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Saturday, February 4, 2012

Towards a Political Economy of Information- Marilou Zulueta

A review on the book:
Towards a Political Economy of Information
Studies on the information economy
By; Roberto Verzola
Reviewed by: Marilou Beringuel Zulueta
IV-18 BSE History

     As I read his book, I started to think about technology, is it really helping us or not. I also agreed in some part of the book about the so called piracy. I think that this book open my eyes about technology and the reality that everything has a good and bad effects in our lives. It’s in us if how we can use it. New communications technologies have tended to concentrate and commercialize the production and exchange of information, while extending the geographic and social reach of information distribution networks. 
     His book is the result of his intimate involvement with the technology at its deepest level of hardware and software. It is about the role of the technology within a social and historical context.
     He gradually turned into a skeptic and then a critic of a technology. Despite their good intentions, they in fact laid the groundwork for changing mindsets, prying open local markets, and paving the way for foreign investments. He eventually realized that the computers and the internet were leading edge of globalization, bringing with them new forms of wealth accumulation, concentration, and neo-colonial enslavement.

Part 1: information and intellectual property rights
Conflicting attitudes towards information: one naturally shares with others, and as a commodity of which in the developed world, one claims ownership, for purpose of profit making. The different attitudes reflect the emerging conflict over information between the developed economies which are trying to consolidate their early lead in information.

Part 2: the piracy of intellectuals
The advanced countries of the West routinely pirate from the Third World our best professionals and skilled workers, but begrudge us peoples of the Third World if we engage in some piracy ourselves. They accuse the Third World of “piracy of intellectual property”, yet they engage in the piracy of intellectuals. By accusing developing countries of “PIRACY” the U.S. is trying to gain a moral ground in the conflict. Yet, during 19th century U.S. is one of the Pirates of Information through copying freely British books and other publications and until today remains guilty of the worse practicing of “pirating” intellectuals rather than intellectual property.
• We make a copy of their program; we don’t steal it, because we have not taken anything away. We may have our own copy, but they still have the original.
• Pirating a computer program is quite different from pirating a doctor. When U.S. pirates our doctors, it’s doesn’t take a copy and leave the original behind. Instead, it takes the original and leaves nothing behind.
• Copying software is a benign case of piracy. Pirating doctors is a malignant case.
• We have been long time victims of this malignant case of piracy by Western countries. They should be the last to complain when they are affected with a benign one. 

Part 3: IPR: A clash of value-system
Information acquisition has been defined so that when it is bad for the interests of the U.S. and other advanced countries but good for us, it is called “piracy” and “free-riding,” but when information acquisition is good for their interests and bad for us, it falls under labels like “free flow of information” and “common heritage of mankind.”

Part 4: Towards a Political Economy of Information
There is no doubt that the information sector dominates the U.S. economy. It is the leading sector in employment, growth, and exports. Increasingly, it is also becoming the strongest voice in U.S. politics. A political economy of information would analyze the basic contradiction in an information economy and its various expressions. It would identify the new economic relations and classes that emerge out of the social rest ratification. It would search for the motive forces that can be mobilized to initiate basic changes in the property relations. It would identify the main forces for change. It would then try to discover new property relations that are more consistent with the nature of information goods. Technology is great, but it is only accessible at considerable cost and to a small percent of a population. Until we wake it more universally accessible and bring down its costs. And maybe a few poor can also benefit this technology.

Part 5: Expanding market for information economics
By simply participating in these new ICTs, therefore, we immediately turn ourselves into markets for information economies that sell or lease hardware, software, connectivity, consultancy and other ICT services. Most of these technologies except radio are beyond the reach of the poor. They are the toys of the rich and it is the rich who will be best positioned to make the most out of them. By designing products with short life cycles and replacing their product lines every few years or so, these firms can easily trap us into a never-ending cycle of purchases and obsolesce. The downhill obstacle course is a huge investment trap: a firm must keep investing on newer and newer ICTs if it hopes to make marginal costs lower and lower to keep up with its leading competitors.

Part 6: ICT: Job creator or destroyer?
It is true that machines and computers may require new skilled, and therefore create new jobs. However, this job creation is an incidental part, while job elimination is the intentional part of the logic of computerization and automation. Jobs destroyed are actual people with real families, while jobs created are potential jobs. To qualify for these new potential j jobs, job-seekers have to go through a long and often expensive process of retraining. While the net quantitative effects of ICTs re still being debated, their qualitative effects are clear: they have made human labor more replaceable and jobless secure.

