Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Five Hundred Wi-Fi Networks Walk into a Bar | the Blog | Future Tense with John Moe | American Public Media:

The metaphor of the commons breaks down in wireless, because one person’s use of it can be invisible, except for interference from other people’s use. That is, imagine a commons of grass for feeding your cows in which you always appear to be alone on the commons with your animals—but as you stand there, the grass disappears, replaced with mud and ordure.

It’s not Novatel Wireless’s fault; they make the MiFi, and it’s a perfectly appropriate device to offer. The problem of this invisible, overlapping commons being fouled is an emergent property. The less people can trust a common shared network, the more they turn to their own, which then, in a vicious cycle, destroys their own network, too.