Media and communication

Flattr VIII: Is Flattr really providing an alternative?


One point that seems to be important in Flattr’s image of the network is that the use of and payment for online material should be voluntary. If users do not have to pay for it, but are voluntarily choosing whether to pay or not, then it is possible for the material to be free. With Bauman’s (2007) perspective, the network can then be seen as a rebel against the prevailing culture of consumption with Flattr going against a world where everything is goods and citizens are forced to pay for everything, the network would rather let people decide for themselves what they’ll pay for. Freedom here means that all the material is available, the sender can not lock in and get paid for it but it can be used by everyone and users pay for it only if they want.


But we could also see the network as a further commodification (Bauman 2007). The content with a Flattr button becomes even clearer commodity, where the user can now pay for it and also will assess whether it is worth it or not. The material can be more than previously seen as a commodity to attract transactions, such as the creator’s eyes that might commodify his material by putting up a Flattr-button . Members of the network can, in turn, evaluate the content by choosing to flattr or not flattr. There are similarities with the gift and hacker culture at Flattr in that the material is freely available but that those using it will be able to give something back to the person who created the content. Meanwhile, we can see that Flattr with the pursuit of profit by spreading their Internet routines to society belongs to the entrepreneurial culture, an online culture that developed following the hackers’ (Castells, 2001).


On Flattr’s blog it is written ”Flattr was founded to help people share money, not just content ” (Flattr 2012). The network’s thought about that money should be exchanged and that they charge for the service, as mentioned earlier, ten percent of each transaction, indicate that it belongs in the culture of entrepreneurship, and since managers are the underpinning of running a capitalist society Flattr must be considered part of the maintenance of capitalist norms and values ​​concerning consumption. From this perspective Flattr presents no alternative to the capitalist culture’s norms on freedom or payment.



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