Gifting Economy

Freecycle Portland
I was having a discussion with folks in the Portland Burning Man community yesterday, and here’s something I penned about gifting:

“Jason, I would say it’s not an exact science, and rather perhaps more of an
art form this giving and receiving.  I’ve been working on something
recently that’s in a similar vein, Farm My Yard ( ) and it’s been an interesting trip.  I thought it would be an a + b = c kind
of experience, but instead, it’s full of thousands of variables and every
situation is different.

same with giving and receiving.  it’s not that cut and dry.  each of us is
in a very different place in life – may be same age, but diff class
background.  may have same skin color, but different gender.  may have
different life experiences – having had a lot, easy access to stuff; or
none at all.

that said, I take each situation as well as I can in the moment and use my
judgement, wisdom, and also make plenty of misjudges and mistakes along the

thank God there has been Burning Man, because that has been an incredible
crucible for me to try this type of exchanging, gifting, asking/receiving,
activity out for the last 12 years.

one year I came back and started FreecylePortland – and I don’t mean that
as a show-offy comment, just that I think about this concept A LOT.  and
try to live it, and share it, and yeah

hope everyone’s having fun preparing this year….

Then, later, I added this in. Feel free to play in the comments section!

I’d love to hear you take a few minutes and spell out what a gifting
economy is.  your words, a few paragraphs, go.

winner is all of us.

Image by Larz

Ready for Burning Man 2015 – Supposedly with a 747 Art Car!

I’ve gifted you with some of my understanding of gifting economy 🙂  what’s yours? 


  1. From: “Ralph
    Subject: Re: [portland-list] the Gifting Economy challenge
    To: “”

    Gifting to me is to give without expectation of a return.? If I see a camp struggling with their setup and I walking over and say, “Hi, would you like a hand with that?” I’m gifting my services without expectation of payment, including them even talking to me.? If upon completion, I say, “wow, that was hard work, do you have a cold beer?” I’ve now changed that gift into an exchange based on expectation? – I did this for you, I expect some sort of reciprocation. This is closer to bartering. In the same vein, the expectation that you will receive a gift just by being present is a false pretense as well.? For example, if I walk up to you and start a conversation, it is a false expectation that you will “gift” me something just for the interaction. I think this is the difficult issue with “Gift” and “Economy” in conjunction. A gift is given without expectation that there will be any return (or that the recipient will even keep the gift); economy is based
    on exchange (I give you something, you give something back).

    To me, this whole topic has started up because of the perception that Albert was asking for a gift with no suggestion (at first) of reciprocation. That is like seeing someone hand your friend a gift and saying, “wow, that’s really cool, can I have one?” Is it still a gift because you’ve now extended an expectation?? The whole topic of “Asking” vs. “Gifting” is very valid in the context of Burning Man’s proposed “Gift Economy.”? If, at the burn, you happen to have run out of propane for your stove, would you wander around hoping someone “Gifts” you a full cylinder or would go next door and ask if they have one they can spare?? Probably the latter but you would also create a level of exchange: “Do you have a propane cylinder?? I’ve got whiskey if you do.”? This would give the owner of the propane the option to “Gift” the cylinder to you by saying, “hey, no worries.”? Or, they can except the exchange.? However, if you just walked in, asked for
    propane and walked away, the giver would probably think you were ungrateful and bitch about it to their campmates.

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