Message 05918 [Homepage] [Navigation]
Thread: oxenT05853 Message: 27/27 L2 [In index]
[First in Thread] [Last in Thread] [Date Next] [Date Prev]
[Next in Thread] [Prev in Thread] [Next Thread] [Prev Thread]

[ox-en] Re: Commons - their historical role and possible futures

Hi Stefan, all,

Stefan Merten wrote:
Second I doubt whether a reversal of a historical process really
matches what we see / need. Is peer production the same as commons in
the historical sense? Or rather: What is similar and what is
different in the two phenomenons?

The commons is the connecting element, but otherwise there are certainly
important differences. Nowadays, we're talking about "commons-based *peer*
production", while the old practices could probably better be described as
"commons-based production" -- the "peer" aspect (free and voluntary
cooperation among equals) was largely missing, I would presume (at least in
many cases).

For instance: In many instances beneficiaries of historical commons
were also obliged to maintain the commons. This is not the case in
peer production: I can use Free Software / Wikipedia / OpenAccess
science / Free Music without the need to maintain the respective
commons. I'm allowed to (aka internal openness) but I'm not obliged. I
think this is a very important difference.

*Any* commons has rules that protect it from being destroyed. Otherwise it's
not a commons but a "no-man's land". For example, you can't integrate GPL
software into proprietary software -- you can't "enclose the commons". And
even for non-copylefted free software, the (licensing) rules ensure that the
software itself stays in the commons (though derivatives might not), that
authors don't need to fear that they must guarantee for their software or be
mis-attributed for modified (and potentially harmful) variants, and so on --
all things that could endanger or destroy the commons.

Of course, for software and other informational goods, the rules are can be
much less strict than for physical things that can be damaged through
overuse or physical decay. Each kind of commons needs a different kind of
rules (that indeed what all commons researchers tell us), so that's more a
difference of degrees, not one of substance.

The essential similarity is of course that neither maintaining commons
nor peer production are economic activities with alienated goals such
as making money.

Another similarity could be that the governance of commons and of peer
production processes is based on different principles than capitalist
ownership - though this may be a result of the non-alienation
just mentioned.

Also I guess a difference is that peer production is based on
voluntary contributions though AFAICS historical commons were often
something you could not choose to take part in. That would also be an
important difference regarding the Selbstentfaltung.

Yes, see peer vs. non-peer above.

Well, the longer I think about it I think it would be useful to ask
someone who has real knowledge about historical commons for a
comparison. May be you already did?

Well, there are not "the" historical commons, but lots and lots of different
commons past and present, all with differing (though related) modes of
organization and governance. I've talked white a bit with Silke Helfrich (of
the German CommonsBlog <>) and Peter
Linebaugh <>, who both know a
lot about the commons. You could look at Silke's blog, the book she edited
("Wem gehört die Welt?"
<> -- I've contributed a
chapter) or some of Peter's books, e.g. "The Magna Carta Manifesto".

And, of course, there is Elinor Ostrom
<>, who just got the Nobel prize
in economics for her research on the commons. While her work is firmly
anchored within the mainstream economic paradigm (otherwise she certainly
wouldn't have gotten the Nobel prize), there is still a lot we can learn
from her about the governance of the commons.

Best regards

|-------- Dr. Christian Siefkes --------- christian ---------
|   Homepage:   |   Blog:
|   Better Bayesian Analysis:           |   Peer Production Everywhere:
|            |
|------------------------------------------ OpenPGP Key ID: 0x346452D8 --
Every little increase in human freedom has been fought over ferociously
between those who want us to know more and be wiser and stronger, and
those who want us to obey and be humble and submit.
        -- Philip Pullman, The Subtle Knife

Thread: oxenT05853 Message: 27/27 L2 [In index]
Message 05918 [Homepage] [Navigation]