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