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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Mailbag: Oct. 28

The tragedy of the (Information) Commons

Garrett Hardin originally coined the term “”tragedy of the commons”” in 1968, referring to how individual incentives can lead to the exploitation of a shared resource. In other words, what is best for the individual in the short term is not best for the group and thus not best for the individual in the long term. The tragedy of the commons is used to describe how, when lacking proper regulation, common pool resources like ocean fisheries and forests can be decimated by an individual’s incentive to gather as much fish or timber as possible because everyone else is doing the same — and if you hold back, you lose.

What does this have to do with the Information Commons in our libraries? We are lucky to have the staff and resources to have high quality computer services in our libraries. But this doesn’t come free. Each undergraduate student enrolled in more than seven credits this semester paid the $137.50 Information Technology/Library Fee to, “”enhance the University’s student learning environment and increase UA’s capacities to meet digital environment expectations.”” Collectively, these fees have supplied a resource of computers and Internet in our libraries that improve academic productivity.

Unfortunately, these computers are an unregulated common pool resource. There are no limitations on access and when an individual is on a computer, no one else can use it. The tragedy of the Information Commons occurs when non-fee paying individuals, or free riders, use the computer resources for extended periods of time, making it difficult for students, who pay for the service, to gain access to a computer. If you are in the library regularly, you may be aware of these free riders who often spend hours watching movies and social networking.

Yes, the university should support members of our community. Coordination and cooperation between the UA, the city of Tucson and southern Arizona will result in superior benefits for everyone. Allowing the general public access to library resources is a responsibility of a public university and benefits our campus — but we help no one by allowing them to spend hours every day watching anime and action flicks.

The computer resources in our libraries require governance to prevent the tragedy of the commons from occurring. A student should not lose access to a computer because a non-student is playing online poker. Every computer should require a UAccess login and non-students should be required to obtain a guest login with a time limit, similar to how most public libraries operate.

Groups around the world overcome the tragedy of the commons by developing rules, or institutions, to restrain individual opportunism and to support the best interests of the group. Students, non-students and library staff can work together to overcome the tragedy of the Information Commons and achieve optimum outcomes for everyone, including the free riders.

Andrew Bliss, Master’s student, School of Natural Resources and the Environment

Before you vote, reflect

Before anyone submits their ballots this election, I ask you to reflect on the progress made and promises fulfilled by the two parties. Have the practices of these two parties made the state of this country any better? If we can reflect deep enough we can realize that many of the nation’s issues that the politicians of the two parties swore to resolve remain unchanged despite the decades of their birth. The legality of gay marriage is still being debated, college tuition is still rising, wages still remain stagnant, the national debt still climbs and many Americans still remain uninsured. If we pay close attention, we may notice the climb of gas prices back to their 2008 levels. A deep reflection can remind us that both parties have introduced more regressive taxes than progressive taxes.

I ask all my fellow citizens not to be taken by the political fear mongering and mudslinging, but to take initiative and investigate the social issues at hand. Every issue has a story, a history that must be understood to avoid falling victim to those only interested in your vote!

Elliot James Montgomery, Civil engineering senior

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