Essay of the Day: Economy of Contribution in the Digital Commons

* Article: Andreas Wittel (2013) Counter-commodification: The economy of contribution in the digital commons, Culture and Organization, 19:4, 314-331

(a free downloadable copy is available here)

Andreas Wittel writes:

“I have recently published an article where I try to explain why the difficulties in building the digital commons are not due to the exploitation of free labour (an argument which has has come to dominate the debate). Instead these difficulties are due to the fact that volunteering is hard when everyone is struggling to get by financially. Those areas of the digital commons that grow nicely (software commons, knowledge commons etc) are often produced by paid labour disguised as free labour.”


Counter-commodification: The economy of contribution in the digital commons“This is an article about digital production and the crisis of capitalism. It is about production in the digital commons and its implications for the building of alternatives to a commodified world. As digital production is at the very heart of cognitive capitalism, the digital commons is not just any other disruption of the process of commodification. This is the field of a fierce struggle over the future of the Internet and the future of capitalism itself. It is potentially the moment which moves back the frontiers of measurement, value and quantification towards qualities, values and an expansion of the gift economy. For this potential to unfold, it is vital that those who are giving, sharing, and contributing for the benefit of humanity are supported by global policies that enable them to do so. They have to be supported because their gifts are not based on reciprocity and the obligation to return the gift. This is an argument about the future of digital labour. The article concludes that this could be achieved through a global basic income scheme.”

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