Sometimes I am asked to explain what we are trying to do at ContributionEconomy.net. My best answer is to investigate the non-monetary motivations for innovation and knowledge creation and distribution. That helps define it against other scholarly endeavours.
This week, Wil Wilkinson went deeper in his post on “old school blogging.” I’m not sure which bits to quote but you should read the whole lot:
A blog is a sort of history of one’s mind, like a diary or a journal, but it’s public and that makes a huge difference. I think the public existence of my blog stabilizes my sense of self. The idea that the self is an “illusion” tends to be grounded on the false assumption that if the self is anything at all, it must be a stable inward personal quiddity available to introspection. But of course there is no such thing. …. According to my my idiosyncratic adaptionist just-so story, a self is an app of the organism “designed” to play iterated cooperative games, and we desire a sense of stable identity because a stable identity keeps us in the repeated games that pay. (Also those that don’t. The self can be a trap.) Expectation, reputation, obligation–these are what make the self coalesce, and the more locked in those expectation and obligations become, the more solid the self feels. There’s nothing wrong with blogging for money, but the terms of social exchange are queered a little by the cash nexus. A personal blog, a blog that is really your own, and not a channel of the The Daily Beast or Forbes or The Washington Post or what have you, is an iterated game with the purity of non-commercial social intercourse. The difference between hanging out and getting paid to hang out. Anyway, in old-school blogging, you put things out there, broadcast bits of your mind. You just give it away and in return maybe you get some attention, which is nice, and some gratitude, which is even nicer. The real return, though, is in the conclusions people draw about you based on what you have said, about what what you have said says about you, about what it means relative to what you used to say. People form expectations about you. They start to imagine a character of you, start to write a little story about you. Some of this is validating, some is irritating, and some is downright hateful. In any case it all contributes to self-definition, helps the blogger locate and comprehend himself as a node in the social world.
This strikes me as right — certainly in feeling — but potentially more. Somehow I think that if we can get to the heart of this we might understand the contribution economy.