ECC2013/Knowledge Stream

From P2P Foundation
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Working page for the knowledge stream of the Economics and the Commons Conference.

Please edit, comment, contact the stream coordinator as appropriate. There is also a stream forum on the conference communications site.

Read, view, and add to a list of stream recommended readings and viewings.


Science, and recently, free software, are paradigmatic knowledge commons; copyright and patent paradigmatic enclosures. But our vision may be constrained by the power of paradigmatic examples. Re-conceptualization may help us understand what might be achieved by moving most provisioning of knowledge to the commons; help us critically evaluate our commoning; and help us understand that all commons are knowledge commons.

Let us consider, what if:

  • Copyright and patent are not the first knowledge enclosures, but only "modern" enforcement of inequalities in what may be known and communicated?
  • Copyright and patent reform and licensing are merely small parts of a universe of knowledge commoning, including transparency, privacy, collaboration, all of science and culture and social knowledge?
  • Our strategy puts commons values first, and views narrow incentives with skepticism?
  • We articulate the value of knowledge commons – qualitative, quantitative, ethical, practical, other – such that knowledge commons can be embraced and challenged in mainstream discourse?


This gathering of commons-minded knowledge commoners, together with other commoners, presents a unique opportunity to (re)consider and (re)conceptualize the free/libre/open/commons movements we are active in from a strategic and commons-first perspective.


  • Deepen commons-basis for knowledge commons
  • Broaden our conception of knowledge commons, given commons-basis
  • Explain knowledge commons to, learn from, and make common cause with other commoners
  • Improve descriptions of the value of commons (specifically knowledge, but generally applicable) to society
  • Make our domain-specific commoning more strategic and potent, by incorporating commons knowledge and connections

Non-goal: Repeat domain-specific conversations that occur continuously at hundreds of conferences and online, enmeshed in domain-specific politics and little commons-grounding, e.g.:

  • How to fight the latest proposed expansion of copyright or patent
  • How to pay artists, scientists, journalists, etc
  • Various “business models” for culture, research, etc
  • How to promote free software, open access, open data, etc
  • What is the right public copyright or patent licensing structure to use
  • Does “piracy” increase or decrease culture industry revenue
  • Well-known possible reforms, eg re copyright; expansion of exceptions, filesharing levy, formalities, reduction of term, orphan works, etc
  • Problematization based on privacy, knowledge used for bad things, indigenous knowledge, etc
  • How to explain the existence of peer production; how to make it more efficient

None of these topics are verboten; indeed several may be vehicles used to concretize the above “what if” questions and to illuminate our goals. Creative Commons' Role in the Global Commons Movement from 2011 shows a little bit of the flavor, but not format, in mind: think about a thing's strategy if it were to be first about and aware of the commons, embedded in some other politics second (copyright in this case).

Further provocations that may serve as jumping off points or levers:

  • Might a deeper understanding of the commons paradigm, and (less importantly, and only with more understanding?) use of the term commons empower movements that think of themselves in terms of "open" (sometimes criticized for over-emphasizing access and taking while under-emphasizing provisioning and ethics; eg Open Access, Open Source) or free/libre (which suffers from conflation with gratis, and is too-little criticized for over-emphasizing individual autonomy, under-emphasizing community autonomy)? Acknowledging that free/libre/open often do denote real commons and commoning, and that the term "commons" does not guarantee commons and commoning.
  • Knowledge commons following the free software paradigm focus on voluntary "contractually constructed" commons, and while some consider all humans having freedom of computation (or culture, research, etc) an ethical imperative, the primarly legal instrument thought to protect autonomy relies on the whim of individual copyright holders to take expensive legal action, which very rarely happens. Does a deeper understanding of commons lead to an even deeper embrace of this reliance on "contractual construction" and private action, a turn to emphasis on government and institutional regulation, both, or other?
  • Faced with paradigmatic enclosures (copyright and patent), commoners tend to react (protest enclosure expansion) and propose small reforms to mitigate the broad harms of enclosure and specific threats to voluntary/constructed knowledge commons. Would a deeper understanding of commons change or add to those strategies?
  • If we consider knowledge as commons, can we more clearly appreciate how governance might occur at both global and local/community levels? For example, rules within communities, appropriately far more varied than global rules; threat to both commons by global enclosures, eg patent.
  • What does "beating of the bounds" mean for knowledge commons? "Piracy" is pervasive; how can it, at least in part, be made to help build commons, as opposed to merely marketing proprietary "content" and brands?
  • Would a deeper understanding of commons help the various free/libre/open domains (eg software, science, education, culture, hardware) cooperate more and better? How? What about movements not of the same mold, but very much about knowledge commmons, eg transparency, privacy?


May 21-22: Pertinent side events on communications, education, health; self-organize others.

May 23, 18:00: 30 minute keynote on knowledge commons by Carolina Botero

May 24:

  • 09:45-12:00 – knowledge stream session, concurrent with Money, Markets, Value stream session
  • 14:30-17:00 – knowledge stream in depth session, concurrent with all streams
  • 17:30-18:30 – plenary Towards a Commons-based Society together with all streams

May 25: For those who chose to stay: How to get there from here? conference followup and post-conference planning.


Keynote to inspire stream participants to address stream objectives, introduce and motivate knowledge commons for all commoners.

Both morning and afternoon stream sessions will feature fast-paced interventions, debates, and working breakouts. The first session will engage with the big picture: all commons as knowledge commons, and knowledge commons as ... commons, first and foremost. The second session will dive deeper on what commons-first reconceptualization means for knowledge commons movements. The stream may be more generative of questions than answers, but we hope to resurface with some principles and provocations that will be fruitful for all commoners to grapple with over the next years.

Morning stream session:

  • Brief introduction by stream coordinator
  • Depending on numbers, brief or name and 3 words individual introduction
  • 1-2 conversation/debates between two commoners to begin to contextualize big questions (in domains/expertise of the two?)
  • 2-3 brief but detailed interventions by domain experts on how "what if" commons-first/deeper commons understanding could affect a question of their fields
  • Small group breakout (maybe by domain and/or labor/nature/infrastructure knowledge crosscurrents given schedule) brainstorming on deepening commons
  • Report-back/summation

Afternoon stream breakout:

  • Workshop on specific goals (broaden/deepen/explain/improve/make)
  • Brief interventions and debates by/among people who are doing interesting work toward each goal
  • Breakout/sequential/or mix depending on numbers: work on strategy for pursuing each long-term
  • Report-back/summation

Plenary: To be determined by session content, overall conference organizers

How to get there from here?: To be determined, appropriately


  • Ongoing online communication on furthering stream goals; See the stream forum on the ECC communications site.
  • Brief statement on stream goals that can be endorsed by many and widely translated and promulgated
  • Documentation of all stream-related conference activities (writeup/photos/recording)
  • Further collaborations sparked in stream/at conference