July 15, 2006

TCP/IP vs. the Dollar (continued)

Kaunda on my last post (on the internet vs. money) :

I'm not so sure the metaphor of Platform War is really the right way to see it. On one hand the "war" does highlight the differences in communications networks (money vs. social networks). But on the other hand obscures the interdependencies of the two.

I agree with him (and Amarty Sen who he quotes).

Markets are "embedded in" and "parameterized by" civil society and its explicit rule-sets. And these are political decisions.

I agree, too, that the relationship between economy and society isn't a "platform war", although it can be antagonistic. Political power isn't a direct rival platform to the market. (Where it's set-up to be, it's a disaster.)

OTOH, the zone of public discourse on the internet seems to me to be a much more direct rival to the market. Behind all the familiar phrases like "peer production" and "attention economy" and "amateur journalism" is the basic fact : people are being motivated to produce stuff by something other than money. Attention is attracted by PageRank and votes on Digg and social networks carrying viral memes etc; not by paid advertising carried by profit-making publishers who pay professional content-makers to lure them into their pages and onto their channels.

If you look at the amount of work that people put into, say, MySpace. And you count the number of viewers. You might be tempted to try to extrapolate a "monetary value" based on an analogy with how much money would be involved in organizing all this via the dollar economy; but you'll get a completely bogus figure. Questions like "where's the money?" seen to me to be assuming that something like MySpace is "failing" to live up to its potential as a money maker. (Which really means, a high-bandwidth "money router", able to skim a little bit off the top.)

But I'd suggest that this potential doesn't exist. MySpace is an "attenion router". And, unless they can think of something very clever which I can't, they'll never be a high-traffic money router. So there's nothing to skim. (Except attention, which will be increasingly recognised as valuable, of course.)

OTOH Google are very clever and very succesful because they've become the most efficient place to turn attention into money and back again. No one makes it so easy to try to sell your attention for money (by putting AdSense on your blog) or spend money to buy (relevantish) attention (by buying AdSense ads)

Oh, and Ross Mayfield has a great post on Markets as Social.
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