Internet gift economies
First Monday

Internet gift economies: Voluntary payment schemes as tangible reciprocity



Abstract
The Internet today is a mix of the ‘free and the fee’, though it still remains in part a gift economy. Personal and organisational sharing of free information, products and software continues to flourish as a circle of gifts for returned intangible reward. Though a perceived lack of these rewards, due in part to an inability to quantify them, has resulted in givers seeking more for their efforts. What are their revised motivations? What now are their rewards?

Confronted with this development, I suggest their rewards are voluntary payments as forms of tangible reciprocity. This paper therefore outlines the Internet as a gift economy. It suggests a conceptual path through gift economy principles to reveal voluntary payments as tangible reciprocity. It also documents an analysis of voluntary payment schemes as evidence of operationalising tangible reciprocity. I also introduce monetary, content and purpose gifting mechanisms as tangible reciprocity.

Contents

Introduction
Economies of abundance
Motivations for free content
Principles of the Internet gift economy
Facilitating reciprocity
Intangible rewards
Tangible rewards
Voluntary payment mechanisms
Monetary gifting
Content gifting
Purpose gifting
Conclusion

 


 

Introduction

Although the Internet started humbly as an educational resource based on free personal and organisational sharing, it is today a mixed economy of free and fee. The commercialisation of the Internet has been marked by a constant rise in e–commerce enterprises and fee–based content and services along side traditionally free varieties. Those that continue to champion gift economy principles do so for intangible returns such as notoriety or pride. Some even earn money from related developments based on their reputation. Reciprocity in this ‘circle of gifts’ assumes what is given will come back as others participate (Crawford, 2001). What happens if there is no tangible return or rewards are not quantifiable? I suggest that the gift economy weakens and content providers seek more than just intangible rewards — reciprocity in the form of tangible compensation.

To demonstrate that the Internet remains a gift economy, this paper describes voluntary payment schemes as examples of tangible reciprocity in the Internet gift economy. It describes the gift economy, its origins and relevance to the Internet, outlines the fundamental principles of the gift economy and suggests how these principles can lead to tangible reciprocity inside a working gift economy. The work concludes by outlining various mechanisms for voluntary payment as attempts to operationalise tangible reciprocity in the gift economy.

 

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Economies of abundance

Gift economies have been demonstrated throughout history (BBC, 2003; Leonard, 2000; Pinchot, 1995; Proussakov, 2001) hence the “ethical cornerstones for modern Western gift practices were laid long ago.” (Osteen, 2002) By reflecting on these histories, I see working gift economies as adaptations not to scarcity, but to abundance, “with a general, intangible expectation of return from the broader community.” (Surman and Wershler–Henry, 2002) Social status for givers is not determined by what is controlled, rather by what is given away. These histories also provide a valuable reference point to discuss the Internet as a society in which we “do not need to artificially restrict the infinite supply of digital goods, in order to ensure the creators and providers of those goods are properly rewarded.” (potlatch.net, 2001)

By utilising the phrase ‘gift economy’, digital anthropologists have consequently sought to explain how the Internet grew in its early years through the sharing of information. A much discussed occurrence best describes this practice — programmers contributing their own software tools to the Internet community, so that by their own example, they encourage others to give freely (Leonard, 2000). Raymond (2000) and others (Barbrook, 1998; Crawford, 2001; Ghosh, 1998; Kollock, 1999; Offer, 1997; Pinchot, 1995) have included gift economy theories when discussing the Internet.

 

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Motivations for free content

Most of these authors agree in principle with Sale, et al. (1997), that the Internet has been a pre–commercial environment for 25 years; a gift economy completely based on sharing. Nielsen (2000) explains further the Internet’s content evolved from “domination by academia”, where the sharing and citation of papers was an informal circle of gifts. Additionally, he notes the Internet is now an environment, despite its apparent commercialisation (Umstätter, 1995), containing “real services and real content, useful and interesting” for free. Motivation for the giving of this free content is, in most cases, no different than those of societies of the past, with the exception of marketing. In contrast, there seems to be an inability to quantify motivations and intangible rewards due to the seeming anonymity of the Internet. This may lead to a gift economy breakdown. To continue this discussion, this paper first follows an exploration of the motivations and intangible rewards of the Internet gift economy, to uncover a path suggesting voluntary payment schemes as acts of reciprocity.

