Auf der Suche nach dem Neuen im Alten
Artikel drucken

Brief an Genevieve Vaughan

I share this letter with the Keimform community because I think it is a part of necessary and fruitful dialogues that we have to start. In a different colour (blue)  I also included Genevieves answer which came rather swiftly and hopefully shows that dialogue is not only possible but also might lead to results.



we met up shortly after your Friday evening speech at the „Matriarchy-Gift Economy – Subsistence“ seminar at the Vienna University of Agriculture and we had the opportunity to have a little chat afterwards at the buffet generously offered by Gerda Schneiders Institute of Landscape Planning. I talked to you about the feelings that I had as a strong advocate of non-monetary economics about your speech. And I announced that I would make them more precise in a letter. I share this letter with some friends that are at the heart of the matter.

There are some reservations I do have and it is necessary to talk about them (see below), but basically I agree with your central points:

* All human relations start with unilateral acts, the act of mothering being a great paradigm and root of social relations. And since this is the roots of the fulfillments of our needs it is more than fair to say that economics is not necessarily built on exchange and that the primordial paradigm maybe rather giving.

GV: Yes, I also think that we should keep the mother-child relation as the central example.


* Whereas an economy of exchange tends to be largely anti-social, not really determined by the „use and needs“ – complex, but mainly just by appeal and impulse, value and money, an economy of giving in the contrary is communicative and transitive and creates and maintains social bonds that an exchange economy can only create by outside additions (rules, law, state).



* Giving directly to satisfy someones needs is a mode of distribution. Under this mode value is not self-feeding and excluding, but pervasive and contageous, not dead but living.

In direct giving, value is a quality or judgement  given more to the other than the self more to people than to the things given.


* The transitive relation of giving implies a positive interest of social actors in each others well-being and growing and carry a refined form of communicative abilities.


* A gift economy can only thrives and therefore wants and enacts a state of abundance rather than scarcity. The market relation in this respect simply is not only a product of scarcity but also a very primordial creator of scarcity. Historically we might observe that giving structures brought with them abundance.



* Exchange economy can an exploit gift economy, not the other way round.

The market is built on the exploitation of the gift economy. However there are moments in the context of the market where gift giving is dependent on exchange, such as the family which is dependent on market activity to provide the means of giving, or jobless people on government welfare who are seen by others as ‘dependent’. This is a situation caused by the generalized market economy which has already taken all the free gifts as profit, and has therefore made it impossible for people to subsist on their own from nature or in collaborative gift-based efforts.

* Gift economy works better in fractal situations (groups small enough to carry personal relationships) and in situations where humans are directly linked with their source of subsistence, therefore it is intrinsically linked to a form of living where humans have access to their own productive means and conditions. The urban form of our existence is not ideal for gift economy.

Yes but I do not understand why you call this ‘fractal’.


The last point is very important for me, because I organize a laboratory for the future of villages called the „Globally Integrated Village Environment“ and I propose and promote a global organisation called the „Global Villages Network„. The idea of both endavours is that villages rooted in humanly refined nature can thrive much better on the base of global information exchange revolutionising each and every sphere and angle of life in an unprecedented depth – and making the village circumstance enjoyable and agreeable.

Perhaps you will tell me more about your idea.

Therefore my coming was no accident. There is a deep conviction that this information exchange must not be subdued to the market logic (although its actors still might be in many respects). I was reinforced by my meeting with you that we are on the track of something substantial here. Still I was getting sad when the whole argument  suddenly did end up with a request for the reinstallation of motherly power, it seems to me like my friend Michel Bauwens (P2P Foundation)  expressed it this way: “ I have the feeling their views are very binary, gift economy = female = good; exchange = male = bad“. The inherent dangers of this polarity or dichotomy are obvious.

I think the kind of gender construction we have in the West and the system we have created around it are the problem. This gender construction makes little boys believe they should be different from their mothers, and thus not-giving, not ‘feminine’. The male gender ideal of competition for domination fits with capitalism. This takes males away from their human gift giving identity they learned with their mothers  and causes the female givers to give more to the not-givers/dominators. It is not that men are bad and women are good. It is that the gender constructions become embedded very early on in two opposed economic logics, one of which takes from the other (which gives to it). These gender constructions do not become part of everyone in the same way, but they are widespread in our society.

It denies respect to one half of mankind and what they have achieved in history, denouncing their very essence as unproductive, parasitic and valueless. It creates the danger of scission, of another power struggle. When we reached that point in your speech, my neighbor, a middle aged woman who was deeply sympathetic about the cause, whispered to me: „Its sad women are not free from the addiction of seeking revenge“.

