Blogging as a gift economy

On the surface, blogging does not make much sense. That's one of the reasons I enjoy blogging so much. It's open ended, up for grabs and free to be what I make it into for me. Last month I was fascinated to read the questions Tony got asked about blogging from someone new to it and puzzled by the strangeness. I got asked similar questions in an email from Adele. Since then, Tony has been pondering blogging as a replacement for discussion groups and as in need of a companion forum.

Blogging is not making much sense to me as asynchronous conversations, especially compared to the forums I became so active in nine years ago. Blogging content makes more sense to me (and Jay) as memes evolving as they move around from one blog to the next and as a community with diverse voices getting assimilated. Blogging resembles the open source movement in software development and wiki. Blogging makes the most sense to me as a gift economy.

Blogging looks generous to me. It appears as initiative, volunteerism, and unrewarded contributions. Bloggers are going the extra mile and beyond the call of duty. It does not pay directly or extrinsically. It's the effective practice of giver's gain, enlightened self-interest or community maintenance. The rewards are intrinsic and indirect. This gives me seven ways to make sense of why particular bloggers, blogs and blogging topics disappear or flourish.

  1. Initiative is a result of win/win negotiations. Willing cooperation and follow through disappear in a win/lose deal. We take initiative when the benefits are reciprocal and avoid the sacrifice when the deal is lopsided or taking advantage of our generosity.
  2. Gift economies emerge from leaderless, decentralized, "starfish" cultures. They disappear when the culture becomes centralized, headed-up and spider-like.
  3. Generosity and shared creativity flourishes when the tools of production and distribution are democratized and the search portals access "the long tail" of innovations. The outpouring dries up when a pipeline restricts exposure, seeks blockbuster, top ten titles and dismisses the "little guys with small followings".
  4. Cooperation emerges when participants are getting validated and included in the formulation of a consensus by those who "seek first to understand". Cooperation vanishes amidst exclusion and imposition of a restrictive doctrine by those who "seek first to get understood".
  5. Organizations thrive on open systems design, permeable boundaries and functioning feedback loops. Organizations die when closed, self-congratulatory and oblivious to environmental changes.
  6. Students go for extracurricular research and self-motivated exploration when given permission to come to their own conclusions from a guide on the side. Students become passive and bored when told what to think and forced to comply with "one right answer" by a sage on stage.
  7. Arts communities and cultural creatives flourish in a post modern context of multi-culturalism and empowered diversity. These disintegrate in a modern context of dominant narratives, cultural stereotypes and normative standards.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting viewpoint. "Altruistic" is usually not one of the first five words I'd use to describe myself. Your post has allowed me to see myself in a "more generous" light (that is, when I'm blogging)!