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Collaboration and the Ethic of Sharing

Howard Rheingold has been around the connected web (the Internet) since its early days. We’re going to talk about him during the week. The TED talk shown above is one small corner of his work on our new connected reality. Connectedness is the foundation of communicative processes. The medium is the environment that both facilitates and shapes the relationship between people (among other things). Being connected in the way that digital media facilitate means that every individual can potentially form relationships of one kind or another with everyone else connected through similar means. The billions of people on Earth, provided uncensored access to ‘cyberspace’, can make relationships with any and everyone else. This is partly what Marshall McLuhan meant by the global village.

The new reality of these relationships is at once responsible for new antagonisms as well as new potentialities. Rheingold’s work is centered on fostering the possibilities of collaboration, collective action, and the pooling of knowledge and resources. In the spirit of new potentialities, Yochai Benkler, a Harvard University Law Professor, wrote The Wealth of Networks to describe a new economic reality that reflects who we are today, rather than the people we once were, in a time long since passed. Benkler’s book, found in PDF form at the link above, is published under a Creative Commons license reflecting part of his thesis…that our ability to broadly produce and share in the information age represents a powerful new alternative to a hierarchical economy in which a few powerful elites manage a majority of the resources and creative potential.

Peer to Peer (P2P) organization of information on the Internet offers hope for the collaborative potential of ‘cyberspace’ and a new economics. The Foundation for P2P Alternatives describes its program, in part, in saying:

  • that peer-to-peer based technology reflects and holds the potentials for a change of consciousness towards individual and networked participation, and in turn strengthens it
  • that the “distributed network” format, expressed in the specific manner of peer to peer relations, is a new form of organizing and subjectivity, and an alternative for many systems within the current socio-econominic and cultural-political order, which though it does not offer solutions per se, points the way to a variety of dialogical and self-organizing formats, i.e. it represents different processes for arriving at such solutions; it ushers in a era of ‘nonrepresentational democracy’, where an increasing number of people are able to manage their social and productive life through the use of a variety of autonomous and interdependent networks and peer circles; that global governance, and the global market will be, and will have to be, more influenced by modes of governance involving multistakeholdership
  • that it creates a new public domain, an information commons, which should be protected and extended, especially in the domain of common knowledge creation; and that this domain, where the cost of reproducing knowledge is near zero, requires fundamental changes in the intellectual property regime, as reflected by new forms such as the free software movement; that universal common property regimes, i.e. modes of peer property, such as the General Public Licese and the Creative Commons licenses should be promoted and extended
  • that the principles developed by the free software movement, in particular the General Public License, and the general principles behind the open source and open access movements, provides for models that could be used in other areas of social and productive life

Read more via the link provided above. In the spirit of the P2P environment The Foundation for P2P

Alternatives offers a wiki journal on the topic of the Ethics of Sharing, where you can read a number of

Citibike – Is this the Ethic of Sharing in some way?

compelling arguments about sharing and how it takes place. Frick and Oberprantacher present one such article, called Shared is Not Sharing, arguing that the real potential of sharing (which entails both sacrifice and risk) are largely absent in social media networks through which people engage in impression management (shared triviality), which is a low risk proposition and largely about vanity.

Look through as much of this material as possible to prepare for Monday’s class, paying particular attention to the ideas in Rheingold and Benkler (search for more on your own!) and the idea of a P2P economy.


About mikeplugh

Media Ecology General Semantics Baseball Japan Fordham University


2 thoughts on “Collaboration and the Ethic of Sharing

  1. Dave Grohl on sharing music – “I think it’s a good idea because it’s people trading music. It has nothing to do with the industry or finance, it’s just people that want music and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s the same as someone turning on the f*ckin radio, it’s the same as someone putting a cassette in a cassette deck when the BBC plays a special radio session. I don’t think it’s a crime, it’s been going on for years. It’s the same as people making tapes for each other. The industry is more threatened by it because it’s the worldwide web and it’s a broader scope of trading, but I don’t think it’s such a f*ckin horrible thing. The first thing we should do is get all the f*ckin millionaires to shut their mouths, and stop bitching about the 25 cents a time they’re losing.”


    Posted by Marcos Gowland | June 10, 2013, 1:17 pm
    • Dave Grohl is an interesting source for that thinking. Punk, Rap, and Grunge are all relatively recent musical forms that sprang from the “do-it-yourself” ethic. Each of them sprang from, and helped to perpetuate, counter culture that valued the amateur. It’s only when those musical forms incubate in corporate systems that they become commodity first and expression second. Grohl is old school grunge ethic, and so it’s no surprise that he feels that way.

      Posted by mikeplugh | June 10, 2013, 2:57 pm

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