 

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Principles of the Internet gift economy

Baird (n.d.) quotes Ralph Waldo Emerson’s nineteenth–century essay ‘Gifts’ in explaining the essence of the gift economy;

“The gift, to be true, must be the flowing of the giver unto me, correspondent to my flowing unto him.”

This certainly describes a gifting circle; though how do these gifts ‘flow’ through the gift economy as described by Emerson? Three fundamental principles are examined as my path to the answer;

  • exchange in the Internet gift economy facilitates reciprocity;
  • reciprocity in the form of intangible rewards; and,
  • intangible rewards leading to the tangible.

It has long been recognised that the low–cost, mass–publishing, mass–reproductive nature of the Internet facilitates the reproduction and distribution of products as gifts for little or no cost. Exchange in the Internet gift economy begins with the creation of a product, not unlike societies in the past, made available to the community at large for free. These products are a variety of digital items — Web pages, discussions or newsgroups, e–mail messages, MP3’s or other files including software and digitised newspaper and magazine articles. Despite being available for ‘free’, there is some expectation of return, from either the gift–receiver or the Internet community. Thus the first fundamental principle of the gift economy is a return or reciprocity.

 

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Facilitating reciprocity

Due to the synchronous and anonymous nature of the Internet, reciprocity is usually delayed and can be either direct or indirect. It can be delayed in the sense it is returned at a later stage, when the giver receives an intangible reward from a gift–receiver (direct) or they receive rewards or draw resources from the Internet community (indirect). The gift exchange is then considered complete, though in the case of the latter, a new sequence of gift exchange is created, thus enforcing the circle of gifts.

This example also shows how reciprocity can be indirect or ‘loose reciprocation’, where reciprocity occurs from a group as a whole rather than the individual who is the gift–receiver. This kind of gift–giving is risky as the giver provides a benefit without the expectation of immediate reciprocity. In either case, reciprocity can be a multitude of intangible rewards. Gaffin and Heitkötter (1994) agree “people … have a mixture of motives” when creating digital products as gifts on the Internet. Correspondingly, the second fundamental principle of the gift economy is that reciprocity can be in the form of intangible rewards, such as reputation, anticipated reciprocity and self–esteem.

 

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Intangible rewards

Enhanced reputation (Ghosh, 1998; Kelty, 2001; Kollock, 1999; Raymond, 2000) or the desire for prestige (Kollock, 1999) are first examples of intangible reciprocation. For instance, “when someone [makes] a contribution to a shareware project, the gift of their labour is rewarded by recognition within the community of user–developers.” (Barbrook, 1998) This type of intangible reward is similar to citation reciprocity in academic arenas as described by Kelty (2001). The second example is “anticipated reciprocity” (Kollock, 1999); making available specific digital products or gifts, fully expecting to get similar gifts back in exchange. Some Internet gift–giving is exchanged on the basis that contributions from others will balance that of their own (Ghosh, 1998) for example, peer–to–peer music exchanges. This intangible reward centres itself around unwritten social contracts, in some cases finding parallels with the phrase “one good deed deserves another” or Karmic [1] schools of thought.

Other less prominent forms of motivation can also be found leading to self–esteem as reciprocity. Satisfaction may come from popularity or the “appreciation and enjoyment of a chosen and necessary task” (Give and Take, n.d.). Many people around the world make their digital products available simply for the satisfaction of their words being read by millions (Ghosh, 1998). Regular and high–quality contributions to a group can help people believe they have impact on the group and supports their own self–image as an efficacious person (Kollock, 1999). Kollock also describes a further two motivations. The giver may feel there is a sense of need for their gift, therefore they produce and contribute a public good for the simple reason that a person or the group as a whole has a need for it. Additionally, attachment is a motivation where the giver contributes to the group because that is what is best for the group.

