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Group Members: Dan, Cal, Angela

The home screen for the app, available on all mobile devices, laptops and desktops


Here is some dialogue on our design and negotiation process.


In an environment where friends are often more based on a click than strong emotional bonds or continual interaction, ensuring that social requirements such as giving gifts can often seem banal and mechanical. G.I.F.T. is a process that will reflect the checklist nature of modern gifting; it will be a website and phone app where you can create a profile mainly keeping track of the people for whom you must buy gifts, the relationship you have with these people, and the days that the gifts should be shipped. Then, you forget about them! The website algorithms and staff automatically purchase gifts according to your guidelines, email you to let you know that the gift has been dispatched, and give you a brief summary of what was purchased so that in future interactions you will be prepared for conversations.

Users can change their settings at any time to make it fit their needs

GIFT: Giving Is Finally Transparent

What is the knowledge community for which this idea would be relevant?

Groups of people – kin or otherwise – often have ritualized procedures and rules for gift-giving (Caplow, 1984). Gift giving is an integral social act that helps to establish, define, repair, maintain, or enhance interpersonal relationships (Sunwolf, 2006). "Givers may be reluctant, receivers ungrateful, or actions poorly defined. As a result, relational gift- giving and receiving may be accompanied by high levels of anxiety" (Sunwolf, 2006).

Theoretical bases for the importance of gift-giving are varied. Caplow (1984) offers an individualistic view: "ritualized gift giving, in any society, is a method of dealing with important but insecure relationships, whereby gifts are offered to persons or collectivities whose goodwill is needed but cannot be taken for granted". This "exchange theory" is the dominant theory for understanding gift-giving (Belk and Coon, 1993). It is also possible that gift-giving contributes to social solidarity, or that rules of gift-giving are deeply-engrained and unquestioned, much the way language is learned.

Users can observe, add and edit all their friends at any time

Belk and Coon (1993) studied dating and gift-giving practices of college students. They explain that exchange theorists compose two main types: economic exchange theorists and social exchange theorists. Both have a reciprocity focus: a gift is purchased for someone else with the anticipation that they will later return the favour. Economic exchange suggests that people seek the acquisition of material goods with little in the way of moral inhibition, and that they assess and maximize the market value of the gifts they receive. Gift-giving exists simply because others control or own what is of value to us; we give them gifts so that they are forced to reciprocate with such valuables. Reciprocation is expected to occur quickly on each exchange. People may engage in balanced reciprocity (equal exchanges) or negative reciprocity (where one seeks more than is given).

Before any gift is sent, the user can approve or change the gift proposed. These gifts are decided on by user settings and, if desired, network analysis

On the other hand, social exchange suggests that gifts are not valued for their economic worth, but for their symbolic importance. Apparently, Mom was right: "it is the thought that counts." Reciprocation is still expected, though it occurs over a longer timespan than in economic exchange; and, though motivations are still not altruistic, these gifts also serve a role in strengthening commitment bonds. They act as "self-extensions": if the receiver of a gift accepts that gift, they are implicitly accepting the giver.

To these two subtypes of exchange theory, these authors add a third rationale of gift-giving; namely, that which "valorizes expressive altruistic gifts that reveal and
celebrate powerful emotions". These gifts are given without regard to cost or expectation of reciprocation, but are highly emotional and expressive.

Caplow (1984) suggests that purchasing gifts is a complicated problem of constraints, where givers are required to balance gift-value with type-of-relationship. Nomura (2009) suggests that the type of recipient can influence the "gift anxiety" felt by the giver. In a hypothetical "gift-shopping exercise" it was found, for example, that "difficult recipients" (e.g. grandparents, inlaws) create more stress (measured by physiological response) on givers than do same-gender friends. The reason is that givers wish to have a positive effect on recipients through their gifts: the greater the influence of the recipient on the giver, and the more difficult it is to purchase an appropriate gift for the recipient, the more anxiety the giver feels. Also, the less emotionally-close a giver is to a recipient, the more anxiety is felt by the giver. However, the amount of time spent (virtually) purchasing a gift was not influenced by the type of recipient or closeness-of-relationship.

