Accepted paper:

Virtual gifts

Author:

Māra Pinka (University of Latvia)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores how social relationships are built by means of virtual gifts. Closer attention is paid to economic aspects of the choice to pay for “non-material” gift (electronic pictures that represent real things) exchange.

Paper long abstract:

Using a Latvian social network as a case study, this paper investigates how images of real objects are gifted and what social value these virtual gifts hold. The virtual world has transformed social spheres like economics, communication but has it also changed or maybe multiplied ways of gift circulation? In this paper I explore how the phenomena of virtual pictures representing "real, tangible" things (e.g a flower bouquet) are conceptualised by both those givers and receivers. For them, what is the worth of a virtual dog or baby toy, or virtually edible chocolate, or most interestingly, a 100 lats banknote (€140) which can all be bought for 0.49 Ls. What keeps this virtual gift economy economic and what role do they play in building or sustaining relationships among users/friends? Considering how these differ from real, tangible gifts, we can gain a better understanding of virtual gift exchange dynamics.

panel P48
Gifts and their circulation in a market-based economy