Reflecting on the Recent History of the Commons

It’s clear that commoners will not only have to make history themselves, outside of ordinary channels, but to write and preserve that history as well.  My colleagues Silke Helfrich and Michel Bauwens are off to a great start.  Independently, they’ve prepared two useful syntheses of some of the more significant recent developments in the commons and P2P worlds.

Silke prepared a timeline that identifies landmarks in the commons movement from the past several years.  The piece just appeared in the Winter 2014 issue of STIR magazine (about which I will have more to say below).  The timeline is on Silke’s blog as well.  Among the highlights: 

The rise of Remix the Commons (2010 – present), an evolving multimedia project about the key ideas and practices of the commons.

The Atmospheric Trust Litigation (2011 – present), which is filing lawsuits under the public trust doctrine to force state governments and the U.S. Government to protect the atmosphere as common property.

The world’s first Open Knowledge Festival in Finland, a week’s events in September 2012, in Helsinki, Finland.  (The next Open Knowledge Festival will be in Berlin in July 2014.)

The Constitutional Assembly of the Commons held with 700 participants at the occupied Teatro Valley, a revered opera house in Rome, in April 2013.

The timeline also has some great illustrations by Hey Monkey Riot.

Meanwhile, Michel Bauwens posted the “Most Important P2P-Related Projects and Trends in 2013.”  He cautions that “most important” “does not mean any blanket endorsement, nor ‘best.’  It just means that it is an important project.”  

Bauwens’ list gives us a useful overview of the more powerful surges of activity in the P2P world.  Among the most trends worth watching:

1.  Open value accounting, open book accounting and open supply chains

2.  New open manufacturing methodologies

3.  Policy initiatives at city, regional and national scale

4.  Open technology cooperatives

5.  Developments in open agriculture, farmer to farmer cooperation and open agriculture machining designs

6.  Commons-oriented cloudfunding and crowdfunding and other funding innovations

7.  Multiple currency innovations

8.  Critical and constructive voices on the sharing economy, and its legal empowerment

9.   Business models for open culture

10.   Research hubs and massive open mapping for P2P practices and theory

11.   P2P open technical infrastructures

12.  New Political Parties and Movements

Each item in the list cites examples….and because the list is set up as a wiki, you can contribute your own additional examples to fill out the picture.

I mentioned the issue of STIR magazine:  It’s a fabulous issue devoted to a variety of cooperative and community-led initiatives that serve as antidotes to market enclosures.  Among my favorites:  A great piece by Mark Walton on Shared Assets, a social enterprise that supports community management of local environments, including such resources as woodland, food production, renewable energy, health, education and creative activities. 

The issue also features a profile of Owenstown, a co-operative town and the priniciples of social reform Robert Owen; and an assessment of lessons learned from Napster 15 years after its bold eruption, by musician and author Mat Callahan. Full disclosure:  Editor Jonny Gordon-Farleigh does a lengthy interview with me that elicited some nice insights about the state of the commons movement. 

You can order the Winter Issue of STIR magazine here for £3.95.  Always fresh and invigorating.