A contribution from Jakob Rigi:
“Michel Bauwens published an article entitled “Will Capitalism Survive Value Abundance“. Critiquing Lands and Bohm, and echoing my argument in the article published also in this site, he states that users do not create exchange value in the way in which the wage labor does. But , then he claims that users create indirectly exchange value. How? They, he claims, they help facebook, to create pool of attention and sell it as a commodity to advisors.
Attention is a result of the activities of users such as seeing and hearing. So users are the one who produce the pool of attention. Now if the attention is a commodity, then facebook participants produce directly exchange value. And the whole of this value is expropriated by facebook.
Now, I think that the claim that Facebook is selling attention to advertisers is categorically mistaken. No. Facebook is letting pieces of virtual space to advertisers and receive rent for it. The law of rent is the same in virtual and physical spaces. The more attractive a space, for whatever reasons, is, the amount of rent is higher. Who does pay the rent? Advertisers. From where do the advertisers get the money that they pay as rent to fcaeebook? That money is part of the surplus value that they extract from wage labor which is exchanged with capital. Bauwens? and Beller?s mistake may stem from the fact that there is a direct relation between the number of clicks by users and the amount of rent that facebook extracts. This creates the ?optical? illusion that the users’ attention is the source of value. A 2 bed room apartment in a posh area of Manhattan can collect a rent of 6 000 USD or even more, per month but the same apartment in Queens could barely collect 1200 USD. The location makes the place more attractive but has nothing to do with the origin of rent. The same is true of attention in relation virtual spaces (whether Facebook or the screen of television, or cinema). The level of attention is an index of the level of their attractiveness of the space and hence determines the level of rent. However, attention does not produce a penny of exchange value. To use Hegelian-Marxian terminology, those who claim that attention is a commodity confuse the appearance with the essence, and hence, mystify the exploitation of labor by capital.
Of course attention is a major aspect of productive labor (labor exchanged with capital). Only in this capacity attention combined with other aspects of such labor can produce exchange value and surplus value.
Michael Goldhaber (2012, in a mailing to journal Oekonux.org), an economist of attention, agrees that Facebook is not selling attention. And suggests that Facebook currently earns its money through Stock Market, which is true. We can qualify his argument by adding that value of the shares of facebook in stock market are conditioned upon speculations on being rentable through advertisement.”