Internet-based 'social sharing' as a new form of global production: The case of SETI@home

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Benkler (Sharing nicely: on shareable goods and the emergence of sharing as a modality of economic production, Yale Law Journal, 2004, vol. 114, pp. 273-358) has argued that 'social sharing' via Internet-based distributed computing is a new, so far under-appreciated modality of economic production. This paper presents results from an empirical study of SETI@home (the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence), which is the classic example of such a computing project. The aim is to explain SETI@home participation and its intensity in a cross-country setting. The data are for a sample of 172 developed and developing countries for the years 2002-2004. The results indicate that SETI@home participation and its intensity can be explained largely by the degree of ICT access (proxied by the International Telecommunication Union's 'Digital Access Index'), as well as GDP per capita and dummy variables for major country groups. Some other variables, such as the Human Development Index, perform less well. Although SETI@home is a global phenomenon, it is never-the-less mostly concentrated in rich countries. However, there are indications of a slowly narrowing global SETI@home digital divide. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
SETI@home, Social sharing, Shareable goods, Economic production, Distributed computing, Digital divide
Engelbrecht, H-J. (2006). Internet-based 'social sharing' as a new form of global production: The case of SETI@home. Telematics and Informatics (In Press).