Complementary currencies for user-generated content

Blogger “Bonecone” is launching an appeal to develop a complementary currency that could be used in sites using user-generated content, such as YouTube.

Such initiatives are part of a global movement towards peer to peer based exchange systems.

I must admit I have a mixed mind about approaches that aim to monetize immaterial sharing. The reason is the following: sharing through voluntary contributions creates a particular dynamic and creativity that may be crowded out by monetization, even if that monetization is alternative. People who produce something for money, will not produce the same type of expression than when monetization is not the aim. I therefore tend to believe that some form of generalized benefit sharing, that benefits the whole community, is better than revenue-sharing, which creates competition for the scarce good.

Of course, I’m also sympathetic to the need for creators to make a living. But, perhaps not at any price, i.e. can we find ways of sustaining creative practice that do not destroy the open peer to peer dynamics, that therefore respect that sharing is an ethical economy, distinct from the monetary economy?

Does the fact that Bonecone proposes an alternative currency, guarantee the continuation of that ethical economy? If so, why?

What are the general solutions to make sharing sustainable, without creating a competition-for-profit which would destroy the sharing economics?

Thanks for intervening in that debate!

3 Comments Complementary currencies for user-generated content

  1. bonecone

    Hi Michel,

    Thanks for your comments. It’s true that profit can change the social dynamics of a community but I still don’t think it would necessarily crowd out voluntary creativity. The nature of the monetization could be the problem, not monetization itself. For example usury-based money causes exponential debt and artificial scarcity. Its flaws and limitations alter and limit the social dynamics of human beings.

    My own project is modeled on the example of Wörgl stamp scrip wherein the currency depreciates over time. Fresh content has to be continuously contributed, which is then rewarded by placing more currency back into circulation to replace the currency that has left the system. It mimics biology.

    It won’t lead to competition for a scarce resource because the resource is infinite. Social bookmarking and the categorization of content under an evolving variety of creative methods that depend on subjective judgment can never be exhausted. It also has generalized benefit sharing in the form of a unique search engine that everyone can freely use.

    I also mentioned the QQcoin in my post. This virtual currency is packaged with one of the most popular instant messaging programs in China and was meant to be used as a way for friends to buy virtual gifts for each other. But individuals and companies have started accepting QQcoins as direct payment for their products and services. There is even speculation that it could affect the value of the Chinese yuan.

    It will take some trial and error but I believe alternative currencies can be successfully integrated into online communities over time.

  2. Michel Bauwens

    Thanks for your response. I may indeed be wrong, and in any case, this is a situation where experimentation will determine what works for sharing and commons communities, and what doesn’t. I hope you are successfull with your call, please keep us posted on developments.


  3. Sepp Hasslberger

    I came to this post via your delicious tags. Yesterday, I went over to bonecone and left a comment, saying I have a very positive impression of his plan, particularly because the system is to be based on the Wörgl initiative (meaning that the currency will have a mechanism to periodically charge a ‘fee’ on all of the outstanding liquidity). Such a mechanism ensures that there is less incentive to hoard and less incentive to charge interest, getting rid of a host of problems that are interent in our current, bank-generated money.

    If the new system allows for quick and easy micro-payments, it may well fill a real need that is not well served by the banking system and even on-line payment systems today. If it allows for user-generated content to be rewarded, it will have a business base from which to eventually expand into (or attract business from) more mainstream endeavors.

    By the way, the fact that there is a system of exchange that has its own currency does not mean necessarily ‘monetization’ i.e. commercial motivation changing the way content is generated. But also, there is nothing inherently wrong with rewarding the efforts of people to produce something others will like to use.

    Having the mechanism for collecting a fee on outstanding monetary mass, the system has potentially a very useful feature, which puts it on a course that is quite contrary to today’s money systems. The fee allows the possibility of providing a periodical distribution of money units to all participants. Since the charging is done as a percentage, and the distribution is done in equal amounts for all participants, the trend of this is to push money down to where it’s needed – the consumer level – instead of accumulating it at the top, which is what today’s money does.

    I see great possibilities for this one. The system could start out as an internet payment system that allows the ‘long tail’ of content to be rewarded in some way, but it could also attract more mainstream business once it’s up and running, just like other such currencies have done ( bonecone mentions the Chinese QQcoins ).

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