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[ox-en] Im/material production (was: Re: Peer Economy. A Transition Concept.)

Hi StefanMn and all,

due to having a really fundamental debate, I take the opportunity to 
write a bit more elaborate than usual. Therefore, I split my answer in 
two parts, one for the question of immaterial vs. material production, 
and the second about peerconomy in a narrow sense.

On 2008-04-10 19:42, Stefan Merten wrote:
May be I should do a general remark here. What - among other things -
I'm currently trying to explore is some new concepts and ideas which
came to my mind. I don't know yet whether they are useful but it
feels like so to me. In that I'd appreciate if you all help to think
this through so we all gain deeper insights.

we're all researchers :-)

On 2008-04-07 11:24, Stefan Merten wrote:
* Coypability
  The step to material production is only a small one: We need
  machines which transform information into some material form.
And we have these. In a way every machine manipulating matter is
such a thing - though probably only the more advanced like robots,
fabbers or all those other cool machines making more and more
people unemployed have the potential we are looking for.

I see the general potential of fabber, but this is far from
becoming an real option.

Please let me note that people / companies using fabbers see this
rather differently.

Of course, because they can reduce costs and optimize production 
processes by using it for rapid prototyping or the creation of special 
components. They are too far from "transform information into some 
material form", but this is not a problem for them, because costs of 
recources and production efforts can be made part of the price of the 
products on markets. Within market logics this makes completely sense, 
but we are taking about peer production of physical goods.

And robots or other production machines are another story.


IMHO they are the same as far as universality is concerned. The
simple machines from beginning of capitalism or even before were very
specific. They were able to do exactly one thing (which is probably
idealized but you get the point). CNC machines were one milestone on
the road to universal matter manipulation machines. Industrial robots
are another one as are fabbers. I'm really interested in what's wrong
with that perspective.

I think, you lost sight of the production environment and the material 
recources. In my impression you are focussing on the machine itself. 
But production isn't only about having productive means, it is also 
about consuming recources during production. And this is not only 
electricity, but also raw material. Then, this brings up environmental, 
material specific (toxicity), and technical issues (different materials 
in one part) Franz already pointed to. But ok, this is not the main 
point here when taking about potentials.

I said, that robots are another story, because their goal isn't 
to "transform information into some material form" in a direct way. 
Yeah, in a metaphorical sense every production is "transformation of 
information into some material form", but this is not meant here. 
Robots or other flexible production machines are designed to assemble 
parts into a product. The important thing here is, that they reduce the 
necessary amount of human labor (leading to unemployment etc.).

The main point in general is: There is a consistent flow of material 
recources any machine need to produce new pieces of some stuff. This is 
not the case with information. On an existing infrastructure the 
information can "jump" from carrier to carrier.

BTW: Even computers could be seen as matter manipulation machines.
And indeed very specialized ones. Only the materials they process is
of rather universal use.

Yes, but this is a too general perspective as already noted, because the 
information does not depend on a specific matter, it only needs any 
(today: material) carrier. Remember: Computers are _not made as_ matter 
manipulation machines.

Btw: Thinking is a material process too.

Anyway, they all do not bridge the principal difference between
information and physical goods. So let me add the points you

Physical goods are of rival and thus of singular nature, they will
be used up. Information goods are of anti-rival nature and using
means spreading (cf. Steven Weber).

I know I'm challenging exactly this point by my argumentation. I'd
ask everyone to think thoroughly about this.

Therefore physical goods have to be produced consistently, and they
consume consistently resources and effort for each single new
piece. This is not the case for information goods. When created,
using is spreading by copying.

Sorry, but copying *is* creating. You change the amorphous "shape" of
some matter to have a different "shape" and when you are successful
you call it a copy. Nonetheless copying is only a special sort of
creation. Why it is not?

It is. Reading your argument is making a "copy" in my brain. But this is 
too general, you see? Copying of some digitized information creates 
a material impression of the bits anywhere being readable afterwards. 
But the information itself is *independent* from its carrier. On the 
other hand, each material good *depend* on its concrete material 
realisation, because of its singular nature. Metaphorically speaking 
you can say, that each single piece of a material product is an 
individual (give each of them a name like children do). If this single 
individual is used-up, then it is gone. An information cannot be 
used-up, it can only be used, and using is combined with copying (which 
creates its anti-rivalness).

Marx already saw this difference, when he distinguished between a
"technical wear-out" and a "moral wear-out" of the machines. This 
difference can be applied here: Information goods can not wear-out 
technically, but they can wear-out "morally". Or as Lohoff stated 
nicely: Material goods can disappear by using them, information goods 
can disappear by not using them.

Both types need infrastructures to get produced and distributed,
and these infrastructures are physical goods which has to be
produced, powered and maintained. However, while the internet is a
common infrastructure for production and distribution of
information goods (neglecting other forms of distribution like DVDs
here), physical goods need "two" different infrastructures. The
production infrastructure constantly consumes raw material and
effort scaling degressively with output, and the transport
infrastructure needs transportation means and effort scaling
linearily (more or less) with amount. This is not the case for
information goods.

It is not? When the materialization of information goods meant books
there were absolutely no difference here. Books needed (and still
need) infrastructure for production as well as for transportation. If
your point would be generally true for information goods then the
type of materialization they use would not matter. However, as the
example shows it *does* matter.

A book is a material good, but the content of the book is an information 
good. As long as these two aspects were closely coupled, you are right. 
But now we are taking about digitized information, and then you are not 
right: The type of materialization of the information does not matter.

Emphasizing that only materialized information goods are of any use
is also a challenge to common wisdom. However, when I think of it I
wonder why I didn't realize this earlier...

This is obvoius, but too general. Where is the challenge?

The type of materialization is unspecific for information goods, 
therefore they are of universal and non-rival nature. The reverse is 
true for material goods: The type of materialization is specific for 
material goods, therefore they are of singular and rival nature.


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