The tragedy of the digital commons

  • Authors: Vv.Aa.
  • Ethics and Information Technology
  • 2004
  • DOI: 10.1007/s10676-004-2895-2


In the paper it is argued that bridging the digital divide may cause a new ethical and social dilemma. Using Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons, we show that an improper opening and enlargement of the digital environment (Infosphere) is likely to produce a Tragedy of the Digital Commons (TDC). In the course of the analysis, we explain why Adar and Huberman's previous use of Hardin's Tragedy to interpret certain recent phenomena in the Infosphere (especially peer-to-peer communication) may not be entirely satisfactory. We then seek to provide an improved version of the TDC that avoids the possible shortcomings of their model. Next, we analyse some problems encountered by the application of classical ethics in the resolution of the TDC. In the conclusion, we outline the kind of work that will be required to develop an ethical approach that may bridge the digital divide but avoid the TDC.


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