Mitigating the Tragedy of the Digital Commons: The Problem of Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail

Communications of the Association for Information Systems, Vol. 16, pp. 73-90, 2005

22 Pages Posted: 26 Jul 2005

See all articles by Oleg V. Pavlov

Oleg V. Pavlov

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) - Department of Social Science & Policy Studies

Nigel P. Melville

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Robert K. Plice

San Diego State University

Abstract

The growth of unsolicited commercial e-mail (UCE) imposes increasing costs on organizations and causes considerable aggravation on the part of e-mail recipients. A thriving anti-spam industry addresses some of the frustration. Regulation and various economic and technical means are in the works. All anti-spam measures aim at bringing down the flood of unwanted commercial e-mail. This paper contributes to the understanding of the UCE phenomenon by drawing on scholarly work in areas of marketing and resource ownership and use. Adapting the tragedy of the commons concept to e-mail, we identify a causal structure that drives the direct e-marketing industry. Computer simulations indicate that although filtering may be an effective method to curb UCE arriving at individual inboxes, it is likely to increase the aggregate volume, thereby boosting overall costs. We also examine other response mechanisms, including self-regulation, government regulation, and market mechanisms. We find that, of the various countermeasures, filtering appears to be the best currently available but that none are a satisfactory solution. The analysis advances understanding of the digital commons, the economics of UCE, and provides practical implications for the direct e-marketing industry.

Keywords: Unwanted commercial email (UCE), SPAM, email marketing, markets for attention, information overload, tragedy of the commons, system dynamics, simulation

JEL Classification: D62, H41, K23, L86, L96, Q22

Suggested Citation

Pavlov, Oleg V. and Melville, Nigel P. and Plice, Robert K., Mitigating the Tragedy of the Digital Commons: The Problem of Unsolicited Commercial E-Mail. Communications of the Association for Information Systems, Vol. 16, pp. 73-90, 2005, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=760544

Oleg V. Pavlov (Contact Author)

Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) - Department of Social Science & Policy Studies ( email )

100 Institute Road
Worcester, MA 01609
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.olegpavlov.org

Nigel P. Melville

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business ( email )

701 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI MI 48109
United States

HOME PAGE: http://webuser.bus.umich.edu/npmelv/

Robert K. Plice

San Diego State University ( email )

San Diego, CA 92182-0763
United States

Here is the Coronavirus
related research on SSRN

Paper statistics

Downloads
648
Abstract Views
3,858
rank
45,006
PlumX Metrics