Here is an excellent slide in the presentation by Gerd Leonhard, a noted futurist, depicting a rabbit surrounded by tons of carrots. The caption states, “Get ready for abundance: distribution (i.e. availability) will no longer be an issue…”
Abundance, not poverty, – here is the social feature that will beat capitalism and lead to communism (abundance that is created by capitalism, of course).
The current social order arose literally in times of starvation. Contemporary social order has been shaped by distribution of what is in shortage. Actually, this social order is heavily invested in the shortage of everything. Deficit and supply, satisfying this deficit, together nourish politics and markets. Authoritarian regimes regulate deficit while democratic regimes regulate supply; but all of them need deficit to maintain their power. Respectively, the rank of persons and institutions depends on their ability to organize deficit or supply.
But deficit loses its regulative significance under conditions of abundance. A contrary social mechanism, namely sharing, starts regulating society.
The highest form of consumption, which is consumption without need, i.e. conspicuous consumption, is getting replaced with conspicuous sharing. (Conspicuous consumption is a very important stage, since it separates social value from material needs still within the frame of consumer society.)
In the environment of abundance, it will be sharing, not access to what is in shortage, which starts defining individual rank and status. An absolutely new type of economy (pay only if you like) and society will arise. The infrastructure of this society and this economy will be based not on distribution of what is in shortage but on services that allow people to share for the sake of better socialization. Contribution, not consumption, will be the measure of social standing. Those providing the better services for sharing and contribution will win the markets and elections in the society of abundance.
Abundance is hard to achieve in the material world. That is why the traits of society of sharing appear in few geopolitical enclaves.
But abundance, namely the abundance of content, has overwhelmingly been achieved on the Internet.
That is why any state is the enemy of the Internet. Any institutional regime based on deficit has acute contradictions with the environment that, as a vital function, produces an abundance of its main product. Creating the social value while distributing it for free – this is unheard of! It’s even less likely to be understood in the paradigm of deficit. These contradictions aren’t even ideological; they are morphological.
Information is different from the values of the material world: when you give information away, you aren’t being deprived of it, as you still have it in the same possession as before. Material things pass through from owner to owner, often having their value decreased in the usage. Information stays with everyone who shares it, increasing its value; the most shared information is most valuable. Moreover, everyone who shares valuable information does not just continue keeping it but, in addition, acquires higher status.
The positive-feedback effect works: abundance of content causes competition in sharing (those who share more get better networked) and competition in sharing, in turn, leads to abundance of content. (Sharing and abundance of content also entails in some new social quality that Clay Shirky calls “cognitive surplus” and allows the working of a mechanism that I call “the Viral Editor”, but that is another story.)
So, sharing of content and abundance of content go into a feedback loop that actually harms many based-on-deficit-of-content social practices, like politics or journalism. And media, actually, were the first old institution that faced this challenge. The old media business model that is tied to the sale of content, channel, or slots, suffers inside the environment of emancipated authorship. There is a plethora of content and space now on the Internet.
What is suitable to be sold in the environment with abundance of content are the services of sharing (remember “contribution instead of consumption” as a matter of prestige).
What is suitable to be sold in the environment of abundance of space is time; first of all, the time of an individual’s socialization.
Here is from what the business model of future media will arise. It will be based on networking and sharing services and also on the services of temporal compression – navigation, curation, aggregation, etc.