Work PLEs internet futures and social relations

A little spat between Stephen Downes and Jay Cross triggered by the current discussion around Personal learning Environments ( PLE ) may help to uncover important fundamentals.

Jay Cross seems to think that the social revolution against corporate ownership of the means of production has already happened:

Informal Learning Blog :: Nonsense from Stephen

In fact, fewer and fewer of us work for corporations; we’re doing our own thing. Free agent nation.

I just wonder how inclusive is that sense of “us” in the context being depicted here. There may well be the beginnings of a trend towards self employment, and free agency. I hope to encourage and enable that trend on a global scale through the Pajamanation initiative , but at this stage it is still a dream of a possible future for the vast majority, and those small numbers who do currently make a living as freelancers are more often than not beholden to one or more large corporations for most of their future contracts.

Work life for the masses is still very much a question of handing over your time and labour power to the owners of capital in return for a fraction of the fruits of those labours, and the reality of so called “self employment” for a lot of trades is often nothing more than a tax ruse by the employers or a means to enable easy laying off of workers without liabilty for redundancy payment.

Within that environment, the ultimate purpose of corporate training is to benefit the sponsor, not the personel’s out of work hours life or future prospects at another employer or as a freelance.

So the reason why some people are passionate about genuinely personal PLEs is because of the potential to shift the locus of power and control in favour of the individual, and it’s no wonder they get twitchy when it seems like there’s a danger of the whole thing getting subsumed back under the wing of the corporate interests and educational institutions.

It’s not just about PLEs really, but the internet. The very existence of a global communications network with limited central control would appear to offer the possibility of a shift in the balance of power on a number of levels, and some of that is already happening to some extent, but is the mere existence of the technology sufficient? The iternet is still very much an infant in the process of being born and the future shape of how social and economic relations will be structured is possibly up for grabs, but perhaps the opportunity will only exist for a limited period. Underneath it all, the most fundamenal contention continues to resurface over who will end up owning and controlling the bulk of the means of production, the means of life. It could be a tiny tiny minority of billionairres as at present, it could be a collective of everybody acting as a whole, or it could be split up amongst all of us as individuals.

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