Reciprosity in online communities

What do Amanda Palmer and President Obama have in common?

After my office mate suggested that I listen to Palmer’s TED talk that centered on “the art of asking,” I read this line in A Networked Self: “Obama signed up 2.4 million Facebook users as supporters, compared  with just 624,000 for McCain” (p. 190). This led me to explore the Pew Internet site for the 2012 election, and it is clear that more liberals use SNS sites than conservatives. This usage comes as no surprise to me, because the younger population tends to be more liberal, but I wonder how donations to candidates will shift over time. Pew noted that “While Democrats and Republicans are equally likely to make a presidential campaign contribution, Republicans are much more likely to contribute through offline channels, while Democratic donors are much more likely to make a contribution online or directly from their cell phone.” In our fast paced society, I would think that ease in contributing would make a profound impact on elections. Not only does Obama understand how his audience donates, he also responds to how they communicate. In 2008 he created his own SNS that encouraged participation and group formation. Obama shows that he can ask for support, but also provide a space for community building online.

Likewise, Palmer, who believes that the music industry needs to stop asking how to make users pay for the music and instead ask how to LET fans pay for music, showed reciprosity in action online. Her TED talk interested me enough that I explored how she asked her fans for help. Using Kickstarter 25,000 of her fans supported her by donating 1.2 million dollars, well over her goal of 100,000.

What do these two voices, the President of the United States and an artist/musician, have to do with education? Everything. Students today need to understand new literacies and how to leverage them for the good of their community and for their personal gain. Students need to have the space in school to learn and experiment with online communication. What goals do they have? How will their goals affect others? What is their role? What can they give? Where do they need to ask for help? How can they leverage new literacies to be effective collaborators? Who is their audience? What media is best suited to communicate their message to their audience?

What do Amanda Palmer and President Obama have in common? It seems they both understand the impact of reciprosity and community building in social network sites.

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