Thursday, November 20, 2008

Authentic Sharing vs. Selfish Sharing

By all means, share what you are doing on the web. Just make it authentic.

Previous posts in the series: "Rethinking why I blog" and "What Plumpy'Nut taught me."

When Richard Lalleman of the Netherlands asked me to share my delicious feeds about development with his initiative, I came back at him with some questions to make sure I knew just what kind of sharing he was talking about. I wanted to make sure that he wasn’t going to use my freely available feeds for a commercial project and that it would NOT require any extra effort on my part.

That got me thinking about the nature of sharing on the web. And whether it’s any different from sharing in the real world.

My church, like many community organizations whether faith-based or not, collects cash and canned goods for our local food pantry. Every year, we need to explain to the youngest crop of Sunday Schoolers what sorts of items are worth sharing. Usually, one or two discover the brilliant strategy of sharing something they don’t like—like canned peas. It’s a two-fer. They get rid of something they don’t want and they get points—in case anyone is keeping score—for sharing.

And so every year we explain again that the point of sharing is not to share what you don’t like but to share your love, in this case something that you find tasty or that you would want to receive yourself.

That first impulse—to selfish sharing—is totally human and not something that we necessarily grow out of. Think about how many folks donate clothes that they would never wear. There’s the satisfaction of sharing, not to mention a tax deduction. We won’t even go into the harm that free clothing has done to struggling textile industries around the globe.

A lot of the potential of the web comes from what’s called the “gift economy” or the benefits of collaboration.

The more you look, the more you realize there are different levels of sharing, with differing levels of authenticity.

Here’s a list, with examples, that I am playing around with. Some of the layers overlap, of course. Feel free to play along, whether here or on your preferred social media.

Selfish-sharing: (see above)

Reciprocal sharing: You watch the kids on Tuesday and I’ll watch them on Wednesday.

Self-interested sharing (or enlightened self-interest): I’ll tweet my voting experience as a way of improving democracy.

Convenient sharing: I’ll share the idle time on my computer to help model new ways to control malaria parasites.

Sharing from abundance: I can’t eat all these tomatoes from my garden; would you like some?

Coincidental sharing: I had to do this anyway, but I don’t mind sharing what I learned about getting a cell phone in Malawi.

Catalytic sharing: let’s all get together and write the code for [insert favorite open-source program here] and watch it change the world when we’re done. Or let's share what we know about treating drug-resistant tuberculosis.

Sacrificial sharing: the stranger who dives into icy waters to rescue a child trapped in a sinking car. A soldier’s ultimate sacrifice.

Next: Sharing and Global Health Blogging


Unknown said...

Hi Christine,

I'm really enjoying this series of posts. I'm about to start writing about global health, and you're pretty spot on about collaboration. I also appreciate your approach this time, spreading your thoughts over several posts. More please.

Christine Gorman said...

Hi Jimmy,

Glad you like it. There's more to come.