I believe revernge is made on the logic of exchange, ‘paying’ someone back for what they have done so I do not believe in revenge. In fact my book is called For-Giving. Revenge is not part of the gift paradigm.

I do believe though that women’s and especially mothers’ points of view have not been represented in history except perhaps in some men’s re working of them.

I thought about the endless contributions in science, I thought of the long line of enlightened men who contributed a lot to the wellbeing of society. They were not even mentioned and honored and this sadenned me. Without this recognition and practical enactment of male creativity and male freedom that I even felt at work in women-led endavours like Tamera, the idea of mothering or maternal heritage could hardly be considered as a role model for a future society. (And definitely no change will work that imposes one role model on the world)

I didn’t really cite anybody.

Later on, I was very taken by your warmhearted and motherly way of talking in private, and I told you there is a whole strand of political, social and economic thinkers who struggle with the fact that obviously in the superficial „end-victory“ of capitalism there is a similar spectacular self-betrayal as in the late days of the Soviet Union or in the parties at Versailles castle of the ancien Regime. Wherevere we come from, we have understood that political declaration and political revolution are not the means to change a society, that a new, nascent „germ – form“ of a new mode of production is showing its first vital signs in such developments like Free Software and Wikipedia, open access and social media.

Yes, I agree.

I liked your repudiation of the theory that Free Software is a „hidden exchange system“ where human labour spent in the programming or design effort is exchanged for reputation or attention, simply because these schemes are far from being proven empirically and also end up with very vague operationalisation. But equally I think the Free Software phenomenon is a harbinger of a structure which goes far beyond our understanding of what usually is talked about as gift economy. So you for the sake of scentific truth you must reconsider your statements in this respect.

I think the internet provides a situation of abundance that is far beyond anything most of us have known. The fact that a search engine can bring me almost anything I want to know  with such a tiny effort on my part fills me with awe. Wikipedia and Free Soft ware are very fertile and productive models, as well as General Public Liscence and other anti copyright projects. We do not know where they will go or how they will develop. The contrast with the scarcity created by the market on the material plane makes them vulnerable to privatization and commercialization though, because people have material needs they have to satisfy.

I also refer to your groundbreaking remarks about language, whose social nature makes any theory of language as market ridiculous. I also think that the remarks about Chomsky and Wittgenstein were justified, both thinkers limited by their non-social concept of language.

I am glad

In fact, if we go the core of the case, language is not a gift economy. I do not give away the word that I say to you, I simply share it with you.



This is due to the abundance we have in language. You understand because I give you words you already have. I give you something I can easily make again so I don’t lose it when I give it and you don’t take it away from me when you receive it.I give it to you to create a relation between you and something else, something in the world (which in my opinion, is also a kind of gift, a gift of perception or immagination), in receiving it you establish this relation recognizing I have a similar relation.

Language is a gift economy at the level of syntax as well.

As you have so beautifully marked, without that unilateral act of expression I would even loose or at least not refine my own ability and competence as a speaker. It is necessary to engage in expression, not because I want to have an equivalent in words from another speaker (what an absurd imagination!), but because I constantly need to engage in performance to improve my competence. In this respect I am simply productive – as a tree is productive that spreads its fruits to the eaters without asking for direct compensation. In language and in nature, exchange is a complete non-phenomenon, and scientists are happy if they finally discover some crazy monkeys that do something like exchange, and the newspaper editors are happy because they found the final proof that our way of doing economics is somehow eternally routed. What a nonsense. But its also nonsense to describe the act of the tree or the speaker as a gift, its a simply functional process.

I disagree. There are several differences in viewpoint between us here that I woud like to clarify. One of the reasons to see the core process as mothering instead of just giving as such, is that mothering is transitive, it has to satisfy the need of the other. If the child’s needs are not satisfied s/he will suffer and die, so the mother cannot just give like a tree gives apples. She has to make sure the child gets the food. 

In language I believe we see that the other person has a communicative need regarding something that we recognize but s/he doesn’t at the moment. We give h/er the word gift that will put h/er in relation to us regarding the kind of thing.  That is why I say language is basically other-oriented, basically because this is how it functions at base. However it can be used in ways that are not other oriented, once the base level of meaning is satisfied. That is, it can also be used to express the ego or to issue commands or to be verbally violent or to lie etc.  And it can be used to explore a subject or write books whether anyone reads them or not. In this case I believe the author generalizes the reader and satisfies the needs of whoever s/he thinks might read the book.

As to improving our performance, I think that is a rather poetic impulse, to elaborate upon the gifts we can give. We do this by understanding the communicative needs of others in more detailed and sensitive ways. However I don’t think this is a main linguistic motivation.

