Information is the new commodity | McKenzie Wark


What if this isn’t even
capitalism anymore? It’s something worse
that superseded it. History moved on. All that is solid melts into air,
all that is sacred is profane. One of the things that over the last thirty
years has accelerated is the commodification
of information. You could think about that
as the absorption of information, something we’ve really only had
a concept of since the forties, you could think of it as the
absorbing of that information into the commodity form. An example would be, most people use Google
or Bing, or something like that. And it seems like you get this little
bit of information for free, right? But if you get something for free it basically
means you’re the product. You know? We’ve known this in media studies
since the broadcast era. So how are you the product? Well, every little bit ofninformation you
get, you’re giving all of this information
in exchange for it that Google or Apple or whoever gets to own
in the aggregate and instrumentalise over
and against you. So to what extent is that a different model
of exploitation, based on information asymmetry? What if those who are producing
information are not workers? I call them hackers. It’s a word that maybe didn’t date
that well, so call it what you like. But let’s think of different ways of describing
what it means to be someone who produces information
but doesn’t own or control it. Because that’s what most people
I know do in a metropolitan city. That’s what most labour is that isn’t
maintenance and service work. So who ends up owning and controlling all
that information? I call that ruling class
the vectoralist class, in the sense that it’s ownership and
control of the vector of information. It’s storage, it’s logistics,
it’s brands, it’s copyrights. You don’t need to own the means
of production anymore to be a ruling class. That strikes me as really
quite particular. Apple corporation doesn’t
make phones, it doesn’t. That’s all made by outsourced
firms elsewhere. So what does it mean to be
able to control through the vector the whole value chain? That seems to me to be
the question to ask.

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