[I]t could be argued that crowdsourcing transcends commodity fetishism –- albeit, only to a certain point. Labour is at the forefront of discussions of crowdsourcing, implied by the very term itself. Whereas the deskilling of Fordism reduces workers to mere cogs, and whereas their work goes unrecognized and is divorced from the final product, discussions of crowdsourcing often make visible once more the labour and labourer(s) responsible for a given product. For instance, if one is inclined to purchase the best-selling Threadless T-shirt, The Communist Party, from the Threadless online store, one sees that its designer is Tom Burns. One sees that he is in his early-thirties, has been a member of Threadless since 2005, and is quite a prolific Threadless user. One can see his photograph, his other designs, and his Flickr photos. One can read his blogs, critiques, and slogans. One can visit his website, or even contact him through AIM. One would be hard-pressed to have such a relation to whomever helped build, say, one’s new Ford.
At the same time, this relation to Tom Burns is primarily to his identity as-designer; one gets to know Tom Burns principally as Threadless-user ‘tomburns.’ It is perhaps a less fetishized relation than one may have with the seemingly nameless Ford employees who manufactured one’s automobile, but nonetheless does not affirm the complexities of Tom Burns as a person. With this in mind, the vocation can hardly be relegated to an allegedly obsolete industrial-era. The vocation, as a limited -– and limiting -– facet of individual identities, thrives within crowdsourcing; we may now know the names and faces of individual producers, but we approach them through their role in the market. Moreover, this partial overcoming of commodity fetishism can be read also as a model offering increased surveillance, the internalization of worker discipline, and overall a form of commodity fetishism which regards the partial humanization of producers as part of a branding strategy –- in all, that the blurring of public and private identities through crowdsourcing resolves itself in a way that intensifies, rather than alleviates, the commodification of the individual.
The more we join with others, the greater our creative power. The problem, as we have seen, is that under capitalism, socialisation exists as abstraction: it is through abstraction that the social coming together of different doings is established. It is not surprising then that the revolt against abstract labour should take the form of a revolt against socialisation: doing our own thing, expressing ourselves, creating small projects. The traditional concept of socialism seems of little relevance here: it poses an image of post-capitalist society as a society characterised by a grater socialisation of production with ever bigger units of production, but reduces the question of self-determination to the entirely abstract idea of the Plan rather than to the actual process of doing.
“The development of our power-to-do must not be understood as a rejection of socialisation. The challenge, rather, is to construct through the cracks a different socialisation, a socialisation more loosely woven than the social synthesis of capitalism and based on the full recognition of the particularities of our individual and collective activities and of their thrust towards self-determination. There are already many initiatives in this direction. The insistence of the so-called anti-globalisation movement that it is not opposed to globalisation but favours a different sort of globalisation and is therefore an alter-globalisation movement makes precisely the point that the struggle is not for a romantic return to isolated units but for a different sort of social interconnection. Horizontality, dignity, alternative economy, commons: all these terms relate to explorations in the construction of a different form of socialisation.