Despite the need for reciprocity and its possible manifestation as intangible rewards, in some cases, reciprocity does not occur or is not perceived by the giver. Consequently, there is no apparent ‘circle of gifts’. The giver may feel they are providing content with no expectation of intangible benefit and may therefore stop participating in the gift economy. Or they may look for tangible reward. Thus the third principle of the gift economy is intangible rewards may lead to tangible rewards.

 

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Tangible rewards

Other than by personal perception, intangible reward accounting may be difficult to reconcile in the Internet gift economy. The giver may not be able to quantify or perceive any value to the intangible reciprocity they receive. Namely, their intangible rewards may not “seem substantial enough to make much of an economy.” (Ghosh, 1998) Some have tried to create online managers for reputation (Nielsen, 1998), though as Offer (1997) suggests, reputation may remain elusive and considered an invisible term of trade. As a result, a breakdown may occur in the expected returns from Internet gifting and the giver may be unsure of their true reputation capital and conjointly, seek alternate reciprocity.

Furthermore, Ghosh (1998) believes that even though reputation may encourage givers by providing gratification, we must spare a thought for those creators ill prepared or unable to reap reciprocity from Internet contributions. Also, for those who cannot find anything of great interest there. Finally, there may be a conscience decision by the giver to trade their intangible rewards in, from their historical participation in the Internet gift economy. Hence “reputation capital can help earn tangible monetary returns.” (Ghosh, 1998)

 

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The risks within the Internet gift economy leading to the tangible reciprocity being sought involve identity protection and anonymity. They also include copyright issues (Bollier, 2002; Hapgood, 2000; potlatch.net, 2001) and advertising ineffectiveness (Brownlow, 2001b; Crosbie, 2003; Goddard, 2002; Keirnan, 2002; Stalder, 1999). Likewise, the ability for users to ‘free–ride’ or ‘lurk’ on the Internet can upset the balance of reciprocity. Although users often lurk in some ways and contribute in others, all members have to be excessive in their generosity (Surman and Wershler–Henry, 2002) for a gift economy to continue to function. What I suggest is an inbalance of lurking and free–riding on the Internet means more information may be taken out than put in, without the implicit reciprocity (as payment for the givers contribution) required to keep the gift economy working. Again, the circle of gifts therefore weakens and traditional gift–givers may begin looking to commodity–economy models as replacement reward.

As Raymond (2000) concludes, there may be more than one way to run an Internet gift economy. Commodity–economy models may be required to support or live along side the gift economy, where the circle of gifts is either not working or perceived not to be enough. There is certainly some evidence of this already on the Internet [2]. Using an example from Barbrook (1998), an online conference site may be constructed as a labour of love (gift economy), but still be partially funded (supported) by advertising and public money (commodity–economy). In this way, he maintains commodity and gift relations are not just in conflict with each other, but co–exist in symbiosis. I also suggest an additional example; gifts given in return for marketing exposure, eventually resulting in commodity reciprocity as a sale. Crawford (2002) also supports this “mixed economy” theory, such as the emergence of paid and free Internet content. Notwithstanding commodity–economy partners of the gift economy, I must question them in a similar manner to Stalder (1999). How is it possible to introduce implicit tangible rewards for gifts. How can they be tangible whilst also maintaining the reciprocal spirit of a gift economy? One answer leads me to the main premise of this paper; a variety of voluntary payment schemes comprising monetary and non–monetary gifting as tangible compensation.

