly has essentially been founded on a monopoly over the means of organization. It has only been possible to govern complex productive networks like the modern corporation, by means of efficient information processing machines like the bureaucracy. Likewise, the central bank with its large affiliated research institutions was the only organ capable of determining the price of money with any accuracy. Today such information monopolies are challenged. Central banks have but a minimal influence over the price of money, Most is determined by financial markets, which are in essence mediated real time interaction systems, not very different from Second Life (Zaloom, 2006).

In the form of Information and Communication technologies the means of organization have been socialized to the extent that alternative coordination and measurement systems can and do arise beyond the direct control of corporate capital.

The outcomes of this are twofold.

On the one hand, such new peer based measurement systems can be integrated into the value dynamics of corporate capitalism. This is already happening: the proliferation of non- financial performance metrics is a (generally inefficient) step in that direction. There are also a number of consultancies that provide advice on performing such integration, like Namaste economics, offering to ‘integrate economics with social values’ or the Karmainitative, providing ‘trust metrics in the market place’.

On the other hand we can predict that corporate capitalism and the institutions at its control will resist and repress attempts at constructing alternative valuation and measurement media. Again this is already happening. We can understand Intellectual Property legislation and Digital Rights Management systems as attempts not only to enforce property claims, but also to restrict the circulation of such property to circuits in which measurable values are created.”

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