Media and communication

Flattr & CouchSurfing III: Open social movements?

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Both networks exemplify the different ways a new trend in the digital world in which the network operates as a form of open social movement for the members while the organization behind can be a prosperous business. While Flattr is the network of the two that is most evident in its policies towards traditional payment, it is nevertheless the network that is most clearly with its entrepreneurship. Right from the inception Flattr emphasizes that it wants to see a new form of responsible business online. They describe themselves as a service that wants to encourage creators, easier for users to pay for content, a potential complement to advertising on their blog. There is a discourse about the money and that it is important to get paid. CouchSurfing however, began to talk about the network as a social movement and has maintained that it is a global community rather than to portray themselves as a business, even though the American tax authorities saw it as a business and were clear in their rejection of the network request to be defined as a charity. It may be a reason that even employees of CS felt so upset that they created a counter group against the network’s conversion to a for-profit company. It may seem strange that the members in the first instance not turned against the U.S. tax agency’s decision to deny its operations as charitable if one considered this to be a wrong decision, but instead rebelled against the organization behind CS. Possibly members had less confidence in CS as an institution than the IRS, or so it was thought that it would be more effective to work with the network when it is more involved and had more power in the network than they had in turn against the IRS. This may be a side issue that would be interesting to study more closely.

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It’s an interesting point that both networks despite their words of freedom and free will, still choose to out of own interest censor content within their network, CS in removing the uprising to the network for business conversion from the homepage, and Flattr in not showing all content in its register. The networks are aware that they are living under the same conditions all companies in a capitalist world does, such as copyright, hate speech, child pornography, but also that they must protect their profile with their target group. They, just like most companies, try to control how they are perceived and what and who they associate themselves with. Something which however may be problematic online, where perceived negative events can quickly spread and be commented upon by opponents. Especially for companies that advocates freedom and accessibility it can become problematic when they suddenly go against the values ​​they are trying to convey to their members.

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