Thursday, April 24, 2008

Reaching for another idea

I've been working on a large project, one that I have not told people about, because it is a long and winding road, and I don't want it to become a pressure, it will be something good for second life, and good for art. These two things matter to me.

What also matters to me is that people need to understand the nature of the gift economy. It seems on Second Life, and other places, over and over again, I find people seem to believe things about the gift economy that are not true.

The important thing to remember about peple who give their time is that they want something back. That thing is to feel good, either by knowing they have accomplished something, or by meeting other like minded people. Often both. The gift of time is something that is often taken for granted, but is, in fact, one of the most precious things that people can do. This means that the social dynamic of a volunteering is delicate. All to often this delicacy is ignored. I see people who run groups behaving like they are running a for pay organization.

One of the crucial differences between the paid and the unpaid, is that in a paid environment, dealing with obnoxious people is part of what you are paid to do. Even then there are limits, but the more one is paid, the more one is expected to be tolerant of faults, ranging from the annoying to the unforgivable, to the criminal. Volunteers do not put up with these things, they aren't there to be abused.

Another crucial difference is in the importance of feeling that there is a cause or reason for their work. Take this away, and they can be angry or frustrated. They will feel betrayed if individuals seem to act for self interest rather than the cause, or allow the cause to fall apart in order to advance their self-interest.

The last important thing to realize about the gift of time, is when it isn't really. Many things that are given, are given in to promote a cooperative space, and not really as a pure gift. Often people's activity which is for a common good is then treated as if it were a pure gift, and the result is hurt feelings and anger.

I've seen all of these mistakes over and over again in SL, partially because many things, like the direct sex industry, are based on taking people's fantasy time, and trying to turn it into money. I've seen all kinds of abusiveness go on in this realm, where "business" operators push and bully their "employees." This economy turns around and feeds the content providers, who are quick to demand their rights, and then some, but then pretend that the abuse of other rights, no less clear and no less enshrined in law, are things that they are to be carefully ignorant of.

Over and over again I see people in paying positions trying to extract free work out of others, to then turn around and get credit for being paid fr. People who are bineg used like this resent it, and sooner or later they stop.

If Second Life is to be effective, then sooner or later the gift of time must be treated better by Second Life society. The mentors, and teachers, and guides, and a host of other people giving of themselves because they believe, are so under appreciated. It's something that occurs to me each time I help someone out... how much of retention in this place is based on the gift of time and knowledge.

Am I proposing something, not really. I can only do little things with my little efforts. But something more needs to be done, though at the moment I am not sure what.

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