Book: Wikiworld: Political Economy of Digital Literacy, and the Road from Social to Socialist Media. Juha Suoranta - Tere Vadén.
"In the digital world of learning there is a progressive transformation
from the institutionalized and individualized forms of learning to open
learning and collaboration. The book provides a view on the use of new
technologies and learning practices in furthering socially just futures,
while at the same time paying critical attention to the constants, or
“unmoved movers” of the information society development; the West and
Capitalism. The essential issue in the Wikiworld is one of freedom –
levels and kinds of freedom. Our message is clear: we write for the
radical openness of education for all."
And yes! It is copylefted and you can get your hands of the text here: http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Wikiworld
order from amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wikiworld-Juha-Suoranta/dp/0745328911/ref=ntt...
1. Digital Literacy and Political Economy
2. Radical Monopolies: Schools, Computer Softwares and Social Media
3. The World Divided in Two
4. Edutopias and the Promise of Active Citizenship
5. From Social Media to Socialist Media
"In the following pages we will argue that the Wikiworld – a set of collaborative practices on the Net as defined below – will advance
peoples' autonomy, self-government and actual freedom. The Wikiworld is
a system of collective processes rather than a system of ready-made
facts given from above, from those who believe that they know better
than the rest of us. Wikiworld is an empowering social construction with
positive effects for both political and epistemological democracy and,
as we believe, eventually it has a potential to abolish the distinction
between the rulers and the ruled. By theorising the basic tenets of the
Wikiworld our aim is to advance the world in which this apparently
perpetual division is no longer necessary, and can be seen, as Gramsci
once said, only as “a historical fact corresponding to certain
conditions” (Gramsci 1971, 44). Thus we focus on these “certain
conditions” by claiming that Wikiworld's central characteristics and
practices, those of voluntary participation, sharing and anonymous
collectivism, are practices of actual freedom.
By the notion of Wikiworld we refer both to the technical and social
spheres of the Internet; more specifically to those social formations
and political struggles that can be enforced by the possibilities of the
Net. And more than that: from our point of view the Wikiworld, and its
phenomena, is not sufficiently scrutinised if not seen in the larger
socio-political context through the lens of radical political economy.
From this angle the Wikiworld is also an ideological battlefield, and
the stakes are high: in question are the very ways in which we conceive
of the digital sphere and its physical counterparts.
Current international and national trends in educational policies emphasising educational qualifications, competition and marketisation of
higher education are too narrow and repressive to last. They distort
learning and research just as the notions of “German” and “Soviet”
science did in their time. In contrast, internationally open and free
scientific activity benefits all people and nations equally; otherwise
it does not deserve to be called science. But openness is a challenge
for closed educational and other systems; it forces educational
authorities – public and private alike – to abandon short-sighted
In a fundamental sense, the social and digital collaborative sphere, the
Wikiworld, is anarchistic in its very nature. This means that we cannot
channel, control or predict the future of the Wikiworld in advance. But
we can offer insights, ideas and collaborative productions which at best
can free our minds from the restrictions of the closed system logics. To
say that the Wikiworld is anarchistic is not to deny that it is also
overdetermined, that is, its development is caused by the multiple
actions of the multiple actors. To paraphrase philosopher J. L. Austin
(1911–1960), the question on the Wikiworld is not only How To Do Things
with Words, but also How To Do Things with Edits, Saves, Uploads,
Downloads, Histories, Revisions, and Discussions."
The wikiworld holds tremendous potential that we want to embrace. However, the theories concerning open source and Wikipedia collaboration
– and, even more, the information society theories inspired by these
practises – often overlook certain biases of the digital sphere. Are
these just problems of the initial phase that will be ironed out in due
time? Not necessarily.
From chapter 5. Edutopias:
"Let us proceed according to the hypothesis that the areas designated by the phrase "creative industries" are precisely the places where the
structural bias and consequent violence of the cybercommunist utopias
may be discerned. Since the free/open-source software movement is so
often presented as the paradigm of the new forms of intellectual labour,
let us consider for a moment the crown jewel of that movement, the
GNU/Linux operating system. Linux is available free for anyone to use,
modify and redistribute on the Net. In 2002, it was estimated that a
typical GNU/Linux distribution (Debian) contains more that 55 million
lines of source code; if it were to be created using traditional
proprietary methods of software development, the cost would be 1.9
billion US dollars (Gonzáles-Barahona et al., 2002). That was in 2002;
by now, its value will have grown further. It is easy to see that this
kind of value created and distributed freely is indeed something not
previously seen: germs of non-commodity exchange, indeed.
Nevertheless, the structures of inequality quickly kick in. Most Linux-kernel developers are male and relatively young. Moreover, most of
them come from North America or Europe. In the case of Debian, this
holds true. The developers have typically received some academic
education, and the number of PhD holders in the group is quite high –
over 10 percent. Again, most of the developers come from the global
North (see, e.g., Mikkonen & al., 2007). This geopolitical bias is
just an historical fact, a relic created by the initiation of these
projects in the North. During the 15 years or so the projects have been
in progress, only minor change has occurred, with individual programmers
from Brazil, India and some other Southern countries getting involved.