Part 7: A poor learning environment
The internet today is such a mixed environment. There are hundreds of thousands of educational and learning sites, that’s true. But there are probably even more sites with all manner of attractions, distractions and temptations for students-all within a few key presses or mouse clicks. Because of the internet’s increasingly advertising-driven culture, these sites are in fact easier to find than the educational ones; their numbers are also rising faster. Used carefully, the internet can be helpful for doing a number of things, but it is definitely a very poor environment for education and learning because it destroys the carefully-designed school learning process. Worse, the internet will draw the students away from real learning.

Part 8: Perverse subsidies
To reverse this idea, the international traffic should subsidize local traffic. The reversal is strongly pushed by global corporations, who comprise a huge segment of international communications usage. They have already managed to push back international rates in the U.S. the lower U.S. rates now serve as platform for pressuring other countries to bring down their international rate as well. The internet also reflects an embedded globalist bias from the widespread use of English to hidden subsidies for local users for international communication. 

Part 9: Internet cafes: connectivity for the masses
To make the internet more accessible to the ordinary citizen, the idea of telecenters, more popularly known as internet cafes. The internet café would take care of the hardware and connectivity requirements and a user needed only to pay a per minute charge for access to the internet. A so called digital divide is better described as a great divide between the promise and the reality of the digital technologies. A good example is the way cybercafés are becoming centers of youth addiction.

Part 10: Genetic information and genetic engineering
Genetic information possesses similar characteristics as other forms of information, although its storage medium might be different. Thus, same issues of low reproduction cost, the traditional practices of sharing, the trend toward privatization and monopolies through patents, copyrights and other forms of intellectual property rights are the current subjects of debate. Genetic engineering may also contaminate the natural world with runaway engineered mutants that may threaten our health and the environment.

Part 11: Turning farmers into “pirates”
For thousand of years, farmers had improved their stock of crops by saving their best seeds for the next planting season. Saving seeds and sharing them with their neighbors are old-age practices that form the core of farming cultures worldwide. Biotech firm are threatening to redefine this old-age practice as an act of piracy, farmers who had both seeds from corporation, replanted and share the seed to others as an act of piracy.

Part 12: Beware of Modern Vampires
This is the new interest of rich countries: to collect all sorts of living organisms ( including flesh and blood ) in the belief that these contain valuable genetic information which, if unlocked may be commercial use. Through their advanced technologies, they believe that they can unlock the genetic secrets of life itself, to be owned and sold in the market.

Part 13: Bio safety and Generic contamination
One of the most important issues regarding generic engineering and the creation of new life forms is the genetic contamination. Micro organism, a plant or animal can reproduce, multiply and mutate by itself. Biotech companies that own them can make all kinds of claims about safety of genetically-engineered organisms, but two or three decades from now, we are likely to find out that some of these mutants are not safe.

Part 14: Information monopolies and the WTO
The monopolistic nature of current information economies hinges on corporate ownership and control of information infrastructures and monopolistic ownership of information through intellectual property rights ( IPR ). It serves as the international legal infrastructure for ensuring the protection of IPR and for keeping governments away from heavy regulation of information infrastructures.

Part 15: Globalization: Third Wave
The colonial powers were mercantilist and later, industrial countries in their early expansionist stage. The post-colonial powers were industrial countries in their late stages, when capitalism had developed further, combining industrial and finance capital into huge monopolistic conglomerates in continual search for new acquisitions, sources of cheap raw materials and labor, and markets. The third wave of globalization is marked by the emergence and eventual dominance, within the most advanced industrial countries, of the information sector- the sector that produces, manipulates, processes, distributes and markets information products.

Part 16: Cyberlords
Like software counterparts, most owners of the hardware infrastructure make money through monopoly rents, in the form of subscription fees or per-use charges. Because they earn their incomes from rents, the propertied classes of the information sectors are rentier classes. They are the landlords, cyberspace, or cyberlords. The content monopolies are owned by information cyber lords, and the infrastructure monopolies are owned by industrial cyberlords.

Part 17: Globalization: Poor design?
One of the basic rules in designing complex systems is called modularization. The rules says one should break up complex system into smaller parts.In economics means that countries should try tp become as self-sufficient as possible and as independent from each other as possible. It means that in teraction between economies should be minimized and should occur only through well-defined regulations. Globalization, the current trend among economic planners, violates the design principle modularization by tearing down “well-defined interfaces” between economies; globalization increases the coupling among countries and makes countries more instead of less dependent on each other.

     I have read about the miracle of loaves. It teaches us that there are things which we can share without losing them. We start with little, share them with others, feed thousands, and end up with more than we started with. It is natural to spread information’s, and the need of information economies to chase information goods. Whether information companies like it or not, information automatically globalizes itself as it is shared among people who find it useful. If one nation progress by sharing its knowledge to help also requires, should it be shared with all.The development of a country who not only by the very country.  From a quote, no man is an island. I believe that the progress of one is the development of all to work on and help not be governed the selfishness in others

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