Share trading

We teach our children that sharing is good. And yet as adults, we are more reluctant to share with each other. What's mine is mine. I don't give my time away for nothing. I'll trade you. You don't get something for nothing. These are the mantras of adulthood in a Western, commercialised society.

Until now. The Internet is challenging this culture. The entire social web is founded on freely shared content. Prior to the social web, public sharing wasn't that common a theme. If you wrote something, or created a visual artefact, you published it under a copyright licence to protect it from being used or claimed by others. Sharing of free content had always been there though. There were always a few philanthropists who gave their stuff away for nothing. One such benevolent soul was Sir Tim Berners-Lee. Without his generosity of spirit, the Web would not be as popular as it is, because many of us simply wouldn't be able to afford to participate. Sharing was not unknown, it just wasn't that commonplace.

Sharing content for free was amplified into popularity by the advent of the social networks. The likes of Friendster, and later MySpace, Bebo and Faceboook (some would argue that the BBS users were the first), promoted the idea that you could connect with those you knew, and you could share your thoughts with them. Later, you were able to share your photographs, and other content such as music or video with your friends and family, and see the content they shared with you. The arrival of YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare and of course Twitter, made it easier to share than ever. And to remix. And re-share. Sharing content became a reciprocal arrangement, an unspoken agreement, and it established a new kind of sharing culture that many began to understand and participate within. People began to realise that you didn't lose ownership of these thoughts or content. You simply shared them so that others could also appreciate them. Tagging made it even more personal. This wasn't like passing around a bag of sweets in the cinema, or handing out ten pound notes in a crowd. The more you shared something, the more it belonged to you, because others acknowledged that you were the originator, by liking and commenting on your content, and perhaps remixing it with attribution, thereby reinforcing your ownership. It was more like organising your own art gallery, newspaper or broadcast studio. The arrival of Creative Commons licensing made free sharing a more attractive proposition for everyone.

As van Dijk (2013) has proposed, the ready acceptance of Facebook and other social media into the every day lives of a global population of users ensured that the ethos of sharing became second nature. People now upload their pictures and videos, and share their ideas on Facebook and other popular social media platforms without thinking. They contribute to Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons (where the picture on this page was found) with no qualms about copyright, or how much of their time they are giving up. Furthermore, this culture of free sharing has an ideological influence for it is, in Castells' words, 'geared towards collective action and shared ideals, such as ... creating community' (Castells, 2012, p. 230).

The educational implications of social media culture are clear. To create an effective community of learning, people need to be able to identify with each other, share a common set of ideals, and ultimately, share their content with each other so they can learn together. So share your content for free - it just doesn't make cents.

Castells, M. (2012) Networks of Outrage and Hope: Social movements in the Internet Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.
van Dijk, J. (2013) The Culture of Connectivity: A critical history of social media. Oxford: Oxford University Press.  

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Creative Commons License
Share trading by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


skybluepink said…
Thank you for sharing this - I have a lovely time rummaging through your backlist this afternoon and particularly and enjoyed (and tweeted - @skybluepink) your comparison table of traditional and progressive education.

The bad temper that this has created amongst some on Twitter has confounded me a little as I always thought you just chose the best educational tool for the thing you want to teach and the children in front of you. But hey, it's great to be in education for 20yrs and still learn something new. :-/
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for your kind comments Skybluepink. Yep, there has been a little petulance from some, but I suppose when someone holds deep seated beliefs for a long time it is often a shock when they are challenged. I'm here to challenge and to disrupt, but it's not the easiest thing to do in conservative environments such as education, so I expect a bit of flak to be sent my way now and again :)

All the best and keep on keeping on!
Sue said…
Thanks for this post, Steve. It's particularly timely as more and more entities seem to want to stop freely shared content via Twitter or Blogs.
Alison Earley said…
Mr. Wheeler,
My name is Alison Earley and I am a student in EDM 310 at the University of South Alabama. To kids sharing means giving someone else something that they have or even a part of it. In today's society sharing can mean so many different things. There are numerous social media networks that their purpose is for sharing. Facebook and Twitter are the main sources of social media that I personally use and there are many ways to share things: photos, quote, videos, etc. Thank you for posting!
Steve Wheeler said…
Thanks for stopping by Alison. Have a look at some of the aggregation social media tools such as Diigo, and Delicious - they are pretty cool also!

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