 

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Voluntary payment mechanisms

Volunteerism is one of the central attributes of the Internet (Werry, 1999). For this reason, payments made voluntarily could be seen as a valuable extension of the gift economy. Not payment in the concept of commodities, rather a novel way to reciprocate by gifting the supplier tangibly. I can only agree if the payments are seen as ‘anti–commerce’, not implicit prices for goods or services, thus retaining the reciprocal spirit of the gift economy. Unlike true commodity–economy transactions, where by definition, both parties see value as fixed by price (Ghosh, 1998), voluntary payments do not have a price tag. The value of a voluntary payment is set by the intrinsic value defined by the gift–receiver. Voluntary payments promote what is in effect, indiscriminatory pricing, assuming reciprocators can choose the size of their gift. This supports a voluntary ‘gifting’ action.

Bollier (2002) states “the [Internet] does not lend itself to imposed control”. Accordingly, there are a number of voluntary payment schemes available for tangible gift economy reciprocity. Any discussion on these schemes should therefore be centred on the main philosophy of each; they are each slightly different in the way they can be gifted. To that end, the schemes in this paper are introduced as being monetary, content or purpose gifting. It is also important to note this paper does not attempt to discuss total compensation for content provision nor income streams, as these are more discussions about commodity–economies. Rather I look at voluntary payment schemes as examples of tangible forms of reciprocity in the Internet gift economy. The first of such is monetary gifting.

 

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Monetary gifting

When one thinks of money in exchange for something, thoughts of commodity–economies come to mind. Certainly money given as a gift may be considered in some cases a bribe, though as Offer (1997) explains, some acts of cash reciprocity are enhanced if given voluntarily. So if money can be given voluntarily as tangible reciprocity, what mechanisms are available? Monetary gifting in the Internet gift economy consists of tipping and donation mechanisms.

In the case of tipping, users of the Internet convert their reciprocated appreciation of some gift in the form of a virtual tip [3]. In the offline world, tips are usually collected in a tip jar or bowl by performers or bar staff; online, it is not very different. It seems online tipping has largely been utilised as reciprocity for musical content–gifting and can be depicted as a form of “applause” (Johnson, 2002). Some have also said tipping is a way for guilt–ridden users of the Internet to complete the circle of gifts, commenced by their downloading copyright content (Charny, 2000; Siffert, n.d.). Tipping may therefore be a way for these gift–receivers to complete their obligations in the gift economy via tangible reciprocity.

The Tipster Protocol is one such voluntary payment mechanism operationalising online tipping. The design goal of the Tipster Protocol was to make it as easy as possible for people to connect with the creator of a specific piece of digital content, for purposes which may include making a voluntary payment in appreciation [4].

Another similar tipping mechanism, in some respects quite different to Tipster, is the Potlatch Protocol. The Potlatch Protocol is a micropayment system in which individuals create and transmit small payment certificates consisting of digitally signed XML promissory notes. Content providers with high reputations — those that gift the most or are seen as the providers of good products — accumulate these notes until they reach a convenient negotiable sum. They then sell them in aggregate to a third party who presents them for settlement. This protocol allows voluntary tips to be made, “enhance[ing] the reputation of both the giver and the receiver, a win–win or synergistic relationship … .” (potlatch.net, 2001) If the gift–receiver pays, albeit voluntarily, they gain reputation as a reliable “settler” with the payment intermediary; if they do not, their reputation suffers.

As a result, the Tipster Protocol creates two separate though linked circle of gifts in the one exchange. Not only does the user receive a gift, for which they may voluntarily provide monetary reciprocity, the exchange also creates an intangible reward for the gift–receiver. Their “user account is given a good ‘reputation’ for following through with their promise to pay.” (Siffert, n.d.)

Donations are a second example of monetary gifting on the Internet. Pinchot (1995) reveals that sufficient material successes may be required to ensure the existence of offerings for free on the Internet. It is in this way voluntary donation and pledge drives are different to tipping mechanisms. They have emerged on the Internet to raise general funds and “help to keep valuable [free] resources going.” (Crawford, 2002) Branscum (2001) quotes Jerry Michalski’s theory that “the whole idea of contributions, donations, and patronage is coming into its own as a significant fuel for interesting ideas, services, and stuff.”

