Is Web 2.0 Communism’s Crowning Glory?

Here is an excerpt from a interesting Op-Ed piece on Bit-Tech: open_source_communism_p.jpg

The People’s Republic of Web 2.0

Karl Marx is famous for thinking up a system where everyone had a voice, where everyone was equal, and then went on to associate it with a political system. I suppose you can’t blame old Karl for the way it all turned out – but who would have thought that, many years later, his ideas would be living on – in a web browser?

Lets face it, in its fundamental form, Communism doesn’t work for the majority of people, regardless of your political stance in the real world. What is more interesting is that when we establish some kind of pseudo-communism in some kind of digital pseudo-existence, it seems to work pretty well. Whilst humans are innately still the selfish, somewhat narcissistic entities they have always and will always be, the recent trend of social networking is about more than just digging something or adding friends on MySpace – it’s about contributing to communities and belonging to a movement greater than yourself. Pure Marxism?

Time magazine recently announced that every one of us is their person of the year for 2006, remarking that the internet wouldn’t be what it is today without the free contributions to its existence, and the liberal means in which anyone can add to it from any terminal across the world, in any language.

Wikipedia, for example, is massively reliant on user submissions to fill its database, as well as donations to keep it running. Donations! Arguably one of the least selfish things you can do, and a word one often hears in the context of politics and belief systems. You’re donating to a community of people and writing about topics with people you’ve never met, all for the benefit of the community and those who read it. There are over 1.5 million articles in the English language version, alone. It’s a massively democratic society where no one has the power.

‘nix! The ultimate communist software! Whilst everyone and anyone can add and develop to it, no one owns it and (almost) everyone has a say on how it should turn out. It’s rare that you have to pay for it, usually it’s to just buy a hardcopy. I feel it’s almost too obvious to point out the link to Red Hat. Does it come with a hammer and sickle logo, Comrade?

Communities of people gather together in chat rooms and forums to comment and help others with their expertise, with no financial gain to themselves. This is only just to pass the time or get their virtual avatar a greater recognition, by people all over the world they’re never likely to meet.

People actually enjoy giving to each other! This is because they can do it whenever they feel like it, as much or as little as they want, and can leave without a big hoo-ha or collapse of a society – contribution without obligation. Inevitably, someone else will take their place or a new group will form somewhere else, thus, the endless cycle begins again.

Read the whole thing…

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2 comments

  1. Shirley, You make an excellent point. There are also some very interesting comments on this article to be found at the authors site.

    While many of the authors commenter’s (as well as myself) do not necessarily agree with all of the authors positions, the article does provide some first-rate food for thought and interesting grist for the conversation mill. I think that this discussion is elicited by the exponentially increasing influence of the internet community on “Real World” issues.

    Also interesting to think about is how the electronically connected community is continually reshaping and metamorphosing itself, the long term nature and wide-ranging influence of our burgeoning global electronic community , and how that metamorphosis is itself influenced in return by the very “Real-World” external pressures and/or social mores (or lack thereof) that are influenced by the electronic community.

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