David Bollier

CC Talks With: David Bollier

Mike Linksvayer, March 5th, 2009

As promised in last week’s post on The Commons Video, here’s an interview with David Bollier, author of Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own, which we said in January “will likely establish itself as a definitive guide for those seeking to understand and discover the key players and concepts in the digital commons. From the beginnings of the Free Software Movement, to Wikipedia’s Inception, to Lessig founding Creative Commons at Harvard Law School, Bollier thoughtfully examines the principles and circumstances that helped nurture our digital commons from idea to (meta)physical reality.”

Read on for an explanation of how Bollier became interested in digital commons movement, how he sees the its long term impact shaping up, and much in between.

You’ve been involved in efforts to understand and evangelize the broad concept of “the commons” for a long time, including as an editor of onthecommons.org. What first got you interested in the commons, and when was that?

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, I worked for Ralph Nader and a number of Washington public-interest advocacy groups. Far from being the reviled figure that he became following the 2000 election, Nader was revered among progressives for his sophistication in politicizing and developing dozens of issues. These were generally taboo or “boring” topics that were utterly off the national agenda – topics that had not even crystallized as “issues,” such as auto safety, clean air and clean water, open government and congressional reform, not to mention countless niche issues like mobile home safety, nutritional labeling and whistleblower protection. (For more, see the DVD, “An Unreasonable Man.”)

I attended a 1980 conference that Nader convened that affected me a great deal. It was entitled, “Controlling What We Own,” and it dealt with the many resources that the American people nominally or even legally own, but which we do not control or reap benefits from. Nader groups were involved in most of these issues.

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The Commons Video

Mike Linksvayer, February 26th, 2009

the-commons-video

The Commons Video is a 3 minute 46 second animation (licensed under CC BY) from On The Commons and The New Press making the case for an expansive conception of “The Commons” as a means to achieve a society of justice and equality. From the video’s description:

In a just world, the idea of wealth–be it money derived from the work of human hands, the resources and natural splendor of the planet itself–and the knowledge handed down through generations belongs to all of us. But in our decidedly unjust and imperfect world, our collective wealth is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few. There is be a better way–the notion of the commons–common land, resources, knowledge–is a common-sense way to share our natural, cultural, intellectual riches.

A good portion of the video from the captured point above (1:53) on concerns intellectual commons, based on the writing of David Bollier and others. Bollier is author of Viral Spiral, a history of CC and related movements (previously blogged).

Some readers will find the expansive and social justice oriented conception of commons described by the video compelling. Others will find the argument that tangible goods thought of as commons confuses the unique case in favor of a commons of intellectual goods, given the latter’s non-rival nature. But such confusion is often willful, certainly not informed by subtle and historical arguments about the nature of commons.

Agree or disagree with the perspective presented in The Commons Video, it’s a useful reminder that lessons concerning the management of real and intangible goods don’t always flow in the direction or say what one might expect.

For more on the expansive commons point of view, watch for an extended featured commoner interview with Bollier soon.

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David Bollier’s Viral Spiral: A Definitive History of Our Movement

Fred Benenson, January 26th, 2009

viralspiralPublic Knowledge cofounder David Bollier‘s new book Viral Spiral published by The New Press is not only available as free Creative Commons (BY-NC) download, but it will likely establish itself as a definitive guide for those seeking to understand and discover the key players and concepts in the digital commons. From the beginnings of the Free Software Movement, to Wikipedia’s Inception, to Lessig founding Creative Commons at Harvard Law School, Bollier thoughtfully examines the principles and circumstances that helped nurture our digital commons from idea to (meta)physical reality.

If you are looking for a book that both serves as an introduction to and argues for the ideals behind a digital commons, look no further. And if you’re planning on reading the book in the bed, bath or beach, purchase a hard copy at Amazon or other fine bookstores..

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