The G.I.F.T application removes the anxiety, frustration and sometimes disappointing results of gift giving. The GIFT application is the perfect answer to anyone who has ever forgotten or shown up empty handed for an acquaintances birthday or special occasion. Who really has time to sift through department store sales racks, and stand in long lines to shop for an individual they rarely interact with physically? Even online shopping for these individuals takes time and energy, which could be better spent on the people who really deserve your personal gift-giving touch. Yet, for purposes of impression management (Nomura, 2009), it is important that no gift-exchange be forgotten. The GIFT application is the solution you have been looking for; we recognize your time is valuable. With a few simple clicks, you will never be embarrassed by forgetting – or frustrated from shopping and shipping – ever again. GIFT will do all the work for you.

Users can set gift levels at the occasion level, and monitor their friends social networks for any additions, changes or elevation in a social event.

Concept for your design process

How will GIFT work?

Set Up

  • Users will download the app to their Smartphone for a small fee
  • he app will collect all of the user's friends from Facebook and will insert temporary rankings that can be edited later.
  • For friends not on Facebook, the user will create a profile of the person or persons they would like the app to shop for.
  • The profile generator will ask the user to provide as much information as possible about the individual to create an accurate picture of the individual in order for an appropriate gift to be chosen.
  • Stores can be specified for individual clients; otherwise they will be taken from a list of favourites.
  • Discounts will be available on a sliding scale based on the number of friends/gifts purchased.
    Knowledge Media Use
  • The application will also be paired with social networking programs. The user will be asked if the application can be granted access to the user's social networking sites to acquire friend information that can be added to the profile of the individual.
  • The application will be able to make cross-user purchasing decisions, so that no two people purchase the same gift for the same person.
  • User will then specify the monetary amount they wish the application to spend on the individual and occasion
  • Users will be able to prepay using Credit or PayPal
  • Gift receipts will be given with each gift.
  • Users can then choose when they wish the gift to be purchased
  • Gifts can be purchased ahead of time i.e. in advance before Christmas or on Boxing Day, to receive the best deal.
  • For specifically-defined gifts, sales-flyer tracking will be used to anticipate lower prices.
    Reminders/ messages
  • A message will be sent to the user's Smartphone confirming that they still would like to purchase a gift for the individual they have chosen.
  • Once the gift has been purchased a message will be sent to the user informing them of the gift purchase and when the gift will arrive at the individual or the user's home.
    Emergency Gifts
  • Emergency purchases can be made using FedEx Express; the same process as above is followed. However, the gift will be immediately sent to the individual and only local stores will be searched.

Future User Interactions

The future interactions that will occur on our app will allow for users to interact with the app in real time. The app will be able to immediately obtain feedback from the user to change gift choices and enhance user profiles. For example, if the user of the app realizes that the information that is being taken from their friends' social networking sites is incorrect and is causing the gifts chosen to be inappropriate, the user will be able to immediately notify the app to place a lower priority on the information taken from those sites. The information taken from this user will also affect other users of the program as well. The app will search for further feedback from other users on the particular social networks and send notifications to the users questioning the accuracy of the information gathered.

The user's social networks and emails can be analyzed for upcoming events, changes in behaviour and, if allowed, the user's gift purchasing and social event response can be anonymously contributed to a global understanding of gift giving and social behaviour in order to improve the system.

In general, we are investigating the usefulness of including crowd-sourced data. For example, crowd-sourcing could be used by GIFT to determine which gifts are currently extremely popular among specific types of social networks, and thereby improve the usefulness of purchases. In certain gift choices made by GIFT are constantly rated as poor choices by the community, the specific gift should be purchased only when there is an extremely close match with a gift-receiver. In this way, GIFT can adapt to local concerns on the social network level, as well as global gift-purchasing trends. GIFT's database therefore embodies a community-constructed knowledge base on gifting norms and preferences.

Anonymous interactions with other users will also occur. For example if the user suggests a particular gift for an individual,and another user on the app has chosen this gift for the same person, the app will automatically notify the other user that this is not an option. However the app will not notify that another user has chosen this gift as this would cause the user to make connections and the app would lose anonymity.

Feedback will also be sought from users with regard to their friend's reactions to the purchased gifts. GIFT will also search social network data (e.g. walls, messages, status updates) in order to glean reactions to gifts received. All of this will be added to increase accuracy on providing the perfect GIFT.

Design Description (open for interpretation) - scenarios, use cases, screen shots

Scenario A

You work for a large marketing firm in which you manage a number of different accounts and clients. You have worked with these clients for an extended period of time and it is expected that when Christmas time comes you provide them with a gift. Given your heavy work schedule and hectic family life your time is limited. You could choose to purchase each client the same bottle of wine but this would be very impersonal and not reflect your long standing relationship.
The solution: Download the GIFT application; create a profile for each individual client and watch the application work its magic. Not only will your clients feel like you know and value them, but also your sanity, time and reputation will have been saved.

