Interesting essay by Yochai Benkler from Yale Law Journal titled “Sharing Nicely: On shareable good and the emergence of sharing as a modality of economic production”. Benkler looks at carpooling, distributed computing (SETI@home, Folding@Home etc), open source etc and draws some interesting conclusions about the ways in which and motivations for sharing – and how technological changes have affected this. He ends looking at potential policy directions that might emerge from an understanding of sharing.
Social sharing and exchange is becoming a common modality of producing valuable desiderata at the very core of the most advanced economies—in information, culture, education, computation, and communications sectors. Free software, distributed computing, ad hoc mesh wireless networks, and other forms of peer production offer clear examples of such large-scale, measurably effective sharing practices. I suggest that the highly distributed capital structure of contemporary communications and computation systems is largely responsible for the increased salience of social sharing as a modality of economic production in those environments. By lowering the capital costs required for effective individual action, these technologies have allowed various provisioning problems to be structured in forms amenable to decentralized production based on social relations, rather than through markets or hierarchies.