vectors of a gift – gift economy

I’m a pretty visual person, so I’m putting this up as a place holder for future thought. Yesterday I sketched out for myself my four fundamental aspects of a Gift. What we mean by gift is this: an inexactly repayable exchange whose very unending obligation perpetuates the relationship in a kind of positive debt which can pass back and forth between persons. This in a hidden way can be said to underwrite more exact market economy exchanges.

The idea diagrammed above is that if we isolate these (or some other) constitutive vectors we might be able to analyze gift-giving scenarios, and seek to strengthen their effectiveness and bonds when we build them for commerce. Whether they be crowdsourcing, crowdfunding, freemium, open-innovation, organized charity donations, blogging behaviors, social medium spaces, Digital Tribe building (such as currently being done with #usguys hashtag), product giveaways, or any of the other social marketing-like issues, we are looking for constant dimensions to keep our eye on.

These four juxtaposed terms are a placeholder. It works as a promise for me to return and explain what I mean by these terms. But also it is a chance for anyone who has been involved in the conversation on Gift Economy to think about the diagram, and come up with what it might mean to them. Right now it will remain a pictographic theory. Provisional, of course, but perhaps it gives a sense of the space I am thinking in.

Interested in your impressions. The hope is to think about Gift Economies in every way, from story telling, to anthropology, to abstract theorizing, but end up with real world observations and real world differences that can be made, in particular to the new Social Media. How to make Gift Giving and customer/user contribution more central and powerful.


using gifting to steer message

photo from bazaarblog

Ian Greenleigh at Bazaarblog writes about how Toyota was able to counter a trending “negative online sentiment” through a story donation campaign on Facebook.

Kimberley’s social media team saw an opportunity to rebuild trust in the Toyota brand after last year’s high-profile recall. They saw an increase in negative online sentiment that they needed to address, and they realized that the traditional route—“talking about ourselves”—wasn’t going to do the trick. Instead, they devised a way of encouraging their customers to share positive sentiment online with each other (and prospective Toyota customers) through a clever campaign called Auto-Biography. “It’s what everybody else says about Toyota that matters,” said Kimberley. First, they asked owners to share their experiences on Toyota’s Facebook page, from the “wonderful,” to the “crazy,” to the “not-so-happy.” Stories could be text, photos, videos, or all of the above—a rich mix of user-generated content.

The campaign, so far, has resulted in the submission of over 13,000 individual stories, and has been seen by nearly 150,000 visitors. Thousands of these stories were about safety, and served collectively as a powerful asset to counter the public perception of Toyotas as unsafe. The submissions were overwhelmingly positive, but negative stories were not censored. To “extend the life of the content,” as Kimberley put it, six stories were selected for conversion into minute-long animated shorts which have had close to 100,000 views since October.

via How Toyota and UPS use social media as reputation defense « The Bazaarvoice Social Commerce Blog.

What strikes me, as I’ve started exploring the sense that Social Media operates through a Gift Economyexplicitly written about yesterday – is how opening up a space for stories (and not really complaints) is an act of generosity. That is, Toyota offers its social standing to carve out a media space for others, conferring importance upon itself, a sense of surplus, and in turn users feel a surplus in themselves when they donate a story or experience to the space. It is not just “we want your feedback” or “we care about you”. It’s reciprocal and always asymmetric acts of donation, gift giving.