Indeed, there is as much reason to believe that the economic divisions
in the real world are exacerbated in the digital world as to believe
that there are grounds for hoping that digital technology could bridge
these gaps. If we consider the fact that, during the year from summer
2005 to summer 2006, the Linux kernel received more new code from the
.mil domain (US military) than from most third world countries, we
instantly get a feeling of the old colonialism continuing in new guises.
Or let us go back to Wikipedia. The non-neutral neutrality of the NPOV
was mentioned, above. If we like the Habermasian communicative
rationality, the NPOV is nice, but it is corrosive with regard to
certain types of communities. In order for a wikipedia to work, it needs
a certain critical mass (to resist vandalism, to promote increased
content, diversification of contributor roles, etc.). The smaller the
(linguistic) community, or the group with a shared world view, the
slighter the chances of a vibrant Wikipedia. Furthermore, critical mass
means normalization, which in itself works against certain types of
communal identities. From the user’s point of view, the fact that the
English Wikipedia is so much better than, say, the Finnish one, provides
an additional pull towards the hegemonic language and its values.
These two small examples should serve to indicate that the liberal
communist utopia is by no means neutral with regard to local identities.
Indeed, we might suspect that the power structures of the first economy
are visible in the digital sphere. If this is the case, the drive
towards culture as the playground of global commerce reveals a new side.
The opportunities for small linguistic areas like Finland to make
successful business out of the creative industries look bleak,
notwithstanding the digital opportunities. The Sibeliuses and Alvar
Aaltos of previous generations learned their trade from Europe, and by
cleverly infusing it with "local" coloring, sold it back to the source.
Being a classical composer or being a modern architect are European
occupations, and a Finn can succeed in these only in so far as she is
able to become European. And what else is "European" than an ideological
discoursive construction? Why would things be any different with regard
to digital creation? Finland, to be sure, is a wealthy, highly
modernized nation, with a well-educated population. This is one of the
reasons why advanced technology has been one of our success stories. But
what, after all, is this "ours", and "us", and what is the "Finnish
culture" in, say, Nokia mobile phones? Precious little. Again, even the
design of the phones recycles a global style, with minor improvements,
and production is outsourced to the point where nobody wants to know
about the toxic trail leading to illegal mines in Nigeria. If the
promise of "creative liberal communism" is an empty one, as in the case
of Finland, what can it be like in other, equally small, but less
wealthy cultural areas?
All of this points to the fact that, in the case of small cultures and
linguistic areas, the problems and possibilities of the digital era are
significantly different from those of the bigger, more dominant players.
It also means that attempts to understand intellectual labor or the
creative industries cannot rely exclusively on the tools created in
critical discussions in the heart of Europe. The post-post-isms emerging
from Italy or France have only so much purchase in a landscape that is
only now entering the phase that cultural critics like Adorno described
in their classic postwar writings. In Finland, the first generation that
likes to shop, and which has never really worried about spending money
and not saving it, is only now emerging. Likewise, a mass public for
soap operas is a very recent phenomenon. Consequently, the critical
analysis of a mass society and cultural industry is becoming topical at
the very moment that it is also being left behind.
If this non-synchronicity is true of such a pseudo-European area as
Finland, what can be said of other non-European or non-Westerns places?
We strongly suspect that a co-existence of different world-eras –
distinct stages of development with different goals and values – around
the globe makes it impossible to utilize only the latest theory from
Paris or California, as if only the latest would be advanced enough.
Indeed, globalization is reinforcing, for instance, both
class-distinctions (mobile phone assemblers in Finland and China have
more together with each other than with their compatriot managers) and
ethnic identities (as environmental crises threaten local nature). If
there are histories of the world that are not the history of Europe,
then we also need multiple theories of the information society."
How to proceed? It seems to us that much more attention has to be paid
to the material & social conditions of collaboration.
From chapter 6, "Stages of Freedom"
"The read-only culture proposed by ultra-commoditized and mechanized
life-styles can be seen both from the perspective of media and
education. In one extreme, a totalitarian state, like Plato's utopia in
The Republic, will want to control education, reserving true knowledge
for the philosopher-kings and telling a "royal lie" to the working
classes in order to keep them at bay. As a citizen of Athens, Plato
would have known exactly why the movement calling for the abolition of
copyrights is called the Pirate Party (for instance, in Sweden:
Platonist closed-source approach is
strictly correlative with media as a private profit-making business
where information first and foremost has an exchange value.
As we move toward freer modes of media and education, we first encounter
social media and education as entrepreneurship, where the subjects are
"empowered" by active participation in economically constrained
activities. This is the first order of freedom, where you have free
speech within the confines of formal freedom (as explained by Žižek
2004c): you are free in so far as you do not rock the boat. The ultimate
question is, what goes into the machine where “machine” refers to the
logic of formally free market, free choice and capitalism itself. And
strangely enough, the road to more freedom involves the realisation that
the economic constraints of liberal, multicultural capitalism are not
nearly strict enough. Only when the ghost of exchange value is stripped
away is the persistent and non-symbolic use-value, or value in itself,
revealed. In terms of media, this means Linux or Wikipedia, which do not
have any exchange value but have a tremendous utility. But even that is
not enough in terms of taking economics seriously: the oikos (the Greek
word for household at the root of out term “economy”) humanity is facing
is the planet and its resources. Native skills (education) and
indigenous information need a sustainable material lifestyle, which is
something the West has not been able to devise so far."
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