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Re: [ox-en] Information goods as genuine societal goods

Hi Stefan,

I think the definition of universal good has merit.

If you make a rival product, only certain people can use it, sharing
is possible, but difficultly scaleable.

If you have a non-rival digital product that is networked, the sharing
is eminently shareable, it is universally available to all in the

I believe this is the meaning of its universalness, and I think that,
subject to certain qualifications this is 'essentially' true.

If they say the computer is a universal machine, the meaning is
somewhat different, it means that the computer can make anything else,
i.e. the universal intermediary.


On Sat, Apr 5, 2008 at 12:22 AM, Stefan Merten <smerten> wrote:
 Hash: SHA1

 Hi list!

 I also translated this because I wanted to make a few comments. Here
 they are (before reading the already existing thread).

 Last week (12 days ago) Stefan Merten wrote:
 > 1. Information goods are not exchange goods. Exchange depends on an
 >    "change of hands". The information good, however, does not leave
 >    the hands of the "seller", who is in the nice situation to sell the
 >    same good for money multiple times. This phenomenon must not be
 >    confused with the production of equal material goods in the
 >    industrial mass production. Here every new entity needs to be
 >    produced anew, while for information goods this happens only once.

 I'd like to emphasize that this is not completely true - or at least
 not in the way written there. We probably agree that the essence of an
 information good is not material. However, living in a physical world
 to matter an information good *must* be bound to some matter.

 Since each information good must be bound to matter the reproduction
 of an information good is nicely named copying. But copying *is* a
 material process. Even when I write these letters I copy my thoughts
 to these black-and-white bits. Through computers this copying became
 nearly effortless once the information good is in digital form but
 this is historically new.

 So if Lohoff argues that this is different for material goods this is
 not entirely true.

 I'm emphasizing this for two reasons. First because it shows that
 still matter is involved. At the times when the best copying facility
 was the printing press this was a very important point. So we had a
 change in the means to handle *matter* in a certain way which changed
 a lot. We are now able to handle digital information in a uniform way
 by having universal *matter* manipulation machines. I consider this an
 important insight to keep in mind when talking of material peer
 production processes.

 Second it is a technical change of the invention of digital copy that
 made a qualitative change possible. This is a good example of how a
 relatively small technical invention can have grave societal

 > 2. Information goods are universal goods while conventional goods are
 >    of a singular nature. Though information goods need a carrier the
 >    connection to the carrier is volatile and the spreading to other
 >    carriers is very easy.

 Because that is such a central statement I need to ask: Why are they
 universal goods? I didn't see a reasoning for this. Why is a piece of
 software driving a machine more universal than the mechanism it

 >    To be used information goods in digital form
 >    need universal machines. These universal machines are transformed
 >    into manifold specialized machines by appropriate software - where
 >    the software already belongs to the universal goods. Often only use
 >    creates the intended utility. Universal machines and universal
 >    goods create an uncloseable universe of utility. Conventional goods
 >    on the other hand embody a singular utility. If the wanted utility
 >    changes a new good must be created.


 However, they are not "universally universal". A computer is limited
 by its capacity - be it memory or computing power. So that
 universality applies only to a certain domain - though this domain is
 generally growing. Nonetheless it is possible that for a new kind of
 utility a new good must be created.

 > 4. Information goods may be made exclusive by setting up technical
 >    barriers which prevent access or at least make access harder.
 >    However, these technical add-ons don't change the universal
 >    character of the good. Technical add-ons don't transform universal
 >    goods into commodities but their form is changed in a paradoxical
 >    way: They become privatized universal goods. If the technical
 >    barriers are removed the universality comes out again unrestricted.
 >    Breaking copy protection is an act of de-privatizing, the
 >    restoration of the universal character of the information good.

 In any case that idea of privatized xy goods is a good one. It is a
 very useful perspective.

 > 6. Information goods are created by common labor ("allgemeine Arbeit")
 >    or - if they appear in the privatized form as payed goods - by
 >    privatized common labor. In that respect they are similar to
 >    science. Conventional goods on the other hand need the repeated
 >    application of direct labor ("unmittelbare Arbeit") for their
 >    production.

 As I argued above also information goods need some effort to copy -
 though it is marginal today. Am I right when I conclude that if the
 effort to create a product goes towards zero it changes from a
 conventional good to a non-conventional good?



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