Revisiting Doctorow's "Metacrap"

By Robert Link, published at 19 June 2008 - 6:14pm, last updated 8 years 40 weeks ago.

Cory Doctorow's acerbic essay, Metacrap: Putting the torch to seven straw-men of the meta-utopia came up in conversation today, and I thought that a good excuse to revisit this short gem. Here's a pull quote which goes to the heart of the argument:

A world of exhaustive, reliable metadata would be a utopia. It's also a pipe-dream, founded on self-delusion, nerd hubris and hysterically inflated market opportunities.

What does this kind of attitude mean for folks interested in cooperation?

First and foremost, what Doctorow is talking about is really a "Tragedy of the Commons" problem, in which shared ownership (in this case, shared ownership of meta-data) lends itself to decreased personal sense of responsibility to the overall system. The solution lies in community and governance. To the extant individual meta-data creators are members of a community possessed of sufficient governance as to enforce community standards (e.g., The World Wide Web Consortium then the utopia can be reached. Put differently, the community must create circumstances in which preservation of the shared resources benefits individuals more than irresponsible exploitation of same.

The trick, then, is how to create such a community? How to grow it to include all sentient beings?