*Book title. This is my story: contrary to my usual behavior, last Friday I went to Beacons Closet in Park Slope. That is something like a consignment store, except that they "evaluate" the stuff you want to give & either pay you 35% of that "value" immediately or let you have a store credit. Since the interest i have in wearing someone else's clothes approximates zero (even when that someone else does not want them, or actually especially then), I opted for "fast-cash" option. The bag i submitted for evaluation had stuff that i regularly paid $100+ for and then never wore. yea, real smart. So anyway, i thought that i am doing a favor both to these poor, unloved, clothes and to myself -- after all, they will find a new home and i will get money to buy something else that i will not wear. My hopes for the brighter future for everyone involved in this transaction disappeared when i was offered $16.75. I was not sure if the offer was awesome or offensive. Or both.
So I thanked the lady, took my bag, and went straight to Goodwill Store in my neighborhood where I disembarked the bag's contents FOR FREE. Yea, I admit it was kinda impulsive decision, and by all counts terribly irrational or just real stupes, but somehow i don't regret it. Which made me think about the types of exchange that could have been classified as "economic" only if any kind of calculation was involved. Which, surely enough, led me to thinking about behavior online. There, people who are mostly, if not completely, immune (um, "repulsed" actually may be the word i am looking for) by ever more creative brand efforts to be "engaged", are actively, immediately, and generously participating when solicited by their fellow online citizens. The evidence includes this, this, and this, and is growing... While it is not hard to imagine why many people choose to do good, there's also something else here.
For one, it is associated with the feeling of the fairness in exchange. I preferred to feel good over felling duped & ripped off + getting a symbolic monetary compensation for feeling that way. So my behavior at the end was not economically irrational at all: actually it made a complete sense. I did calculate, and I calculated that $16.75 it's really not that worth it. Then of course the critical question is what would be the cut-off point for me that would make it worth it ($25? $50?) At any event, my calculation obviously took place within an order of worth that's not the traditional economic one.
Second, there's a whole economy of gift giving that has an exchange structure in its own. This is of course super-old, but it's always been somehow pushed to domains of either "special occasions" and/or primitive societies and was rarely, if ever, related to modern capitalist society. (b/c here, it is thought exchange happens in an anonymous marketplace & in an impersonal manner). So now, while the rise of social exchange on the web does not necessarily mean that market-based exchange is going to decline, it def indicates that both of them operate at the same time. And while this is terribly obvious today, it's funny that actually only few have figured it out. I think it's because people focus either entirely on "sharing" stuff or on "money" stuff. It's actually the friction between these two orders of worth that make possible to create something, well, worthy.
Anyway. Nan Lin says that there are two primitive rewards for human beings in social structure: economic standing and social standing. [standing being defined as a relational measure expressed as someone's capacity to mobilize resources]. And when there's a market that combines the two, marketing should do the same.
p.s. i found out about the site above via Michael Surtees).