Urgent Evoke

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Augmented Marketplaces: Exporting Experimental Approaches to Market Situations (Reply to Brian's Prompt)

I've been considering some local insights I've observed in application on the island of Kauai. I'm most fascinated by the local radio station KKCR and its ability to cultivate community. The radio station almost resembles an applied permaculture project. Simply put, I observe the ecosystem of local lives benefitting from community radio. And I see a few patterns capable of export.

First is the capacity of the radio station leadership to identify a "sane/relaxed" market -- to quote Brian's term for what he experienced of the Kauai's island population. The board of directors authorizes its managment and volunteer staff to share music programmes, talk radio, all subject to spontaneity, on a weekly basis; and all the volunteers are interesting, soulful organisms. Funding the radio station is not much of a problem for several reasons: it educates people continuously because the people programming the content are concerned and happy; it throws great parties three times a year to raise funds; and it honestly and authentically utilizes traditional radio telethon fundraisers offering very generous gifts from local businesses in exchange for tax-deductible donations. So first, I notice the capacity of radio station leadership to identify a sane/relaxed market.

Second, I notice that most of the businesses on the island are owned or operated by local people who feel gratified at having discovered their livelihood on this beautiful island. There is a healthy business culture here, so most of the residents understand essential features of the marketplace. This produces a willingness to give in the personified mind of Kauai Commerce. Incentives to give are provided by Sanity and Relaxation. Logic works for the honest voice on Kauai because motivations are sane and relaxed. Now, this doesn't always apply to Kauai Commerce. The SuperFerry comes to mind, which was a project to bring 200 cars a day to our tiny island from Honolulu on a gigantic catamaran. Dollar sign haloes hovered over those businessmen. Their motivations had little regard for migrating whales, inter-island drug trafficking, or the powerful storm systems between Maui and Kauai. In this case of a lack of social and emotional intelligence from commercial intersts, thousands of residents jumped in the harbor waters to send the SuperFerry back from whence it came! The community radio station had wide-open phone lines and all demographics sympathized with the attitude of protest. We demonstrated an ability to literally educate Kauai Commerce as we would discipline a bully. Many business leaders sympathized with our rejection of the Super Ferry because they readily identified with themselves as island residents and not corporate entities. This is a very important pattern, Brian, and I think it's available for export. They call it Aloha, and I can tell you braddahs and sistahs-- Aloha is ready to go viral !!!!

At root what I notice about the radio station is that socially-intelligent advertisement works. When you present a montage of wh*** emotions to a crowd, grounded in fact-finding, nurtured by humor, good music, and effective logic, people will simply interpret your words as intelligent proposals. Proposal-oriented advertisement works so much better than conditioned-response-oriented advertisement. The radio station is in a position to offer the recipients of its broadcast services an opportunity to contribute to an augmented marketplace specific to the context of community radio. Local restaurants volunteer to feed the telethon staff during the FunDrive, for example -- beyond a marketing gimick, it's Aloha. 150 dollar massages are offered by local craftspeople in exchange for 100 dollar tax-deductible donations to the radio station. As third party organizer KKCR receives donations with an implicit understanding from all participants that the money itself is a gift from the larger wh***. In addition, the caring concern of volunteer staff produces a transparent accounting system, influencing the radio station as a wh*** to deliver a technical and financially sound allocation of donated resources. Listeners are kept abreast of the radio station's efforts to explore energy alternatives to reduce costs of delivering first-rate prorammes. Thus, users of the radio broadcasting services can trust the infrastructure of the augmented marketplace.

Actually, the augmented marketplace can be observed to frame (and fuel) a local culture of underground trade. For example, if you want a surfboard you show up in another augmented marketplace for a board swap on the first Saturday of the month. You can sell your board for whatever price you want. You can give boards away. You can trade boards for boards. You pay cash, but you can pay with promises sometimes. You can even offer to provide an equivalent good or service in exchange for receiving a surf board. The board swap takes place in the same 'shopping village' whose restaurants are owned and operated by smart local residents.

I've used the term "augmented marketplace" a few times. I think this is a useful notion. I recently read some of Tom Greco's work regarding the need for internationally-viable alternative exchange functions, and associate my use of the term with elements described by Greco. Greco places hope in local currency experiments such as in Ithaca New York where volunteerism and work exchange utilize a fiat currency called "Ithaca Hours" to represent culturally nuanced exhanges of socially-intelligent human energy that large-scale marketplaces can't encode. Greco claims that internationalizing such nuanced exchange systems could make the global economy more robust. It would make it easier to travel for many people, and could alter trends associated with predatory credit lending. This latter point is especially important.

Predatory credit lending is supported by the absence of alternative forms of exchange in local marketplaces. If I could save my earned wage labor by volunteering or otherwise collecting "Ithaca Hours" for use in grocery stores, restaurants, and shops, I could more easily reduce the effects of predatory interest rates on my consumer behavior. I can't underestimate how important this is.

I would like to discuss more about other variations on the concept of "augmented marketplace" perhaps in future blogs. First I'll consider whether the term makes any sense, i.e. can I describe the term through some logical structures that work to elucidate a collective situation. Thanks for prompting these thoughts, Brian Ballsun-Stanton -- I like how you play the game.

Views: 42

Comment by Massive Attack on March 23, 2010 at 6:01pm
Sounds like a great thing set up there. I am a bit jealous
Me & some friends barter sometimes...I wonder
What I could do to get other people involved. Taking currency outof the
Equation, or at least diminishing its value is the way to go. Most assuredly markets would be more robust; what better way for a community to grow stronger & connect? +1 local insight
Comment by Michele Baron on April 5, 2010 at 2:23am
good post, Cameron!

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