World Transformation: Internet Gift Economies
 Internet Gift Economies
picture 30 Apr 2004 @ 16:59, by ming

From Synergic Earth News: Kylie J. Veale writes: The Internet today is a mix of the ‘free and the fee’, though it still remains in part a gift economy. Personal and organisational sharing of free information, products and software continues to flourish as a circle of gifts for returned intangible reward. Though a perceived lack of these rewards, due in part to an inability to quantify them, has resulted in givers seeking more for their efforts. What are their revised motivations? What now are their rewards? Confronted with this development, I suggest their rewards are voluntary payments as forms of tangible reciprocity. This paper therefore outlines the Internet as a gift economy. It suggests a conceptual path through gift economy principles to reveal voluntary payments as tangible reciprocity. It also documents an analysis of voluntary payment schemes as evidence of operationalising tangible reciprocity. I also introduce monetary, content and purpose gifting mechanisms as tangible reciprocity. Although the Internet started humbly as an educational resource based on free personal and organisational sharing, it is today a mixed economy of free and fee. The commercialisation of the Internet has been marked by a constant rise in e-commerce enterprises and fee-based content and services along side traditionally free varieties. Those that continue to champion gift economy principles do so for intangible returns such as notoriety or pride. Some even earn money from related developments based on their reputation. Reciprocity in this ‘circle of gifts’ assumes what is given will come back as others participate (Crawford, 2001). What happens if there is no tangible return or rewards are not quantifiable? I suggest that the gift economy weakens and content providers seek more than just intangible rewards — reciprocity in the form of tangible compensation. To demonstrate that the Internet remains a gift economy, this paper describes voluntary payment schemes as examples of tangible reciprocity in the Internet gift economy. It describes the gift economy, its origins and relevance to the Internet, outlines the fundamental principles of the gift economy and suggests how these principles can lead to tangible reciprocity inside a working gift economy. The work concludes by outlining various mechanisms for voluntary payment as attempts to operationalise tangible reciprocity in the gift economy. (02/04/04)

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