[open-science] The gift, and the world is a persimmon salad

Heather Morrison heatherm at eln.bc.ca
Tue Dec 13 18:46:32 UTC 2011

On 2011-12-13, at 8:02 AM, Mr. Puneet Kishor wrote:

I have a bottle of jam on my table that says on the label, "To be eaten only by nice people." Everyday I look at it but can't bring myself to opening it.


Traditionally, the gift in many if not most societies comes with strings attached. Marcel Mauss explores this in some depth in his book, "The gift". The reciprocal bonds that go with gift-giving is an important part of the glue that bonds families and communities. It is also in many areas the foundation of whole economic systems. In a traditional society, the rich play a role in redistributing wealth. They are expected to share.

Lest anyone think that our system is better: consider how many traditional societies (and their ecosystems) worked within these systems for centuries, while our system has led to global economic and environmental crisis. 

If I give a gift of jam, I would never put a label saying "to be eaten only by nice people", but "with love", "best wishes", or a story about the jam might well go there. And if I were to make homemade jam and put it out into the world to share with anyone, I would bring it to the Food not Bombs group, a homeless shelter, or the nearest Occupy - not a bank.

As Paolo di Maio pointed out, " We are dealing with a complex and heterogenous issue, mixing different approaches and tackling problems from different angles at a multidimensional level is necessary to address complexity. Systemic solutions are by definition, mixed approaches, and
by far the *only* valid method of addressing complexity".

The world is indeed a complex place. It may seem odd from a certain scientific perspective to mix apples, oranges, and persmissions, but in the world every apple begins with an apple tree that grows in soil with the help of water and sun, bees who help out with pollination (I think), and in an orchard hopefully loving tended by a farmer / farmer family. And the apple may well up in jam, given with love, best wishes - or at least the implicit message of eat something, I don't want you to starve.

Why does this matter in scholarship? Because scholars are part of the world, local and scholarly communities. Our long-term scholarly traditions of peer-review and citation have never needed legal language. One might argue that what we need now is more to move to a culture of sharing, rather than imposing legal licenses. 

Many thanks to Puneet Kishor and Paolo di Maio for advancing this conversation.


Heather Morrison, MLIS
Doctoral Candidate, Simon Fraser University School of Communication
The Imaginary Journal of Poetic Economics

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