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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Open Source and Open Money
Michael H Goldhaber on Fri, 18 Jan 2002 06:41:01 +0100 (CET)

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[Nettime-bold] Re: <nettime> Open Source and Open Money

I have long felt that “open money” in its various forms is a red herring,
partly for the reasons Doug Henwood offers, but more because there already
exists a “natural” and open system of exchange that lends itself to “open
source” and other possibilities of the Internet. That is the flow of attention.
If, e.g. you write good code and make it available as open source, you will get
attention. Once you have this, you may make use of it in various ways, ranging
from getting a job coding (something else) to having a devoted entourage (if
you have enough attention) eager to pay attention to your every wish, of
whatever nature.

As I have often emphasized, there is nothing necessarily utopian about this.
Attention is scarce, and some get more than an equal share, which inevitably
means that others get less. Anyone can choose to devote a certain portion of
their own attention to those who for whatever reason don’t have much of it.
This means going against the grain of learned if not innate tendencies to pay
attention to those who either already are getting a lot of it (stars) or those
who are particularly skilled at getting it in some way.

Existing monetary systems increasingly serve simply as means of mapping
attention flows. Those who have more attention tend to end up with more money
(though some still get money (mostly by inheritance) without being good at
snagging any kind of attention. Any kind of system that mimics money will still
depend on individual's being able to get attention somehow. It will be no more
inherently equality-producing than the way attention itself is equally shared.

Also keeping track of separate currencies mostly simply duplicates the fact
that everyone, automatically, keeps track of whom they have given attention to.
Except for some very specialized purposes, open money is therefore an
unnecessary invention,and not a particularly progressive one.

As for Kermit Snelson’s fear that specialized open money can be used by
corporations for purposes such as price discrimination, is this new? Don’t
large corporations and their leaders in effect have all the flexibility they
want to construct markets as they see fit, and  to favor those to whom, for
whatever reason, they prefer to give attention?

Felix Stalder worries about privacy. Privacy (in the sense of not getting
attention)  is often highly desirable in an economy of material things. One
does not want to draw attention to one’s holdings or proclivities lest one be
robbed in some way. In an attention economy, it can be advantageous to reveal
all, for that gets one more attention. The better known you are, the harder it
is to get away with stealing attention (which means, in practice, anything)
that should be yours. What one does not want is to be forced to pay attention
against one’s will, a very opposite kind of privacy to that usually meant.

Of course, progressives should favor steps that will help equalize attention.
We do have to fight for, among other things, keeping the Internet open to
everyone as a potential and flexible means of attention getting, rather than
seeing it restricted only to those who are sanctioned by large companies.
Lawrence Lessig’s pessimism on this score is probably realistic, but his deeper
message, that we should keep fighting even so is still justified.



Michael H. Goldhaber


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