Ng, Wai-Yin. “Rational Sharing and Its Limits.” First Monday 11.6 (2006). 5 June 2006.

In this article Ng sketches an picture of sharing based economies in digital environments.  The author argues that sharing often increases the motivation by more sharing; conversely, if sharing declines, the willingness of other individuals in a share economy is also likely to decline; however, Ng asks where the line is between sharing to create more sharing and vice versa.  To answer this question, Ng turns to “rational sharing” or a form of sharing that results in a “net gain in personal utility.”  The author also complicates her argument by noting that rationality is not the only conscious impetus for sharing; rather, the article also considers situations in which non-rational justifications for sharing are necessary.

In describing rational sharing – or the form of sharing motivated by self-interest and sustained by a community’s rich content – Ng argues that feedback systems that reflect user reputation via user class, written feedback, etc. are some of the ways that incentive schemes create a desire to share beyond the rational.  Ng notes how the incentive scheme requires self-interested rational populations to want to engage in feedback loops and sees this as a potential problem due to the labor issues involved in participation of feedback; however, the author is discussing mainstream sites like and in her analysis.  Interestingly, incentive schemes require a proper accounting of any costs and benefits of the action; in private bittorrent communities these incentive schemes and reputation systems operate on a principle of social capital.

Leave a Reply