Scenario B

Every year your neighbor next door gets you a potted plant for your birthday, and every year you do your best to avoid your neighbor on their birthday because you didn't bother or forgot to get him a gift. We all have those awkward moments and with the GIFT solution, you will never need to remember your neighbor's birthday again because the application will do it for you. Even better, your neighbor will get a gift from you that shows you really care.

Scenario C

You are busy managing your new startup; you don't have time to shop and wrap gifts for people. You are always stuck in meetings and you don't want to waste your down time in a mall. You love your spouse but, like your friends, you must remember many dates that are important to them. You can't head out to the store to buy something every time an event like the "first time you ever went to dinner" comes around, but you also don't want to spend the night in the dog house. Use GIFT: plug-in all the important milestones your spouse expects you to remember (aside from their birthday and your anniversary, which should really be more personal!), and you will never have to show up with "I'm sorry flowers" again.

Any parameter of the app can be changed depending on the user's needs

Knowledge media employed

There have been private shoppers in existence for a long time; they are especially prevalent around Christmas. There is also a pre-existing social networking systems such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter that define some relationships. Likewise, commercial operations like Amazon, eBay and Indigo have automated the process of purchasing online, not bound by any physical or temporal requirement.
By using a mobile app/website and leveraging the capabilities of the two former systems, the role of private shopper can be automated and expanded throughout the year at considerably lower costs.

Knowledge creation

As the system engages in gift purchases, and both user and recipient (either personally or through the semantic evaluation of their social networks and email) gives feedback to the system, the algorithms involved in making the decision of what gift and at what level can be improved, much in the same way that the search algorithms have developed from AltaVista through to Google and Bing. Along with the continually evolving business and social requirements of gift giving, a deeper investigation into the cultural, social and familial requirements of gift-giving can be made with the data that the system acquires, again mimicking the manner in which Amazon deals with its purchase information.

Implementation issues
  • Requirements for interacting with other social networks will be met.
  • Publicly accessible websites will be accessed within their terms of use.
  • Hosting will be done externally with appropriate backups, error checking and federal/provincial privacy laws.
  • When a GIFT staff member person is used to purchase the gift, no personal information is given other than the order requirements to ensure anonymity.
  • Security will be implemented to ensure online privacy using recognized security tools such as those incorporated by banks and other social networks.

Important links and resources
  • Privacy policies and Conditions of use will be linked on the bottom of each webpage in the same fashion as or
  • Consumer Privacy: Balancing Economic and Justice Considerations - Culnan - 2003 - Journal of Social Issues] For several reasons, privacy is extremely important to the workings of GIFT: social network sites' privacy policies must be upheld, our users' identities cannot afford to be leaked, the gift-receivers cannot know from whom the gift was sent, and so on.
  • Social Dimensions of Gift Behavior]

Targeted Challenges

The ideas from this section come from (Caplow, 1984): a local sociological study of a county in Indiana, USA.

One challenge embedded in gift-giving communities is spending the proper amount on everyone to which you must give gifts. There is evidence that the value of gifts increases in proportion to the closeness of kin relationships (or the desire to expand on that closeness), and that it relates to the emotional value of these relationships.

Another challenge is that the gift-giver should demonstrate familiarity with the receiver's preferences. For example, the gift might indicate a level of familiarity that the receiver did not expect to be held by the giver. For such reasons, we hesitate to recommend the automated purchasing features of GIFT for extremely close relationships (where the receiver is likely not to be impressed by a gift that is necessarily generic). However, by using social network and manually-entered preference data, it is possible that GIFT could suggest ideas that the giver hadn't considered.

That ritualized gift giving, in any society, is a method of dealing with important but insecure relationships, whereby gifts are offered to persons or collectivities whose goodwill is needed but cannot be taken for granted


Belk, R., and Coon, G. (1993). Gift Giving as Agapic Love: An Alternative to the Exchange Paradigm Based on Dating. Journal of Consumer Research, 20(3), 393-417

Caplow, T. (1984). Rule enforcement without visible means: Christmas gift giving in Middletown. American Journal of Sociology, 89(6), 1306-1323.

Nomura, M. (2009). Gift Giving Characteristics of Recipients and Function of Gifting Anxieties. Retrieved from

Sunwolf, J. (2006). The shadow side of social gift-giving: miscommunication and failed gifts. Communication Research Trends, 25(3).

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