Different social media, such as wikis, MySpace, Flickr, and various forums have different ways for people to give and receive gifts, according to Swedish scientists.
To fully understand online gifting and the successes and failures of online communities, we need to consider the question “who gives what to whom, how and why?”
Every day, more and more people join online communities, such as MySpace, FaceBook, and Second Life, and use file sharing systems like BitTorrent. In these virtual spaces they can reinvent themselves, make new friends, and share information and resources with others. Understanding how people give and receive digital items, “gifts”, online is key to understanding the successes and failures of countless online communities.
Now, computer scientist Jörgen Skågeby of Linköping University in Sweden writing in the International Journal of Web Based Communities, explains how there are five dimensions to the way people give and receive gifts online, whether those gifts are information, mp3 files, photos, or illicit file shares.
- Initiative – spontaneous giving and sharing, e.g. SourceForge.net and flickr.com
- Direction – the path the gift follows
- Incentive – exploited in point-scoring systems such as BitTorrent networks
- Identification – anonymous or recognised
- Limitation – access control
Gifting is a central human activity in many communities, both offline and online, explains Skågeby, “As more and more of human social activities will be copied or migrate entirely to online, we need to consider what dimensions are central to these activities, so that we can analyse their long-term impact on individuals and society.”
Skågeby’s work is reported in Int. J. Web Based Communities, 2007, 3, 55.