Donating is therefore the act of giving to a fund or cause and translates to general payments to a Web site for continued free content. Jay (2000) mentions there may be distinct methods of soliciting such reciprocity, such as goal–based soliciting. The Blogger Server Fund is a famous example. In 1999, an appeal was launched for donations to improve Blogger (www.blogger.com), a free hosting site for Web logs. Only a week later, the appeal had raised US$10,622.71 and was enough to buy three new servers (Branscum, 2001) to support continued free content. The rationale? Blogger is a gift and the providers in turn asked their users to return the gift (potlatch.net, 2001) via tangible reciprocity.

As well as these informal methods of donation, other formalised methods do exist. Firstly, the Worthwright Method tracks an individual’s visits to participating Web sites and furnishes the gift–receiver with a monthly report. The report suggests a “donation amount based on their level of activity and the donations of other [gift–receivers] for comparable activity.” (Transparent Methods, 2001) Consequently, this method not only quantifies the number of gifts the user is receiving, though also suggests an amount of monetary reciprocity for those gifts. It also attempts to utilise social pressures in the form of what others donated, to influence the amount of the donation. Secondly, perhaps the most documented donation mechanism is the Amazon Honor System.

The Amazon Honor System is a development where Web site owners can request gift–receivers to make a donation for site upkeep (in lieu of mandatory subscription fees) through www.amazon.com (Brownlow, 2001a). This is achieved by placing an Amazon sponsored donation box on the front page of participating sites (Bener, 2001) and closes the gap of delayed reciprocity in the Internet gift economy. Gift–receivers can provide instant reciprocity in the form of an immediate donation and these methods are creating an on–going, organised gift economy.

What happens however when social pressures or the “sense [that gift–receivers] probably should” tip or donate is not motivation enough to do so? There exists a subset of monetary gifting attempting to motivate the gift–receiver; motivational gifting mechanisms such as the Street Performer Protocol and the closely related Storyteller’s Bowl and Stephen King Protocol.

To summarise Kelsey and Schneier (1999) in explaining the Street Performer Protocol, a product (gift) is released in free installments and the threat is made that the next installment will not be released unless a certain quota of donations is met. The giver does not care who donates, nor do they care who gets it for free after all the donations have been received. The giver is only concerned the value they place on the gift is reciprocated by one or many gift–receivers, in tangible, monetary rewards. The Storyteller’s Bowl [5] operates similarly and variations of both methods have been tested, such as the approach taken by Stephen King.

Colloquially called the “Stephen King Protocol”, King segmented his novel “The Plant” into chapters and released them online in parts. Users chose whether to send voluntary payments [6] for each part. Regardless of who paid, all payments in aggregate needed to reach an undisclosed price set by King to release the next part, otherwise it would not be released. Despite King being famous, this system is excellent for givers unsure of their reputation capital. Lesser–known content providers can obtain tangible reciprocity, provided an audience gets “sucked in” (Jay, 2000) by their first episodes.

So why do gift–receivers reciprocate in the gift economy with monetary gifts? Kelsey and Schneier suggest gift–receivers can ensure their reciprocity is recognised by the giver. Online monetary transactions are often associated with a person’s name, allowing no doubt as to who sent the reciprocation. Moreover, by gifting money, they may be financing future free content. As a result, there is an immediate and future effect of their tangible reciprocity and a continuation of the Internet gift economy.

It is also interesting to see, not unlike the Internet itself, elements of the free–rider effect exist in voluntary payment schemes. Other than motivational gifting mechanisms, most voluntary payment schemes have no safeguards against non–reciprocity. As a newsgroup reported (Moneyflow, 2001), “over time, this [may] make the paying people feel cheated and question their incentive …” to pay voluntarily at all. Their reason for not paying may also be due to being uncomfortable with monetary gifting. Other mechanisms for tangible reciprocity must therefore be available else the circle of gifts will not continue. They are available and can be described as content or purpose gifting.

