Consumers and the Web 2.0 gift economy
I’m doing a lot of reading on gift and information exchange in virtual communities at the moment. Much has been said about the online gift economies, or cultures in which information and objects (if relevant) are freely distributed amongst their members because of the ease with which this can be done and low cost to givers. While this is interesting from a descriptive point of view, I’m interested in the interpersonal decisions which make online person-to-person exchange tick.
A space like Second Life demands a closer reading too because interaction in-world is restricted by one-to-one processes (where people have relationships and reputations within their direct networks which have implications for deciding who is most appropriate/in need/deserving of a bit of information or a gift) but with many of the same benefits of the virtual gift economy. Further, there are ownership issues which contradict what many virtual gift economy theorists propose.
Having flailed around almost 20 articles around the subject – ranging from discussions on Generalised Exchange theories to Christmas gift-giving to gender differences in perceptions of value to peer-to-peer music sharing, I discovered this paper, which looks at the most-researched area in this field: Open Source Communities. Fostering cooperation on the internet: social exchange processs in innovative virtual consumer communities by Amanda Hemetsberger is different from the rest though, because it does the sociological description I’ve come to expect (these things are neat because…) and then offers some practical advice for companies and organisations who are interested in exploring social marketing opportunities in these spaces. The best quote from the article is here:
… a company’s role should no longer be limited to providing products and services. Success – under these circumstances – rather becomes a question of designing a system of inherently joyful and challenging activities and tasks within which consumers can create their own value embedded in a common purpose. Companies will have to provide Know-How and develop the knowledge necessary for consumers to become innovative.
This demands the establishment of a community owned environment where knowledge creation, social interaction and cooperation can take place. However, creating knowledge and encourage contributions requires organizational structures that go beyond technology. Sharing, voluntary exchange and helping can only prosper within a culture of openness. The currencies for exchange are products, knowledge and reputation, rather than money and career concerns. These are important prerequisites in order to establish trusting relationships with creative expert consumers.
A sound bit of advice. Unfortunately, it’s not exactly what I’m looking for at the minute tho.
~ by aleks on March 16, 2007.