Or maybe we have a moral conception of the gift, I do not know.

I think it is unfortunate when  we see gift giving in terms of morality rather than in terms of community forming communication.

What I see, and here we come back to the example of free software, is a congruence between my act of production and the general needs of society. My act of production, rooted in my individual self, bends into the general need because I am performing acts within a societal medium. The information medium, the programming, is flexible enough to be managed in a way that actions become contributions. People can share code that they wrote for themselves because it is simply also useful for others, or they can engage in a joint efforts where they only work on a module because they also can use the whole. The latter logic applies to Wikipedia. Do something, give and you will be given. Its not a totally unilateral process, its actually the reenforcement of a logic.

I would call this the circulation of gifts.

The logic is deeply embedded in the commons, in the fact that we cant own the means of our existence privately without depriving ourselves in many ways.

Having said this, I feel there is a positive opportunity to discover a gender-independent and universal logic. Maybe you do not consider this your point of view, but I think it could be a productive resonance point.

Yes. When you read my work you will see that I do say that gift-giving- and –receiving  is the basic human logic established in the mother-child relation. If it exists in language it is also universally human, or ‘gender independent’ as you say. However, in the West the construction of the male gender as non-mothering has pushed many men (and some women) away from the gift logic into the non-giving logic of the market system, which is merged with the power-over values  of patriarchy. This is not really anybody’s ‘fault’but a mistake that has been made by giving too much importance to biological or physiological differences, so that we commonly put males and females into binarily opposed categories from childhood on.

And in one think I think we totally agree. The issue of overcoming our nowadays obsolete economic and political system is connected to a deep transformation in culture – from self – referential to sharing values.

Yes indeed.

In this respect I want to invite you as a guest or even as a benefactor into one of the innumerable attempts to create a new culture.

Thank you!

This is an attempt centered around the emergence of a global virtual network of independent thinkers, equaling the depth and the primordial goals of a university. The name of this culture is worknets, an attempt to organize support and gifts to sharing individuals. Its about a culture where we wish everybody to suceceed. Its a culture where wealth is relations and we want to show the beauty of working openly. The core of the worknets culture is an initiative called Minciu Sodas, Garden of Thoughts, the creation and personal endavour of its founder Andrius Kulikauskas. I would like you to have a look at his paper „An Economy for Giving Everything Away“. See under .

I did read the paper but my emphasis is not on giving away but on giving to satisfy needs, (which can be all different kinds of needs, from material to spiritual, esthetic etc.) The gift is trasitive. The importance is given more to the care and well being of the other than to my personal liberation from things. 

As the title says Andrius recognises the value and the meaning of a gift economy and tries to find ways to re-introduce this logic in the midst of prevalent market relations. I am sure you will find his reflections moving, especially because Andrius tries to identify various market patterns.

I think that the commercialization of gifts can be dangerous. In fact look at how negative the commercialization of the gifts of nature like water and seeds has been.

I address Andrius equally with this mail and suggest to him to introduce your work to the thousands of readers and hundreds of participants in our community and tell you what we have to offer.

Thank you. I would be very interested to know more about what kinds of projects you are doing.

All the best from Vienna

Franz Nahrada

All the best to you



PS: comment 1-5 were written before  Genevieves answers were added.

Kategorien: Arbeit & Freiheit, Eigentumsfragen, Gender, Reichtum & Knappheit

Tags: , , , ,

10. Mai 2009, 16:31 Uhr   29 Kommentare

1 Michel Bauwens (11.05.2009, 08:13 Uhr)

Thanks for sharing this Franz, it’s a beautiful text that tries to honour both the ideas of your interlocutor, and your own doubts.

I’m not sure I understand Genevieve’s critique of the free software movement. Is she saying that it is a gift economy against critiques, or is she critiquing it herself?

I guess the main issue I see is that a binary distinction gift vs. exchange, hides the multiplicity of human interaction, which following Fiske, in my view counts at least four basic interaction. So how to distinguish communal shareholding (sharing), from gifting? How to recognize the dark sides of the gift, which anthropologists have been describing (for example very destructive competitions)?

The fourfold typology of Fiske, honours diversity, and implicitely calls for a pluralist economy and civilization. For a long transition period (if not forever) it would seem very hard to imagine the full disappearance of exchange.

To add to your commentary, we need to honour the gifts of both male and female, and recognize the dark sides of both, and I personally would feel more comfortable in describing the future as androgynous, describing this as the integration of the best of both qualities/polarities.


