πŸ“š node [[commons]]


[[I like commons]].

In a nutshell: 'a commons' is a shared thing between a bunch of people that they actively maintain together.

The idea is that they are "beyond market and state".

Commons can be found in all kinds of walks of life - the environment (grazing lands, fisheries, community forests), culture, digital realm, knowledge commons.

There's a lot to unpack. My favourite book on commons and commoning is [[Free, Fair and Alive]].

What is a commons?

Also what's the difference between 'the Commons' and 'a commons'?

The Commons is a means of provisioning and governance that generally doesn't need the permission of legislatures or courts to move forward.

– [[David Bollier]], [[Stir to Action]] Issue 30

The commons are cared for by the those that directly inhabit and gain from its wealth.

– [[Seeding the Wild]]

Despite vivid differences among commons focused on natural resources, digital systems, and social mutuality, they all share structural and social similarities.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

So instead of conceiving of commons as closed systems of common property managed by a β€œclub,” it is more productive to see them as social organisms who, thanks to their [[semi-permeable membrane]]s, can interact with larger forces of life β€” communities, ecosystems, other commons.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

The commons is not simply about β€œsharing,” as it happens in countless areas of life. It is about sharing and bringing into being durable social systems for producing shareable things and activities.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

Commons are living social systems through which people address their shared problems in self-organized ways.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

The commons is a robust class of self-organized social practices for meeting needs in fair, inclusive ways.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

Each commons depends on social processes, the sharing of knowledge, and physical resources. Each shares challenges in bringing together the social, the political (governance), and the economic (provisioning) into an integrated whole.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

The elemental human impulse that we are born with β€” to help others, to improve existing practices β€” ripens into a stable social form with countless variations: a commons.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

How big is a commons?

In a commons, the resource can be small and serve a tiny group (the family refrigerator), it can be community-level (sidewalks, playgrounds, libraries, and so on), or it can extend to international and global levels (deep seas, the atmosphere, the Internet, and scientific knowledge).

– [[Understanding Knowledge as a Commons]]

The commons can be well bounded (a community park or library); transboundary (the Danube River, migrating wildlife, the Internet); or without clear boundaries (knowledge, the ozone layer).

– [[Understanding Knowledge as a Commons]]


the commons is not just about small-scale projects for improving everyday life. It is a germinal vision for reimagining our future together and reinventing social organization, economics, infrastructure, politics, and state power itself.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

The commons is a social form that enables people to enjoy freedom without repressing others, enact fairness without bureaucratic control, foster togetherness without compulsion, and assert sovereignty without nationalism.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

A commons … gives community life a clear focus. It depends on democracy in its truest form. It destroys inequality. It provides an incentive to protect the living world. It creates, in sum, a politics of belonging.”

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

Politics of it

The world of commoning represents a profound challenge to capitalism because it is based on a very different ontology.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

Difficulties for commons

Potential problems in the use, governance, and sustainability of a commons can be caused by some characteristic human behaviors that lead to social dilemmas such as competition for use, free riding, and over- harvesting. Typical threats to knowledge commons are commodification or enclosure, pollution and degradation, and nonsustainability.

– [[Understanding Knowledge as a Commons]]


The commons is the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately - [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons wikipedia]

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Sustainable development [https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sustainable_development.svg - wikimedia]

Federated Commons

Here we research the [[pragmatix]] of building a [[federated commons]]. This form of architecture has emerged from work on [[federated wiki]], alongside social groups in many countries (particularly [[DIEM25]]).

We do not have a lot of research on this topic of a [[federated architecture]] suitable for the commons.

Modern Use

The definition from the [[Digital Library of the Commons]] is;

"the commons is a general term for shared resources in which each stakeholder has an equal interest"

The term "commons" derives from the traditional English legal term for [[common land]], which are also known as "commons", and was popularised in the modern sense as a shared resource term by the ecologist [[Garrett Hardin]] in an influential 1968 article called [[The Tragedy of the Commons]].

As Frank van Laerhoven & [[Elinor Ostrom]] have stated; "Prior to the publication of Hardin’s article on the tragedy of the commons (1968), titles containing the words β€˜the commons,’ β€˜common pool resources,’ or β€˜common property’ were very rare in the academic literature" - [https://www.thecommonsjournal.org/articles/abstract/10.18352/ijc.76/ thecommonsjournal.org]

Types of commons

  1. [[Environmental Commons]]
    • European land use
    • Mongolian grasslands
    • Lobster fishery of Maine
    • Community forests in Nepal
    • Irrigation systems of New Mexico
  2. [[Cultural Commons]]
  3. [[Digital Commons]]

Economic theories

Tragedy of the commons

A commons failure theory, now called [[tragedy of the commons]], originated in the 18th century. In 1833 [[William Forster Lloyd]] introduced the concept by a hypothetical example of herders overusing a shared parcel of land on which they are each entitled to let their cows graze, to the detriment of all users of the common land - [http://www.jstor.org/stable/1972412 jstor]

The same concept has been called the "tragedy of the fishers", when over-fishing could cause stocks to plummet.

It has been said the dissolution of the traditional land commons played a watershed role in landscape development and cooperative land use patterns and property rights. However, as in the British Isles, such changes took place over several centuries as a result of land [[enclosure]].

Economist Peter Barnes has proposed a 'sky trust' to fix this tragedic problem in worldwide generic commons. He claims that the sky belongs to all the people, and companies do not have a right to over pollute. It is a type of cap and dividend program. Ultimately the goal would be to make polluting excessively more expensive than cleaning what is being put back into the atmosphere.

Successful commons

While the original work on the tragedy of the commons concept suggested that all commons were doomed to failure, they are still extremely important in the modern world.

