Friday, July 29, 2005

Gift Economy

We downloaded Skype - www[dot]skype[dot]com - today, as a means of keeping in touch with people. Skype is free download software (for Windows, Mac, or Linux) that enables you to talk to anyone else with Skype free of charge: essentially, free phone calls through your computer.

Their website is great; their ethos fantastic - developing a product and giving it away free as a present. It is interesting to see the emergence of a gift economy - as expressed through Creative Commons Licence, for example. There is a widespread suspicion of anything free - as noted in questions like, "What's the catch?" or the low-expectation statement, "You get what you pay for"...In fact, there's an independant streak in all of us that doesn't want to accept anything for free, as a gift; that views such an action as failure, not able to pay-my-own-way. But God's economy is a gift economy. Salvation, at every level - whether eternal destiny, or day-to-day blessing - is a free gift, something that is not ours to buy or earn. And the current renaissance of the gift economy within the New Media - the rejection of the oppressive dominance of the market economy, where even ideas are seen as property to possess and control through sale - speaks of God's gift economy. And as such, New Media creatives who give away what they produce should be endorsed.

If you want to contact us through Skype, our username is "dowsetts". We don't have a headset yet, so right now we can only use it for messaging; but we'll sort that one out in the next few days!

Another counter-cultural economy to endorse is the fair trade economy. Right now, Howies are running a summer sale. I've just ordered a pair of jeans. I can easily get jeans cheaper - made for a western corporation in an Asian sweat-shop where the workers are paid a pitance even by the standards of their own national cost of living, and have no protection regarding working hours or conditions. Or I can pay as much for jeans made that way, with a huge profit margin going to the brand owner...Outside of the sales, ethical shopping might feel expensive. But at what cost do we choose to ignore it?

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