Reading Response: Peter Kollok’s “The Economies of Online Cooperation: Gifts and Public Goods in Cyberspace”

In this article, Peter Kollock discussed the ways in which the Internet has developed an economy of cooperation and mutual assistance. He walked through several examples of online public goods, including the collaborative development of Linux, and he discussed the ways in which the Internet changes the traditional costs and benefits of participation.

One thing that stuck out to me in particular in this article was Kollock’s claim that “online interaction can reduce the costs of contributing to the production of a public good in numerous ways. Consider, for example, collective protest designed to change the policy of an organization. Even if one believes in the goals of the protest, the temptation is to let others do the work and avoid even such small costs of composing and sending off a letter of protest. To the extent costs are lowered, the more likely it is that individuals will take part in the collective action.”

While I think online communication definitely lowers the barrier to entry for collective action, I think it makes it harder for passion to translate into action. It’s so easy to like a post or share a comment or spread awareness online, but it’s hard to get this action to translate into anything else– any real world commitment to change. For example, the Kony 2012 video spread like wildfire online, but the real world Kony 2012 protests weren’t well attended and very few of the people who shared the Kony 2012 video gave much thought to the cause 2 months later. It’s so easy to spread awareness about a cause online, but because information spreads so easily and there’s a wealth of information, it’s can be really hard to use the internet to promote real world action. Agree or disagree?