“Creating Cultures” Conference at King’s College London

The “Creating Cultures” postgraduate conference (King’s College London, June 12/13) will explore intersections between contemporary media, participatory cultures and creative industries. The programme covers critical issues in journalism, looks at cities and contested spaces as well as practices of artistic and activist participation. Lev Manovich will present the first keynote on Thursday, with a response from David Berry. I will contribute to the section “Digital Participatory Communities” with a presentation on the Reddit-marketplace and its gift-exchanges.

I will discuss the Reddit-marketplace as an example for a materialisation of digital culture. The shopping website is connected to the social news aggregator Reddit. It has been nicely described as some kind of ‘geek bazaar’, which (as claimed on the site itself) offers “the best gifts for geeks and cool kids”. As some of you will know already, Reddit is a social news site: it is topically divided into subsections, so-called subreddits. Users, many of whom have never met one another, are involved in various interactions and collaborations. Apart from discussions and topical exchanges, they even send each other material, anonymous gifts as part of the redditgifts exchanges. These gifts again can be bought on the same-named marketplace.

Reddit Marketplace Screenshot
Reddit Marketplace Screenshot

Regarding this marketplace and the gift-giving campaigns related to it, I will discuss two main arguments.

  1. First of all, I will show how the digital culture which has been established on Reddit is materialised and transferred into object-centred practices on the marketplace.
  2. Secondly, I will argue that the very process of consumption is framed in a way which aims at being in line with communal values on Reddit. The marketplace is an insightful case of gamified, altruistically framed consumption which is justified through the idea of gift-giving.

What I will show is that Reddit has created a digitally grounded culture which is then materialised and – literally – sold.


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