Title: Analytical dimensions for online gift giving: 'other-oriented' contributions in virtual communities

Authors: Jorgen Skageby

Addresses: Department of Computer and Information Science, Division of Human Centered Systems, Linkoping University, S-581 83 Linkoping, Sweden

Abstract: This paper presents five analytical dimensions regarding online gift giving. The dimensions were derived through a six-month ethnographic study of two co-evolving online communities (one web-based and one application-based). The dimensions are: initiative (active/passive), direction (public/private), incentive (enforced/voluntary), identification (anonymous/recognised) and limitation (open/restrictive). Gifting is a central human activity in many communities, both offline and online. Also, it is, in many ways, a convivial and collaborative activity with a rich history of functioning as a social membrane, which could be at the very core of community management. However, research on the relational and structural embeddedness of gifting in technology-mediated contexts is in its infancy. Consequently, it is suggested that the presented gifting dimensions will support the comparison of similar technologies with dissimilar social effects; that they can aid in using social practices to simplify, or improve, a technical implementation; and that they provide a clearer picture of the requirements of gifting technologies and the social objectives and needs of gifting individuals.

Keywords: gift giving; online communities; file sharing; sociotechnical practices; online methods; web based communities; ethnography; gifting; community management; online gifts.

DOI: 10.1504/IJWBC.2007.013774

International Journal of Web Based Communities, 2007 Vol.3 No.1, pp.55 - 68

Published online: 27 May 2007 *

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