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"It's Not Yet A Gift": Understanding Digital Gifting

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A myriad of digital artifacts are routinely exchanged online. While previous studies suggest that these are sometimes considered to be gifts, CSCW has largely overlooked explicit digital gifting where people deliberately choose to give digital media as gifts. We present an interview study that systematically analyzes the nature of digital gifting in comparison to conventional physical gifting. A five-stage gift exchange model, synthesized from the literature, frames this study. Findings reveal that there are distinctive gaps in people’s engagement with the digital gifting process compared to physical gifting. Participants’ accounts show how digital gifts often involve less labor, are sometimes not perceived as gifts by the recipient and are rarely reflected on and reciprocated. We conclude by drawing out design implications for digital gifting services and rituals.
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Final pre-print Author Version The published version is available here: :
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2998181.2998225
“It’s Not Yet A Gift”: Understanding Digital Gifting
Hyosun Kwon, Boriana Koleva, Holger Schnädelbach, Steve Benford
Mixed Reality Lab, School of Computer Science,
University of Nottingham, UK
{firstname.lastname@nottingham.ac.uk}
ABSTRACT
A myriad of digital artifacts are routinely exchanged online.
While previous studies suggest that these are sometimes
considered to be gifts, CSCW has largely overlooked explicit
digital gifting where people deliberately choose to give
digital media as gifts. We present an interview study that
systematically analyzes the nature of digital gifting in
comparison to conventional physical gifting. A five-stage
gift exchange model, synthesized from the literature, frames
this study. Findings reveal that there are distinctive gaps in
people’s engagement with the digital gifting process
compared to physical gifting. Participants’ accounts show
how digital gifts often involve less labor, are sometimes not
perceived as gifts by the recipient and are rarely reflected on
and reciprocated. We conclude by drawing out design
implications for digital gifting services and rituals.
Author Keywords
Digital gift; Framework; Gift exchange; Interaction design;
Rituals; Gifting process;
ACM Classification Keywords
H.5.m. Information interfaces and presentation (e.g., HCI):
Miscellaneous;
INTRODUCTION
The exchange of gifts is deeply rooted in many societies and
has been widely recognized as both socially [3, 26, 28] and
economically [10, 11] important. Gifting services are a
longstanding aspect of traditional physical retail experiences
and are now finding their way into online retailing. Indeed,
digital gifting services of one kind or another are fast
becoming pervasive on the Internet, from commercial
services such as Netflix to non-profit open-source
communities [14].
Previous research in CSCW and related fields has addressed
gifting. However, the predominant focus has been on taking
up gifting as a lens through which to view people’s general
social behaviour around digital media, for example how
teenagers come to value certain text messages [40], how
people may come to value digital possessions [12, 17, 30],
how to enhance social messaging using media as diverse as
postcards [23] and food [41], or how to account for wider
social behavior in online networks and communities [37].
Relatively little, however, has been said about how CSCW
technologies might enhance explicit acts of digital gifting by
which we mean situations in which people deliberately
choose to give (and receive) digital media as gifts from the
outset. A notable exception is the work of [15] that explored
how museum visiting could be enhanced through visitors
gifting personalized tours to one another.
We have therefore undertaken an empirical investigation of
attitudes and practices surrounding the explicit gifting of
digital media with a view to shaping future online gifting
services. We have been inspired by previous research that
highlighted some key weaknesses in giving digital objects,
notably that they are perceived as being copied and shared
in comparison to physical objects that are seen as truly given
away [17].
The primary focus of our study has been on ‘digital giftsby
which we mean intangible digital objects that are
intentionally exchanged as gifts online and in digital formats,
not bound to physical containers. So, not only digital files
such as music and images, but also subscription accounts,
money, and even messages might be regarded as digital gifts
in this study if they are explicitly given as such.
To peek ahead at these findings, we reveal that while giving
digital gifts online is relatively easy, this very convenience
may actually serve to undermine some of the most valued
aspects of social gifting rituals such as, purposefully
selecting an object; personalizing it by wrapping it; and
thoughtfully giving it to the recipient. We also reveal how
online digital gifting can also undermine the experience of
receiving gifts, for example, appreciating the presentation of
a gift; unwrapping it; reflecting back and reciprocating.
These findings lead us to make several contributions that are
intended to guide both researchers and designers in more
systematically exploring the junction between existing social
customs in gifting and emerging digital gifting services
including:
- A five-stage conceptual framework of the gifting process
that reflects broad knowledge from outside computing.
- Identification of key weaknesses throughout current digital
gifting experiences.
- Implications for design to help address these gaps.
Final pre-print author Version The published
version is available here: :
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2998181.2998225
Final pre-print Author Version The published version is available here: :
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2998181.2998225
BACKGROUND
Gift giving literature broadly deals with both a utilitarian and
an anti-utilitarian [24] perspective. The former concerns
reciprocal exchanges of goods or services, in which gifts act
as economic signals and symbols [10] that bind human
solidarity [28]. In this context, implications of gifts as
‘vehicles of influence, power, sympathy, status, and
emotion’ [26] have been investigated. The latter perspective
emphasizes gift giving as act of pure altruism that enables
‘genuine gifts’ [13]. More broadly, a range of motivations in
giving and reciprocation [5, 18, 35, 36] have been
investigated to better understand consumer behavior [1, 6].
In addition, the principles of gift giving offer a lens to
analyze our social communication [10, 11, 21], which now
increasingly occurs online [33, 37]. In what follows, we
scrutinize how gift giving has been explored and operated in
HCI and CSCW, before reviewing social science literature
addressing the complexity of gift exchanges.
Gift Giving in CSCW and HCI
So far, digital gifts have been investigated as a part of digital
possessions with a focus on how immaterial things gain
meaning and how they become cherished over time [12, 17,
30, 31]. Given that gift giving is one of the strategies to foster
social intimacy [21], it has been incorporated into
communication technologies. Taylor and Harper
investigated teenagers’ text messaging with a frame of
ritualistic gift exchange, arguing that occasions when they
offer texts ceremoniously can express symbolized meaning
[40]. Extending this to public communication, Schwarz [33]
argues that in the case of social networking sites (e.g.
Facebook), publicized compliments or tags give a sense of
‘gift receiving’ as they draw public recognition. Yang et al.
demonstrated virtual currency systems in Chinese online
communities with an idea of guanxi, a tradition that makes
ties based on gift exchange [42]. So it seems that messages
and artifacts used in maintaining intimacy are being seen as
a gift regardless of materiality.
Arguably, for personally exchanged digital photos or crafted
digital artifacts (e.g. videos), which often lack an explicit
framing of gift and are often seen as supplementary to
communication, it is more ambiguous to what extent the
concept of gift giving applies. In this regard, Fosh et al. [15]
studied how a personalized interpretation of visiting
experiences can be seen as a gift. Experiences with unique
interactions in the museum were seen as gifts when
personally curated for the recipient. Furthermore, Frohlich
and Murphy illustrated how stories attached to souvenirs
become shared memorabilia and enhance the sense of
personalized gifts [16]. Experiential gifts may be extended to
more general contexts through augmented objects and
interfaces. However, in the exchange of more common forms
of digital gifts, such as, gift vouchers, music tracks, and
software, experience has barely been investigated.
Brown and Sellen noted that although digital music files are
personally valued, they are not as attractive as CDs and vinyl
when exchanged as gifts [9]. The study highlights that
intangibility of digital files influence lack of visible efforts
entailed in preparing the gift. However, Odom et al. [31]
found how teenagers exchange personalized musical
playlists and albums, showing that the immaterial music
track can also be specially appreciated as a gift. Accordingly,
the emergence of ICT broadened the context where digital
forms of gifts would benefit our everyday online gifting
practice [37]. In this regard, digital gifts need to be re-
examined beyond their mere immateriality to further
illuminate the status quo user experience of gifting services
and applications. In the light of ubiquitous mobile devices
and emergent IoT applications, digital gifts are no longer
constrained to a static format or a robust device. Related
research has recognized food as a medium for social
communication and gift giving [2, 19], as the experience of
food has many characteristics that resemble the gifting
process [38]. As in [41], one might for example consider
preparing gifts (e.g. messages) by using food as a vessel that
delivers a digital payload. With currently available digital
technologies, it is now timely to consider alternative modes
for the exchange of digital gifts.
Even considering the above, the CSCW and HCI literature
examining explicit digital gift exchanges remains relatively
limited, and there is no theoretical framework within the
field that could be drawn on to systematically address digital
gifting. In what follows, we review literature from outside
HCI to gain an overview of gift exchange models that would
aid our systematic approach to the subject.
