The Long Tail and the Crisis of Value

Readers know that I’m very keen on the crisis of value concept, first identified by Adam Arvidsson and elaborated since.

In short, my take on it is that we now have a peer production method that increases use value exponentially, but where monetisation only increases linearly, leading to an increasing gap between social production and ‘social reproduction’ (the ability to live from it through the monetary economy).

This not only creates and will create a crisis of precarity, but also a crisis of accumulation for capital.

Recently, Kevin Kelly has been re-exploring the intricacies of the Long Tail (which has NOT been debunked, recent hype to the contrary), and he is coming to a similar conclusion.

Kevin Kelly:

One hundred readers/watchers/listeners is not economical. There is no business equation that can sustain profits for continual creation from so few buyers. (It can of course support the business of aggregation above the level of creation.) But the long tail niche creation operates perfectly well in the realm of passion, enthusiasm, obsession, curiosity, peerage, love, and the gift economy. In the exchange of psychic energy, encouragement, meaning of life, and reasons to live, the long now is a boon.

That is not true about profits. Economically, the more the long tail expands, the more stuff there is to compete with our limited attention as an audience, the more difficult it is for a creator to sell profitably. Or, the longer the tail, the worse for sales. But if we view the long tail as a market of a different type, as a market of enthusiasm and connection, then as the long tail expands, this increases the chance of two enthusiasts meeting, and so the longer the tail, the better.

the Long Tail as being a tail to a different animal. We’ve misidentified the intangible being it belongs to. It is not the long tail of the Beast of Commercial Profits. Rather it is the long tail of the Dragon of Love. The love of creating, of making, of connecting, of unreasonable passion, or making a difference, or doing something that matters to ourselves, the love of connecting, giving, learning, producing, and sharing.

It is important to know which tail we are wagging.”

2 Comments The Long Tail and the Crisis of Value

  1. Patrick Anderson

    Is profit really the goal of peer production?

    You say “the ability to live from it” as though you cannot live without profit. But what about product and what about wages? Are they not enough?

    Profit is not paid for work. Profit is paid by consumers who have insufficient ownership in the means of production.

    If peer production requires profit, then just as with Capitalism, consumers must be forever homeless and lacking full control for it to succeed.

  2. Zbigniew Lukasiak

    But sometimes we can get better results without money – just one example: “Thinking of hosting a ‘creating passionate users’ 3-day workshop/retreat with a catch–the fee: help build a perimeter fence. Get fit, too!” – Kathy Sierra . Building of the fence – a physical excercise – is that a price or is it really additional benefit for the geeks? If separated it would be a cost – together with the other thing it can be seen as an additional value.

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