Some questions and suggestions to all commoners

I’m just back from the 2013 Economics and Commons Conference in Berlin. A great event, in which I took lots of general notes synthesized in another post that I’ll publish tomorrow. This one, instead, contains just questions and suggestions from me that I already shared at the conference, or I’d like to share with everybody interested in Commons. A separate post contains my critique to certain arguments against copyright I heard at the same conference.


First, here is what I already said or asked tweeting as @mfioretti_en during the event:

  • how to democratize infrastructures management? My answer: Open Data. Do commoners and Open Data guys ever talk to each other?
  • Quick question to all “nature commons” activists: how many of you already know OpenStreetMap? Just curious
  • How many commoners are aware that Open Data practices may help protect land, water etc? (see Potential of Open Data for nature Commons?)
  • @jembendell asked: why do you work on commons? My own answer: it makes sense. Quite more than the alternatives
  • What I’ll do to move commons forward: help nature commons activists to know/use tools from digital commons in their work

Software, spirituality, communication strategies and partnerships

(this is a flash intervention, on how to promote all Commons, that I made during the Knowledge Commons stream)

Software is power. Software is legislation. Software creates and destroys cultures, practices, resources and opportunities in all fields of technology, economic and human activity in general. This is why, during the conference, I suggested that, if ALL commons are knowledge commons, then ALL commoners should know more about software. In general, the nature of software has. among others, these two consequences:

  1. What is really important is not to convince everybody to personally use “Free as in Freedom” Software Commons (*). What matters is to make everybody demand that software is always used in the proper ways, for the common good, around them. Starting from schools, public administrations and NGOs
  2. Every, and I mean every “proposal” or system of values to “make the world a better place”, from family traditions and self-help manuals to religions, simply cannot ignore the presence and nature of software anymore. For the reasons above, policy-grade decisions on software, like “which file formats will we use? Proprietary or open ones?”, are ethical decisions. As such, they cannot be delegated to technicians. The responsibility to adopt, ignore or refuse open digital practices belongs only to the leaders of those organizations, not to their system administrators


All my advocacy and teaching about digital rights is based on these two points (here is a practical examples for Catholics). It is not a sure strategy, far from it. But I can assure you that it is immensely more effective than exhalting, Gnu style, things like the very beauty of sharing source code (FOSS fans may found more on this here).

When it comes to Commons in general, my approach may be generalized as follows: many religions have had since their beginning, either in their own official doctrine or in tradition, strong calls to sharing, solidarity, responsible management of work and resources for the common good, etc.

So I’d dare to suggest this: if you care for any Commons, maybe it’s not really smart to not “exploit” those hooks to gather support for your cause even in certain circles, just because you may have deeply different positions on family, sex and what not. I’m not proposing to give up your principles: I’m just saying that support requests that start with “I notice that even your principles include caring for [insert your cause here]…” are more likely to succeed than those limited to “my cause is good for reasons that I find excellent, so please sign”. Just saying.

(during the conference I also refreshed a general suggestion for copyright abolitionists, but since that is a slightly different issue, it got its own post).


(*) incidentally, it was interesting to see so many Commoners promoting openness, communities, sharing, freedom from top-down control etc… while sporting iPhones, iPads and the like


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2 thoughts on “Some questions and suggestions to all commoners

  1. Mike Linksvayer

    Thanks for making lots of great points very concisely in your remarks. I am going to blog about these soon…

    One quibble:

    how to democratize infrastructures management? My answer: Open Data. Do commoners and Open Data guys ever talk to each other?

    But open data has to be acknowledged to be a partial answer. Open data can help, but isn’t a substitute for opening up processes, participation, accountability, really changing the power dynamics of governance. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2012489 isn’t specific to infrastructure management, but I think the general message applies.

    1. marco Post author

      Looking forward to read your coming posts!

      Wrt to “open data has to be acknowledged to be a partial answer”. Of course. Remember, the whole “how to democratize infrastructures management?” statement was a Tweet. I had to “shock” commoners in real time with < =140 characters, to make them discover the mere existence of the "tool", that's it. But I have written plenty on open data not being a complete answer. See the two "Open Data, Open Society" reports linked from my main writings page at http://mfioretti.com

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