Gift Exchange Model
The preeminent theoretical model employed in the gifting
literature is Mauss’s three types of obligation’: to give, to
receive, and to reciprocate [28]. Literature in the lineage of
Mauss’s model concerns reciprocity as a powerful
motivation that drives gifting as a self-perpetuating system
[4, 24, 26]. Instead, Belk and Coon’s romantic love model
[5] introduces gift giving as an expression of altruistic
behavior distinct from economic and social exchange.
Beyond the emphasis on ‘giving’ [32], [36], and [39]
introduced receiver-centered models and showed the
potential negativity and ambivalence in gift exchanges.
In the context of consumer marketing, Banks articulated
interpersonal behaviors entailed in the exchange of consumer
goods with a 4-stage model, comprised of purchase,
interaction/exchange, consumption, and
communication/feedback [1]. From an anthropological
perspective, Sherry illustrated gifting by using a 3-stage
model. The model delineates implicit and direct
communication that occurs between the individuals involved
throughout preparation, exchange, and disposition leading to
reciprocation [35]. Sherry’s model describes the broad
spectrum of gifting process in detail and is widely cited by
scholars in adjacent disciplines. However, too many
variables and concepts add complexity that became a
limitation [39] for analytic studies.
Final pre-print Author Version The published version is available here: :
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2998181.2998225
Therefore, we recognize the need for a gifting framework
that supports systematic analysis. In the following, we will
introduce a five-stage model that offers an analytic overview
of experiences taking place during the gifting process to
underpin our study.
FIVE-STAGE GIFT EXCHANGE MODEL
We elicited our model by synthesizing the above literature to
ground our analysis of digital gifting and inspire the design
of future gifting services. The proposed 5-stage gifting
model is presented in Figure 1. The listed terms in the
diagram encapsulate the experience in each stage that we
extracted from the literature. We assume that interactions
between giver and receiver might occur in all stages, either
directly or implicitly [35]. Hence, we indicate the range of
involvement of the two parties through the brightness of the
grey scale shading.
Figure 1. Model of the gift exchange with five stages.
Preparation: At the beginning of gift exchanges, giver and
receiver communicate implicitly and explicitly [35],
depending on their relationship and the occasion. However,
in both cases, the preparation is predominantly handled by
the giver, which involves searching, purchasing or crafting.
The process incorporates personalization through the
selection of wrapping paper, decoration and messages, for
example.
Exchange: Giving and receiving take place at this stage.
Interaction between the two parties influence time, place,
and mode of transaction [35]. Greetings, conversation, and
anticipation of the gift occur during exchange.
Reveal: This stage incorporates unwrapping and the
encounter with the actual gift. Excitement and suspense
emerge simultaneously during the reveal stage to both
giver and recipient. It is then that recipients make affective
response to the gift and the giver [35].
Use: Experiencing the gift occurs at the use stage. Usage
may vary depending on the content of the gift. Receivers
might display, wear, experience, utilize, or repurpose gifts.
Usage may alter the value of the gift they perceived
initially. The reflective conversation may also arise
between the two parties while using the gift.
Reflection: For the term reflection, we follow Lindley et
al. [26] who accounts for self-awareness and making sense
of personal experiences as a general process of reflection.
We believe it is not only the gift object that affects positive
reflection. The experience entailed in earlier stages might
also affirm stronger relationship to both gift and giver and
this may lead to reciprocation.
In contrast to previous work, our model introduces a separate
stage for revealing the gift. Previous models mainly address
collocated exchanges, depicting a range of interactions:
presentation, unwrapping, response, etc. [1, 5, 35, 39], all as
typical parts of exchange. When unwrapping the gift, a
recipient responds to both gift and giver by interpreting the
content, inferring intent, and conferring judgment [35],
which is crucial to a giver [34]. Therefore, gift-wrapping is
widely recognized as an important symbolic interaction
ritual that is intentionally added by a giver, with a focus on
“response induction” [35]. However, in digital gifting,
“exchange” and “reveal” are often spatially and temporally
apart, since the two activities are done remotely through
media. It is not clear therefore, how much the giver can be
involved in all aspects of the exchange and how does it
influences the receiver in subsequent stages, both “use” and
“reflection”. In addition, the social significance of wrapping
and unwrapping has not been addressed in digital gifting so
far. Therefore, our model separates the “Reveal” stage from
“Exchange” to be able to probe the influence of interaction
rituals in digital gifting, as it is not just the gift itself, but the
manner of exchange that matters [11].
In what follows, we describe our interview study employing
the framework. As we will demonstrate, it has supported the
generation of a detailed understanding of the gifting proces
in a world shaped by digital technology. Applied during the
analysis of the study data, it all underpins the generation of
specific design implications.
INTERVIEW STUDY
We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews
containing open-ended questions to gather information about
individualsgifting experiences.
Recruiting Participants
In pilot interviews, we found that participants struggled with
identifying digital artifacts that they had received as gifts. In
contrast, the giving experience of digital gifts was readily
recognized. All of the pilot interviewees had experienced
giving digital gifts. An important aspect of this was the
meaning implied by the giver, transforming digital artifacts
into gifts, at least in their eyes. Therefore, we selected only
those participants for the main study “…who have
experienced receiving any digital gifts,” to take part in the
interview. We recruited participants through various
channels. Emails were sent out via several university
networks, the local hacker community, and hard copies of a
poster were also posted across the university campus. 25
Final pre-print Author Version The published version is available here: :
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2998181.2998225
participants participated (9 males, mean age 29.92) from
various ethnic and academic backgrounds, marital status, and
age ranges (the youngest participant was 20, and the oldest
was 49). 13 participants were single, 8 were in relationship,
and 4 were married, living with family and child(ren). We
anticipated that the variance in the participants’ background
would cover a range of different experiences in digital gifting
that allow understanding how people construct attachment
towards digital gifts.
Interview Structure
Interviews were semi-structured conversations focusing on
participants’ digital gifting experiences. Interviews were
held individually by appointment, mostly in a university
meeting room and alternatively via Skype call. The average
duration of interviews was an hour and we paid each
participants $15 (Amazon voucher) per hour. We continued
recruiting participants and collecting data until we felt that
similar issues were constantly repeating among them and
total duration of data collection took 5 months.
Interview
Gouldner argued that appreciation and attachment towards a
gift differ according to the participants role [18]. In pilot
tests, we identified that participants applied different values
to the same digital artifact, depending on whether they were
the giver or the receiver. Hence, we split the interview into
two overall parts, focusing on giving and receiving,
respectively.
Content
Summary of Interview Questions
Part 1. Receiving a
physical gift
(Approx. 10min)
About a cherished physical gift:
What was the occasion?
Who gave it?
How/why did you liked it?
What did you do after (with/to
the gift)?
Part 2. Receiving
(a) digital gift(s)
(Approx. 30-
40min)
Types of digital gift received?
How was the gift kept (e.g.
displayed, stored, used)?
Any experience of receiving
digital contents, which have not
been signified as gifts by the
giver but that are cherished and
valued as a gift?
Any experience of receiving
digital gifts that did not make
sense as a gift?
Any experience of reciprocating
for digital gifts?
Part 3.
Giving digital gifts
(Approx. 20min)
Types of digital gift given?
Methods to symbolize the digital
material as a gift?
Any experience of offering
digital artifact but denoting them
as gifts?
Table 1. Structure of interview with summary of questions.
However, because the physical gift ‘giving’ experience is
already covered by a wealth of literature, we did not include
it in the interviews. Therefore, in order to focus our inquiry
in digital gifting, the interview was split into three topics: 1)
receipt of a physical gift; 2) receipt of digital gifts; and 3)
giving digital gifts (see Table 1 for details).
The interview began by participants sharing their physical
gift ‘receiving’ experience. In this part, we aimed to
understand how people acquire and frame the meaning of
gifts from occasion, relationship, and use. Prior to the
interview, we asked participants to bring examples of
physical gifts if they wished to show certain features (see
some of those in Figure 4).
The second part of the interview opened up participants’ own
interpretation about digital gifting in comparison to physical
ones, from multiple perspectives. Within the interview
structure, we aimed to see how people weigh the value of
digital artifacts (compare to physical ones) in the context of
gift exchange. Also, we intended to see how the value and
interpretation of received digital gifts affects or differs to
given digital gifts. Above all, we attempted to comprehend
what factors influenced acceptance or disapproval of digital
artifacts as gifts. The interviews were recorded (approx. 25
hours of audio) and fully transcribed.
