Capitalist Collaborative Production

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Unknown author:

"In contrast to the latter form, the most salient feature of Capitalist Collaborative Production is being governed by one or several companies, having control of the platform which enables collaboration. This third modality characterizes almost all the so-called Web 2.0 (Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, Flickr, Twitter, etc.) but also appears as a complementary modality in pioneer sites (EBay, Amazon). An illustrative case of this operation is Second Life, just like Ariel Vercelli studied it (2009, Chapter 5).


Both the commercial and recreational users depend on the guidelines set by the company. Specifically, to contact other users, whether to make friends or to look for buyers, the prosumers must pass through the platform ruled by Linden Lab. In fact, the monetization of Second Life by allowing prosumers to sell the fruits of their labour emerges from the intellectual property rules which Linden Lab establishes for its world. The proprietary nature of the “residents” is used as an effective advertising tactic to attract users.


Although the power of the company controlling the platform is all-embracing, the productive scheme requires attracting the two other types of actors, moreover, requires that these agents produce contents. In order to do that, companies act like benevolent dictators which conceal their power as much as possible. Indeed, in order to keep the efficiency of the production process, it must look like a pure peer to peer collaboration. In the eyes of prosumers, corporate control of the platform, of the data and of the production process itself has to be diluted in the silent usualness of the digital landscape.

Capitalist Collaborative Production has been, then, exemplified. Here, as in the Mixed Collaborative Production, companies which take part of the production process for profit and prosumers who have no commercial interests coexist. However, in the model that we have been analyzing here three typical productive agents are often present - not only two as in the case of mixed production. First, non-commercial prosumers. There is nothing new about them. These are the same actors seen in the two previous modalities and which show up in any collaborative production form. Secondly, commercial prosumers which have the same status as the other prosumers in the production process. They have nearly the same power as them and must obey the same rules. Although they look like the companies which participated in the Mixed Collaborative Production, there is a great difference. Following the same example, when a team of IBM got integrated to the networks of Linux producers, this team was actually interested in what both kinds of agents collectively produced. IBM wanted digital information flows produced by developers, paid or unpaid ones. In contrast, commercial producers of Second Life have no interest in what users produce in the virtual environment and companies which are advertised on Facebook have no interest about the photos of their “friends”. These companies aim to capture flows of attention of those non-commercial producers /users, to integrate their recognition networks, or directly, to sell them a product. To put it simpler, in the mixed collaborative production, the commercial producers look for interactions with non-commercial producers in order to access to their informational goods. This is, commercial producers were interested in users as producers. By contrast, in the capitalist collaborative production, commercial producers are interested in other users only as consumers.

However, the key agent of this productive modality is a third kind of agent which radically changes the organization of the production process by completely handling the process. This is another type of capitalist enterprise which now plays a transcendent role. First of all, the collaboration platform is controlled by it. And through the platform, it contains all the information related to prosumers, manages digital flows which are no available to users, owns the trademarks which bring together producers, etc. Thus, the only way of the other two types of agents to produce in this modality is through the capitalist enterprise. But, in order to keep functioning the collaborative production modality, the controlling company needs to look like the silent stage, the neutral environment of the productive theater." (


2010 submission to the CSPP journal: ['

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2010 submission to the CSPP journal: [