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Saturday, January 20, 2007 -- 9:34 am

Reading Malinowski's Argonauts of the Western Pacific, I wonder whether there are any parallels betweent the gift-based economy of the Kula trade and the open-source/ wiki (sub-)culture that's starting to emerge in parts of the West with respect to certain software and content issues. Neither, strictly speaking, is clearly motivated by traditional economic notions of self-interest, but then neither is ordinary commerce. This is a consideration that I'll probably explore later in a subsequent post.

How would the Kula work if the items to be traded were not bracelets and necklaces, but books or ideas? Ideas would seem to be ideally suited to this mode of exchange, because the whole point of Kula is that you don't retain the items in your possession for long, but continue to trade them with your Kula partners according to prescribed rituals that perpetuate personal relationships with members of other communities. I'm also strongly reminded of the rivalries and intrigues among mathematicians during the Renaissance, where they would challenge one another to various puzzles and contests and jealously guard their algebraic techniques. The Kula trade also seems to dwell quite a bit on the relationships and prestige of the parties to the exchange, and the history of past exchanges. Although I still have quite of Malinowski's book left to read, it would be fun to speculate about the elements of the ritual. I will, of course, depart from Malinowski's model where prompted by imagination.

Whether this would actually work or not, and survive as an institution, would depend on a lot of cultural infrastructure being present. But it seems like a fun idea. It's an element I plan to incorporate into my writing project.

Sunday, January 14, 2007 -- 8:29 am

As a little housekeeping, I'm starting a separate 'syntactic template' page to consolidate various language notes.