Rating the gifting experience
At the end of parts 2 and part 3 of the interview, we asked
participants to rate their experiences throughout the gifting
process. For this purpose, we presented our framework as 5-
point rating scales for each of the 5 stages, as shown in Figure
2. This was presented during the interview and participants
ranked both physical and digital gifting experiences. For an
adjective that connotes positive emotion, which would
emerge throughout the broad journey of gifting, we have
selected an expressive term, ‘Excitement’ as an antonym of
‘Calm’ (adjective ‘calm’ was selected from Belk’s listing
that was used in measuring giver and receiver’s perception
on gifts [4]).
Figure 2. Gifting process of both giver and recipient. Segments
in between the stages signify time scale, not for rating.
In the interview, we fully explained what each stage is
referring to, especially for digital gifts; “For digital,
Receive is when you got the notification of email or text
arrival and Reveal is when you actually opened your inbox
Final pre-print Author Version The published version is available here: :
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2998181.2998225
and saw what has been sent. In disclosing their experience,
participants tended to associate the term exciting with other
expressions, for different stages of the process. For example,
they stated, “I was pleased to receive […]”, “I felt
attachment to the gift while using it […], or “I was not much
engaged at the reflection stage. Therefore, we would use the
terms interchangeably throughout this paper, where
necessary. With a mixture of qualitative and quantitative
study, we aimed to; i) gain a rich understanding of the digital
gift exchange; and ii) disclose gaps in the engagement with
the digital gifting experience.
FINDINGS
First, we present general findings by unveiling the types of
digital gift that have been exchanged and also, categorizing
the attributes of digital gift. Then we compare both givers’
and receivers’ experience of digital gifting in comparison to
physical gifting, using our framework to visualize perception
ratings. Additionally, we present a detailed articulation of
participants interpretations of digital gifting, by applying a
thematic analysis [8] in accordance with our gifting
framework.
Types of Digital Gifts Exchanged
We pre-listed some digital gifts drawing on the pilot tests,
for participants to recall (i.e. photos, music, movies, gift
vouchers, greetings cards, software, mobile apps, and voice
or text messages) during the interview. Participants added
additional types of digital gifts. A total of 21 item categories
were listed as gifts that had either been received or offered,
or both. Figure 3 illustrates the number of responses for each
item for giving and receiving. Some participants recalled
multiple items whereas some people only had one. Although
we listed some examples to help participants recalling their
experience, some disapproved of those being identified as a
gift (e.g. messages, greetings card, photos, and software).
Figure 3. Number of participants sorted by types of gift items
received or given.
This shows that participants had their own sense of what
makes a gift and that their judgments were not affected and
biased by examples. 68% of participants included digital
greetings cards as one of the gifts that they received;
followed by gift vouchers (52%), photos (48%), messages
(40%), music (28%), software (16%), and in-game gifts
(12%). When it comes to giving, 60% of the participants
have offered a digital photo as a gift, followed by greetings
cards (48%), messages (48%), music (36%), gift voucher
(24%), mobile app (16%), and in-game gifts (12%).
Additionally, there were other types of digital objects that
participants exchanged as gifts. Self-created digital art works,
E-books, emoticons, games, URL links, and money were
mentioned multiple times.
Attributes of Digital Gifts
Notable Attributes of Received Digital Gifts
Although we focus on digital aspect of gifting, the interview
began with cherished physical gifts. Figure 4 shows some of
the physical gifts presented by participants. Mostly, gifts
defined as “most cherished” were objects that people always
wear (e.g. jewelries, watch) or frequently carry (e.g. wallet,
tablet, diary) with them.
Figure 4. Examples of cherished physical gifts. a: leather
wallet, b: bracelet, c: ring, d: iPad, e: diary kept between a
couple, f: watch, g: doll on a key ring.
The main reasons that made the object special were stories
and meanings attached to the gift, as well as the relationship
with the giver. The intention here was not to gain information
about the gifts, but to understand which aspects of gift
construct result in appreciation. More importantly, we could
examine which cherished aspects of physical gifts might
affect participants making value judgments around digital
gifts.
In the second part of the interview, it was notable to see many
participants were re-examining whether digital artifacts were
given as gifts and whether they as receiver had perceived
them as gifts. When a digital file, which was not given as a
gift, became useful (P3, P5, P6, P8, P13, P14), like P5
reflected: “Images that contain information, which was
useful for me, they later feel like gifts, were regarded as a
gift. It also applied for the things that are not particularly
useful but sentimental and emotially charged (P3, P9, P15,
P16). Photos or messages received in certain contexts can
become mementos and turn into a special gift (P7, P17, P18)
as P18 explains: “[…] When I accidently see something in
daily life that the person would like, then I take a photo of it,
I send to her as a gift. Digital gifts had to be more occasion
and relationship dependent to be perceived as a gift (P9):
“My husband bought me an app from my phone. […] If it
was for a special occasion then I would (have considered it
Final pre-print Author Version The published version is available here: :
http://dx.doi.org/10.1145/2998181.2998225
as a gift).” Also, digital gifts were respected as an effective
tool to deliver an experience (P12, P17): “[…] like gift
voucher for specific restaurant, is like I received an event,
something like experience, so it becomes special.” This
illustrates that the voucher is a useful digital token to offer
an experience, when it was personally selected to match
recipient’s taste and desire.
Missing Attributes from Digital Gifts
Reflections upon individual experience with physical gifts
naturally opened an in-depth discourse about what makes an
object a gift and which aspects are currently missing from
digital gifts. Participants frequently noted that time and effort
are barely noticeable in digital gifts, whereas these are often
innate in material gift preparation. (P1, P14): Effort and
value creates the gift. Not only the expense ... Therefore, the
personal touch and purposefulness was felt to be missing by
recipients (P2, P4, P7, P11, P12, P18, P23, P25) with P12
pointing out: One thing about the gift is, […] I tend to value
the fact that people have got out of their way, tried to make
it personal, and (P7): “Association with gift giving is about
kind of purposefully going to find something. Sharable and
duplicable digital files (e.g. music tracks, movies, photos)
made it difficult to perceive the contents as a gift [17], P7
pointed out; “A gift is something that is for somebody and
you don’t have access to it.” Such features also affect sense
of originality of the gift, (P18): “[…] digital gift, it can
always be copied, everyone can have it, and the concept of
‘limited edition feels less”. In this regard, duplicable and
sharable aspects of digital artifacts were the main reason that
participants did not consider posted materials on Social
Networking Site (SNS) as a gift. It was also notable that
participants rarely recognised publicized comments or tags
on SNS as gifts. Messages and shared contents on SNS were
still regarded as gestures of good relationships and they were
pleasant to receive, but people would value them less than
personal gifts. This finding draws a line between our study
and other literature on social media [33].
Moreover, text messages, as well as photos and even files are
now conveniently exchanged through smart phones, which
we found many participants would classify as mundane
communication method rather than a gift. Collocated
exchange and wrapping were rarely mentioned when
describing ditial gifts. A few participants (P5, P6, P12, P16)
mentioned Zip files, passcode locked contents, and USB
sticks, in contrast to wrapping, as a mere method of enclosing
and conveying digital contents. The categorization of gift
attributes (see Table 2) provides a general overview of
captured expectations towards digital gifts as well as their
limitations. Theses attributes will be revisited and discussed
in more detail, later in the paper.
Excitement During the Gifting Process
In this section, we systematically demonstrate participants’
emotional attachment throughout the gifting process using
our model in Figure 1. In the interview, participants rated
excitement during each stage of the gifting process. Figure 5
plots mean values of collected data into two radar graphs,
which helps to capture the overall tendency as well as notable
gaps throughout the process.
Figure 5. Mean values of participants’ excitement (N=25) in
both (a) physical and (b) digital gift exchange.
The physical gifting plot (Figure 5-a) illustrates what we
would anticipate as a balanced experience. The graph shows
strong emotional attachment at all stages. Especially, at the
Exchange and Reveal stages, both giver and receiver share
equivalent level of excitement. In contrast, the graph for
Attributes of Gift
Notable Attributes of Received Digital Gifts
Frequently Missed Attributes from the Digital Gifts
Emotionally Charged, Sentimental Memento
Useful
Appropriateness (Fits context and occasion)
Experiential
o Time and Effort showing Purposefulness
o Personalization and One of a kind-ness (e.g. Limited
Edition)
o Passed Ownership (Not shared)
o Collocated Exchange (Face-to-Face)
o Wrapped
Table 2. Attributes of gift emerged from the interview. (a): Attributes particularly used to describe digital gifts that participants
have received, (b): missing attributes from the digital gifts.
