A New Perspective on the Production and Evolution of Cultures
Edited by Enrico Bertacchini, Giangiacomo Bravo, Massimo Marrelli and Walter Santagata
Chapter 2: Constructing a New Research Agenda for Cultural Commons
Charlotte Hess INTRODUCTION 1 In 2010, the annual cheese rolling competition in Gloucester, England, was canceled because it had become too popular.1 Until then, competitors gathered on Coopers Hill to run and tumble down the 1-in-2 gradient slope in hot pursuit of an 8lb double Gloucester cheese wheel. But the cultural event had become so popular that in 2009 there were traffic jams of people flooding into the area. Because of the larger than normal crowd, local officials feared that there would be an increased number of accidents. Furthermore, there were crowd management problems. Local organizers were quoted as saying “the attendance at the event has far outgrown the location where it has traditionally been held for several hundred years: last year, more than 15,000 people tried to attend, which is more than three times the capacity of the site”. This is a classic example of a modern-day cultural commons problem. Before the huge increase in its popularity, the competition had taken place annually for centuries. It was a fairly small local event and no one thought of it as a commons. To analysts it would have been thought of as a public good – a shared resource where no one was excluded and no one’s use subtracted from another’s. Until, that is, it reached its carrying capacity. The overcrowding motivated local organizers and townsfolk to come together to figure out a solution to the problem. From an analytical perspective, cancelation of the traditional cheese rolling event is a kind...
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