2 Franz Nahrada (11.05.2009, 08:21 Uhr)

Michel, the beauty of that thing is that Genevieve was totally embracing the Free Software Movement. Actually it was the first time I heard a feminist theorist OUTSIDE the „technical faction“ talking with respect and consideration about the Free Software Movement. She is repudiating the theory ABOUT the FSM as based on invisible direct exchange. Yes she thinks its a gift economy. I totally agree with your observations on that and I think we need to create common understanding beyond the essentialisation of dualistic gender images.

I am not so sure if the future should be androgynous because I think qualities grow on certain grounds. At least I would advocate to create a future without a dominant role model, including androgynous western style. The Global Villages idea is to live out entirely different cultural realities simultaneously in different places. For me this is an adeqauate answer to the seemingly unbridgeable oppositions and not just diversities of cultures. We can nevertheless be one on this earth, but only if we not only recognize them, but allow for spaces to live them.

3 Franz Nahrada (11.05.2009, 08:33 Uhr)

one classical qoute:

„Most utopias are full of general prescriptions that are compulsory in all their basic dimensions (clothing, work timetables, education, sexuality, etc), and they postulate certain principles of internal organisation (democracy, syphogrants, etc). Reason, practicability, harmony, non-violence, ecology, economic efficiency, morality, all are central motivations. But in a bolo culturally defined people live together and their motivations are not determined by a compulsory set of moral laws. Each bolo is different. Not even a perfectly democratic structure can guarantee the expression and realisation of the desires of the participating persons. This is also a basic flaw of many proposals for self-administration (block councils, neighbourhood-defence committees, soviets, grassroots democracy, etc), especially if such grassroot organisations are initiated and controlled by state or party organisms. Only cultural identity and diversity can guarantee a certain degree of independence and ‚democracy‘. This is not a question of politics.“

4 Martin (11.05.2009, 09:31 Uhr)

Some critical points on gift economies (not to demean the idea, which will certainly play a role in the development away from capitalism, but to see its limits):

Gift economies are a nice idea, but to me, they seem to be quite limited in their practical applicability. Their proponents often seem to want to go back to earlier times and rural communities. How should a gift economy work for computers, for cars, for fridges? If I want one of them, I don’t like to search for someone or some community who give them to me as a gift, and to whom I am indebted morally afterwards. I just want to decide that I need them and to get them.

In other words: I want to have a right on everything I need. But „gift“ and „having a right on it“ exclude each other.

There are two other important points, which have to do with things changing their character when they are generalized in a society:

(1) Gifts have to be voluntary, otherwise they loose all their good qualities. But an economy cannot mainly be based on the voluntary decisions of people to give other people something. If they are, no one knows if he/she will have something to eat tomorrow. It was a great advance of capitalism that you don’t have to beg someone to give you something, you simply can buy it. If, however, gifts were not voluntary, it’s not a gift at all, but simply the imperative to produce anything that anybody might like to have, to satisfy any need. That’s a great idea, but then it’s not about gifts anymore.

(2) When something which is great and positive (like giving freely of what you have) becomes the general way of doing things, it becomes a social norm and de facto obligatory. In a gift economy, everyone would have to give, the gift aspect would just be rhetoric and nice words for what in practice would simply be social coercion. (I came accross this point when I analyzed what went wrong with the likeable philosophy of Jesus when adopted by the church and Christian societies: It’s great to care more about your neighbor than yourself if that’s your free decision, but it’s not great anymore if you are forced to be selfless.)

My conclusion would be that an economy based on gifts as predominant mode of production would not be a good idea. As one of different coexisting modes of production and allocation, it could work very well.

5 Michel Bauwens (11.05.2009, 11:28 Uhr)

Thanks Franz, what you say about Genevieve’s reaction to free software reassures me and I share her feeling in this. This being said, I think yes free software is about gifting, but to a commons, not to another person requiring a counter-gift, as was customary in the gift economy exchanges. With my androgynous remark I was not implying some new unified gender, but rather that to replace male domination by female domination is probably not what we want, but rather a society where members of all genders (or none of the above ) are truly equipotential. As you and Martin suggest, and I’m sure Genevieve would agree, it’s diversity that is necessary and allows for a thriving society.

6 Markus Distelberger (12.05.2009, 10:26 Uhr)

Dear Genevieve, dear Franz,

thank you for this profound dialog. It helps me to reminder the core ideas of the gift economy as you, Genevieve, have described it.

This gift economy is so far beyond of that we are used to think and to feel. Again and again I am so impressed by the astuteness of the analysis and the forming of the concept of the gift economy. It is really wonderful for people like me who like profound and astute thinking.

And I wonder how can we really change our kind of living. I think we need something which moves our hearts, some real experience of how much we all are in an abundance of receiving gifts, a kind of waking up and seeing all the gifts, perhaps a kind of spiritual experience and awakening.