Final pre-print Author Version The published version is available here: :
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digital gifting seems to be exposing weaknesses of the
experience (Figure 5-b). At all stages, except Use,
excitement was rated significantly lower compared to that
associated with physical gifting.
Moreover, it seems that giver and receiver undergo
asymmetric experiences in digital gifting, with the giver’s
excitement being generally lower than receiver’s. We
performed Wilcoxon signed-rank test to identify the
significance of difference between the two types of gift. The
analysis determined significance of givers decreased
excitement at every stage of digital gifting. (Preparation: Z =
-3.366, p<0.05; Exchange: Z=-3.770, p<0.05; Reveal: Z=-
4.126, p<0.05) For receivers, the analysis determined
significance of diminished excitement in digital gift
receiving apart from Use stage. (Exchange: Z=-2.497,
p<0.05; Reveal: Z=-3.22, p<0.05; Reflection: Z=-3.063,
p<0.05) For receivers, the digital gift does not seem to extend
engagement to the reflection stage as much as physical gifts.
In the following sections, we will explore the details of
various aspects of user behaviors and attitudes in each of the
stages of digital gifting that substantiate the data illustrated
in Figure 5.
Preparation
When preparing digital gifts, searching for the right gift
online or creating something with digital resources reduces
the need for people to physically move beyond their home or
workplace. Even though this might save time and physical
burden, it can also diminish excitement, as P16 explains:
“[…] in digital gifts, […] it’s probably easier to find, so less
of that kind of walking around, trying to find... but then it’s
not quite exciting”. In this context, it was notable that
participants rated the preparation stage neutral (3 the
lowest in the category) or higher for physical gifting, whereas
that stage was rated much lower for digital gifting. The
relatively easy and effortless preparation also reduced the
giver’s excitement at the point when the recipient reveals the
gift, as P11 states: It’s not exciting as much as when they
reveal physical ones, because I didn’t go through all the
troubles of preparing it like physical ones.”
Labor fosters pleasure in giving
Gift giving has been generally regarded as an active and
voluntary investment of the giver’s time and effort [4]. Given
that ‘to obtain pleasure’ was identified as the highest priority
reason for giving (material gifts) [1], there is also an
implication that such investment in preparation making and
personalizing digital music playlist [31] fosters pleasure.
There were a number of participants (P8, P12, P18, P19, P20,
P25) who have given digital gifts (e.g. short video clip, photo
collage, illustrations, etc.) that they created by themselves.
We could see that those participants rated their excitement as
high as that of physical gift preparation. It implies that people
tend to build attachment to digital artifacts due to the amount
of time spent in acquiring them, including virtual labor [6].
But for many other participants (P3, P5, P7, P10, P14, P23,
etc.), such personalized digital gifts required specific skills
to access software for example. This was seen as more
laborious than the preparation of physical gifts (e.g. go out
to search, wrapping). There are also mobile apps and web
agent services that facilitate people to create digital gifts,
such as photo collages and video clips. Some participants
have experienced such applications but reflected that they
were not very much engaged with the experience offered by
the apps.
Exchange
At the Exchange stage, excitement is significantly decreased
for both giving and receiving of digital gifts (Figure 5). The
main reason was that the two parties are usually remotely
located.
Givers are concerned with response induction’ [35]
Givers often missed recipients’ immediate expression or
feedback about the gift when they are apart. In fact, feedback
was highly desired and also valued for the pleasure of giving
digital gifts, as much as in physical gifting [34, 35]; (P10)
“For exchange and reveal, it’s quite low because I’m not
there. Then when I get feedback from them I feel quite happy
[…]. (P15): “[…] But when I get the notification that they
opened, it’s exciting. It makes me to expect how they took it.
But I don’t always get the feedback”. It was notable that
some of the participants (P8, P13, P19) who have given a
self-produced digital gift also experienced absence of
feedback. So even for personalized digital gifts that givers
find enjoyable to give, feedback of their appreciation is not
always available.
Physical gifts can also be delivered remotely. P9 recalled her
experience of using an online service to deliver a physical
gift to her family: “[…] so you don’t have any contact with
the physical object […] I often wondered if that is actually
as personal as something I go out and buy and post it to
them.” It implies that the means of exchange is a matter of
concern and in this respect, digital gifting has some
drawbacks. P20 was making use of video calls to achieve
collocated-ness in digital gifting, “I always do the video call
to say that I have sent the gift, and also I can see how they
react.” Overall, it seemed clear that the design of computing
systems for collaborative experiences between giver and
recipient in a gifting context is underexplored.
Reveal
During the interview, we did not explicitly raise comparisons
about the effect of the presence of wrapping. Instead, the
interview structure (‘receipt of a physical gift’ followed by
‘receipt of digital gifts’) led the conversation for participants
to unpack their personal experience of digital gifting that
encompasses ‘wrapping’ and ‘unwrapping’.
Wrapping matters
When offering digital gifts, the absence of explicit wrapping
creates ambiguity in judging what is a gift and what is not,
as P12 remarks: “Digital aspect of it makes even harder to
say what’s gift and not, because sometimes you don’t even
have wrapping.” Most of the digital gifts came through
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participants’ e-mail inboxes or message apps, with instant
notifications of message arrival. It has been noticed that
digital interfaces designed for opening the inbox are quite
inadequate in the gifting context. In many cases, a short title
in the header of an Email or a message discloses a clue about
the content. P4’s statement implies that unwrapping is
inapplicable in digital domain: “Revealing wouldn’t be
viable for something you do know you will receive. […] And
there’s no unwrapping stage for (this) sort of digital gifts.”
Apparently, wrapping was an important feature in how gifts
are perceived. P6 stated that he usually becomes attentive
and cautious at the moment of unwrapping, and especially
valued the wrapping itself. For P6, the unwrapping
experience was more than just removing the wrapping paper.
“The excitement of receiving experience doesn’t go to the
maximum as like physical ones. With the physical gift, there
are other things implied in the features of the gift such as
wrapping. Because it’s a token of somebody else’s effort as
well when they wrapped the gift. It’s not just the gift they
(are) giving, but it’s… they put in something else on top of
the gift. […] There is the sense that you (are) going through
different stages of giving, a person has chosen, bought,
wrapped, there’s lots of things embodied in that.” Some
participants, including P6, highly appreciated the wrapping
itself and kept the wrapping paper and cards like the gift.
Digital gift removes anxiety in receiving
In the role of a giver, participants often referred back to
apprehension before unwrapping physical gifts; P16: “When
they (recipient) open it, it’s exciting but also, it’s… a bit
nervous as well, to see how they respond to it.” It was not
only positive excitement that givers went through, but also
subtle tension and suspense, simultaneously, to face the
recipient’s reaction. Likewise, participants reported that they
underwent a similar sort of anxious excitement as a recipient.
Unwrapping a gift while confronting the giver puts pressure
on the recipient to show appropriate reaction that matches the
giver’s expectation. But in digital gifting, such tension seems
to be partially removed (see Figure 5-b) as the gifts are
transferred remotely. There were different habitual ways of
unwrapping a physical gift depending on occasions,
relationship with the giver, or personal preference. But in
common, it is notable that unwrapping offers positive and
momentous experience in gift receiving. Creating anxiety,
tension, and suspense is a widely employed strategy in
heightening the excitement of experience in HCI [7, 25].
Reinforcing such uncomfortable, yet, not always negative,
emotion during the Reveal stage poses a design challenge in
digital gifting.
Use
One of the most notable features of digital gifts was their
usefulness. Gift vouchers, software, e-books, articles, etc.
were noted as cherished digital gifts. In fact, usefulness was
one of the key factors that shifted a digital ‘thing’ to a ‘gift’,
in addition to sentimental memories (See Table 1).
Accordingly, digital gifts that fit the receiver’s specific
purpose were exceptionally cherished. P20 particularly
favored Photoshop software that was given as a gift; “Of
course, if I’m giving something digital, it should be useful.
Otherwise, you can’t even use, you can’t even display it,
there’s no point, there’s no value. […]” Such useful gifts are
often exchanged in close relationships. For example, in
addition to specific software (P1, P8, P14, and P20), gift
vouchers for special events (P3, P17), and even money
transactions for holiday or birthday (P14, P16) have been
given by parents or very close friends. In non-intimate social
relationships, such gifts are often regarded as inappropriate.
