Ted Nelson's Hypermedia Would Empower Content Creators

So is there any way to bring money and capitalism into an era of technological abundance without impoverishing almost everyone? One smart idea came from Ted Nelson.

Nelson is perhaps the most formative figure in the development of online culture. He invented the digital media link and other core ideas of connected online media back in the 1960s. He called it “hypermedia.”

Nelson’s ambitions for the economics of linking were more profound than those in vogue today. He proposed that instead of copying digital media, we should effectively keep only one copy of each cultural expression—as with a book or a song—and pay the author of that expression a small, affordable amount whenever it is accessed. (Of course, as a matter of engineering practice, there would have to be many copies in order for the system to function efficiently, but that would be an internal detail, unrelated to a user’s experience.)

As a result, anyone might be able to get rich from creative work. The people who make a momentarily popular prank video clip might earn a lot of money in a single day, but an obscure scholar might eventually earn as much over many years as her work is repeatedly referenced. But note that this is a very different idea from the long tail, because it rewards individuals instead of cloud owners.


The scarcity of money, as we know it today, is artificial, but everything about information is artificial. Without a degree of imposed scarcity, money would be valueless.

Let’s take money—the original abstract information system for managing human affairs—as an example. It might be tempting to print your own money, or, if you’re the government, to print an excessive amount of it. And yet smart people choose not to do either of these things. It is a common assertion that if you copy a digital music file, you haven’t destroyed the original, so nothing was stolen. The same thing could be said if you hacked into a bank and just added money to your online account. (Or, for that matter, when traders in exotic securities made bets on stupendous transactions of arbitrary magnitudes, leading to the global economic meltdown in 2008.) The problem in each case is not that you stole from a specific person but that you undermined the artificial scarcities that allow the economy to function. In the same way, creative expression on the internet will benefit from a social contract that imposes a modest degree of artificial scarcity on information.


By allowing them to hold onto their works in digital mediums and making money as people referenced them. So a single strong work referenced over a long time would be as valuable as a 24-hour hit youtube video.

Folksonomies: internet art media digital content

/technology and computing (0.593185)
/law, govt and politics/legal issues/human rights (0.447062)
/technology and computing/internet technology/web design and html (0.444623)

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Ted Nelson:Person (0.845147 (positive:0.368152)), digital media:FieldTerminology (0.379665 (neutral:0.000000)), youtube:Company (0.324010 (positive:0.498105)), economic meltdown:FieldTerminology (0.273641 (negative:-0.648997)), digital music:FieldTerminology (0.264930 (neutral:0.000000)), 24-hour:Quantity (0.264930 (neutral:0.000000))

YouTube (0.932976): website | dbpedia | freebase | yago | crunchbase
Scarcity (0.919373): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Digital (0.906585): dbpedia | freebase
Creativity (0.847456): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc
Artificial scarcity (0.835695): dbpedia | freebase
Digital media (0.807390): dbpedia | freebase
Video clip (0.684295): dbpedia | freebase | opencyc | yago
Post scarcity (0.680964): dbpedia | yago

 You Are Not A Gadget
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Lanier, Jaron (2010-01-28), You Are Not A Gadget, Penguin, Retrieved on 2012-01-03
  • Source Material [books.google.com]
  • Folksonomies: