Rampant Consumerism

One of the issues we’ve raised in this project is the issue of rampant consumerism. Many of the participants have expressed concerns though not focussed on specific ramifications.

It’s been talked about in the group, thus far, as a moral issue. But it’s much wider than that and indeed raises the spectre of The Tragedy of the Commons.

When a village full of households share common grazing ground, they tend to act in concert to maintain the value of the commons. If, however, a single farmer enlarges his herd by 1, he benefits himself and only fractionally impacts the sustainability of the commons. But as more and more follow this example, they end up with a dustbowl.

TC is often used to discuss population impacts. But it is an issue for the internet:

  • as more and more people come online and use the full bandwidth available to them, what impacts will it have on others’ access and speed.
  • acts of internet piracy ( a tiny infringment for an individual)can easily have a massive impact on content creators when the piracy extends.
  • TC makes a useful metaphor for exploring the digital divide both domestically and globally

The TC notion is a driver in the whole Net Neutrality debate too.

Many tend to think of regulating the internet as a legal issue only. The attached link is to a highly readable paper which explores the Tragedy of the Digital Commons (it’s a pdf file) and is a very useful summary of the ethical elements of the issue. It’s not long.


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