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The rewards of Internet practice

August 1, 2009

Some Friday night thoughts before going to sleep:

Starting point of review essay on recent (2008) anthropological studies of the Internet is Alan Warde’s (2005) seminal essay on practice theory and the sociology of consumption, in which he discusses, among other things, the different rewards (psychological, social, physical, etc.) associated with different practices such as motoring or shopping.

  • Boellstorff (2008) Coming of Age in Second Life: rewards are mostly inworld, quotidian, to do with crafting (techne) artefacts and social relations and places they can call their own (well, sort of, as Linden Lab owns the place really); not the spectacular rewards hyped up by the media (making US dollars, marrying ‘in real life’, wild cybersex, etc.). Linden Lab tried to introduce a system of rewards for exemplary residents but didn’t have much impact.
  • Kelty (2008) Two Bits: The Cultural Significance of Free Software. Perhaps best captured by the legal scholar and Creative Commons co-founder James Boyle when after a long session of creating new legal tools he declared something along the lines of : “We haven’t just been sitting around talking. We’ve actually made something”. The rewards of collaboratively fashioning a socio-technological recursive public that is automous from both state and market. But as in all social worlds, some practitioners attain more prestige than others: e.g. with Source Code Management systems (SCMs) anyone can check out code, but only those geeks with recognised ‘good taste’ are allowed to ‘commit it’ (cf. the ineffable ‘nous’ of prestigious journalists).
  • Roig (2008) Cap al Cinema Col.laboratiu (Towards Collaborative Filmmaking). Two types of collaborative internet filmmaking covered in this PhD thesis: fan cinema (two case studies) and Free Software (FS)-inspired cinema (one case study). I will need to revisit this study, but I suspect the rewards are rather different in each type of internet practice – the latter very close to Kelty’s example of Connexions, a textbook writing project based on an FS template.
  • Hinkelbein (2008) Strategien zur digitalen Integration von Migranten. The focus is not so much on foreign immigrants in Germany but rather on the German ‘new mediators’ who seek to help them integrate via digital training. The rewards for these new mediators are not only financial (many make a living out of the so-called digital divide) but also inherent to the Internet-related practices they engage in.

It’s late. I’ll continue tomorrow.

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