The motive is clear, nicely captured by Kevin Kelly.
The electricity of participation nudges ordinary folks to invest huge hunks of energy and time into making free encyclopedias, creating public tutorials for changing a flat tire, or cataloging the votes in the Senate. More and more of the Web runs in this mode. One study found that only 40 percent of the Web is commercial. The rest runs on duty or passion.
But what, exactly, are we accomplishing with all this duty and passion?
I have a couple of suggestions, each of which I intend to dress up as “model” on the grounds that this will make it sound more authoritative and plausible.
1. The bubbler model
Here in Connecticut, in the winter, people put bubblers around their boats to keep them from becoming part of the ice flow in the sound. And I like to think blogging is a kind of bubbling that prevents any topic fixing itself in public discourse. Blogging is for thinking and rethinking and provoking that “on the other hand” reaction. Indeed, in this red state/blue state era, were it not for the bubbling of the blogs we would all have found ourselves committed to an ice age of ideological extremism long ago. This is incidentally a true public service and it must be driven by duty or passion because no one is going to get a red cent of compensation otherwise.
2. The infill model
I think bloggers now take up locations two places on the idea continuum. First, we stand between the newspaper journalist and the magazine journalist. Second, we stand between the magazine journalist and the academic writer. In both cases, we are more contemplative than the former and much faster off the mark than the latter. I think this participation must mean that the intellectual division of labor has become more rich, more various and more speedy, but that remains to be seen. As to compensation, once more only the lucky few are making a livelihood here.
3. the terraforming model
If I may now quote myself from an early post.
Blogs are experiments. Each of them says, in effect, what happens to this way of thinking if we apply it to a variety of topics for an extended period? Do the ideas flourish or wither? Do they evolve or merely repeat? Do they scale up in their complexity, or, forgive me, bog down.
If things go well, I guess, blogs go off like an alpine ecosystem: tiny flora make a platform for minor flora which make a platform for major flora. Pretty soon, there’s a forest on a slope.
Actually, in the best case, blogs terra form. By steadily converting ambient resources, own and others, they create a sustainable intellectual space where none before was possible. They make their own worlds, and so prove the possibility of these worlds. They “discover” worlds by creating them.
This is where we do get paid, assuming that the experiment actually pays off. Nothing that will sustain us body and soul, of course, but the life of the mind may flourish.
4. the Peter DeLorenzo or audition model
All praise to this guy Peter. BusinessWeek tells us that his blog entries at Autoextremist.com sometimes win him consulting contracts with the Detroit executives he dares to criticize. And this is a splendid model. Driven by passion and duty, and our alpine meadow motives, we blog everyday. And occasionally, one of our readers says, “that was interesting. Come in and say more like that.” We make a little money. We have a chance to see our ideas work in the world. We come home and reinsert our head in the clouds.
Naturally, we have a formidable marketing job ahead of us. Peter has the attention of Detroit executives. I am betting most of us do not get a reading by the senior marketing executives who could engage us in this capacity. Hmmm.
Kelly, Kevin. 2005. We are the Web. Wired Magazine. 13 (8 August). here.
McCracken, Grant, 2005. Blogging: what’s for, how it pays, January 05, 2005.here.