A New Start

After more than ten years of thinking and writing about the commons, I decided that it was time to strike off in some new directions, with some new partners, projects and ways of engaging the world.  I plan for my new blog, Bollier.org, to be the place where I can share my adventures and insights from my work on the commons.  A lot is going on that needs to be brought into focus, interpreted, shared and debated.  I hope that this site can serve that function.

Never before has there been so much diverse leadership and innovation in developing the commons paradigm.  The recent International Commons Conference in Berlin, Germany, on November 1-2 was a landmark convergence of many different approaches to the commons, from efforts to fortify traditional natural resource commons and pioneer "peer to peer urbanism" to new digital commons that aspire to develop a privacy-friendly alternative to Facebook, reinvent money and relocalize the economy.

The familiar storyline of science fiction is the evil dystopia – the totalitarian society of the future in which large, faceless government agencies and corporations use sophisticated technologies to pry into every corner of our lives. The goal is to neutralize dissent and shield the exercise of power from accountability. However necessary at times, surveillance is a crude display of power, a unilateral override of the “consent of the governed."

Now a countervailing storyline is starting to get some traction in real life: the increasing citizen use of technology to “watch from below.” The practice has been called “sousveillance,” a word that comes the French word “sous” (from below) with the word “viller” (to watch). Instead of Big Brother using a panopticon of surveillance to exercise total, unquestioned control, the commoners are using cheap, portable technologies to monitor and publicize the behavior of Power. The commons is sprouting its own eyes – and its own means of self-defense, political organizing and reclamation of democracy.