digital commons group at green academy

At the end of august I was invited/applied to Green Academy at croatian island Vis. It was a great and inspirational experience all-in-all. One of many things that came out from discussions within ‘digital commons group’ was also some kind of report, which I’m publishing here in a very raw form.

In the general world of commons problems are mostly localized and are sometimes addressable locally. The digital commons debate is already lasting for some time and the problem is that digital enclosures are conditioned globally through harmonization of intellectual monopoly regimes, limiting the capacity of localized action.

What are digital commons?:

  • culture, science & knowledge without property exclusions, limited by copyright regulation
  • a positive message relating to digital commons is that there is already abundance in the digital. It makes it more visible as a contradiction between property and social use and thus makes it more immediate to intervention by the commoners. Therefore, we have seen communities transforming the institutions.
  • protection of copyright monopolies expensive both socially and economically
  • there’s good things about digital commons and bad things: openness and universal access vs. commercial capture through monetizing of our relations to one another as in the example of Google’s page-rank –> our relationst to objects of the world are commodified by Amazon and our relations to our fellows is commodified by FBook

How is this changing the world of information, culture and knowledge?:

  • Free Software movement as a model of struggle against enclosure: it was an avant-guard movment as it gave a gift to the world, and then gift got split: big beneficiaries are proxies and commercial entities, but some of these gave us benefits too – however, given the opportunity they will move it back into an enclosure
  • this is an interesting lesson for other commons movement how commercial entities capture commons
  • a big commons built upon free software is internet

How this got replicated onto other fields beyond:

  • communities: free culture (Wikipedia) and piracy (ex Gigapedia/ LibGen/
  • institutions: open access to scientific journals, open education resources, public sector information & open governance/consultation/democratic procedures (Icelandic constitution writing process)
  • those initiatives and commons struggles that emphasized the user rights changed the perspective on copyright that prioritizes monopoly of right holders, and bottom-up initiatives to reform copyright (open content licenses and institutional mandates) should and could prove successful with institutions with a public mission
  • commercial approach is dominant in these institutional fields (commercial academic publisher) and we are now trying to revert the predatory practices of commercial actors

Looking forwards towards the future:

  • proxies such as big internet companies appropriate the commons, then the question becomes how do we reappropriate
  • proxies replace proxies, but can p2p replace Google and the question is then how do we produce that desire
  • observing the problem of commons in the digital domain reveals their common character on a global scale, however local they may appear observing other commons.

Thanks to: Marcel Mars (Nenad Romić), Tomislav Medak, Vuk Čosić, Jodi Dean and everyone else in the digital commons group.