Culture: learning & the commons

Despite the fact that my main expertise is Learning, and should really be in that session (!), my main contribution to Edgeryders is helping to facilitate a breakout session on Caring for the Commons. I’m slowly understanding what’s involved and what I can contribute.

My particular interest is how third sector organisations (especially heritage, museums, arts, universities, public sector broadcasters etc) can contribute to creating a ‘culture of commons’. There is a lot of scepticism about the role of these organisations, but I see the third sector as a bulwark against the marketisation and privatisation of all our common goods and I believe that cultural and media organisations within this sector have a particular contribution to make. They have neglected this role while their public funding has reduced and they have followed the example of businesses. However, I think this is the right moment for a turning. Crucial in this potential turning will be a recognition that the core mission of third sector organisations is to generate eco-social capital and that the route to this generation is a much greater focus on accelerating learning.

There is more to read about this session on the conference section, about Caring for Commons.

cultural organizations and commons

Hey Bridget,

The question you raise about how Cultural institutions can become more commons-oriented could be a great challenge for the Caring for the commons breakout session.

Personally I can’t agree more when you say that cultural institutions could become problem-solving actors regarding. Do you have any example for this line of policy?

In Italy, at least in my experience, the medium and big cultural organizations don’t think at themselves as problem-solver at all. But maybe Alberto or Alessia have different stories to tell?

PS. I apologize again for the misunderstanding about the meet the policy maker session. If you have any other question regarding the session just reply to the guidelines email. Thanks :slight_smile:


The wealth of evidence

hi Bridget,

I think the topics are interesting. As someone who has done little research on the commons, I am at a loss when you mention the evidence available.

“Actually there is a wealth of evidence that if they are open and participatory, responsive to needs, they deliver many outcomes such as education and wellbeing.”

  • I wonder how we make a credible case that this is so, how can other Edgeryders help to point out that these relationships to exists and give examples of them.  What could we ask the community and others on e.g. twitter to get more input into this?


Just two things:
1) When I talk about culture in relation to the commons, I'm thinking very broadly. I'm interested in the role of institutes such as the internet, broadcasters, advertisers, universities, museums, conservation and science NGOs and creative practitioners in:
- pulling together a knowledge network about how we can use and sustain the commons (e.g. land, water, biodiversity) for all our thriving
- campaigning for laws and practices that promote commons (as opposed to privatisation leading to ecocide & unequal access) 
- creating an alternative economy e.g. systems for collaborative consumption 
- creating an alternative education system based on the above
I think there is a mass of evidence that these cultural institutes are powerful in affecting our behaviour to be against the Commons, against nature and against co-operation, so it follows that they can be powerful in affecting our behaviour in the other direction. 
2) There are many organisations and much research that provides strong evidence that involvement in meaningful cultural activity contributes to learning and health, and can also contribute to more environmentally sustainable communities. The art therapy profession, arts educators, community artists, indigenous communities promoting traditional cultures etc etc all have much to testify. I can pull together some links but I can't do it very quickly...

Right track

You are on the right track here, I think. I have done some work on the creative economy when I was working for the Italian Ministry of economic development, and the mantra then was: the creative sector is very welcome to figure out whether it has an edge to produce public goods. When it does, it can come forward as an actor of regional development - which means also applying for funding allocated to regional development.

There is at least one case in which culture does have an edge: city/region marketing. The edge in question is that culture is much faster than, say, infrastructure to achieve impact. From the day a decision is made to build a new metro line to the day it comes into operation, you are probably looking at 5/10 years in which you are investing but reaping no results; if you try to change the perception of a city with an art festival, you can be up and running in nine months.

In her reports, Alessia has highlighted the road from commons to culture: assets such as theaters, when subject to a common resource-ish access regime, can be the basis for sustainable cultural businesses. The road from culture to commons is less clear to me, but I do not doubt it makes sense to explore the linkages.

Cultural commons for a culture of commons?

Briget, to add to your answer to Nadia, this article describes quite well the relationship between the ethos or culture of commons and the cultural commons that enable the former to develop… so if we look at the broader sense of culture as the means to diffuse and strengthen an ethos of the commons (cultural commons -the means- for a culture of commons -the ethos- ) and the ethos itself then could we make ourselves better understood?

In particular, the article provides the following definition:

“The commons describes a social practice that unleashes people’s capacity to create things together and take their lives and livelihood into their own hands. It is a social form that has long lived in the shadows of our market culture, but which is now on the rise.”

This is one aspect of the commons, creation in the wide sense, which provides the ‘energy’ to hold the whole social fabric together.

Quilligan defines the commons as the collective heritage of humanity, the shared – natural, genetic, material, intellectual, digital, social and cultural – resources that we inherit or create, vital for our sustenance and livelihood, our individual expression and purpose, our social cohesion, quality of life and well-being, commons also embody the relationships between people, communities and these shared resources.

So the commons come under the form of

  • 'objects' or 'assets' inherited or created that are shared in common and serve a livelihood (natural & cultural resources, genetic and biologic diversity, knowledge, etc) theat people can take care of, nurture, replenish
  • ways of being and doing in common (caring, sharing, in connection with others with empathy, equity, justice, mindfulness...)
  • outcomes (well being, health, instruction, quality of life, prosperity, abundance) these become 'inputs' for the next generation, so it's a cycle...
So the two streams you suggest could be formulated as a sequence:
  1. How can a culture of commons in a wider sense help communities and policy makers weather the effects of the crisis, overcome the effects of austerity and build resilience etc, by by helping communities take part of their livelihood in their own hands... How can policy serve the commons and commons serve polity? What would this require from policy makers and existing institutions? (this one a bit wider than your suggestion culture can be an 'live' example?)
  2. How can existing institutions (including cultural and knowledge ones) be further encouraged in order to develop a culture of the commons and capacities for community livelihood.
The breakout session could focus on deepening these two questions.

The practical outcome that we should seek is more clarity from policy makers of what they can do in concrete terms.

What does it involve/take from policy makers to help the emergence of a Commons ethos/culture and the adoption of commons based policy?

LasIndias advice for solution to crisis

Here’s something I came across today:

Against the crisis: P2P Industrial Revolution!

How Las Indias in Spain is applying P2P and commons based approaches to revitalize local areas.

Here a link to a related post on sessions organization (placeholder):

Here’s an article that might bring some elements to the subject


Here’s an article on the conference on sustainability and culture that is taking place in Rio and the various themes that will be talked about. This may provide some ideas?

Google Books vs OCA

here is an interesting passage from this First Monday paper on the differences between Google’s efforts at the mass digitation of books versus that of the Open Content Alliance:

Google has continually set the standard for making digital materials accessible with technologies and interface design that appeal to the masses. Even a user with a low–bandwidth Internet connection can interactively explore Google’s carefully optimized digital content. The academic community has thus far failed to match Google’s success at creating powerful, yet extremely intuitive, interfaces for their digital content and at mastering the ability to harness the latest in technological advances to optimize the transfer of knowledge between producer and consumer

Leetaru goes on to lay out further advantages and disadvantages of an open commons by comparing it to Google's commercialized modus operandi. In particular, I find it compelling to see how he explores the vulnerability of expensive projects that rely on donations.