The common’s cattle

(c) 2007 Adriana Gil MinerThe tragedy of the commons may be why we are in perpetual reach for perfection but we can never reach it, if we did we would destroy ourselves and if give up trying, we would destroys us too. We’re caught. Maybe this is the principle of the continuous state of chaos and change we live in, and I guess this is why the dialectic principles stand: every thesis contain it’s antithesis. Thus, every virus contains its vaccine.

Perhaps the Internet makes the tragedy of commons even more complex than in any other spectrum of life, because with the Internet the “commons” is much bigger, spread- around, and therefore, elusive. Thus the question of regulation of the commons is also more complex; its enforcement… is just unbelievingly difficult. For example, we see many regulatory models in cyber-commons like wikipedia, online games, SecondLife and the millions of online discussion boards that have strict regulations. Some of these cyber-commons control their population growth by only accepting “invites only”, others are open to anyone to join, but they require you to abide to their rules. Some cyber-commons allow anyone to “report” or “flag” a member as a way to enforce regulation. Imagine the conflicts of having a real-life system of flagging people publicly and then a “governmental entity” removing this person from our commons — scary sci-fi? (This reminds me one of the films that changed my perception of the world: Brazil, 1985.)

However, I am not quite sure how the other aspects that Hardin discusses, like the problem of population growth and resources, applies to the Internet. As we have discussed in class, the Internet defeats the assumptions of scarcity.

In regards to the practice of democracy online, I’m positive about it in general. And it’s inevitable that we will expand our use of the Internet to compliment or facilitate the regulatory activities of our “offline” common laws. Though I have no doubt they will start to converge (i.e. creative commons!) Also, if we trust the Internet with our personal information and money transactions, how come we cannot build a reliable online voting system?


1. Who constitutes the commons in the Internet?

2. The tragedy of the commons is based in the principle of “scarcity” if there’s is no scarcity on the information that can be created and shared over the Internet, then how does the tragedy of commons apply to the Internet?

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Tech marketing executive. Latina who loves the rain. Proud mami of two amazing children.

4 thoughts on “The common’s cattle”

  1. Adri,

    Apparently, you have a very precise point of view which I agree on. We are caught pretty much in this case. People try to reach perfection all the time in mostly all fields and those attempts are considered part of our humanity. Even if we never reached perfection but people tend to assume that they did.

    Again, it is very obvious that the internet has a lot of complex and interlaced regulations regarding the commons. I think those regulations although they are very complex and plenty but they are important in organizing the access of the users and keep them away from confusion and chaos.

    Your closing question was quite interesting: how come we can’t build a reliable online voting system? I believe giving your personal information or your account number is an issue that concerns one single individual, but the online voting system is a national matter and if it was done wrong or by fraud, it will affect millions of people.


    Tharaa 🙂

  2. I wanted to follow up on your reflection, not only because we had similar reflections on this, but because I encountered the tragedy of the commons in my most recent book assignment on Peer-to-Peer. Bandwidth is indeed a prime example of scarcity, and the authors point out that decentralized peer-to-peer applications can put a serious burden on bandwidth.

    In fact, even as broadband has spread in the past five years, newer networks like BitTorrent are proving problematic, as sharing video files through the network makes up a huge chunk of Internet traffic (at least that’s what Comcast claims).

    I would guess that Hardin, if confronted with the bandwidth issue, would look to folks like Comcast to better “manage” the commons. Of course, this gets right to the heart of the net neutrality issue. Personally, I thought Hardin’s solutions for managing property and population were a bit scary and, similarly, I think giving providers like Comcast the authority to manage OUR information is equally frightening.

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