Gifting technologies (originally published in December 2004)

Kevin McGee, Jörgen Skågeby


This paper is included in the First Monday Special Issue: Music and the Internet, published in July 2005. Special Issue editor David Beer asked authors to submit additional comments regarding their articles.
When we were asked to specify the licensing terms for publishing our article, the issue of gifting suddenly seemed personal: as authors of a research paper on gifting, we had to ask ourselves and each other some hard questions about gifting our own work.
In an earlier day, the issues were somewhat simpler. Copyright was not automatically bestowed on all published works, the term of copyright wasn't a moving target, and the results of publicly-funded research were typically assumed to belong to the public.
Although we have decided to explicitly gift our paper into the public domain, we each initially had different responses to the licensing question -- and the ensuing discussions revealed a number of different assumptions, beliefs, hopes and expectations. In this sense, it probably parallels many of the current debates worldwide about the relationship between public interest and copyright, trademarks, and patents.
Hopefully, the larger debates can occur with due public oversight, representation, and accountability. In this sense, the debates and their consequences are personal for all of us.
File–sharing has become very popular in recent years, but for many this has become synonymous with file–getting. However, there is strong evidence to suggest that people have strong giving (or gifting) needs. This evidence suggests an opportunity for the development of gifting technologies — and it also suggests an important research question and challenge: what needs and concerns do gifters have and what technologies can be developed to help them? In this paper, we discuss the existing literature on gifting, report on an initial study of gifting in an online sharing community, and suggest some ways the study results can inform future research into gifting desires — as well as the design of specific gifting technologies.

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