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.

One Response to “Consumers and the Web 2.0 gift economy”

  1. Great quote!

    This is the best paper I read until now:
    “Sharing Nicely”: On shareable goods and the emergence of sharing as a modality of economic production
    Yochai Benkler
    The paper offers a framework to explain large scale effective practices of sharing private, excludable goods. It starts with case studies of distributed computing and carpooling as motivating problems. It then suggests a definition for “shareable goods” as goods that are lumpy and mid-grained in size, and explains why goods with these characteristics will have systematic overcapacity relative to the requirements of their owners. The paper then uses comparative transaction costs analysis, focused on information characteristics in particular, combined with an analysis of diversity of motivations, to suggest when social sharing will be better than secondary markets to reallocate this overcapacity to non-owners who require the functionality. The paper concludes with broader observations about the role of sharing as a modality of economic production as compared to markets and hierarchies (whether states or firms), with a particular emphasis on sharing practices among individuals who are strangers or weakly related, its relationship to technological change, and some implications for contemporary policy choices regarding wireless regulation, intellectual property, and communications network design.

    And maybe you are interested in this as well
    A Scarlet Letter For Second Life

    Residents of Second Life will be able share their opinions of people in the form of a five-star rating, which is designed to establish which individuals are commerce-worthy.

    But I don’t second live so I might be very wrong 😉

    So, what are you precisely looking for at the moment?

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