P11 reflects on a goodbye gift that she received from a
former colleague; “Gift vouchers are like that. It feels
impersonal. […] I would have preferred physical things for
that situation. Like books? I doesn’t matter whether I like the
book or not, it would have felt more appropriate.” Pragmatic
digital artifacts can become effective personal gifts in
intimate relationships, since the giver might know well about
the receiver’s needs, desires, and preferences.
Effective Use of Shared Gifts
Duplicable and sharable features were what made people
class some digital gifts as ‘not-yet-gifts’. However, some
shared digital gifts gained notable significance in a family
context. P10 described her use of Whatsapp with her sisters.
The concept of gifting was metaphorically embedded in the
description of a private chatroom: “I have a group chatting
room in Whatsapp. It’s for me and my three other sisters. […]
All of us live in different cities and the images sent through
Whatsapp become quite personal […] Chatroom itself is the
thing I value like a gift.” In addition to a text message
becoming a cherished gift by itself [40], the interface design
of messaging apps can engender the notion of co-presence
by allowing multiple participants to be involved in one
chatroom. Co-presence then enables personal exchange in
real time that offers a sense of gifting. In romantic
relationships, digital gifts were rarely exchanged or
appreciated. But when the gifts were used to create a live
experience, they became distinctive and valued. For
example, P12 was using Tumblr app as a private journal and
his partner started adding personalized content documenting
special events. Since then, they have been using it as a gifting
space; “We uploaded photos, music, video clips, messages,
etc. only for us. Sometimes there are surprises there.” The
use of digital technology can also add value in the gifting
context, by enabling people to personalize, archive, and
share gifts in a collaborative manner.
Reflection
For receivers, the Reflection stage shows the most significant
difference between receipt of physical and digital gifts
(Figure 5-b). As P13 recalls; “I think we never reflect (talk)
back for digital gifts, digital gifts were often described as
‘forgotten’ and ‘hidden’. However, they are not discarded or
deleted, but are neither actively revisited. This was noticed
to be affecting delayed use/consumption of some digital
gifts. Also, some physical gifts are not used immediately
after being unwrapped, but they are often placed in our
periphery (e.g. P24) so that, they constantly remind the
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receiver of the past experience with the giver. The fact that
intangible digital gifts are only noticeable while they are in-
use influenced recipients responses in the reflection stage,
even when the gifts were useful or evoked sentimental
emotion while using them. Digital files can be retained
without loss of quality; however, the user-experience with
the digital content is transient. Nonetheless, we would argue
that intangibility is not the sole reason for digital gifts to be
hidden from our perception. A personally selected digital
gift, an event voucher, was particularly cherished by the
recipient (P17) and a strong attachment to the gift and to the
relationship were formed while using it. Thus, not only the
gift artefact, but also the experience entailed in the
Exchange, Reveal, and Use stages contribute to creating the
sense of a memorable digital gift.
Reciprocation
We also noticed that rarely reflected gifts tended to foster a
weaker obligation to reciprocate. P12: “[…] you don’t tend
to remember every digital gifts you received (when not in-
use) and you forget. There’s still obligation but it’s lighter.
Some digital gifts are recognized as more valuable than
physical ones in terms of utility, such as music tracks or e-
books but they do not always foster stronger obligation to
reciprocate, (P11): “I feel some pressure but weaker than the
physical ones. I might value it more than the physical ones
and use it every day but not the same obligation. This
responds to our finding that givers often missed recipients’
immediate feedbacks when they sent digital gifts (see Give
section). Some participants (as givers) reflected that they
were pleased to have feedbacks even a few hours or days
later. Delayed feedback seems to result from recipients
postponed use (see Reflection section). Nevertheless, the
response is critical to givers [35], even if delayed.
In summary, our findings paint a mixed picture of how
people currently experience digital gifting:
- Givers and recipients appear to experience asymmetric
levels of excitement during the process, especially during
the Exchange and Reveal stages.
- Digital gifts often fail to be appreciated as gifts by the
recipient and are easily forgotten, rarely reflected on and
reciprocated.
- The labor involved in preparing digital gifts enhances the
giver’s excitement, especially where it exceeds the
straightforward use of simple apps and websites, but is not
always visible to recipients.
- Pragmatic digital gifts may be especially cherished and
valued when exchanged in intimate relationships.
- The actual ‘value of goods’ or ‘messages’ was considered
more important than the presentation method or the manner
of exchange among family members.
- The collaborative use of smart devices/applications by
families and romantic couples to share digital artifacts can
effectively build a sense of gift exchange.
These findings reveal circumstances when digital gifting is
effective but also highlight some key weaknesses. In the
remainder of the paper, we consider design implications for
the design of future digital gifting services.
RITUALS FOR DIGITAL GIFTING
It is tempting to think that the distinctly important
characteristic of digital gifts is that they are digital in form,
i.e., they involve the exchange of the intangibles. However,
our study suggests an alternative framing of digital gifting,
one that focuses more on supporting the rituals of gift giving
than on the form of the gifts. From our interviews, we noticed
that what is regarded as a gift depends greatly on the
ritualistic behavior that surrounds it relationships, means
and manner of exchange, occasions, reciprocation, codes and
etiquettes perhaps more so than on its form. This finding
mirrors the wider sociologiocal, psychological and
marketing literature on gifting that argues that a gift gains its
meaning through ritual exchange [3] and that conventional
gifting is rooted in a repertoire of rituals that are deeply
ingrained in our social interactions [1, 34, 35]. It also mirrors
findings from previous studies of digital technology in which
teenagers’ text messages came to be seen as gifts when
exchanged as part of occasioned rituals [40]; or in which
notions of receiving virtual possessions became bound up
with singularized exchange rituals [12].
Given this alternative framing, the question now becomes
how might digital technologies better support the rituals of
gift giving? In particular, it motivates us to consider the
design of digital gifting services that support rituals of
exchange as the design of the gifts themselves. With this in
mind, we now reappraise the key stages of our model.
Preparation
We begin with implications for the preparation of gifts.
Personalization
The effort to personalize a gift is widely appreciated as it
implies that the giver cares greatly about the value of a social
relationship [22]. Kelly and Gooch [23] found that
personalization was a central element in communication
through postcards, even among random strangers. We
observed in our interviews that romantic couples in long-
term relationships expect sentimental value through
personalized gifts. In some social relationships, including
romantic couples, the explicit monetary value attached to
digital gifts (e.g. gift voucher, software) may feel
uncomfortably impersonal, although our study reveals that
this may not be problematic among family members.
Digital technologies might support the personalization of
gifts in multiple ways. A giver might create digital gifts from
scratch (e.g., editing a personal video) or might customize
existing gifts by changing aspects of their appearance. The
act of choosing an appropriate gift in the first place might
become an act of personalization if thoughtfully conducted.
The challenge here is for service designers to emphasize the
personal aspects of hunting for gifts for others. Perhaps,
online retail sites might offer recommendation services
through interfaces that encourage givers to thoughtfully
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associate receiver’s interests when choosing a gift, rather
than automated recommendation by harnessing metadata.
Digital wrapping
One important and widespread way of personalizing gifts
that appears to be under represented in the digital realm is
that of wrapping. Wrapping is an important ritual in everyday
gifting [11, 22] and adding a personalized wrapping may
differentiate a gift from a mere business transaction [11] or
symbolise that something is a gift in the first place [24]. The
act of wrapping typically includes selecting the type of
wrapper (paper or box; design, colour, etc.) according to the
recipient’s preference, deciding how to wrap (whether to
give clues of the contents by revealing its outline), and
adding personal messages and flourishes.
How then might digital technologies be factored into the
wrapping of gifts? One idea might be to develop the concept
of digital wrapping that can be chosen, personsalised,
associated with messages and applied to a digital gift. Our
findings show that digital wrapping would need to
demonstrate the effort and skills. It should therefore not be
(or appear to be) trivial or instantaneous to apply (e.g.,
through a single ‘click’) but should instead involve an
element of creativity, for example selecting, applying and
‘mashing up’ digital media such as personal photo collage.
Thus, even if the giver cannot directly modify the content,
they can become a creative part of how it is wrapped. Digital
wrapping may include services to hide the gift until the
specified time and occasion of its unwrapping, thereby
receivers would build anticipation and suspense. This
general concept of digital wrapping might be potentially
broadened further to be applied to physical gifts, for example
augmented reality technologies might wrap a physical artfect
in personalised video messages.