A gift economy only based on intellectual insight seems to me, will stay restricted in academic and intellectual circles. I think we should concentrate our strengths more on doing it than on discussing. And to have clear words is a great gift to me. Now let´s do it and speak about our experiences.


7 Franz Nahrada (13.05.2009, 09:19 Uhr)

Andrius Kulikauskas has made some point to this letter on the globalvillages list. I quote and shorten a few that seem most important for me, the full text is here:

* I’m interested, from a practical point of view, in the spectrum from
„unconditional giving“ to „conditional exchange“. The entire spectrum is important . One shortcoming of the mother-child relationship is that it tends to be exclusive.

* In my thinking, the sexes (and there are people whose sex is not „well-defined“, neither XX nor XY) can be mapped to mental poles, but I don’t find such a division helpful in empathizing with others. What I do find helpful is a mix of people, including women and men, and I have witnessed that open up many more topics of dialogue.

* Gift-giving (and language) are behaviors that foster a culture. They are not meaningful of themselves, but as the pragmatic gestures which inspire a culture. We give thoughtfully and we help people grow; we give thoughtlessly and we don’t. We use a word thoughtfully and we help a person’s mind grow; we talk thoughtlessly and we don’t.

* I give to those who give and thereby support a culture of
giving. In this way, I do not simply give unconditionally (like the sun
or the moon or the stars), but I reach out to include those (and my
selfish self) who are ever less giving, those who are the other end of the spectrum, who live the „reality“ of conditional exchange.

* What’s lovely at Minciu Sodas is that over ten years we’ve developed a vibrant economy of „sharing“. We embrace each other as independent thinkers and share this existential condition like brothers and sisters, even as our lives are so different in Africa, Europe, the US and other lands. We give each other moral support, practical advice, personal contacts, but also money for computers, video cameras, USB flash drives, airplane tickets and small projects. We also give each other the „gifts“ of loans and paid work. Indeed, paid work is one of the greatest gifts.

* I’m excited that, after ten years, we have connected the dots for
commercial work that overcomes the corporate wall that we may thrive in the old world as we nurture our new world. It’s a gift of paid work that grows in value as it is given onwards, as in Lewis Hyde’s book „The Gift“.

I ask for our support to help us succeed in our approach. Just as
billions are spent to good effect on sports sponsorships, so might even greater sums be spent on works by networks
like ours to generate good will even as we invest in our social infrastructure, in bridges that link our many online communities.

8 Andrius Kulikauskas (13.05.2009, 10:25 Uhr)

From Mark Roest at

Hello! This is an interesting discussion.

I noticed the paragraph:

I disagree. There are several differences in viewpoint between us here
that I woud like to clarify. One of the reasons to see the core
process as mothering instead of just giving as such, is that mothering
is transitive, it has to satisfy the need of the other. If the child’s
needs are not satisfied s/he will suffer and die, so the mother cannot
just give like a tree gives apples. She has to make sure the child
gets the food.

This reminds me of the concept of Stewardship. Also, I wrote down a bit of a
book I discovered today, The Earth’s Blanket — Traditional Teachings for
Sustainable Living, by Nancy J. Turner, published 2005 by the University of
Washington Press, in its Culture, Place and Nature series. The flyleaf says
the book „explores the wealth of ecological knowledge and spiritual
connection to the natural world that is fundamental to indigenous cultures
and lifeways.“

I opened the book randomly and found this subhead facing me:

Everything Is One. Nancy quotes Richard Atleo, educator and hereditary chief of Ahousaht, as saying that the Nuu-Chah-Nulth belief system is based on this: „The Creator made all things one. All things are related and interconnected. All things are sacred. All things are therefore to be respected.“ . This ties in with the mother making sure the
child gets the food in order to thrive, and with extending that beyond the
nuclear or extended-kin family.

Many or most (or all?) indigenous cultures treat their territory like a garden, helping it to realize its potential, and learning from it what that potential is. That’s the Garden of Eden. Humans use their powers of observation and analysis to know the patterns of nature and help restore them when they get out of balance.

Healing among people is the same.

Once we get back to a fundamental understanding of living, now enriched by
both natural science and spirituality, and transmitted by information and
communication technologies, we can easily understand how to make a gift
economy work, with admixtures of other forms such as barter and monetary
exchange, but fundamentally making choices by discussion, negotiation and
agreement on what works for all, and what serves each person and each other


Mark Roest

9 Andrius Kulikauskas (13.05.2009, 10:26 Uhr)

Franz, Thank you for encouraging me to write my letter. I posted it here but I don’t know if it went through.

