Digital Valuables

Gift-giving is generally described as the exchange of material objects that embody particular meanings. It is also viewed as subject to the obligations to give, receive and reciprocate, and available as a means to demonstrate social ties and allegiances.

The New Scientist about emerging social behaviors around email forwarding and economies of exchange:

“Forwarding a quirky email or an amusing link or video attachment to colleagues may seem innocent enough, but it is the modern equivalent of ritual gift exchange and carries with it similar social implications, say US researchers.

Email forwarding is a familiar part of modern email communications, and has spawned many an internet phenomenon, the Star Wars kid, the Numa Numa dance, and Oolong the rabbit to name just a few.”

Similiar behaviors can be found with mobile phone users. “Gift of the Gab” An interesting paper by Taylor and Harper from 2003 reviews youth behaviors and touches the issues of the social meaning of exchanging text messages:

This paper reports on an ethnographically informed observation of the use of mobile phones and text messaging services amongst young people. It offers a sociological explanation for the popularity of text messaging and for the sharing of mobile phones between co-proximate persons. Specifically, it reveals that young people use mobile phone content and the phones themselves to participate in the practices of gift exchange. “