Share and share alike: How the modern world affects our tendency to share

Aug 24, 2009

From giving directions to a stranger to cooking a meal for loved ones, sharing is an essential part of the human experience. A new study in the Journal of Consumer Research unravels the complexities of sharing and examines how changes in our culture affect sharing.

"Sharing is a fundamental consumer behavior that we have either tended to overlook or to confuse with commodity exchange and gift giving," writes author Russell Belk (York University, Toronto). In his study, Belk explores differences between sharing, gift giving, and exchanging marketplace commodities.

"Rather than absolute distinctions, I see these as categories that share fuzzy boundaries," writes Belk. "Although both sharing and gift-giving have some elements that often (but not always) make them more communal, loving, and caring than marketplace exchange, sharing differs from gift-giving in that it is non-reciprocal. The infant who receives his or her mother's nurturing care and sustenance does not incur a debt. Nor does the child who receives food, shelter, and love from parents receive an itemized bill upon leaving the nuclear family home."

Societal changes can affect the nature of sharing, notes Belk. Examples of threats to sharing may be the individualization of family phones and meals, the decline of free public education, and the shrinking of public broadcasting.

On the other hand, the Internet provides many healthy models for increased sharing. Belk notes that forums, bulletin boards, blogs, , wikis, open-source software development projects, and websites where people share expertise, advice, and opinions all contribute to a sharing community.

Belk provides some suggestions for promoting sharing in today's world. "I suggest that two keys to promoting contemporary sharing are an expanded sense of self that embraces other people more than other things and a greater sense of 'sharing in,' where possessions are seen as ours rather than mine and yours," Belk concludes.

More information: Russell Belk. "Sharing." : February 2010 (published online August 20, 2009).

Source: University of Chicago (news : web)

Explore further: LEGO bricks build better mathematicians

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Computer age produces new social system

Jun 20, 2006

A Canadian scientist says members of peer-to-peer file sharing networks, like the early users of Napster, are part of a previously unseen social system.

The 5 dimensions of online gifts

Jun 13, 2007

Different social media, such as wikis, MySpace, Flickr and various forums have different ways for people to give and receive gifts, according to Swedish scientists. To fully understand online gifting and the successes and ...

Recommended for you

Pop music heritage contributes to the formation of identity

19 hours ago

The musical rebels of the past are today's museum pieces. Pop music is increasingly penetrating heritage institutions such as museums and archives. That is apparent from the PhD research of Arno van der Hoeven. On Thursday ...

Helping older employees stay in their jobs

20 hours ago

Factors that can hinder older employees from continuing to work include workload, a poor memory and the pensionable age-effect. The Job-Exposure Matrix is a newly developed instrument that provides an easy way to chart the ...

Explainer: What is a small private online course?

21 hours ago

If you have studied an online course at a university over the past couple of decades, you've probably already experienced a SPOC, or Small Private Online Course. SPOC is a new term for an old concept, which appears to be frustrating members of the distance edu ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

ormondotvos
not rated yet Aug 24, 2009
Much to be learned from such studies, and we'd better do it soon...

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.