I believe that networked culture – what I call OS3 – has a great deal to learn from oral culture, which I call OS1. Because they are both all about dialogues. Whereas OS2 culture – which currently dominates our world – is all about monologues.
The reason that OS3 has a lot to learn from OS1 (and not the other way around) is that OS1 has been around for almost 2 million years, whereas OS3 is just a few decades old. Oral peoples have been managing their dialogical culture in a sustainable manner forever. Or they were, until OS2 came along and exterminated most of them. But OS1 is still kicking around here and there, vital enough that we can learn from it. In fact we have to learn from OS1 before it is too late, before OS2 crashes and takes us all with it.
One thing OS3 can learn from OS1 is the value of Public Gifting.
Oral cultures didn’t have money. But they did have commerce. That is to say that they exchanged goods. But how did they do this without money? They answer is that they did it through Public Gifting.
Public Gifting allowed goods to circulate from those who had to those who needed. And it served to create loyal relationships. Public Gifting strengthened communities by promoting ethical collectivist behaviour and personal responsibility, and also by celebrating merit. Because those who were the most successful hunters, for example, received recognition and proved their skill precisely by giving the most food away. And of course there is nothing like a party with an open bar – or a roast stag – to raise spirits and nurture healthy relationships. And thus Public Gifting enhanced the sustainability and strength of OS1 communities.
OS3 already does a lot of Public Gifting, but we need more. Examples of OS3 Public Gifting include ‘Open Source’ software and ‘Shareware”. Both of these practices involve publicly giving away something of value and receiving credit for that gift from the community or individuals that use it. Creative Commons licensing is another example of Public Gifting. These are all very healthy activities, and they can even be very lucrative. When James Schmalz released Epic Pinball as a shareware game he hoped to make a few thousands dollars from it. instead he received over 1 million dollars in the mail – all in 5 and 10 dollar amounts – within a year. He used that money to found the hugely successful gaming company Digital Extremes and he hasn’t looked back since.
Public Gifting strengthens communities and mutually beneficial personal relationships. It’s a healthy and sustainable model for human commerce, and I think that the more of it that occurs in OS3 culture the better off we will all become.
Which is why today I would like to Publicly Gift a copy of the ‘Gift Edition’ of my new book, You Are Your Media, to the industrious and inventive peer-to-peer activist and philosopher Michel Bauwens, whose Foundation for Peer To Peer Alternatives offers what I think is the world’s most comprehensive, useful and well-considered set of resources for building a sustainable OS3 civilization. You can keep up with all kinds of cool ideas and actions by following the P2P Foundation blog at: http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/.
Michel, your ‘Gift Edition’ of You Are Your Media will be arriving soon. Thanks for all your excellent work!