 

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Content gifting

An excellent example of content gifting is Memeware. Pinchot (1995) writes, “information … loses value over time and has the capacity to satisfy more than one. In many cases, information gains rather than loses value through sharing”. This is certainly a belief held by those who gift content as Memeware, providing it is “propagated as an alternative to paying for it” (Wikipedia, 2003). Givers utilising this type of voluntary payment scheme care more about spreading particular memes [7] around the Internet, than any possible financial reward.

 

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Purpose gifting

Wish lists however, are an opportunity for givers to receive reciprocity in the form of purpose gifting. One example is the Amazon Wish List, who describe their concept as a “great way for people to let others know the things they would most like to own” (www.amazon.com). Purpose gifting is distinctly different to monetary gifts, as products constitute the reciprocity. In some cases, it also gives the original gift–receiver an opportunity to direct content in ways they might like to see it. This has become popular in Web log or ‘blog’ content such as the Fuzzy Blog [8], which accepts reciprocity in the form of books and considers the gift of a book a ‘hint’ the user would like more content along that topic. Similarly, letusplay.net reminds their gift–receivers they prefer purpose gifting reciprocity from their wish list:

“While forces of the world are being requestioned and reconstituted, we are offering you … a relationship. Only if you like what you read, hear and see on these pages, you can repay producers, creators, presumers and administrators of this space (skylined.org, letusplay.net, tsotso.org) by choosing a gift from our wish list and buying it for us. Essentially they are all books, some very cheap, some more expensive. Find your suitable price. All you need is a credit card. This is your road towards gift economy.” [9]

 

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A slightly different approach can be seen by the invention of entirely new mechanisms, comprising the exchange of human help as gifts. One such invention is GIFTegrity [10], a play on the words ‘gift’ and ‘tensegrity’. Despite perhaps being a miniature gift economy in its own right, the GIFTegrity is an excellent example of purpose gifting. When GIFTegrity is joined, the person registers as a Giver–Giftee. In the capacity of Giver, the user lists the types of help they would like to give other members. As Giftee, they list the types of help they would like to receive. The GIFTegrity is also similar to the Potlatch Protocol in one way; the circle of gifts created by the GIFTegrity enhances the reputation of the giver and the receiver, a win–win or synergistic relationship. Exchanging help is made visible to all members via a record of all gifting and receiving exchanges. Every time a giver helps, their rating goes up and hence their reputation improves.

 

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Conclusion

By a variety of guises, voluntary payments schemes operationalise reciprocity, allowing participants in the Internet’s gift economy to send tangible gifts to the giver. Those that cannot or will not contribute to the pool of Internet content or to the giver’s intangible rewards, can provide reciprocity another way. Although each scheme is slightly different in gift generation, they all allow givers to tangibly monitor their reward accounting whilst continuing to provide free content. In some cases, money is given as a tip or donation without being considered a bribe or distinct ‘payment’. In other schemes, reciprocity is the present of a book from a wish list or the use of a mower for the weekend. By following a path discussing three gift economy principles, this paper has explained a fourth, as a legitimate offering within the circle of gifts.

Beyond the advantages of voluntary gifting, there are a few issues not discussed in this paper that should be investigated in subsequent works, to appreciate the full value of the reciprocity. For example, does economic machinery behind voluntary payment schemes could introduce transaction costs and thus reduce the value of gift? Additionally, care needs to be taken to ensure the giver is receiving gifts as gift economy reciprocity, not payment to produce.

