Can we think up new models to sustain online social media services?
Agreed with much of what is said here, glad the conversation may move forward.
Part of the issue may be with how quickly we dismiss models based on past or current failures. The models with which we’re stuck seem far from ideal, but they’re familiar.
One path toward a solution might be to separate services from the method by which they’re sustained. It’s a bit like separating editorial and advertising, in traditional media. Or the institutional support given to doctors and teachers. We may find deep issues with big institutions and with intermediaries, but it doesn’t mean we can’t think of their effects.
One of which is that exchanges may be “generalized”. Unlike communism, free-market, or bartering, generalized exchange allows for services (or goods) to carry an imprecise value. It may sound strange from a mainstream perspective, but it’s actually very common. What is exchanged between parents and their children, for instance, is extremely valuable but rarely measured. Of course, in an industrial society, money is needed to raise kids. But parents rarely perceive this money as a debt their children should pay back. A fictional exception is found in Alberto Express: imdb.com
“A young Italian, living in Paris with his French wife, is about to become a father. Before the baby is born, Alberto must repay his father for every expense from his own birth until he left home.”
Much of this is what we describe as a “gift economy”, in cultural anthropology. Some non-anthropologists have come to use the same notion, including in the context of online social media services:
Not that the gift economy is a model to follow. But there might be a nugget of insight in separating the value we assign to services from the way we sustain them.