Lately there have been many attempts to theorize and criticize value creation in online prosumer practices. A lot of people have proposed some version of the Marxian labor theory of value, whereby they have suggested that online content creation should be seen as a form of labor, and that consequently, social media sites like Facebook, twitter, and why not, the Huffington post, expoit their users by appropriating the surplus value that they create. This analysis suggests that, while such an approach could be useful in some cases, it in inadequate as a way of understanding value creation in prosumer practices in general, and as a critique of exploitation in informational capitalism, it definitely barks up the wrong tree. Instead we propose an analysis where the question of value is organized around the crucial link between, on the one hand, an ever more socialized reputation economy, and, on the other hand, financial markets as the ‘places’ where the values are set. This perspective views social media platforms as instruments that determine the value of the kinds of intangible assets that are subsequently monetized on financial markets. This leads us to suggest that social media platforms are not so much part of the problem as much as they could be part of a solution: they could support a more democratic reputation economy by means of which valuations of intangible assets are democratized.
The whole paper is available here.