Of Money and Morals - The Contingent Effect of Monetary Incentives in Peer-to-Peer Volunteer Computing

AbstractDriven by technological advances, the recent trend of the sharing economy has brought up multiple globally successful companies, a disruption of business models, and presumably more sustainable alternatives to traditional resource allocation and consumption. Instead of depending only on professional companies, people increasingly share their resources in peer-to-peer networks. In volunteer computing systems, for example, device owners share their spare computational resources with other users. Despite the success stories in other businesses in the sharing economy, however, the popularity of such peer-to-peer computing systems has remained limited. The authors focus on the perspective of resource providers and develop a framework of the effectiveness of monetary incentives to motivate resource providers in volunteer computing. Drawing from Relational Models Theory and Motivation Crowding Theory, the framework proposes a three-way interaction between monetary incentives, social relationships, i.e., sharing with anonymous users versus with friends, and the individual predisposition of the user, i.e., their moral identity centrality. Informed by a preliminary survey, a between subjects experiment tests the propositions and delivers full support for the hypothesized contingencies. Monetary incentives can enhance the intrinsic motivation to share resources when sharing takes place amongst anonymous users. However, paying monetary rewards can disrupt motivation when sharing takes place among friends, especially when users have a high moral identity centrality. The authors discuss their result in the light of their conceptual and practical implications.

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