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The Economies of Online Cooperation: Gifts and Public Goods in Cyberspace

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Kollock, Peter
Date: 1996
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/3824
Sector: Information & Knowledge
Subject(s): public goods and bads
information technology
Abstract: "Why would anyone give away such valuable advice? What can explain the amount of cooperation that does occur in online communities? In this chapter I wish to analyze how the economies of cooperation change as one moves to the Internet. I argue that there are fundamental features of online interaction which change the costs and benefits of social action in dramatic ways. "Because the metaphor of gift giving has been used to describe online interaction and exchange, I will begin with a brief discussion of the concept of the gift. I then discuss social dilemmas - situations in which individually reasonable behavior leads to collective disaster - and in particular examine the challenge of providing public goods (to be defined below). Subsequent sections detail the shift in the economics of cooperation, discuss the motivations that drive contributions and collaboration, and provide two striking examples of online collective action. I close with a strong caution against assuming that the shifting economics of online interaction guarantee high levels of cooperation."

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