Short history of the digital communication trap

Originally posted on commonworks

The invention of internet has been compared with Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, turning the world upside down. But this comparison doesn’t take account of the context. The social economic context is an issue of main importance and influence. Internet’s unholy marriage to Capitalism in the nineties was a decisive turning point and it still shapes the internet today. Companies like Google, Facebook and Apple are bigger then some small states. The rate and degree of monopolization in this area is exceptional. Those who expected that internet would become a forum for democracy underestimated the resilience of the capitalist system. Today social bots mislead millions of people, political propaganda uses micro targeting to win elections. When leaving communication to machines we might completely loose all empathy, though empathy is one of the most important capacities that made humanity.

Un-inventing the printing press

Printing co-evolved on different places at different times. Woodblock printing originated in China 220 yrs before Christ. The world’s first movable type printing press technology was also developed in China by the Han Chinese printer Bi Sheng between the years 1041 and 1048. Though it didn’t become common as block printing did.

One wonders why the Chinese movable type printing press was not spread in China while it did in Europe. An explanation often offered is the large number of Chinese characters. But this is only half of the story. In the middle ages and before, the art of writing was practised by a class of clerks not being eager to render their knowledge and privileges. In fact also in Europe written language was mainly done in abbeys by monks [1] copying texts. But, the inventor of the printing press Johannes Gutenberg was not a monk, he was a craftsman. Having worked as a professional goldsmith, Gutenberg made skilful use of his knowledge of metals.

Guild signs of city of Ghent, Belgium

Guild signs of craftsmen in city of Ghent, Belgium

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Introduction into Defining the Commons

This is the working version of first chapter of an essay “Obstacles and opportunities for ‘sustainable’ commons using Internet”. Please do not quote. The next chapter will be published when it is finished.

Fuzziness about the commons paradigm

A first step in the process towards interdisciplinary research on the commons is cleaning up the terminological fuzziness about them. For historians like Susan Jane Buck Cox and Tine De Moor, and for political economists like Elinor Oström, the commons are well defined as a historical phenomenon or as “Common Pool Resources” and “Institutions of Collective Action”. In many other disciplines the term is used for the air, the seas etc. that are in principle collective property to all creatures living on earth.


Large-scale open access resources such as oceans, the air we are breathing, are, also referred to as “global commons”. This is confusing of course, because what is lacking to the “global commons” is institutionalisation and self-governance, qualities the initial historical commons clearly had and that were analysed in the common pool resources by Elinor Oström. Read More

Search aid for digital publications about the commons

updated on 16/06/2015

Collections of academic research

The International Association for the Study of the Commons

Digital Library of the Commons Image Collection
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Source: The International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC)

Source: The International Association for the Study of the Commons (IASC)

Click here for a larger map of IASC meetings in the world 

Institutions for Collective Action


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 Van privaatrecht naar sociaal gebruiksrecht

Bedenkingen bij Marx’s arbeidswaardeleer

het verdwijnen van de gebruikswaarde

het verdwijnen van de gebruikswaarde

Het project van de Verlichting wordt door Marx in zijn vroegste werken opgevat als een strijd tegen de vervreemding ‘Entfremdung’ van de arbeiders. In 1844  legt hij uit in de ‘Parijse Manuscripten’ dat de arbeider door het kapitalistisch systeem beroofd wordt van zijn menselijkheid en waardigheid.

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Is de toekomst van Internet community based?

Draadloze ‘community’ netwerken verbinden mensen met elkaar in plaats van ze op te hangen aan de gecentraliseerde servers van Facebook,  Yahoo, Google, Microsoft en Apple, die hun data verkopen aan marketeers en de NSA. Ze helpen ook bij het dichten van de digitale kloof, soms zijn ze levensnoodzakelijk zoals tijdens en na de orkaan Sandy. Ze zijn bottom up, ze zijn in het belang van de gemeenschap. Van 2 tot 4 oktober houden ze hun tiende internationale top in Berlijn.



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