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Sprint4# Common


The term commons originated in the historian Peter Linebaugh’s book The Magna Carta Manifesto, which refers to the history of the commons, with the founding documents of Britain and America referring to the right of people to use the ‘commons’ to meet their needs during and before the enclosure movement. Most English people, called ‘commoners’, and in the literature, commoning is described as people living in close proximity to the commons. Peter Linebaugh, on the other hand, points out that his new definition of commoning is an activity, not just an idea or a material resource. The meaning of the commons thus shifts to a new way in which ordinary citizens can make decisions and take action to shape the future of their communities. The commons means taking your life into your own hands, not just relying on external forces to sell you what you need or provide a pre-determined path forward; it means openness, hope, creativity and so on. As the concept developed, the commons was gradually extended into three concepts: 1) a collection of natural and/or human resources (close to its earlier meaning), 2) a community of people with reciprocal and sharing relationships, and 3) the act of working together for the reproduction of the community (De Angelis 2017)

Art and the commons seem to be somewhat intertwined. In the book, Critical Play Radical Game Design it is mentioned that Play has the property of stripping away, of liberating people from the real world, and when later critical play becomes one of the tools of the artist, it confirms the similarity between art making and Play. The commons, on the other hand, clearly exist in this more open context as a ‘sacred spots’. At the present time, as contemporary theories of the commons develop, more and more organizations are joining in to make their voices heard. For example, in the United States, a commons group whose members include Hinterlands and PowerHouse Productions in Detroit, Michigan; the Ethics and Philanthropy Project at Hampshire College; the Schumacher Center for New Economics in Amherst, Massachusetts; the Double Edge Theatre in Ashfield, Massachusetts; and the HowlRound Theatre Commons team in Boston. Theatre Commons team in Boston. A statement released by them reads.

“We believe that the arts can and must play an important role in shaping culture …… The arts and artists are helping people deal with and grieve the disempowerment, disconnect, isolation, separation, distraction and anxiety that our current systems and institutions are causing. The arts are a powerful antidote and can act as a force for social cohesion, concreteness, sustainability and mutuality. Art stimulates imagination, creativity and collaboration in any culture, thus reflecting the character of social, economic and political reality. Recognising the destructive nature of capitalism, we seek to create public art that questions the prevailing capitalist framework and seeks alternative forms.”

Based on this On the commons consensus, the Art, Culture and Commons Working Group is interested in using a commons-based approach to transform the landscape of art and culture into one of equity, enrichment and interdependence, as part of a social movement that engages and dialogues with this urgent moment, bringing creators together through cooperation, collaboration, mutual aid and co-creation.

In response in the arts, as mentioned in the book In the Realm of the Self-Reproducing Automata by Nick Dyer-Witheford, we are falling into the trap of producing constant reproduction and reproduction. All fields are inevitably in this predicament, in a sort of bottleneck situation, perhaps linked to the progress of industrial society and the development of capitalist society. In this context, I believe that the first changes were made in the field of computing. The first was the paving of the spirit of the Internet since the 1950s, which led to the free software movement of the 1980s. As a social movement, its goal was to obtain and guarantee certain freedoms for users of software, namely the freedom to run it, to research it, to modify it and to share copies of it (whether modified or modified). Software that meets these requirements, the four basic freedoms of free software, is known as free software. Although drawing on the traditions and philosophies of the 1970s hacker culture and members of the academic community, Richard Stallman formally launched the movement in 1983 by starting the GNU project. Stallman later founded the Free Software Foundation in 1985 to support the movement.

The emergence of the commons as a contemporary art theme within the last decade is a very typical example, as the theme appeared most visibly in exhibitions, events and publications about ten years ago. On the one hand it has gained increasing relevance in the context of climate change. We can see how themes fade, die out or transform into curation when the very real issues that a theme may raise persist throughout the world. On the one hand, the encroachment of capitalism on the world has intensified over this decade, with many private knowledge groups and public interest organisations being impacted and challenged as never before, locked into profit-driven market mechanisms or entirely dependent on government funding.

Today, many arts organisations have clearly defined their mission in relation to the commons. The Arts Collaboratory in Utrecht, the Netherlands, describes itself as ‘working for the commons’ and operates as a commons itself, with everyone collectively cleaning the office and preparing lunch. The Arts Collaboratory is a cross-local group of 25 organisations from Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and the Netherlands that use artistic practice to promote social change and work with communities outside the arts.
Furtherfield is a London collective that is a centre for artistic experimentation combining art and technology, notably through its gallery and public spaces in the heart of London’s Finsbury Park. In the US, the Boston-based HowlRound group calls itself ‘Theatre Commons’, bringing together a variety of non-commercial performers, playwrights and theatre practitioners to develop performances that meet the needs of the community.
“Art is one of the most subtle and surprising ways to explore the world around us, and with it, we can imagine other possible worlds,” writes the Casco School of the Arts. “Artists of our time take unconventional approaches to (forgetting) and connecting and creating forms and images that allow us to see and feel, question and think.”


