About

I write about technology, psychoanalysis, philosophy, design, ideology & Slavoj Žižek.

Appreciation

May 25, 2011

Crowding out of intrinsic motivations

Luis Villa (lawyer, formerly the “geek-in-residence” of The Berkman Center For Internet and Society at Harvard) reviewed the psychological literature on the impact of paying people for work that they once did as volunteers to determine whether its a good idea for the GNOME Project to offer cash prizes (“bounties”) for some code contributions instead of just relying on free labor:

Directly relevant to GNOME, there is some research that indicates that paying volunteers can reduce their overall level of contribution. Specifically, it concludes that those paid small amounts in correlation with volunteering work fewer hours than the average volunteer, while those paid large amounts end up working more hours than the average volunteer.

In the end, Villa finds the research inconclusive, but suggests the GNOME project should be very cautious about paying volunteers. This is an example of how intrinsically-motivated participation on the internet is not only encouraged, it may also become mandatory because of the supposedly corrupting influence of money on the value of our contributions. I can imagine this logic used as a justification for cutting wages when companies discover that unpaid customer service reps who work for “a sense of self-determination” are friendlier and more compliant than those who work for $12/hour.

Colloqium

Related Posts

August 5, 2014

The Cult of Sharing

The sharing economy's marquee startup Airbnb recently unveiled a new brand identity and positioning to help propel its international expansion. Airbnb's new wordmark and logo nicknamed "the Bélo" is said to have been the culmination of a year-long process, including a cross-cultural analysis to ensure their identity would be understood around

Read more →
January 6, 2014

The Agile Labor Union

In 2001, seventeen American, British and Canadian software engineers and IT managers met at a ski resort in Snowbird, Utah, to start a movement to remake the way software is built. Over the previous decade, the attendees had independently created similar processes for organizing and managing software engineering projects that broke

Read more →
December 19, 2011

The Peer Production Illusion: Part I: The Myth of Open Source Software

My relationship to the open source movement is a familial one. The idea was passed down to me in the mid 90s by my father, when he installed Slackware Linux on our home computer in a protest against the dominance of Microsoft. He became something of an open source zealot and

Read more →

Recent Popular Posts

February 13, 2014

Left Activism Goes Corporate: A Detour Through the Raw Food Underground

One of the most tedious features of the Silicon Valley Hype Machine is its endless repetition of progressive sounding marketing slogans about democracy and freedom, all while promoting a pro-business agenda. But it's too easy to read this as a sinister corporate ploy to co-opt the language of activists and twisting

Read more →
December 20, 2013

Civility: A Distance That Brings Us Together

Just in time for the holidays, Apple's marketing department released *[Misunderstood][1]*, an ad about a surly teenager absorbed in his iPhone in the midst of scenes of his family's idyllic Christmas togetherness. But he surprises everyone when he reveals that the whole time he was making a touching video for everyone

Read more →
January 26, 2014

Ten Parenting Lessons I Learned from Franz Kafka

Here's an adage which I think is true: every theory of parenting is implicitly a theory of society. It follows that even if you aren't a parent now, nor ever intend to be one, if you're interested in society and culture, you ought to be interested in the topic because the

Read more →