From Trash to Treasure: Freecycle.Org As a Case of Generalized Reciprocity

Michelle R. Nelson, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, USA
Mark A. Rademacher, University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA
This study examines Freecycle.org as a gift system with a focus on identifying how reciprocity is enacted. Analyses of netnography, survey, and interview data revealed differences between Freecycle and other gift economies due to the predominance of a “generalized” reciprocity, where goods are given without expectation of anything in return. This contemporary version was witnessed outside kin groups in a virtual community made up of individuals with weak ties but a high level of trust. Reciprocity is realized through the forum’s structure and rules, community, and benefits of membership. Freecycle appears to satisfy both altruism and the egoism of commoditization.
[ to cite ]:
Michelle R. Nelson and Mark A. Rademacher (2009) ,"From Trash to Treasure: Freecycle.Org As a Case of Generalized Reciprocity", in NA - Advances in Consumer Research Volume 36, eds. Ann L. McGill and Sharon Shavitt, Duluth, MN : Association for Consumer Research, Pages: 905-905.