[iDC] Time Banks, Playgrounds, and Factories

Jonah Bossewitch mrenoch at phantomcynthetics.com
Mon Sep 21 04:56:26 UTC 2009

Yesterday was Software Freedom Day and I attended a wonderful
celebration (http://hackervisions.org/?p=523) which highlighted some
amazing free software projects as well as the joys of sharing (we even
got treated to a live rendition of the "Copyright Song"

I was reminded of an idea I meant to send to this list earlier this
summer about an event hosted by Evolver.net entitled "Beyond Money"
(http://evolver.net/event/nycspore2 - IDC doesn't post upcoming events,
but this one is safely in the past, so it's ripe for academic analysis
;-)).  Many of the participants in this aspiring social movement are
actively exploring alternative currencies.  On a few occasions they have
brought in organizers to explain time banking, and are actively
participating and encouraging their membership base to get involved with
the local time bank.

If you have not heard of time banking, it is a growing practice that
strives to create local communities of people who exchange services with
each other through the time bank.  They talk alot about how these time
banks are intended to foster community, and how its good to be in time
debt since that will lead to more participation, and how they imagine
the positive social interactions that time banking will facilitate. Time
banking is thriving in a few locations across the US, and some
municipalities are considering issuing time credits to volunteers.

Time Bank Central http://www.timebanks.org/ and one of  New York's Time
Banks http://www.timeinterchange.com/

I think that Time Banking presents a wonderful gedanken experiment for
digital labor critics to consider.  The time bank designers (part of
this larger http://www.economicsofpeace.net/ conversation) are striving
to route around many of the issues that this list expertly dissects and
critiques, and they could benefit greatly from some of our critical

Personally, I am cautiously skeptical of the promise of time banking.  I
wonder, as I do with the Wealth of Networks, about the downsides of
quantifying every social transaction and the (a)counting of what used to
be considered favors and gifts.

I see many direct parallels between the Time Banker's alternatives to
money, and the Free Culture movement's alternatives to property.  Both
have the /potential/ to treat the underlying phenomenological condition
of Greed with its antidote of sharing.  But, I wonder what sorts of
unanticipated pitfalls the Time Banking movement may encounter as they
attempt to set up an alternate economy. Can activist organizations adopt
time banking to improve accountability?  What does it mean for an
organization or state to issue time credits?  Who will you collect those
credits from? What subtle forms of exploitation (surveillance,
peer-pressure, affective control) will time bankees be subjected to? 
What cultural practices accompany the successful time banks that lead to
their success?  How should Time Banks be designed to optimize their
positive social impact?

Just a thought (experiment).


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