[Paleopsych] NS: Email forwarding amounts to ritual gift exchange

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Fri Jul 15 19:32:36 UTC 2005

Email forwarding amounts to ritual gift exchange
[Thanks to Laird for this.]

      * 17:26 12 July 2005
      * Will Knight

    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 [12]Star Wars kid,
    the [13]Numa Numa dance, and [14]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.

    Forwarding a genuinely amusing or interesting link to a friend, for
    example, shows that you are thinking of them and are aware of the sort
    of content they like, Gross says. But passing an irrelevant or
    out-of-date link on to contacts can be annoying, thus lowering the
    sender's social status in the recipients eyes.

Viral marketing

    "If they are consistently wrong about what content is of actual
    interest to recipients their reputation may drop in the implicit
    system people must apply in order to [prioritise] their email," Gross
    writes in a paper co-authored with Jeff Ubois at the University of
    California, Berkley, and Marc Smith at Microsoft Research in Redmond,
    both in the US.

    The power of email-mediated social networks has, of course, already
    been identified by marketing firms, who often try to exploit them
    through "viral" marketing campaigns. This involves creating a video
    clip or website that includes an advertising message and hoping that
    it gets passed on via email to thousands of internet users.

    Gross says email-forwarding networks could prove useful in other ways.
    He points to a software project called Forward Track, which can
    monitor email forwarding chains, making it possible for political
    groups to keep track of those who have forwarded a political message
    to friends.

    Microsoft has also developed software to map the networks created
    through email forwarding. A prototype program called Social Network
    and Relationship Finder, or SNARF, can be used to create a picture of
    the social and business networks constructed through email

    The researchers will present their paper at the Second Conference on
    Email and Anti-Spam in California from 21 July.

Related Articles

      * [15]Teamwork will beat the spammers
      * [16]http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624996.700
      * 12 May 2005
      * [17]A new game for Kevin Bacon to play
      * [18]http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg17523512.700
      * 13 July 2002
      * [19]Small world networks key to memory
      * [20]http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn5012
      * 26 May 2004


      * [21]Second Conference on Email and Anti-Spam
      * [22]http://www.ceas.cc/
      * [23]Forward Track
      * [24]http://forwardtrack.eyebeamresearch.org/
      * [25]Community Technologies, Microsoft Research
      * [26]http://research.microsoft.com/community/
      * [27]Microsoft Research Cambridge
      * [28]http://research.microsoft.com/aboutmsr/labs/cambridge/


   15. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624996.700
   16. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg18624996.700
   17. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg17523512.700
   18. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=mg17523512.700
   19. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn5012
   20. http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn5012
   21. http://www.ceas.cc/
   22. http://www.ceas.cc/
   23. http://forwardtrack.eyebeamresearch.org/
   24. http://forwardtrack.eyebeamresearch.org/
   25. http://research.microsoft.com/community/
   26. http://research.microsoft.com/community/
   27. http://research.microsoft.com/aboutmsr/labs/cambridge/
   28. http://research.microsoft.com/aboutmsr/labs/cambridge/

E-mail me if you have problems getting the referenced articles.

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