Graham Murdock, Loughborough University, will discuss “The Return of the Gift: Participation and Exploitation on the Internet” at 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, March 30 in the Knight Library Browsing Room.

The expansion of the Internet has seen the rapid growth of a new gift economy based on the principle of reciprocity. From the open source movement, to Wikipedia, file sharing, social networking, and Twitter, more and more people are participating in building new communal spaces and developing collaborative projects. Some commentators see unrivalled opportunities for corporations to tap into the expertise and engagement provided by this growth of voluntary labour. But when does collaboration become exploitation? And how should public cultural institutions – libraries, museums, universities, public service broadcasting – respond to the upsurge of vernacular creativity?

The lecture will examine the ways companies are co-opting digital gift economies and will argue for the construction of a counter-balancing alternative – a public digital commons built around the integration of grass roots on-line participation and public cultural institutions re-made for the digital age.

Graham Murdock is Reader in the Sociology of Culture at Loughborough University (UK). He has been a Visiting Professor at the University of California at San Diego, The Free University of Brussels, Bergen University, and Stockholm University. He has written widely on the social and cultural organisation and impacts of established and emerging media but is best known for his work on the critical political economy of communication. He is a former head of the Political Economy Section of the International Association of Media and Communication Research (IAMCR). His work has been translated into nineteen languages. His recent books include (as co-edited with Janet Wasko), Media in the Age of Marketisation (Hampton 2007). Three further co-edited collections will be out in 2010: Digital Dynamics (Hampton), The Idea of the Public Sphere (Rowman and Littlefield) and Handbook of Political Economy of Communication (Blackwell).