Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Gillmor: Gift Economy

In Dan Gillmor's book We The Media after writing eloquently about the development and history of weblogs and how they evolved, he quotes Jay Rosen to explain a few additional key facts about blogs. One caught my eye.

Jay writes this:

The weblog comes out of the gift economy, whereas most (not all) of today's journalism comes out of the market economy.

When I was speaking at Berkeley BlogOn a few weeks back, someone in the audience asked me a question about why we (crazy) bloggers blog for free and what was the story there.

I found it really annoying and depressing. I felt like they considered us weird circus animals or something -- like those little dogs that dance around in pink hoop skirts. And the notion that we had to defend our position -- that we actually do something because we enjoy it, feel compelled to do it and want to share with others -- for no monetary compensation -- shows you where things have gotten to. It's all about money. It's all about being paid. It's all about commerce. Ugh.

It was so hard to answer and I don't remember what the hell I answered. It's like asking painters why they paint paintings -- I don't know many who answer, "Just for the money."

I guess the worst part of the question was the lack of understanding that perhaps this is an artistic endeavor for many of us.

That coupled with the lack of appreciation for the "gift economy" and open source everything -- that working with and collaborating with your peers and helping educate others, or entertain them, or divert them or inform them -- that these are questionable enterprises because they are not monetarily rewarding -- this just got me down. If you've participated in such efforts, you understand the rewards are way beyond monetary -- and they are not just about ego. It feels good to help someone.

Ask me why I've diapered a lot of babies' bottoms. Ask me why I've given a lot of people directions on the street. Ask me why I let drivers back out of their driveways in front of me and beep beep to let them into traffic when it's safe and I can be gracious.