We should be sure to mention Mornflake who made it possible for me to write that letter… It’s not fair to use my letter but not to mention them!

10 Andrius Kulikauskas (13.05.2009, 10:27 Uhr)

Quoting from before:

I’m excited that, after ten years, we have connected the dots for commercial work that overcomes the corporate wall that we may thrive in the old world as we nurture our new world. It’s a gift of paid work that grows in value as it is given onwards, as in Lewis Hyde’s book „The Gift“.

I suppose it’s an outcome of our current economic crisis, which opens eyes to fresh approaches, but also to longstanding relationships. Leon Benjamin and I met, I think, in 2003, and now he leads digital strategy at The Law Firm, an advertising agency named after founder Andy Law.

11 Andrius Kulikauskas (13.05.2009, 10:27 Uhr)

Leon appreciates our Minciu Sodas laboratory’s growing abilityto field global teams of self-directed workers as we did in Kenya to avert genocide. He gave us the gift of work to help research and engage UK online communities on behalf of Mornflake cereal and their online video contest.

12 Andrius Kulikauskas (13.05.2009, 10:29 Uhr)

I think there’s a limit of three urls per post which is why I’ve broken up my post into pieces. Andruis

13 Franz Nahrada (13.05.2009, 11:26 Uhr)

Andrius, its a spam protection measure of wordpress but also a good way to focus on few thoughts per comment. I think the Mornflake case is important, but in my personal feeling there are still rules and procedures to be found and that implies a balance between advertising, sponsor information and the content.

When you write:

We’re trying out a protocol that benefits online communities, Mornflake, our workers and our culture. We help a community by advancing and promoting its members’ endeavors and businesses, and by linking it with other communities. We help Mornflake by doing works that create good will, by acknowledging the work and opportunity it gives us, by including its link and highlighting its name in our posts.

one could easily be distracted by the overdoing of the public relation name dropping and the generosity of your gift to this company. But it not your gift alone that you are giving: you are giving your readers time, attention and consideration equally.

I know that the whole thing is centered around a brilliant idea:

We help our workers by encouraging them to, first and foremost, work from their own genuine interests and so engage others genuinely and beyond this current work. We help our culture by developing resources in the Public Domain such as our directory of UK online communities, My Food Story and others.

So like the noncommercial nature of a sports event allows „giving“ sponsorship (which in reality is a ultrahard and slick game of exchange for attention value) you suggest and practically test the sponsorship of a company for the self-undfolding process of people, given the fact that a seeming recognition of community values improves the image of the company.

So far, so interesting. But one can overdo it. Once a group of the designers I worked with at the Global Village exhibit in the Vienna city hall flew to London to study the Millenium Dome. We think of the Milennium Dome of a great example of corporate sponsorship for public education. The interesting observation with which they came back was actually how „unprominent“, how almost hidden and discrete the names of the supporting companies were. The support and sponsorship expressed itself as respect for the content and not as the counting of the size of logos and the display frequency. There is a spectrum of opportunities here, and we are here to test it and experiment further. From my semi-outrside observation point, it looks as if there is too much effort going on in bringing in the name and the message of the sponsor.

If there is such a combination between the user groups and the emerging „support economy“ (companies that embrace the new paradigm that peoples activities are central now and commercial products are in service of peoples activities and have no value for themselves any more) we must be self-confident enough to understand that this works better if we stick with our judgement and not sell our soul. That would not serve any part.

14 Andrius Kulikauskas (13.05.2009, 11:59 Uhr)

Hi Franz,

I think the opposite!

The fact that you didn’t mention Mornflake is for me very telling.

My point, and my plan, is that we can and should be comfortable promoting them. I’m very glad that they are providing me and others a way to make a living. And I want others to be supportive, too. The way to be supportive is to help us all be comfortable promoting them.

You encouraged me to promote Genevieve Vaughan. You encouraged me to write a letter. You encouraged me to promote your blog, to do a „massive crosspost“, but were you transparent about that? I took an hour or two of my time to do so, which I should be spending on my Mornflake work. I sent my letter and your letters to nine groups and more than a thousand people. My letter includes links to KeimForm.

Yet you don’t feel comfortable promoting Mornflake – or Leon Benjamin, his book Winning By Sharing, The Law Firm, Andy Law, My Food Story, etc. I feel comfortable promoting them and many others.

I spend hours and hours promoting you and Global Villages. Why do I do it? Have I sold my soul?

Mornflake is a test for our networks to see who is comfortable promoting others, not just themselves. Who cares about our ability to make a living? Who cares about our culture of gift giving? Which includes the ability to say „thank you“, to acknowledge support, to reach out to others. You write as if this was pseudo-spam (and it is an alternative to spam). But you didn’t say, „Thank you, Mornflake!“

Thank you, Mornflake!