The commons is a new way of expressing a very old idea – that certain forms of wealth belong to all, and that these community resources must be actively protected and managed for the benefit of all.

1 The loyalty of members to the commons

Because of its own attributes the commons is necessarily an open, conspicuous exposure to the public eye. The public as COMMONERS are free to join and participate in the creation of it. Most commons currently do not have many limits or constraints, but only a sense of collective identity and responsibility that is enhanced by the constant reinforcement of consensus, shared creation and labour. The current theory of the commons still tacitly assumes that ‘public ownership’ will work better than ‘private ownership’. Professor Elinor Ostrom of Indiana University, for example, has been a leading voice in demonstrating the practicality and sustainability of commons governance systems, particularly in developing countries. Other analysts, such as Professor Yochai Benkler of Harvard Law School, have shown how people in the online commons can indeed collaborate sustainably to produce and protect valuable resources. This suggests that the vision of human behaviour implicit in the tragedy of the commons metaphor is not as static as many economists have asserted, and that collective management is in many cases a very practical governance strategy. “The tragedy of the ‘anti-commons’ is now often used to describe the problems associated with excessive privatisation and fragmentation of property rights, to the extent that collective action for the common good is hindered. An example is the proliferation of patents on biomedical knowledge that prevents research into a cure for malaria, or the proliferation of film and video rights that prevents documentary filmmakers from clearing image rights for use in new films. In this way, collective action for the common good is impeded. An example would be the proliferation of patents on biomedical knowledge preventing research into a cure for malaria, or the proliferation of film and video rights preventing documentary filmmakers from clearing image rights for use in new films.

2 In essence it does not liberate real productivity; is it still duplication?

The essence of the commons is to provide the public with a greater cushion of freedom to make autonomous decisions to shape the future of their communities, and it serves to stimulate productivity and creativity rather than create them directly. And without actually channelling more productivity and creativity from COMMONERS, the space for these hard-created commons to survive will continue to be squeezed.
This is reflected, for example, in the privatisation of research, which has led to the protection of research results, but on the other hand has led to constraints on the use of research results and technology, making useful research results and technology unavailable (immediately) to society. Moreover, the power relationships associated with IP rights are often complex, so that the costs (negotiation, capital costs, etc.) of successfully negotiating with property owners are often high and inefficient. Furthermore, some companies may be hesitant to venture into new areas for fear of resisting the patents held by other players, competitors or patent trolls. On the other hand, there are cases where companies acquire a large number of patents that they do not use in order to obtain bargaining materials for the exchange of patent rights in the event of intellectual property disputes between companies, thus hindering the activities of other companies.

6 replies to “Sprint4# Common”

  1. s2449532 says:

    Thanks to the author for giving me a multifaceted look at the connection between the commons and art, and the new attributes of the commons. It gives a beautiful vocabulary full of struggle such as vibrant vitality creativity. Yet good organizations or platform institutions need to co-create win-win ecological chains with a mission to continue production. At the same time, the connection between art and the commons has become closer under the climate factor, and the development of an artistic practice that promotes social change is no longer limited to the field of art ecology.

  2. Nuanxin Zhang says:

    You have a very clear understanding and concept of the commons, in which you are able to introduce the concept of the creation of the commons, as well as your research on the time and development of the artistic commons. It’s good to see you introduce the concept of the commons and your research on the time and development of the commons, including your examples of the Netherlands and London, England. Your reflection on the commons has inspired me a lot, and I am interested in whether the commons can liberate productivity, and in fact I have tried to do similar research. I share your view here that although the construction of an art commons is desired (many artists, art groups, art educators are engaged in the construction of a “commons”), we must admit that it is still difficult, it is similar to an artistic utopia.

  3. s2419012 says:

    The author cites a lot of examples in the article to prove it, which shows that the author has read quite a lot of related research and has in-depth insights on this topic. These examples not only make the content of the author’s statement more clear and convincing, but also make me think more broadly.
    While the theory of the commons still considers that public ownership is better than private ownership, there are still some restrictions on the commons. The opposite of the tragedy of the anti-commons is the tragedy of the commons. The tragedy of the commons shows that the real result is that people may decrease the overall welfare while pursuing the maximization of personal interests.
    The development of national quality is a long-term project. Only when everyone establishes a correct value system and forms a code of conduct that they abide by together, so as to safeguard individual interests and take into account collective interests, can tragedy be avoided.

  4. s2298567 says:

    In your blog you cite references to the Commons and the new nature of the Commons, and add your reflections to your critical thinking about the Commons. This is something I need to learn from you.

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