The Commerce of Information
I work at a school where students spend a good portion of the day interacting with their phones. Information of one kind of another is flying all over the place. What's the latest? Who's making news? What's going on? While teenagers may be a little quicker typing on their phones than the rest of us, in every workplace and within every family information is being traded and it becomes its own form of commerce.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary commerce is defined as “activities that relate to the buying and selling of goods and services.” On the face of it you might not think of information as “goods and services.”Let me share some information and you can decide if it is a service to you and has the goods.
Let’s say you read this blog and decide to share something from it. You then have “goods” that you are going to ‘sell” to someone else. Most likely you are not going to sell it for money –although you may, in which case do I get a commission? You are probably going to sell this information for something else. Status. Prestige. Social standing points.
Whenever we hear/see/experience something new we either keep it to ourselves or share it. Let’s say your favorite author/performer is coming to town and you may have just seen that information pop up on your phone or computer. You just might want to share that news and in doing so you get profs for being the first to know. Your friends “bought” your news and now your “On top of things” factor shoots up.
In the school where I work people love to be among the first to hear a rumor or news item and pass it along. The faculty share information on which student is in trouble, which faculty member is leaving and who is doing what to whom. Students also like to know who is in trouble, what new song just came out and who did what to whom. The younger students gain a lot of prestige by who has the most confidants. If you can hear a rumor and get it out to the most people before anyone else you score big points.
I have to admit there are times when I hear something before most people and I am itching to share it. I want people to know I am in the know. There is a certain “in with the in crowd” aspect to that which I would like to think I am over, but periodically I am reminded that my middle school persona has not entirely left the premises.
Certainly in the real world of commerce, information can be worth significant amounts of money. If you overhear someone at the market whispering to their friend that a startup company is about to do something which is going to blow up the market, you might want to buy a few shares. Insider trading relies on information. You have the latest best information and that knowledge does provide power. I don’t know much about this kind of power, but I do know a fair amount about social interactions and how information can be a powerful currency. An educator I work with told me: “In a school information is the most powerful currency." I would imagine in your world information also has also bought you a thing or two or perhaps cost you something. Not all the information we hear is what we want to hear. Sometimes there is an ouch factor that comes with it.
Regardless of how the information impacts you, there are time you may want to consider the value of holding the information to yourself and times you want to bandy it about. I have a quote on my Secrets of Life website from Walter Winchell who once made his living passing along information. His quote basically speaks to how he capitalized on "secrets" that someone told him which they had previously promised not to tell. If you are going to be a conduit of information you might want to consider how the sharing of it is going to impact those around you. You don't want to earn your insider status at the expense of those you care about.