15 Andrius Kulikauskas (13.05.2009, 12:12 Uhr)

Thank you, Franz, too! for your leadership, your outreach, for linking me with Genevieve and others, for highlighting our work such as my and David’s paper.

16 Michel Bauwens (13.05.2009, 12:35 Uhr)

Dear Franz and Genevieve:

I apologize that I’m doing this to quickly, and that my points may seem only critical, but I decided to focus on that part of my reaction, despite my obvious sympathy for the general approach.

This may be surprising, but I actually have thoughts that we are still living in a patriarchy. On the contrary, I’m observing a declining role of fathers and husbands, increasing difficulties for males, for example in young boys, while earlier observed difficulties in the growing up of young girls seem diminishing. I also have a difficulty in seeing gender construction as ‚the‘ key variable for contemporary society, since gender differentiated construction is in fact one of the first ones to emerge historically, even in tribal societies. There are many inter-related ways of human exploitation, and to be effective in changing them, it pays to be inclusive. Any approach which insists on a particular group, risks alienating other groups. This is not to deny the very real effects of female subordination and exploitation, but there are many ways in which all of us are prisoners of this system, so I find it more fruitful to think of ways in which we can see ourselves as humans in a common struggle.

For the future, I think it is more fruitful also to see a transition to ‚androgynous‘, i.e. partnerships between the various male and female polarities in all of us, rather than any return to matriarchy.

Perhaps I’m misunderstanding this and this is already part of the approach, but I wanted to make these points.

Another important point I discuss with Franz, is that collapsing the four intersubjective modes (equality matching /gift; communal shareholding /p2p ; market exchange and authority ranking /hierarchical allocation, in just 2, i.e. the gift vs. exchange, obscures very different logics, for example between the reciprocity creating gift, and the engagement in a commons not requiring specific reciprocity.


17 Michel Bauwens (13.05.2009, 12:36 Uhr)

above, para 2: thoughts must read as ‚doubts‘

18 Christian Siefkes (13.05.2009, 13:54 Uhr)

@Andrius, Franz: Please note that Keimform is not a forum for advertisements. Normally, we remove all links in comments that seem advertisements. Andrius, please go buy your own ad space instead of filling Keimform with links to your sponsors.

[Update: I’ve later unlinked the links in question, cf. the discussion below.]

19 Martin (13.05.2009, 14:30 Uhr)

Just as billions are spent to good effect on sports sponsorships, so might even greater sums be spent on works by networks like ours to generate good will

Well, you could also wire me „greater sums“ than „billions“, be sure to create a lot of „good will“ from my side, but maybe not enough to efface the bad impression you have already made. – It’s a impertinence to speak of „gifts“ and at the same time, propagate one’s own cause with unasked-for promotional links. I hope someone with editing rights removes those links.

20 Martin (13.05.2009, 14:45 Uhr)

My apprehensions about „gift economy“ and what some people (not all) are using this term for have been confirmed very quickly:

My point, and my plan, is that we can and should be comfortable promoting them. I’m very glad that they are providing me and others a way to make a living. And I want others to be supportive, too. The way to be supportive is to help us all be comfortable promoting them.

You encouraged me to promote Genevieve Vaughan. You encouraged me to write a letter. You encouraged me to promote your blog, to do a “massive crosspost”, but were you transparent about that? I took an hour or two of my time to do so, which I should be spending on my Mornflake work.


So this kind of „gift economy“ has already deterioated in a attention economy (Aufmerksamkeitsökonomie), where people cite each other and post their letters, write about each other and make sugary comments and mellow wishy-washy-better-world-statements to promote each other causes. Instead of writing about what interests them, commenting on the things which merit comment, speaking about causes in the proportion they merit to be spoken about. At least Andrius is open about what he wants: To make a living.

21 Franz Nahrada (13.05.2009, 16:04 Uhr)

… and there is nothing wrong with that. In fact if a sponsorREALLY supports people working on the commons I feel its allright to find ways to have the community react positively to that. In the end, all gifts are reciprocal.

But I equally clearly stated here that I think Andrius must not suppose his gratefulness is automatically shared by others.
It is a long process of negociuation and conscience-building in which you need to be careful.

The Mornflake meme cannot be a viral one influencing everything that we do. That is definitely overstretching. To answer to Andrius first reaction: I have done more than my share by positively quoting and describing this process in „community researchers“ and other venues. I did not bring the meme in here, but I am also not inclined to consider this a commercial affair and simly advocate throwing it out. In fact its something quite different. It is a test and test bed about the relations between communities and commercial entities, and there is lot of trust to be built, lots of rules to be established.

