Thursday, September 15, 2005

The Commons

"Effective debate requires a shared set of references and metaphors. The expansion of culture and knowledge depends on linguistic and conceptual shorthand based on shared knowledge and experience. Collaborative, innovative discussion is impossible if every item must be expanded and reduced to so-called first principles. This body of knowledge, experience and ideas has come to be known as a commons.

If nature has made any one thing less susceptible than all others of exclusive property, it is the action of the thinking power called an idea, which an individual may exclusively possess as long as he keeps it to himself; but the moment it is divulged, it forces itself into the possession of every one, and the receiver cannot dispossess himself of it. Its peculiar character, too, is that no one possesses the less, because every other possesses the whole of it. He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.

That ideas should freely spread from one to another over the globe, for the moral and mutual instruction of man, and improvement of his condition, seems to have been peculiarly and benevolently designed by nature, when she made them, like fire, expansible over all space, without lessening their density in any point, and like the air in which we breathe, move, and have our physical being, incapable of confinement or exclusive appropriation. (Thomas Jefferson)

Another aspect: the Internet may be considered a commons or public network, though there is persistent threat of enclosure (transferring resources from the commons to individual ownership) based on enforcement of intellectual property and distribution rights. However no one owns the Internet, and no single national entity has jurisdiction, so it remains an open, accessible platform for all kinds of activity, including the evolution of the social commons described above."

Joichi Ito, "Emergent Democracy", Chapter 1, Extreme Democracy, edited by Jon Lebkowsky and Mitch Ratcliffe, http://extremedemocracy.com/chapters/Chapter%20One-Ito.pdf

For more information visit Extreme Democracy, http://www.extremedemocracy.com/

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