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. It has been shaped by the distribution of scarce resources. In fact, this social order is heavily invested in the shortage of everything. Deficit and supply satisfying this deficit together shape politics and markets. Authoritarian regimes regulate deficit while democratic regimes regulate supply; but all of them need a deficit to maintain their power. Respectively, the rank of persons and institutions depends on their ability to manage deficit or supply.
But deficit loses its regulative power under the conditions of abundance. An opposite social mechanism, namely sharing, starts regulating society.
The highest form of consumption, which is consumption without need, i.e. conspicuous consumption, is being replaced by conspicuous sharing. (Conspicuous consumption is a very important stage of consumerism, since it separates social value from material needs and thus prepares people to conspicuous sharing.)
In the environment of abundance, it will be sharing, not access to what is in shortage, which starts defining individual rank and status. A new type of economy (pay only if you like) and society will emerge. The infrastructure of this society and this economy will be based not on the 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 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. We see the examples of sharing-based communities only in a few isolated regions or cultural groups.
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 abundance. Creating social value while distributing it for free – this is unheard of! These contradictions aren’t even ideological; they are morphological.
Information is different from the values of the material world. Material things pass from owner to owner, often decreasing in value through usage. Information, on the other hand, stays with everyone who shares it, increasing its value; the most shared information is the most valuable. Moreover, those who share valuable information not only continue to possess it but also acquire higher status in addition.
The positive feedback effect works: the abundance of content leads to competition in sharing (those who share more get better connected), and competition in sharing, in turn, results in an abundance of content. (Sharing and abundance of content also entail a new social quality that Clay Shirky calls “cognitive surplus” and enable 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 undermines many social practices that rely on content deficits, such as politics or journalism. In fact, media was the first old institution to face this challenge. The old media business model that is tied to the sale of content, channel, or ad slots, struggles within the environment of emancipated authorship. There is now a plethora of content and space on the Internet.
What is suitable to be sold in an environment with an 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 an environment with an abundance of space is time; primarily the time of an individual socialization.
Here is where the business model of future media will arise. It will be based on networking and sharing services, as well as services related to temporal compression such as navigation, curation, aggregation, etc.
Author of Human as media. The emancipation of authorship – available on Amazon
Categories: Emancipation of Authorship, Future and Futurology, Media ecology
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