Decommodification
For a digital gift to be successfully applied in social
relationships, we argue that designers may also consider
supporting decommodification [11] as part of the ritual of
preparation. We take off the price tag before wrapping to
show that the price is not a matter of concern. As an
illustrative example, digital gift vouchers (frequently noted
in the interview) were regarded as uncomfortable within
social relationships because of their commodity feel that
overlooked personalization options (e.g. hiding price and
wrapping). We therefore anticipate potential demand for a
novel digital gift voucher type that allows a giver to
purposefully select a range of goods with reference to the
intended recipient’s preferences. Drawing on the previous
study and our findings, we advocate opportunities to
personalizing the design of the gift voucher would also offer
rich experience in preparation.
Exchange and Reveal
We propose two strategies to enhance the rituals of
exchanging and revealing digital gifts.
Rematerialize digital gifts for enhanced experience
The first is to enhance the moment of reveal, transforming
this into an exciting and memorable experience. Returning to
the theme of wrapping, gifts are also wrapped to hide their
contents for the sake of mystery and surprise, as the
recipient’s reaction is essential to the giver [34]. In our
interviews, Zip files, passcode locked contents, and USB
sticks were not seen as delivering this aspect of wrapping. A
radical extension of mere container of the content is to
enhance the experiential qualities of opening a digital gift for
the first time, transforming the first ever ‘play’ into a
memorable moment. Here we might draw on the idea of
‘rematerialization’ in which the functionality and experience
of digital materials is enhanced by connecting them to
collateral physical materials [6]. We can turn to recent
developments in tangible and embedded computing to create
digitally-augmented physical wrappings for digital gifts. In
other words, a digital gift would come wrapped in an
interactive physical material that would temporarily extend
its functionality to create a moment of rich experience. Here,
we are looking beyond today’s mundane physical containers
for digital contents such as CDs or USB sticks to new kinds
of augmented experiences. This might potentially involve
augmenting traditional wrapping materials such as paper or
perhaps drawing on recent research into consumable and
ephemeral materials such as food that has previously been
augmented to become a vehicle to convey digital contents
[19, 41]. Indeed, food has long been considered as a gift both
literally and symbolically in various cultures [19], suggesting
that it could become a wrapping for digital gifts. As a
concrete example, a digitally augmented package for a
chocolate that wraps a digital music track might play the
track for the first time when it is eaten providing an
enhanced sensory experience before adding it to the
receiver’s collection.
Collocated exchange and reveal
The collocation of giver and recipient at key moments may
serve to heighten excitement (and nervous tension) for both
and also provide opportunities to appreciate the gift and
express gratitude. While of course, the physical posting of
traditional gifts already challenges collocation, the spread of
digital distribution further weakens this important facet of
gifting rituals. One implication is to capture the recipient’s
reaction (e.g. video or audio) of these moments for later
enjoyment by the giver. Finally, we speculate that the
rematerialization of digital gifts to create enriched moments
of experience as discussed above may be used to motivate
them to experience them together. An example of this can be
seen in the work of Fosh et al. who revealed how directly
sharing gifted personalized museum tours generated strong
mutual obligations between pairs [15]. Fosh et al reveal how
these kinds of experiential gifts, while powerful and
engaging, can also engender social awkwardness, which
some of our interview participants also reported to
experience while unwrapping gifts. The designers of future
gifting services will need to accommodate potential
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moments of social disquiet, or perhaps even deliberatly
design them into gifting rituals to enhance social bonding, a
strategy that has previously been proposed in research into
‘uncomfortable interactions’ [7].
Use
Regardless of which exchange mechanism for digital gifts
was favored by people, the pragmatic value of gifts was seen
as being crucially important.
Gifts as social channels
We noted how added benefits arose from digital gifting when
both giver and receiver employed digital channels to engage
in “sense making” [29]. For example, family members (P10)
and couples (P12) made use of chat-rooms and blogs as a
private gifting space where personalized gifts could be
shared, accumulated, but importantly, also discussed and
reflected upon on an ongoing basis. This suggest that the
designers of digital gifting services may benefit from
rethinking gifts as being channels that supporting ongoing
social dialogues between giver and recipient and that extend
into active use of a gift, rather than as merely being a thing
to be exchanged at a given moment.
Giving instead of sharing
However, enhanced dialogue around gifts should not be
confused with shared ownership of them. In our study,
shared ownership seemed to prevent digital gifts from
gaining significance in social relationships [17]. Digital
gifting services that transfer not only the digital artifact, but
also ownership, may foster a strong sense of a gift. On the
other hand, digital gifting through email, messaging and
other general channels, where the giver is able to keep the
original, may engender more of a sense of ‘sharing’ than
‘giving’ and potentially devalue the gift. Designers may wish
to consider the strategies employed by ephemeral messaging
apps (e.g. Snapchat). But reversely, once the receiver accepts
the gift, it gets removed from the giver’s device. In this way,
givers might more thoughtfully select and send the digital
materials, and the system would convince receivers that the
passed digital artifact is a gift, that has not just been copied.
Reflection and Reciprocation
Reciprocity has been a central concern when discussing the
process of gift exchange generally [13, 18, 26, 28] and in
computer supported communications specifically [40, 42].
Our study has uncovered how the immateriality of digital
gifts often results in them being ‘hidden’ or ‘forgotten’. They
don’t appear to receive much attention from recipients with
regards to reflection and reciprocation, even though givers
appear to value any feedback they receive.
Surfacing digital gifts
Personally created and exchanged digital gifts require
awareness of reciprocation. In the gifting context, we found
that reciprocation naturally evolved from experience during
multiple stages Receive Reveal Use which then
influenced longer lasting reflections. Designers may
consider making gifting services not only for fast and
convenient interactions, but also to steadily inspire people to
build long-term engagements as discussed above. This
design approach aligns with proposals for slow technology
[20] that aims to introduce reflection and mental rest in the
experience of technology: for example, a notification system
in a music player that reminds the receiver of the occasion
that the music track was given and offers a chance to
feedback or reciprocate. This, however, would need to be
balanced against the social pressure of needing to be seen to
use and respond to a gift. It might be difficult to quietly set
aside or disregard an unwelcome gift in such a world.
CONCLUSIONS, LIMITATIONS AND FUTURE WORK
We encountered the question “How can a gift be digital?”
during participant recruitment and it guided our research
throughout. In this study, we have investigated how people
associate the notion of gifting with the exchange of digital
artifacts explicitly as gifts.
Our study was underpinned by a 5-stage model of gifting,
synthesized from the wider literature, intended to guide both
the study and design of gifting processes. This enabled us to
explore the underlying issues and causes as to why some
digital gifts are classed as “not yet a gift”. Our findings
provide evidence for both weaker (than physical gifts) and
asymmetric (between giver and recipient) engagements
throughout the digital gifting process. We identified
abundant gaps in current digital gifting practices, leading us
to explore the design of future gifting services. We
considered how digital technologies might enhance rituals of
gifting across all stages, leading to proposals for digital gift
wrap; rematerializing digital gifts at key moments of
exchange and reveal; considering gifts to be social channels;
and extending opportunities for reflection and reciprocation
into active use.
One limitation of our study is that we have investigated
digital gifting from a largely positive perspective, focusing
on the excitement and pleasure of gifting in order to identify
opportunities to enhance future digital gifting services.
However, previous research suggests that there are also
negative or ambivalent facets to gifting [36, 39]. Indeed, we
encountered reports of anxiety, worry and discomfort from
participants in our own study. We therefore suggest that
further studies may apply our framework to scrutinize the
negative aspects of digital gifting and their implications.
We conclude with a final thought. Our study has considered
how digital technologies support long established social
practices of gifting. A broader question for future research
might be to consider whether the emergence of the digital
will fundamentally transform the nature of gifting. This is not
a question that we are able to answer here. However, we note
that, according to our study, digital gifting still appears to fall
short of conventional physical gifting in several important
respects, suggesting that these will require addressing before
it is even on a level par. And yet, we also saw how the digital
might extend gifting in new directions, for example
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reflection and reciprocation during active use. Ultimately,
the steady convergence of the physical and digital, suggests
that this separation may be something of a short-term
concern. Perhaps the ultimate aim should be to combine the
physical and digital both gifts and their wrappings to
extend social rituals of gifting.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT
We are grateful to all of the interview participants in this
study. This research was funded by the University of
Nottingham, via a PhD studentship and the Nottingham
Research Fellowship The Built Environment as the
Interface to Personal Data’, in addition to the following two
EPSRC grants: Fusing Semantic and Audio Technologies for
Intelligent Music Production and Consumption
(EP/L019981/1); Living with Digital Ubiquity
(EP/M000877/1).