Marcin Jakubowski whom I got from the airport is just standing by my side and I asked him: would you consider it possible that a corporation sponsors Open Source Ecology work even without direct business relations? And the answer was positively yes why not?

I mean we are not famous as a football team yet, but why should we not gain reputation? They sponsored Jacques Costeau and his oceanographic research so he could buy the Calypso!

So the purpose of leaving these links is for examination and scientific evaluation; do you think a company can sponsor commons work out of social responsibilty? And do you think this is a good role model?

22 StefanMz (13.05.2009, 16:20 Uhr)


The Mornflake meme cannot be a viral one influencing everything that we do.

Yes. This implys, that the links will be deleted like all other commercial spam viral links.

the purpose of leaving these links is for examination and scientific evaluation

I can’t see this purpose. What kind of »scientific evaluation«?

Sponsoring of some person (or project) is one thing, link spamming on a platform that has nothing to do with this sponsor is simply abuse. This is really a bad role model.

23 benni (13.05.2009, 16:46 Uhr)

If nobody deletes these links i will do it. We dont have adds here for some reason, so why should we include adds for other people?

24 Martin (13.05.2009, 16:48 Uhr)

Yes, but set a place-holder „deleted link“, „link to sponsor“ or something, so that people can still follow the discussion here.

25 Christian Siefkes (13.05.2009, 17:02 Uhr)

Keimform is not a platform for making a living, neither for Andrius nor for anyone else. I have removed the links (only the hyperlink targets of course, no text).

26 Andrius Kulikauskas (13.05.2009, 17:29 Uhr)

Christian, I’m glad you could solve that. Thank you.

27 Franz Nahrada (13.05.2009, 18:37 Uhr)

Stefan, I totally agree that each venue can set standards of their own to face the aggressive strategies of commercial marketing. What I do not understand that you seem not to consider what is the case here. A commerical company targets online communities in general, it engages an online community to create a resource mapping that other online communities can use freely. If you like, enable a productive, „giving“, open style of working that could enormously multiply value (and yes, I am not using value in the sense that we usually do, but rather as „aggregation of usefulness“) for other people.

Even Stefan Merten in his recent very constructive question-list on Oekonux (that was a very great leap forward) has made one of the issues we are talking about

„How can the relationship between peer production and the still
dominant system of money can be understood? What are ways of
coexistence not damaging peer production? What are models to pour
money into peer production projects without damaging them? What are goals of such pouring?“

Thats exactly the subject that was brought up. I voiced my doubt if the way Andrius did it would be distinguishable for most people from spamming, but I am a little bit shocked that even the most literate people in here cannot see the difference.

Please have a second thought!

28 Christian Siefkes (13.05.2009, 19:31 Uhr)


I voiced my doubt if the way Andrius did it would be distinguishable for most people from spamming, but I am a little bit shocked that even the most literate people in here cannot see the difference.

Well, since even the most literate people in here cannot see the difference (and since I don’t think that we’re less literate here then elsewhere), that clearly indicates that he needs a different strategy. That’s Andrius’s task, not ours, but in his re:publica08 talk Stefan has made some suggestions that might be helpful:

1. Niemand kann einen redaktionellen Beitrag von mir oder meine Meinung kaufen.
2. Niemand kann eine redaktionelle Fläche kaufen; wenn es um Werbung geht, dann ist sie klar als solche gekennzeichnet.
3. Niemand soll über die Quellen von irgendetwas auf meinen Seiten im Unklaren sein.
4. Ich werde meinen geschäftlichen Hintergrund offenlegen, wo immer möglich und notwendig.

For the topic at hand, this probably means (among other things):

  • Never include links to your commercial sponsors into your content (articles or posts).
  • You may include such links in the non-content area of your pages (e.g. the bottom bar). They should clearly indicate the nature of your relation with the sponsor („Generously sponsored by/supported by X“, not just „Thank you, X“, or „Other interesting pages: X“).
  • Only include such links in places created and run by you. Never add sponsoring links in places where you’re a guest (e.g. in blogs by others). You wouldn’t pin ads to the houses of people you visit — don’t do it in the online world, either.

Such a clear separation between content and sponsorship will be not just better for yourself, but also for your sponsor. I suppose that the interactions on this page have been less than helpful for Mornflake’s reputation; if Andrius keeps within ethical lines such as I have suggested, it will probably be beneficial for them as well as for him.

29 StefanMz (13.05.2009, 19:44 Uhr)

Franz, I completely agree with Christian and have nothing to add.

Schreibe einen Kommentar