Can the internet enable an online gift economy of unlimited scale?

Session II

Hans Schoenburg

Participants: Marion, Greg, Ethan, Adam, Kimberly, Maria, Bernard and others

I (Hans) opened up the session with a description of the website that I am working to develop with several fellow students. It will be an online gift economy where users list everything they need and everything they have to give away, barter or share. They can then find people nearby who have what they need or need what they have. After interacting with one another in the real world, either giving bartering or sharing, users write reviews of one another, documenting what happened. Other users can then read these histories to determine who to give to.

The participants of the groups asked many questions and brought up ideas, suggestions and criticisms of the idea.
One suggestion was creating community nodes or circles that would be accredit and verify the reputations of their members and provide a greater sense of community connection within the site. Another significant concern was how existing class inequalities would play out and possibly be perpetuated within the system. One response to this is the general dynamic that a gift has greater value when given to the person who needs it most, creating an incentive to redistribute wealth. The site will also provide a means for people currently unemployed to find ways to give or barter their work and be rewarded.

The group also discussed how the site could be used by existing local groups and organizations as a tool for drawing the support of the broader community. It will provide a means for people to direct their generosity to where it is most needed locally. More than anything, the site is an attempt to create a system where people can reward each other for their contributions to the community.

The website is launching Friday Feburary 19th 7pm at Dwight Hall (Yale Campus) in the Library.

and the address is

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