Data access: the ethics approval obtained for this project
allows for the publication of selected and participant-
approved research data. This data is provided only to support
related publications by the original research team. Other
personal data must be withheld for ethical reasons.
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... Another research describes how digital and physical gift-giving might differ from each other [5]. It does this by looking at the excitement levels generated by the gifter and receiver during the several stages in a five-stage gift exchange model. ...
... It does this by looking at the excitement levels generated by the gifter and receiver during the several stages in a five-stage gift exchange model. These stages are Preparation, Exchange, Reveal, Use, and Reflect [5]. The paper ends with design implications that influence digital gifting services. ...
... The paper ends with design implications that influence digital gifting services. Their findings conclude that digital gifts are not as engaging as digital gifts [5]. ...
Research
This paper explores the future of digital gifting experiences during holiday seasons. Current ongoing COVID-19 pandemic caused families to not be able to visit each other, how can people still give presents to each other in this situation? We designed a digital experience that enables personal gifting on a distance. The design is made up of a virtual environment, where a game is played to receive gifts. A physical device gives the users the feeling of personally handing over their gifts. The research was done to investigate how the emotional values of a physical gifting experience can be brought to a digital environment. Quantitative and Qualitative data was gathered from conducting a questionnaire and an experiment with open questions and observations. This paper summarizes our main findings.
... Digital or hybrid digital-physical gifting as an end in itself has become an increasingly popular topic of interaction design research, though it is still a very niche area. Such projects face the challenge identified by Hyosun Kwon and colleagues that the experience of either giving and receiving a digital gift is less 'exciting' than for a physical gift in each of the five stages of the gift-giving process that they identified [29]. Given the examples above, it would be reasonable to assume that a digital gift would either require a physical element to change hands (e.g. ...
... The concept of inalienability thus begins to explain the function of effort in gifting. Henry S.J. Robben and Theo M.M. Verhallen [43] established the positive effect of learning about the effort a giver went to in getting them a gift, findings supported by HCI researchers including Daniel Gooch and Ryan Kelly [20] and Hyosun Kwon and colleagues [29]. Inalienable objects are interchangeable commodities transformed by personal meaning, which is no longer separable from the object. ...
... We can also use inalienability to draw connections between the 'part of the giver's person that goes with the thing... given' [30, p. 211] and the level of 'excitement' felt by people giving or receiving a gift, which tends to be higher for physical than for digital gifts, especially when exchanging and revealing those gifts [29]. Kwon et al chose 'excitement' as a blanket term encompassing any of the emotions felt as the opposite of 'calm', used by Belk [6] to convey a low level of reaction to a gift. ...
Conference Paper
This paper takes on one of the rarely articulated yet important questions pertaining to digital media objects: how do HCI and design researchers understand 'gifting' when the object can just as easily be 'shared'? This question has often been implied and occasionally answered, though only partially. We propose the concept of 'inalienability', taken from the gifting literature, as a useful theory for clarifying what design researchers mean by gifting in a digital context. We apply 'inalienability' to three papers from the ACM Digital Library and one ongoing project, spanning nearly two decades of HCI and design research, that combine 'gifting and 'sharing' in their frameworks. In this way we show how applying the concept of 'inalienability' can clarify behaviours that mark gifting as a unique activity, frame research questions around gifting and sharing, outline specific next steps for gifting research, and suggest design strategies in this area.
... In an interview study by Hyosun Kwon et al [32] exploring gifting physical and digital items, the authors found that the 'excitement' (i.e. any positive response opposed to 'calmness') felt by givers and receivers was lower for digital than for physical gifts ( [32, p. 2375], see also [33]). ...
... For givers, the process should be one they appreciate no matter what gift they create. For receivers, the 'exchange' and 'reveal' of the digital gift -in other words, finding out they have a gift and then learning what it is -should aim to be at least as 'exciting' as it is to 'use', just as with physical gifts [32]. Of course, the gift itself will ideally be satisfying to give and receive, as well. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
This paper presents the GIFT smartphone app, an artist-led Research through Design project benefitting from a three-day in-the-wild deployment. The app takes as its premise the generative potential of combining the contexts of gifting and museum visits. Visitors explore the museum, searching for objects that would most appeal to the gift-receiver they have in mind, then photographing those objects and adding audio messages for their receivers describing the motivation for their choices. This paper charts the designers' key aim of creating a new frame of mind using voice, and the most striking findings discovered during in-the-wild deployment in a museum -- 'seeing with new eyes' and fostering personal connections. We discuss empathy, motivation, and bottom-up personalisation in the productive space revealed by this combination of contexts. We suggest that this work reveals opportunities for designers of gifting services as well as those working in cultural heritage.
... In this broader context, there has been growing interest within the design and HCI communities to understand the role of storytelling; to design tools that support design research processes; also, to learn how the tools are collaboratively adopted and situated [7]. In this broader story telling context, we drew on our previous work around physical resources designed to support virtual meetings [10] and research around the development of hybrid gifting [5]. In this way, we embedded our previous experience in bridging between physical and digital experiences and applied this to a story telling context. ...
... The box as a gift did not seem 'enough' for some storytellers to engage. Our original ideas were motivated by concepts of digital gift exchange that apply tangible artefacts as a wrapping medium [5]. Thus, we explored many study designs that would give the storytellers a sense of receiving the stories as a gift. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
IDLE was created in 2016 to address the increasing ephemerality of digital culture. Digital technologies allow us to create and share content across the globe more easily than ever before, but that culture is at risk of being lost for future generations. As websites are taken down or revised, earlier versions are lost. Social media offers a record of daily life in the 21st Century but also vanishes into the digital ether. Devices quickly become obsolete and so how they were experienced and used also gets lost. The revolutions in storytelling facilitated by digital platforms have created fascinating, but intangible, experiences. IDLE is committed to developing an archive of digital culture that fully represents life in the 21st century. We used this backdrop story to explore what it would mean to loose such an all-encompassing archive or in effect all of our digital archives, as we certainly cannot guarantee the long-term availability and quality of digital data. We project that in 2020, a solar flare will have wiped the planet's digital records and that this will have disproportionally affected the human history of the last few decades. In this context, we developed and sent out the ‚Storytelling Box' with the aim to begin to recreate an archive, but also to engage storytellers and audiences with what it means to develop engaging story content. We document the storytelling box, document the ways that we engaged storytellers with the process and critically reflect on the outcomes.
... Tangible objects are more easily given to another person, and convey the significance of a gift, in comparison to digital artifacts (Kwon et al. 2017). Since these interfaces are designed for the use case of narratives that are being bequeathed to another, I wanted to create a form factor that facilitated the activity of giving. ...
Thesis
This dissertation describes a research agenda for designing technologies to support and enhance intergenerational family memory. I employ an interpretivist, mixed methods approach combining ethnographic inquiry and research-through-design to understand the practices and values enacted in this context. These insights are linked to design through the concept of a narrative inheritance. Narrative inheritance frames family memory as a collective accomplishment among family members, both a negotiated process and a mediated product continually reconstructed across generations. To consider the implications of this negotiation and mediation for design, I include an analysis of three “wicked problems” facing those who seek to pass on family memories across generations: anticipating future audiences, curating large-scale collections, and negotiating dissonant values across many family members. The problems highlight the sociotechnical nature of family memory and values at work that influence design decisions and outcomes. This work includes three studies employing ethnographic methods to investigate cross-generational memory sharing practices, focusing especially on the crafting of family stories and the challenges of managing the mementos and heirlooms which mediate family memory. The concluding two studies employ design prototypes as generative artifacts to elucidate and work out the socio-technical values and tensions which become embedded in design for intergenerational family memory. The insights gained from the ethnographic and design work in this thesis will help designers better understand the accomplishment of family memory in light of complex “wicked” problems, leading to more nuanced and engaging designs for real-world use. The work presented in this dissertation makes the following contributions: 1) Identifies the practices enacted by families sharing memories with future generations, especially navigating mediation dilemmas, 2) Develops an understanding of how recipients of shared family memories respond to and interpret incompleteness (of narratives) and overabundance (of artifacts), 3) Explores the design space of collective, multi-lifespan systems for passing on a family’s “narrative inheritance” 4) Develops a design framework for technologies for a “narrative inheritance” that helps designers identify and navigates the multiple consonant and dissonant values of intergenerational family memory.
... Users of muRedder might also embed personal messages, dairy, stories, as well as self-created music into the ticket and exchange as a gift. Digital contents are often less cherished or perceived as a gift when exchanged online due to many undermined surrounding social rituals, such as, thoughtfully selecting, wrapping, and save as one's keepsake [11]. We envisage that muRedder will allow users to rematerialize the digital contents by crafting the physical token and exchanging it with peers, personally. ...
