Literary content as digital commodity


This short essay explains the significance of the FinBook intervention, and invites the reader to participate. We have associated each chapter within this book with a financial robot (FinBot), and created a market whereby book content will be traded with financial securities. As human labour increasingly consists of unstable and uncertain work practices and as algorithms replace people on the virtual trading floors of the worlds markets, we see members of society taking advantage of FinBots to invest and make extra funds. Bots of all kinds are making financial decisions for us, searching online on our behalf to help us invest, to consume products and services. Our contribution to this compilation is to turn the collection of chapters in this book into a dynamic investment portfolio, and thereby play out what might happen to the process of buying and consuming literature in the not-so-distant future. By attaching identities (through QR codes) to each chapter, we create a market in which the chapter can ‘perform’. Our FinBots will trade based on features extracted from the authors’ words in this book: the political, ethical and cultural values embedded in the work, and the extent to which the FinBots share authors’ concerns; and the performance of chapters amongst those human and non-human actors that make up the market, and readership. In short, the FinBook model turns our work and the work of our co-authors into an investment portfolio, mediated by the market and the attention of readers.
By creating a digital economy specifically around the content of online texts, our chapter and the FinBook platform aims to challenge the reader to consider how their personal values align them with individual articles, and how these become contested as they perform different value judgements about the financial performance of each chapter and the book as a whole. At the same time, by introducing ‘autonomous’ trading bots, we also explore the different ‘network’ affordances that differ between paper based books that’s scarcity is developed through analogue form, and digital forms of books whose uniqueness is reached through encryption. We thereby speak to wider questions about the conditions of an aggressive market in which algorithms subject cultural and intellectual items – books – to economic parameters, and the increasing ubiquity of data bots as actors in our social, political, economic and cultural lives. We understand that our marketization of literature may be an uncomfortable juxtaposition against the conventionally-imagined way a book is created, enjoyed and shared: it is intended to be.
Link to the project’s website