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Book: Wikiworld: Political Economy of Digital Literacy, and the Road from Social to Socialist Media. Juha Suoranta - Tere Vadén.



"In the digital world of learning there is a progressive transformation from the institutionalized and individualized forms of learning to open learning and collaboration. The book provides a view on the use of new technologies and learning practices in furthering socially just futures, while at the same time paying critical attention to the constants, or “unmoved movers” of the information society development; the West and Capitalism. The essential issue in the Wikiworld is one of freedom – levels and kinds of freedom. Our message is clear: we write for the radical openness of education for all."

And yes! It is copylefted and you can get your hands of the text here:


order from amazon:


1. Digital Literacy and Political Economy

2. Radical Monopolies: Schools, Computer Softwares and Social Media

3. The World Divided in Two

4. Edutopias and the Promise of Active Citizenship

5. From Social Media to Socialist Media



"In the following pages we will argue that the Wikiworld – a set of collaborative practices on the Net as defined below – will advance peoples' autonomy, self-government and actual freedom. The Wikiworld is a system of collective processes rather than a system of ready-made facts given from above, from those who believe that they know better than the rest of us. Wikiworld is an empowering social construction with positive effects for both political and epistemological democracy and, as we believe, eventually it has a potential to abolish the distinction between the rulers and the ruled. By theorising the basic tenets of the Wikiworld our aim is to advance the world in which this apparently perpetual division is no longer necessary, and can be seen, as Gramsci once said, only as “a historical fact corresponding to certain conditions” (Gramsci 1971, 44). Thus we focus on these “certain conditions” by claiming that Wikiworld's central characteristics and practices, those of voluntary participation, sharing and anonymous collectivism, are practices of actual freedom.

By the notion of Wikiworld we refer both to the technical and social spheres of the Internet; more specifically to those social formations and political struggles that can be enforced by the possibilities of the Net. And more than that: from our point of view the Wikiworld, and its phenomena, is not sufficiently scrutinised if not seen in the larger socio-political context through the lens of radical political economy. From this angle the Wikiworld is also an ideological battlefield, and the stakes are high: in question are the very ways in which we conceive of the digital sphere and its physical counterparts.

Current international and national trends in educational policies emphasising educational qualifications, competition and marketisation of higher education are too narrow and repressive to last. They distort learning and research just as the notions of “German” and “Soviet” science did in their time. In contrast, internationally open and free scientific activity benefits all people and nations equally; otherwise it does not deserve to be called science. But openness is a challenge for closed educational and other systems; it forces educational authorities – public and private alike – to abandon short-sighted monetary aims.

In a fundamental sense, the social and digital collaborative sphere, the Wikiworld, is anarchistic in its very nature. This means that we cannot channel, control or predict the future of the Wikiworld in advance. But we can offer insights, ideas and collaborative productions which at best can free our minds from the restrictions of the closed system logics. To say that the Wikiworld is anarchistic is not to deny that it is also overdetermined, that is, its development is caused by the multiple actions of the multiple actors. To paraphrase philosopher J. L. Austin (1911–1960), the question on the Wikiworld is not only How To Do Things with Words, but also How To Do Things with Edits, Saves, Uploads, Downloads, Histories, Revisions, and Discussions."

Chapter 5: Edutopias

The wikiworld holds tremendous potential that we want to embrace. However, the theories concerning open source and Wikipedia collaboration – and, even more, the information society theories inspired by these practises – often overlook certain biases of the digital sphere. Are these just problems of the initial phase that will be ironed out in due time? Not necessarily.

From chapter 5. Edutopias:

"Let us proceed according to the hypothesis that the areas designated by the phrase "creative industries" are precisely the places where the structural bias and consequent violence of the cybercommunist utopias may be discerned. Since the free/open-source software movement is so often presented as the paradigm of the new forms of intellectual labour, let us consider for a moment the crown jewel of that movement, the GNU/Linux operating system. Linux is available free for anyone to use, modify and redistribute on the Net. In 2002, it was estimated that a typical GNU/Linux distribution (Debian) contains more that 55 million lines of source code; if it were to be created using traditional proprietary methods of software development, the cost would be 1.9 billion US dollars (Gonzáles-Barahona et al., 2002). That was in 2002; by now, its value will have grown further. It is easy to see that this kind of value created and distributed freely is indeed something not previously seen: germs of non-commodity exchange, indeed.

Nevertheless, the structures of inequality quickly kick in. Most Linux-kernel developers are male and relatively young. Moreover, most of them come from North America or Europe. In the case of Debian, this holds true. The developers have typically received some academic education, and the number of PhD holders in the group is quite high – over 10 percent. Again, most of the developers come from the global North (see, e.g., Mikkonen & al., 2007). This geopolitical bias is not just an historical fact, a relic created by the initiation of these projects in the North. During the 15 years or so the projects have been in progress, only minor change has occurred, with individual programmers from Brazil, India and some other Southern countries getting involved. Indeed, there is as much reason to believe that the economic divisions in the real world are exacerbated in the digital world as to believe that there are grounds for hoping that digital technology could bridge these gaps. If we consider the fact that, during the year from summer 2005 to summer 2006, the Linux kernel received more new code from the .mil domain (US military) than from most third world countries, we instantly get a feeling of the old colonialism continuing in new guises.

