Seizing the means of production - digitally

Someone recently made a comment about this: the old socialist/communist call to action used to refer to factories, tools, raw resources, machines - big things worth fighting big fights about.

This is still true, to a large extent. But just as the advances of surveillance capitalism are no longer big or glaringly obvious - so, too, the resistance is no longer a big, burly brawl.

Think about just two examples from recent weeks. Google will no longer let your Google Assistant work with a notes app of your choice - if you want to live in a voice-controlled world of Google's design, it will have to be Google's app. Microsoft Teams no longer lets you have wiki pages in your teams - you'll need the Notes functionality, which comes with its OneNote app.

Two tiny things. Two slightly annoying changes, on their own - no more. But the bigger pictures, and the opposites of these, are worth remembering.

In the bigger picture, the endgame is for Google / Microsoft to own your bigger picture. Not to share fragments of your data story with others: to train you to remain within their walled plantations, so they learn more about you, more easily. Removing functionality - even features you used to rely on - is almost always done to nudge you deeper inside the branded maze.

And the opposite? That's seizing the online means of production. The small, significant struggle is to own your machine. From the smallest screw to the biggest app - own what you have, and know what's inside.

You don't have to be an expert to do this. And you don't have to do it all at once. Google made you a Google subject one web search at a time; this, also, is how you start the slow process of getting a grip on how you want to do things with computers. App by app, gadget by gadget, one lifehack after another, swap by swap.

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