Is web 2.0 a gift economy?
Floating around on the web (in most cases free for non-commercial use according to Creative Commons licenses) I’m sharing: bookmarks, book reviews, blog posts, photographs. I’m responding to questions on twitter, fulfilling cubeville procrastination and de-stress needs via scrabulous on facebook, participating in discussion threads, leaving comments on other people’s blogs and photographs.
Notice what I haven’t called these things: content. If web 2.0 is a gift economy, the gifts simply aren’t content. See Joshua Green and Henry Jenkins The Moral Economy of Web 2.0 for more about “a rift between the ‘gift economy’ of fan culture and the commodity logic of ‘user-generated content.'”
The power of because
Despite the endless hype, web 2.0 isn’t all about money. Money might be driving the VC investments, it might (more likely, might not) be the primary motivation of startup founders, but it sure isn’t what’s driving most of the people participating. It’s about passion.
It happens without feedback, but you can get “paid” in attention when you write something and share it or take a photograph and post it to flickr. Some folks get enough attention that they choose serve up ads along with their thoughts, and they make some money that way. Others go for for the because effect over with. As in, your make money because of your blog, not with it. Because of is, ultimately, more powerful.
What are we doing?
You know the stuff you did when you were little, when you knew you could draw, before you ever worried about what do for a living (for a paycheck?) and learned that very few get paid to make art, to be creative, to tell stories? The web is now the big box of crayons, the shiny new typewriter, the paint set you always wanted. It’s lego pieces and missing instruction sheets and the gears you sketched, bored, in study hall.
It’s all these things, and it combines the ability to find other folks like you or not like you, but interested in what you are interested in. Sure, money makes things easier (when doesn’t it?) but cost doesn’t have to be an insurmountable barrier to participation anymore. Fear is that barrier. Forgetting how to share is that barrier.
See what I can make, do, think… Here’s what I’m asking, puzzling over. Here’s a story. Another chapter. A new version. It’s all out there, here, uploaded, connected. What are you doing?