Posted by: bburk2014 | October 23, 2014

A 21st Century Barn Raising

“The community benefits when each member’s economic needs are protected.” So say the authors of Spreadable Media (64). The context is a discussion of the 19th century ritual of barn raising, in which a community welcomed a newcomer by collectively raising a barn on his property, an act that implied expected reciprocity for the benefit of future newcomers.

Jenkins, et al, compare the transaction of a barn raising to the less scrupulous practices of companies operating in the Web 2.0 business model, holding the former up as an example of the “moral economy”, and the latter as an example of the exploitation that corrodes that economy.

For me it comes down to one rather overused word: “sustainability.” Are business practices sustainable? The barn raising is sustainable because it injects new energy into the economy that will pay future dividends. Mining my personal data and selling it without my informed consent, however, is unsustainable because it undermines my trust in the company and doesn’t benefit me in a tangible way (or does it?). Yet that data mining happens every time I use one of the many apps on my phone.

This raises a question for discussion: what are the benefits and drawbacks of my sharing personal data with a company in exchange for the useful features of its app?

While you’re mulling that over, please enjoy this mesmerizing video of an Amish community barn raising, all shot on a single day earlier this year:

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