The Capitalist Knowledge Complex

or, information superhighway my ass.

Information is wealth and knowledge is power. It seemed at one point that this knowledge was now open to all with the internet throwing open the doors to the masses to access the best of the news sources free of charge. The power to the masses seemed less of an idealistic dream than usual. And i guess what i was saying is that the early days of the Industrial Revolution seemed somewhat reproduced in terms of the emotions we felt.

But soon, freedom was taboo. Free books are harder to get. News is harder to get. I was a big fan of the Economist online from right about when I decided I couldn’t really be bothered shelving over 500 rupees for a hard copy. But even the Economist, free market proponent, has restricted some of its sections to paying customers. What we’re missing here is that pro-free market often means pro-capitalist and pro-profit as well.

Good intelligence like the stuff found in Stratfor is restricted to people who pay $360 annually. The rest are forced to rely on tabloid esque sources of news that paint sensationalist black and white pictures distorting everything in the world. Defining the good guys and bad guys, right and wrong etc for people, when it is the people who need the information to decide things for themselves.

Most of the ‘free’ news out there can sometimes cater to the unheeding masses. Can brainfeed and brainwash and render them even more ignorant than when they started off. This may seem to go against my previously expressed staunch support for the ‘new media’ revolution, but not necessarily. New media is about freedom, and restriction, be it for financial or propagandist/security reasons, only serves to destroy that freedom.

People need good clean information. For example, just read up on any conflict happening in the world right now. Be it Israel-Palestine, Iran-Iraq-US, India’s internal conflicts or Sri Lanka’s own bloody history of fighting, and the deeper you go in, the more you realize that what you thought was right and wrong usually merges into mass of grey subjective matter that can be looked at and judged at based purely on your standpoint.

Mass media doesn’t really communicate underlying reasons for conflict. It prefers to dwell on symptoms of conflict. The impacts of conflict. It tends to perceive the general mass of persons out there as uninterested people who simply look to the news for cheap thrills to go along with an early morning caffeine boost. And they may be right. But then again if cause makes effect and vice versa. A freer environment of true and objective information will probably be able to change public perceptions of news and how they look to it.

Achieving this can be a problem i am aware. Good information costs a lot to obtain, and hence, the people who obtain it need some incentive to go after it. But then if the information they get is only restricted to an elite few, what is the purpose of what they do? This is a problem indeedy. I’ll stick by something I’ve said before, some piracy like book piracy and illegal circulation of information, is wholly good. Although it may be wrong.

  1. maf said:

    Good post though I am not sure if I entirely agree with you.. you seem to be implying that all information on the web should be free. I would say that most data or nearly all data should be freely available – it is the analysis that we should pay for (the value add). Otherwise what be the point of publishing? In a sense you are talking yourself out of a job – I presume you work in some form of an analytical or research function. What is your output – a form of intellectual property n’est pas? If I could download whatever it is you are working on and submit it as mine (having read it) you are with out credit and the analysis becomes mine.

    It is about competitive advantage. I agree it is expensive to subscribe to different information sources – especially those related to economics and business but I for one do not mind paying the fees for immediate delivery of good quality analysis that gives me a supporting or dissenting view that allows me to make a decision. I am thus advantaged by this information – empowered if you like.

    I thus disagree with you on book piracy and information dissemination but agree price should be reflective of circumstance..

  2. Book piracy is questionable. However I agree with information being kept free.

    Sadly though, there is a misconception that the internet is free and without cost. In actuality web hosting and providing internet traffic is costly business. Severs have to be kept on 24/7 and for massive sites the number of servers and available bandwidth has to be extremely high to prevent crashes.

    If you were to host your own site for free, you could setup one pc to host it. Pay for the domain and the bandwidth. But you’d soon find that if a million people tried to access your site, it would be down in seconds.

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