what_is_what@oxconference

Presentation: Altruism in Cyberspace? The Voluntary Sharing of Goods On-line
Rubric Science
Event data: Nov, 2nd / 15:00 / 2 hrs. / Track C
Contributors: S. S. Levine
Abstract: The rise of the Internet has created new venues for human interaction. While participants in a Usenet newsgroup have never met face to face and hardly know any personal information about each other, they engage in incessant voluntary sharing of economically valuable goods, without any immediate return. Moreover, the contributors cannot trace or identify the beneficiaries, and reciprocation is not guaranteed or even enforceable. The phenomenon has received little academic attention, and popular press coverage has attributed its existence to technological developments, overlooking the social context that underlies it. Based on qualitative research methods, the article describes the various activities that take place within the newsgroup, the way in which the structure and the norms of the group facilitate sharing, the participantsí viewpoint on the phenomenon, and the technological environment that encompasses the activity. Subsequently, several plausible explanations are considered, including low cost, gain from externalities, reciprocity, social norms, common pool resources, and warm glow. It is shown that none of these approaches explains the phenomenon well. The article concludes with recommendations for researchers and for managers, especially those in companies that engage in electronic business or produce digitizable content. 
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