Or let us go back to Wikipedia. The non-neutral neutrality of the NPOV was mentioned, above. If we like the Habermasian communicative rationality, the NPOV is nice, but it is corrosive with regard to certain types of communities. In order for a wikipedia to work, it needs a certain critical mass (to resist vandalism, to promote increased content, diversification of contributor roles, etc.). The smaller the (linguistic) community, or the group with a shared world view, the slighter the chances of a vibrant Wikipedia. Furthermore, critical mass means normalization, which in itself works against certain types of communal identities. From the user’s point of view, the fact that the English Wikipedia is so much better than, say, the Finnish one, provides an additional pull towards the hegemonic language and its values.

These two small examples should serve to indicate that the liberal communist utopia is by no means neutral with regard to local identities. Indeed, we might suspect that the power structures of the first economy are visible in the digital sphere. If this is the case, the drive towards culture as the playground of global commerce reveals a new side. The opportunities for small linguistic areas like Finland to make successful business out of the creative industries look bleak, notwithstanding the digital opportunities. The Sibeliuses and Alvar Aaltos of previous generations learned their trade from Europe, and by cleverly infusing it with "local" coloring, sold it back to the source. Being a classical composer or being a modern architect are European occupations, and a Finn can succeed in these only in so far as she is able to become European. And what else is "European" than an ideological discoursive construction? Why would things be any different with regard to digital creation? Finland, to be sure, is a wealthy, highly modernized nation, with a well-educated population. This is one of the reasons why advanced technology has been one of our success stories. But what, after all, is this "ours", and "us", and what is the "Finnish culture" in, say, Nokia mobile phones? Precious little. Again, even the design of the phones recycles a global style, with minor improvements, and production is outsourced to the point where nobody wants to know about the toxic trail leading to illegal mines in Nigeria. If the promise of "creative liberal communism" is an empty one, as in the case of Finland, what can it be like in other, equally small, but less wealthy cultural areas?

All of this points to the fact that, in the case of small cultures and linguistic areas, the problems and possibilities of the digital era are significantly different from those of the bigger, more dominant players. It also means that attempts to understand intellectual labor or the creative industries cannot rely exclusively on the tools created in critical discussions in the heart of Europe. The post-post-isms emerging from Italy or France have only so much purchase in a landscape that is only now entering the phase that cultural critics like Adorno described in their classic postwar writings. In Finland, the first generation that likes to shop, and which has never really worried about spending money and not saving it, is only now emerging. Likewise, a mass public for soap operas is a very recent phenomenon. Consequently, the critical analysis of a mass society and cultural industry is becoming topical at the very moment that it is also being left behind.

If this non-synchronicity is true of such a pseudo-European area as Finland, what can be said of other non-European or non-Westerns places? We strongly suspect that a co-existence of different world-eras – distinct stages of development with different goals and values – around the globe makes it impossible to utilize only the latest theory from Paris or California, as if only the latest would be advanced enough. Indeed, globalization is reinforcing, for instance, both class-distinctions (mobile phone assemblers in Finland and China have more together with each other than with their compatriot managers) and ethnic identities (as environmental crises threaten local nature). If there are histories of the world that are not the history of Europe, then we also need multiple theories of the information society."

Chapter 6: Stages of Freedom

How to proceed? It seems to us that much more attention has to be paid to the material & social conditions of collaboration.

From chapter 6, "Stages of Freedom"

"The read-only culture proposed by ultra-commoditized and mechanized life-styles can be seen both from the perspective of media and education. In one extreme, a totalitarian state, like Plato's utopia in The Republic, will want to control education, reserving true knowledge for the philosopher-kings and telling a "royal lie" to the working classes in order to keep them at bay. As a citizen of Athens, Plato would have known exactly why the movement calling for the abolition of copyrights is called the Pirate Party (for instance, in Sweden: The Platonist closed-source approach is strictly correlative with media as a private profit-making business where information first and foremost has an exchange value. As we move toward freer modes of media and education, we first encounter social media and education as entrepreneurship, where the subjects are "empowered" by active participation in economically constrained activities. This is the first order of freedom, where you have free speech within the confines of formal freedom (as explained by Žižek 2004c): you are free in so far as you do not rock the boat. The ultimate question is, what goes into the machine where “machine” refers to the logic of formally free market, free choice and capitalism itself. And strangely enough, the road to more freedom involves the realisation that the economic constraints of liberal, multicultural capitalism are not nearly strict enough. Only when the ghost of exchange value is stripped away is the persistent and non-symbolic use-value, or value in itself, revealed. In terms of media, this means Linux or Wikipedia, which do not have any exchange value but have a tremendous utility. But even that is not enough in terms of taking economics seriously: the oikos (the Greek word for household at the root of out term “economy”) humanity is facing is the planet and its resources. Native skills (education) and indigenous information need a sustainable material lifestyle, which is something the West has not been able to devise so far."

(Place table "Stages of freedom" from here)