Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Social Economy

Benkler, von Hippel, Weber, and many others showed us that the Internet has liberated many economies. One economy is the traditional “commercial economy,” an economy regulated by the quid pro quo: I’ll do this (work, write, sing, etc.) in exchange for money (which is a recognised intangible symbol with an international reputation). Another economy is (the names are many) the (a) amateur economy, (b) sharing economy, (c) social production economy, (d) noncommercial economy, or (e) p2p economy. Even the Bitcoin economy. This alternative economies (however you name them, I’m just going to call them the “second economy”) is the economy of Wikipedia, most open source development, the work of amateur astronomers, etc. It has a different, more complicated logic to it than the commercial economy. If you tried to translate all interactions in this second economy into the frame of the commercial economy, you’d kill it.

Having now seen the extraordinary value of this second economy, I think most would agree we need to think lots about how best to encourage it — what techniques are needed to call it into life, how is it sustained, what makes it flourish. I don’t think anyone knows exactly how to do it well. Those living in real second economy communities (such as Wikipedia) have a good intuition about it.

But a second and also extremely difficult problem is how, or whether, the economies can be linked. Is there a way to cross over from the commercial to second economy? Is there a way to manage a hybrid economy — one that tries to manage this link.

Social Media now has a cousin called Social Economy.