The Gift of SPAM

Here is one for all you Mauss fans:

Forwarding a quirky email or an amusing link or video attachment to colleagues may seem innocent enough, but it is the modern equivalent of ritual gift exchange and carries with it similar social implications, say US researchers.

Email forwarding is a familiar part of modern email communications, and has spawned many an internet phenomenon, the Star Wars kid, the Numa Numa dance, and Oolong the rabbit to name just a few.

Benjamin Gross at the University of Illinois, US, and colleagues studied email forwarding behaviour by conducting informal interviews among email users. He says forwarding emails plays a vital role in constructing and maintaining modern social ties, despite the phenomenon receiving scant attention from social scientists.

Of course, within my friendship networks such gift-giving is strictly taboo!

2 thoughts on “The Gift of SPAM

  1. Pingback: Nomadic Thoughts
  2. A kula ring spiralling out of control? I’d say these phenoms are more akin to rumor or a popular graffiti tag.

  3. Pingback: Psy-Phi
  4. Just a note of clarification:

    Email forwarding (which is sometimes referred to as a “viral meme”) is not the same thing as SPAM. The term SPAM, which originally referred to multiple crossposted USENET postings (not even necessarily commercial at that point), now refers to unsolicited commercial advertisements, usually via email, but also in blog comments or trackbacks.

    Viral memes usually come from someone you know, though often unsolicited, and are usually “humorous”, “inspirational”, or “advisory.”

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