Work by later economists has found many examples of very successful commons and [[Elinor Ostrom]] won the [[Nobel prize]] for analysing situations where they operate successfully.

For example, Ostrom found that grazing commons in the [[Swiss Alps]] have been run successfully for many hundreds of years by the farmers there - [http://www.npr.org/sections/money/2012/06/12/154872185/remembering-elinor-ostrom-nobel-laureate npr.org]

Allied to this is the [[Comedy of the Commons]] concept, where very often users of the commons are able to develop mechanisms to police their use to maintain and even improve the state of the commons. This term was coined in an essay by legal scholar, Carol M. Rose, in 1986.

Other related concepts are the [[Inverse Commons]], [[Cornucupia of the Commons]], [[Triumph of the Commons]] in the cornucupia of the commons, some types of commons, such as open source software, work better as in those cases.

"the grass grows taller when it is grazed on"

Notable theorists

Historical land commons movements

Contemporary commons movements

See also

See also

"There is no commons without commoning." (attributed to [[Peter Linebaugh: Zitate]])

Here we collect commons definitions and explain the meaning of the word 'commons'.

πŸ“– stoas
β₯… related node [[commoning]] pulled by user


The stuff [[commoner]]s do to enjoy, curate and steward a [[commons]].

[[commoner]]s are engaged in in "world-making in a [[pluriverse]]" because that phrase captures the core purpose of commoning: the creation of peer-generated, context-specific systems for free, fair and sustainable lives.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

commoning is primarily about creating and maintaining relationships - among people in small and big communities and networks, between humans and the nonhuman world, and between us and past and future generations.

– [[Free, Fair and Alive]]

See the [[Spheres of commoning]].

β₯… related node [[elinor-ostrom]] pulled by user

Elinor Ostrom

a resource arrangement that works in practice can work in theory

^ In a very small nutshell that sums up Ostrom's huge contribution to the commons.

Elinor Ostrom. Press conference with the laureates of the memorial prize in economic sciences 2009 at the KVA. [https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Nobel_Prize_2009-Press_Conference_KVA-30.jpg wikipdeia]

Elinor Ostrom (1933 – 2012) was an American political economist whose work was associated with the New Institutional Economics and the resurgence of political economy.

In 2009, she shared the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for "her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons". [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elinor_Ostrom wikipedia]

Elinor Ostrom delivered her Nobel Prize Lecture December 2009 at Aula Magna, Stockholm University. [http://www.nobelprize.org/mediaplayer/index.php?id=1223 video]

YOUTUBE T6OgRki5SgM Elinor Ostrom, co-recipient of the 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences and Arthur F. Bentley Professor of Political Science at Indiana University Professor, presents an updated version of her Nobel Prize lecture for an Indiana audience. Published on 25 Jun 2014


"It's a problem, it's just not necessarily a tragedy," Ostrom told us when we spoke to her in 2009. "The problem is that people can overuse [a shared resource], it can be destroyed, and it is a big challenge to figure out how to avoid that."

http://pd.npr.org/anon.npr-mp3/npr/atc/2012/06/20120612_atc_05.mp3?dl=1 Remembering Elinor Ostrom, Nobel Laureate

But, she said, economists were "wrong to indicate that people were helplessly trapped and the only way out was some external government coming in or dividing it up into chunks and everyone owning their own."


Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems. By Elinor Ostrom. [http://bnp.binghamton.edu/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/Ostrom-2010-Polycentric-Governance.pdf pdf]

Response to Michael Madison, Brett Frischmann, and Katherine Strandburg on the study of commons in cultural environments. Elinor Ostrom. [http://cornell.lawreviewnetwork.com/files/2013/02/OstromResponseTheInstitutionalAnalysisandDevelopmentFrameworkandtheCommons1.pdf pdf]

An Institutional Analysis Approach to Studying Libre Software β€˜Commons’. Charles M. Schweik. [http://www.cepis.org/upgrade/files/full-2005-III.pdf pdf]

Libre software projects will be more successful (not be abandoned prematurely) if … they have systems in place that provide for the monitoring of operational rules. … they have some level of graduated sanctions for people who break established rules. … they have rule enforcers whose judgments are deemed effective and legitimate.

Great community-generated sites eventually discover non-obvious rules, crucial rules, but rules that surprise most people. See [[Content Overflow]]

β₯… related node [[knowledge-commons]] pulled by user

knowledge commons

The term "knowledge commons" refers to information, data, and content that is collectively owned and managed by a community of users, particularly over the Internet.

– Knowledge commons - Wikipedia

Once again, the promise of a knowledge commons is best made evident in the disagreements and difficulties in determining who and how it should be managed

– [[Undoing Optimization: Civic Action in Smart Cities]]

Examples of knowledge commons

The knowledge commons is a model for a number of domains, including Open Educational Resources such as the MIT OpenCourseWare, free digital media such as Wikipedia,[4] Creative Commons –licensed art, open-source research,[5] and open scientific collections such as the Public Library of Science or the Science Commons, free software and Open Design.[6][7]

– Knowledge commons - Wikipedia

Knowledge commons is a misnomer bcos there is no such thing as knowledge. (!!)

What there IS/ARE is/are practices of knowing, communicating and organising.

So a 'knowledge commons' is a commons of literacy and (collective) labour power, thro which commoners are able to capably understand and organise their practical life as a commons, in a world of commons. It's a cultural commons.

– [[Mike Hales]] https://social.coop/@mike_hales/107430510590782176


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β₯… related node [[2005 11 23 innovation commons request post a video on why you want the commons]]
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β₯… related node [[a commons is a politics of belonging]]
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β₯… related node [[enclosure of the commons]]
β₯… related node [[enclosure of the data commons]]
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β₯… related node [[federated architecture]]
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β₯… related node [[the commons enables people to foster togetherness without compulsion]]
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