Saturday, July 9, 2011

Technology to enforce the commons

Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom, writing in her magnificent Governing the Commons, noted that one of the major problems managing common resources is that cheaters must be detected so that they can be punished.  Tim Flannery, is his ever-positive Here on Earth suggests that modern technology makes it very difficult to hide pollution, illegal resource harvesting, and other potential transgressions of the commons.  What a wonderful point!  Even cooler is that a lot of this technology is not restricted to governments--citizens, using satellite technology can participate in monitoring.  How to stimulate monitoring?  Make it fun!  Lars van Ahn, the inventor of the captcha, has an outstanding Google Talk explaining how people can have fun while helping a good cause identify things or classify images.

Discussion Questions:
What un-restricted technology can be used to monitor the commons (air, water, biodiversity, fisheries, etc.)?  How could games be created that would get people to participate in monitoring?  If you come up with a good answer, contact a relevant NGO and suggest it.

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