Commons Sense

Publishing Blog

A unifying thread of all previous posts here has been the mention of the sheer mass of readily available published content on the web – and understandably so. As the post on actor networks made clear, the knowledge of the modern world is tied inseparably to emerging modes of communication and archiving. So far many potential downfalls for this connection have been discussed; notably Hubert Guillaud’s view that “network structures of consumption are also configured by power” (as has been previously quoted here). This is an unfortunate but unavoidable side effect of attention hierarchies.

To contrast the negativity of previous discussions, this penultimate post will look at the positive side to prolific sharing; namely, the commons. The commons, despite their good intentions, have come under a great deal of criticism – mostly being dismissed as idealistic, impractical, and without sufficient quality control. While they do rely to some extent on good will, this is not the only means the commons have of regulation. The article, ‘Reclaiming the Commons’ , suggests that “far from being a “free-for-all”, use of the commons is closely regulated through communal rules and practices”. That is, the commons are a regulated space outside of conventional power structures that exist for the express purpose of returning power to those involved; power to decide and express an opinion. As Jay Walljapser points out, “It is arguably only in reaction to invasion, dispossession or other threats to accustomed security of access that the concept of common rights emerges”.

However if it is true that they are “working to open up more space … by denying that any single social whole … has a right to assert privileged status over, and thus to enclose, all others of its type”, then what makes them ‘common’? The answer can be found in the origins of the commons. They argue less for overarching agreement than for freedom to express one’s self. The benefit of such a system upon progress as a society is, I believe, quite immeasurable. The kinds of ideas that change global discourse don’t come about without freedom to debate openly, which is often stifled in traditional power hierarchies.

In short, the freedom of connection and expression available through modern forms of publishing will be essential to our ability to think and act globally. Giving people a space to freely debate and share ideas will lead to progress, and a greater sense of there being a global nation.

 

References

 

[online] Guillaud, Hubert (2010) (on Danah Boyd) ‘What is implied by living in a world of flow?’, Truthout, January 6, <http://www.truthout.org/what-implied-living-a-world-flow56203>

[online] Hildyard, Nicholas, Lohmann, Larry, Sexton, Sarah and Fairlie, Simon (1995) ‘Reclaiming the Commons’ The Corner House, <http://www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/reclaiming-commons>

[online] Walljasper, Jay (2010) ‘The Commons Moment is Now’, Commondreams.org,  <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/24-0>

 

[First published 27 October 2015]

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