Conference Paper
Full-text available
The experience of sound may be seen as fleeting or ephemeral, as it naturally disperses through space in waveforms unless recorded by media. We designed muRedder to reinstate the ephemerality of sound by shredding a song ticket that embeds a sound source while playing the song simultaneously. In this study, we explored ordinary music listening activities by turning intangible music content into tangible artefacts, making the music unable to be replayed, and representing the sound-fading process by shredding the ticket. We conducted a field study with 10 participants over seven days. The results showed that muRedder enabled users to focus solely on the music content and to actively find times to enjoy the music. We also found that limitedness of the media draws prudent decision in selecting music. By showing the process of consuming the invisible auditory content in a way that is tangibly perceivable, our findings imply new value for slow consumption of digital content and musical participation in public spaces.
... HCI has also explored the gaps between how we perceive and treat physical vs. digital mementos. For example, in their study of digital gifting in comparison to conventional physical gifting, Kwon et al. [15] found that the experience of giving and receiving digital gifts lacks the most valued aspects of social gifting rituals: purposefully selecting an object; personalizing it; and thoughtfully giving it to the recipient. These deficits might ultimately undermine the value of the gifted object. ...
Conference Paper
We investigate a speculative future in which we celebrate happiness by capturing laughter and representing it in tangible forms. We explored technologies for capturing naturally occurring laughter as well as various physical representations of it. For several weeks, our participants collected audio samples of everyday conversations with their loved ones. We processed those samples through a machine learning algorithm and shared the resulting tangible representations (e.g., physical containers and edible displays) with our participants. In collecting, listening to, interacting with, and sharing their laughter with loved ones, participants described both joy in preserving and interacting with laughter and tension in collecting it. This study revealed that the tangibility of laughter representations matters, especially its symbolism and material quality. We discuss design implications of giving permanent forms to laughter and consider the sound of laughter as a part of our personal past that we might seek to preserve and reflect upon.
Chapter
The area is one of the most important criteria for an S-box in hardware implementation when designing lightweight cryptography primitives. The area can be well estimated by the number of gate equivalent (GE). However, to our best knowledge, there is no efficient method to search for an S-box implementation with the least GE. Previous approaches can be classified into two categories, one is a heuristic that aims at finding an implementation with a satisfying but not necessarily the smallest GE number; the other one is SAT-based focusing on only the smallest number of gates while it ignored that the areas of different gates vary. Implementation with the least gates would usually not lead to the smallest number of GE.
Chapter
Advances in financial technology open up new ways to exchange gifts in personal relationships across distance. Digitally transmitted monetary gifts are particularly relevant in our mobile centric lifestyle. As is widely known money has cultural restrictions in intimate exchange and is limited in its emotional appeal. Previous research in HCI studied currently practiced digital money gifts, their use, and technological developments. In this paper, we contribute by exploring plausible futures of such trends in intimate relationships with two speculative design scenarios, PregMoments and FriendBit. We conducted a series of focus group interviews to understand people’s underlying values and concerns. The results underline a concern about the change in intimate relationships by the more efficient forms of exchange and its increased adoption. We found five key themes that need to be addressed to deepen intimacy: ‘spent time and thought’, ‘get-together’, ‘intensified emotions’, ‘memory’, and a ‘distinction from the commercial’.
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Digital offerings have provided new ways to experience what once were physical products. Such offerings have upended business processes by being less costly for firms to produce, store, and distribute. The ways in which consumers access them and interact with them have called into question traditional notions of ownership, access and control. This paper extends the thinking about digital offerings by proposing a Digital Continuum framework: a conceptual model anchored at one end by Digital Products and at the other by Digital Services. We discuss the benefits and costs that accrue to both consumers and firms along the Continuum that result from differences in ownership, access, control and customization/cocreation.
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This paper introduces FugaciousFilm, a soap film based touch display, as a platform for Attentive Interaction that encourages the user to be highly focused throughout the use of the interface. Previous work on ephemeral user interfaces has primarily focused on the development of ambient and peripheral displays. In contrast, FugaciousFilm is an ephemeral display that aims to promote highly attentive interaction. We present the iterative process of developing this interface, spanning technical explorations, prototyping and a user study. We report lessons learnt when designing the interface; ranging from the soap film mixture to the impact of frames and apertures. We then describe developing the touch, push, pull and pop interactions. Our user study shows how FugaciousFilm led to focused and attentive interactions during a tournament of enhanced Tic-Tac-Toe. We then finish by discussing how the principles of vulnerability and delicacy can motivate the design of attentive ephemeral interfaces.
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A Memory Box was built to illustrate the possibility of recording and attaching stories to memorabilia kept in a box. Potential users then provided a range of ideas about what kinds of stories and objects they would keep in the box, and how they would use it. The findings confirm the value of attaching stories to souvenirs, especially in the context of gift-giving, and have implications for how this might be implemented through augmented reality interfaces.
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The extended self was proposed in 1988. Since it was formulated, many technological changes have dramatically affected the way we consume, present ourselves, and communicate. This conceptual update seeks to revitalize the concept, incorporate the impacts of digitization, and provide an understanding of consumer sense of self in today’s technological environment. It is necessarily a work in progress, for the digital environment and our behavior within it continue to evolve. But some important changes are already clear. Five changes with digital consumption are considered that impact the nature of self and the nature of possessions. Needed modifications and additions to the extended self are outlined, and directions for future research are suggested. The digital world opens a host of new means for self-extension, using many new consumption objects to reach a vastly broader audience. Even though this calls for certain reformulations, the basic concept of the extended self remains vital.
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The manner in which the concept of reciprocity is implicated in functional theory is explored, enabling a reanalysis of the concepts of "survival" and "exploitation." The need to distinguish between the concepts of complementarity and reciprocity is stressed. Distinctions are also drawn between (1) reciprocity as a pattern of mutually contingent exchange of gratifications, (2) the existential or folk belief in reciprocity, and (3) the generalized moral norm of reciprocity. Reciprocity as a moral norm is analyzed; it is hypothesized that it is one of the universal "principal components" of moral codes. As Westermarck states, "To requite a benefit, or to be grateful to him who bestows it, is probably everywhere, at least under certain circumstances, regarded as a duty. This is a subject which in the present connection calls for special consideration." Ways in which the norm of reciprocity is implicated in the maintenance of stable social systems are examined.
Article
Food is more than just a means of survival; it is also a form of communication. In this paper, we investigate the potential of food as a social message carrier (a.k.a., food messaging). To investigate how people accept, use, and perceive food messaging, we conducted exploratory interviews, a field study, and follow-up interviews over four weeks in a large information technology (IT) company. We collected 904 messages sent by 343 users. Our results suggest strong acceptance of food messaging as an alternative message channel. Further analysis implies that food messaging embodies characteristics of both text messaging and gifting. It is preferred in close relationships for its evocation of positive emotions. As the first field study on edible social messaging, our empirical findings provide valuable insights into the uniqueness of food as a message carrier and its capabilities to promote greater social bonding.
Conference Paper
The designers of mobile guides for museums and galleries face three major challenges: fostering rich interpretation, delivering deep personalization, and enabling a coherent social visit. We propose an approach to tackling all three simultaneously by inviting visitors to design an interpretation that is specifically tailored for a friend or loved one that they then experience together. We describe a trial of this approach at a contemporary art gallery, revealing how visitors designed personal and sometimes provocative experiences for people they knew well. We reveal how pairs of visitors negotiated these experiences together, showing how our approach could deliver intense experiences for both, but also required them to manage social risk. By interpreting our findings through the lens of `gift giving' we shed new light on ongoing explorations of interpretation, personalization and social visiting within HCI.
Article
In the modern gift literature an anti-utilitarian and a utilitarian view on the giftcan be distinguished. From the anti-utilitarian perspective, the freedom of the gift is seen as one of its main characteristics, while the idea that gifts are caught in a cycle of reciprocity is downplayed. In the utilitarian approach, assumptions about rational actors weighing their preferences according to some utility are predominant. In the first approach, reciprocity is seen as undermining ‘genuine’ gifts. The utilitarian approach does take reciprocity into account but fails to analyse why the principle of reciprocity is so effective. This article attempts to provide such an explanation. By illuminating both the variety of the forms of the gift and the universality of the underlying principle, it is argued that gifts reflect a multi-purpose symbolic ‘utility’ that transcends both utilitarianism and anti-utilitarianism.