This paper reports on a two-week nethnographic (online) observation of four online gift-exchange communities – virtual platforms, where participants conduct barter exchange of different daily objects such as books, children's products, furniture, home ware and others. These communities as case of informal economy initially do not have formal attributed rules. It is essential to find out (1) which rules and mechanisms exist in this type of economy; (2) what motivates people who are not acquainted with another to exchange gifts; and (3) understand the way this community exists. The conclusion is drawn that social capital is the basic engine of investigated communities. The social capital accumulated by users increases the community commitment and cohesion by interpreting gifts as a set of resources to distribute fairly. The giving, the receiving and the exchanging are forms of communication that cause further communication and interworking outside of gift-giving situations. These gift-exchange communities are mainly based on the communication and consumption solidarity among individuals.


Cultural Studies, Online Communities, Gift-Exchange, Nethnography, Mixed of Online and Offline Methods, Mobility of Domestic Items, Commodity, Social Solidarity, Consumption

Author Bio(s)

Elizaveta Polukhina is a PhD, an Assistant Professor in Sociology at The National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE), faculty of Social Sciences (Moscow, Russian Federation). Her interests include sociological research methods (qualitative approach, online methods as well as mix methods research strategy). Elizaveta is the author of several methodological articles with the topics as online observation, focus groups discussions, and strategies of integration qualitative and quantitative research methods. Her projects related to the issues of social ecology, sociology of home and social mobility. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: Elizaveta Polukhina at, epolukhina@hse.ru, personal page: http://www.hse.ru/en/staff/polukhina.

Anna Strelnikova is a PhD, an Assistant Professor in Sociology at The National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE), faculty of Social Sciences, and Senior Researcher at Institute of Sociology Russian Academy of Sciences (Moscow, Russian Federation). Her interests include methodology of data analysis, sociology of Internet, and urban sociology. Her current researches relates with the new consumption practices and social mobility studies. Her recent publications focus on freecycle phenomenon, new consumer’s competencies in the city space, and the social research methodology. Correspondence regarding this article can also be addressed directly to: Anna Strelnikova at, astrelnikova@hse.ru, personal page: http://www.hse.ru/en/org/persons/10447182.


Funding: This article was prepared as part of the work (Project № 15-05-0012 "Mixed methods research: needs, design and procedure implementation" by competition research projects of scientific and educational groups) within the framework of the program "Science Foundation of National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE) "in 2015 and with the use of subsidies State support of leading universities of the Russian Federation to enhance their competitiveness among the world's leading research and education centers, dedicated National Research University Higher School of Economics (HSE). We very much appreciate our HSE bachelor students for project cooperation and help in data collection. Especially thanks to student Alena Bogomolova who was the most accurate online observer.

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