To Be or Not To Be … Free

Is information becoming revalued? – so that the more often it is exchanged the more valuable it becomes??

I have been having an interesting conversation with a GenX information packager and distributor. We have been talking about presenters giving away all the presentations from a conference for free. I come from the Boomer generation where we were taught that the scarcity of information increased its value. Those who had expertise could multiply its worth by selectively withholding it and charging a fee for releasing it.

However as GenX pointed out the information distribution system changed once information could be distributed asynchronously through a technology like fax machines. Only the ubiquitous installation of fax machines made the information they distributed available (and therefore valuable). In this case the denser the distribution chain the better.   I can see the argument for promoting the distribution of fax machines.  And perhaps Skype is a good modern example (although they have just introduced a version for charging – so that also seems to be creeping into our culture – a kind of combo ( what is called in sales) “puppy dog” + “bait and switch” close – take this free version and when you have got used to wanting and using it then we will offer you an even more deluxe version that you have to pay for. By then I can’t live without it so I pay.)

 But what happens when we think further of fax machines and Skype? One is hardware channel for info exchange, the other is a soft/shareware delivery channel for information. It is like the old blade and razor relationship. Or is it? When you send info thru those channels it is only as valuable as the number of people who receive and exchange/forward it with/to others. When the info pattern is exchanged often enuf it becomes a v-meme and enters the meaning making world as a kind of code. I guess I’d call it a reflective code (per Humans being Gaia’s reflective organ). In the terms of communication amongst the honey bees, it would be a dance that points to something valuable like flower pollen/nectar???

However, the honey bees actually have a species agreement where they first support each other (and in so doing support themselves as individuals  (I would call this the bee form of  Ubuntu ) and thru pollination support their place/eco-region. So far the human species first supports self, then others, then this place.

Maybe the shift from valuing the distribution channel to valuing the info exchange(d) is a pre-cursor to our shifting from I-support to  We-support???  Perhaps this is the life condition that Yellow produces so that Turquoise can emerge??? Is this what GenX and Y are manifesting in the world and what Boomers find a stretch?? Maybe, we are really talking about a species values shift at the Generational level and that is occurring at Lower Left and Upper Left quadrants?

The question comes down to: does the rate of information freely exchanged increase its value?  To Be or Not To Be … Free  … that is the question.

By |2011-09-09T15:12:57+00:00September 9th, 2011|Inner, Inquiry, Storytelling - Cultures|3 Comments

About the Author:

HI I am the Founder of Integral City Meshworks Inc. and Chief Blogger. Working with cities and eco-regions, I ‘meshwork’ or weave people, purpose, priorities, profits, programs and processes to align contexts, grow capacity and develop strategies for sustainability and resilience in the Integral City. You can read more details about me here http://integralcity.com/about/about-the-founder/


  1. Deanna Evertt September 9, 2011 at 4:06 pm - Reply

    Hi Marilyn,

    Your article is provocative. Don’t really have any answers either. I have been immersing myself lately in social media and internet marketing and the amount of free information is overwhelming, and that’s an understatement. Sifting through it to find gems is tedious. Most of the free information is a lure, as you say, to get you to buy into their product, which is hit or miss as to how valuable it is. The pace of marketing tools development like logos, graphics, videos, etc is reckless in most cases. I smile when I see terms like Customer Gravatar and hear people online call it an amazing new marketing idea, when I remember you and I working together and all it is is a customer profile and really knowing who your target market or ideal customer is. Many of the same principles are out there in the “brave new world” – just have different names and this is comforting to me.

  2. Marilyn Hamilton September 9, 2011 at 8:05 pm - Reply

    Well further to your observations Deanne, George Monbiot wrote a flaming article decrying the practices in Academic journalism that imho have long seemed lacking in the ethical practise academics must comply with. You can read it here http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/aug/29/academic-publishers-murdoch-socialist?INTCMP=SRCH
    And further to that a related article in Wired explores the whole shadow world of academic publishing here http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/2011/05/free-science-one-paper-at-a-time-2/all/1
    If I had to use biomimicry to compare how the bees feed each other, it does not augur well for the evolutionary intelligences (or lack thereof) for homo sapien sapiens!!

  3. Marilyn Hamilton September 20, 2011 at 10:26 pm - Reply

    John Dickson writes: I was just reading your Sept 9 Blog. Interesting and provocative. In the last paragraph – What is not clear to me in this article is how you pay the bills if you give it all away? What does one sell or how does one pay the electric bill and the internet connection, or the green grocer? Apparently you had the conversation so help out a fellow boomer :0) I love giving stuff away but I haven’t encountered the same spirit from those who supply my necesities of life.

    I reply – I know John this seems paradoxical. But my GenXer sees that the bills can be paid by using the free offerings as a form of marketing. That’s how you gain presence and credibility in the marketplace. The other thing that I have found is that no one can do your work like you can. Each of us is unique and when we are engaged we devliver disntictive values (for fair exchange). People buy our energy and they find out about it by a taste test thru a free sample. So I’d say we wouldn’t give everything away – but enough to entice others to want more.

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