Despite its commercialisation and the mix of fee and free content, the Internet remains a gift economy. Yet it is clear those continuing to champion gift economy principles are now doing so for mixed returns; intangible rewards such as notoriety or pride and also monetary and non–monetary gifts. As a result and to reiterate the words of potlatch.net (2001), “a system of voluntary payments as gifts [seems] both an appropriate and necessary economic structure” to aid in the Internet remaining a gift economy in the future. End of article

 

About the author

Kylie Veale is a PhD Candidate (Internet Studies) at Curtin University of Technology, Australia, researching virtual genealogical communities and their Internet–based communications, resources and environs. She also holds a Masters in Internet Studies and a graduate degree in Information Environments.
E–mail: kylie [at] veale [dot] com [dot] au

 

Acknowledgements

The author would like to thank Professor Matt Allen and colleague Paul Fitzpatrick for their comments and support.

 

Notes

1. “Karma is an intentional action, that is, a deed done deliberately through body, speech or mind. It is a natural law that every action produces a certain effect. So if one does wholesome actions, such as helping people in need, one will experience happiness. On the other hand, if one does unwholesome actions such as hurting other beings, one will experience suffering. This is the law of cause and effect at work.” From http://web.singnet.com.sg/~alankhoo/Karma.htm.

2. There are exceptions to commodity–economy model usage on the Internet, also the topic of many other writings on the Internet gift economy. For example, Offer notes that “some forms of gifting are used to subvert the ‘rules of the game’”, not for the generalised rewards for the gift economy as previously described. This would include free software, as programmers and hackers are still trying to subvert the dominant market commodity paradigm. Additionally, pornography and online dating sites will more than likely remain pay–for–access sites due to the nature of the content and the need to protect unauthorised access by minors.

3. A tip is a small sum of money given to someone for performing a service; also know as a gratuity, favour or gift. It is usually in the form of money, given as appreciation for the service.

4. Espra is one real example of this protocol in use. When downloading free content, Espra users see a window pop–up that lists the provider’s name, the song title, plus a special link that reads ‘tip artist’ (Kushner, 2001). Other Internet providers follow this example by implementing tipping mechanisms similar in concept to the Tipster Protocol. Fairtunes (www.fairtunes.com) is an automated method to collect contributions from gift–receivers for downloaded musical content. TryMedia (www.trymedia.com) is an online environment where listeners can make voluntarily contributions (Lee, 2001) for the free gifts they receive.

5. In the ‘old days’ offline, a storyteller would come to a market–day, offer the start of a story and then wait until his bowl was full before finishing the story. Sometimes a rich man paid for the story, so others could hear and sometimes everyone in the crowd tossed in whatever coin they could afford. In the online version, “each party interested in eventually reading a work makes a donation towards the payment of the value of the work, as set by the author. When the price is met, the work is made freely available online.” (Jay, 2000) Interestingly, this model requires both intangibility and tangibility to work. As Jay explains, the Storyteller’s Bowl will likely work better for authors with established reputations or a loyal audience already in place (intangibility), since it is easier to get people to pay (tangibility) for something up front, if they know what they are getting.

6. Contrary to the nature of the gift economy, King set the price of the voluntary payment to “US$1 for the first three parts and US$2 for the second two” (Harrison, 2001). Some argue that this move went “against the idea of allowing people to pay what they feel it is worth or what they can afford” (Tipping Financed Art, 2003). Although King regards his experiment unsuccessful, he received in excess of US$700,000 (Harrison, 2001) for the five serialised parts in aggregate!

7. A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another (www.dictionary.com).

8. http://scott.blogs.at/stories/2002/05/27/bloggingAndAGiftEconomyForAppreciationOrIfIWereJeffBezos.html.

9. http://letusplay.net/gift/.

10. http://futurepositive.synearth.net/stories/storyReader$261.

 

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Editorial history

Paper received 27 August 2003; accepted 11 November 2003.


Copyright © 2003, First Monday.

Copyright © 2003, Kylie J. Veale.

Internet gift economies: Voluntary payment schemes as tangible reciprocity
by Kylie J. Veale.
First Monday, Volume 8, Number 12 - 1 December 2003
http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/1101/1021





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