I will put a little image right next to this line, on which you can click if you want to express your appreciation with real money. Directly, without having to stop reading, going to the bank, opening another website, writing a check, or sending the maid for some loose change to give to the poor writer who’s at your doorstep with his pamphlet. You can express your gratitude instantly.
At first sight the idea sounds charming to me, who not so secretly hopes to make a living from the fruits of his pen. But wait a minute. This transaction is a voluntary donation, you don’t buy my writings – you get nothing in return except perhaps for your own satisfaction resulting from having supported something vague enough to make you feel philosophical.
I think I think this might be the way forward for our economy, or to use a less confusing phrase, for our way to split the cake. Buying digital products isn’t going to last very long. Not only are they copied and distributed through clandestine networks faster than they can be protected, it also becomes less and less clear what the “object” is the buyer buys.
It’s about the right to access or the right to reproduce. But information will be freed: wikipedia (and hundreds of other wikis and pedantic pedia’s exist). Youtube shows how eager people are to share, and how the quality of what is shared surpasses everything you’d have to pay for (not to mention the xxx versions of youtube, responsible for a staggeringly high percentage of internet traffic showing the true exhibitionist nature of humankind).
People prefer sharing information. Messages appear on twitter, reliable and cheap, long before they hit major commercial news sites. With the internet culture, labor mechanization might have taken a decisive step towards reveiling its self-contradiction. Value (appreciation) won’t come from more labor input, but from – less labor input. For the work ethos, the last expression maybe of the Christian soul, there will be the scrapyard of history.
Imagine a village community with a culture of cheerful sharing. There would be no place for a commercial mind trying to make money by selling any kind of information. The very fact that it is “paid” means it is undesirable.
Now as the “global village” is in the making we might be headed towards this. It is a long transformation because our solid twentieth-century ideology: It’s no Good if it is for Free. Or: “Like Me Because You Pay Me”.
This is the most important change on the internet and hence in our society. It’s a slow progress and we won’t notice it until we look back over our shoulders in 2025 and are astonished by the strange ideas of the early years of our millennium, the early years when economies tried to optimize production-consumption rather than appreciation-happiness.
By the way, this kind of auto-reflectivity is ubiquitous on the net and I don’t like it all that much.