Tweet Chat

Creating Knowledge Together

Experiments in Gifting

Our third #wowochat centered around the theme of Gift Culture as an alternative to the dominant paradigm of transaction and was tied in with our holiday Shop of the Open Heart gifting experiment. We introduced the Tweet Chat with some basic assumptions, like the idea that community is woven from gifts and stories. Those of us at Walk Out Walk On also believe that when we choose to interact with those around us through gifting, we deepen our relationships and strengthen the social fabric of our communities.

We had 36 contributors to the two-hour conversation which included a number of rich inquiries introduced by both #wowochat hosts and participants. You can download a full report including an archive of all tweets here. Some of the key questions we explored included:

  • What gift have you given that activated your generosity?
  • How does gifting impact on and/or shape your sense of personal identity?
  • Why do we think it’s important to recover the value of things that have no monetary price?
  • How can we gift in a way that doesn’t transfer ownership but removes ownership?
  • What are we doing about this season of gifting when often gifting = consumerism?

During the Tweet Chat we engaged in interesting dialogue around the sustainability of our gifting habit, which led us into a discussion of whether or not it is first necessary to have a reserve or a surplus before we can give freely. Some contended that we must simply take a leap of faith and trust that when the cycle of gifting is complete, we create environments of abundance in which everyone has enough. We chatted about scarcity economies and abundance economies. And we tweeted at length about the difference between gifting and charity, a kind of giving that often is fraught with attached strings and expectations. This led us to a slightly different topic of the issue of privilege and obligation in the field of gifting. Some participants felt that those individuals who have been born into privilege should feel it their duty to give more. Another person offered the idea that for the economically privileged, giving away wealth might be a kind of gift (and freedom) to the giver.

In the end we shared a number of interesting resources related to gift culture like:

  • A 1976 film about a community in Papua New Guinea called Ongka’s Big Moka (demonstrating a competitive kind of tribal gift culture)
  • Punk Money, a Twitter based currency for gift economy
  • Tip the Web, a way of supporting via gift culture your favorite websites and web-based services
  • An anarchist squat called #OffMarket in London that works from a space2space framework, letting people give and receive stuff freely

We also talked about simple real life experiments that we can do any time to experience gift culture like:

  • Leaving a $100 tip from time to time in a restaurant or cab
  • Gifting something every day for one week without any expectation of return to people you know well, know a little and don’t know at all
  • Choosing to take the time to make your gifts with your own hands, or offer experiences or talents rather than buying them

Here are just a few of the many interesting tweets from the conversation:

@sebpaquetchats: I’ve been looking for ways to make my generosity habit sustainable

@steffesB: I’m wondering what we can learn about #gifting from nature. How does the rest of life do it? #biomimicry

@wwjimd: Surplus, to me, is that which is past reserve. It means you are thriving, and therefore can give without draining your capacity to keep giving fully

@timrayner01: #gifting is a transaction. Let’s not conflate the gift game with altruism pure and simple

@yeyoenoax: Requires leap of faith; unlearning societal idea generosity won’t be reciprocated. Boldly modeling it everywhere

@dfrieze: Do we privileged have a greater responsibility to be generous? Or is it just different what can be gifted?

@webisteme: Money frees people from relying on each other’s gifts, which isn’t always bad

@complexified why must receiving be as full as giving? Must there always be sense of both need and deserving; grace & humility?

@hackofalltrades: I absolutely agree that scarcity exists in many places.Just that gifting can be an answer to it, not only a further drain.