The Library Commons: An Imagination and an Invocation

By Jennie Rose Halperin

In Brief

Commons theory can provide important interventions within neoliberal managerial information capitalism when applied to the library as an institution. The commons and its associated practices provide a model of abundance, sharing, and cooperation. Libraries can and should participate in alternative economic and management models to create an inclusive vision beyond and in opposition to current social formations.

“I’m interested in the way in which a deepening of autonomy is a deepening, not just among few people.. a deepening of scale and the potentials of scale.”

The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study (Moten and Harney 2013, 65)

The spirit of the commons is the spirit of imagining, of bringing people and resources together, and creating a necessarily positive vision for the world not as it is, but as it could be. And commons are all around us: from community gardens, to certain kinds of open source software, to worker cooperatives. We participate in a commons when we submit our work to institutional repositories that are tended by communities with the goal of disseminating research to the world, and we participate in a commons when we collaborate with our neighbors and catch a glimpse of this vision of our fate. For libraries, the moment has never been more urgent and emergent – we have the tools in our hands, and it is up to us to make it happen.

The word “commons” often functions as “a placeholder or a promissory note for all those rich, nuanced, complex, and sophisticated forms of relationality and value practice that have been obliterated within capitalist societies where a huge proportion of social relations have been subjugated to the market” (Haiven 2016, 274). In modern commons theory, the commons serve to represent all the ways in which “human beings learn to cooperate with each other in routine, large-scale ways” (Bollier & Helfrich 2019, 13). As the authors of Free, Fair, and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons put it, “Commoning is everywhere, but widely misunderstood” (Bollier & Helfrich 2019, 14). In daily life, commons can take many forms, like the gardens and cooperatives mentioned above, but also neighborhood associations, direct democratic processes, consensus based community organizations, and more. In libraries, they may take the form of community cataloging projects, civic engagement projects in conversation with artists, community archives, or open and direct dialogue on topics that concern the community. Commons can be ephemeral or permanent, a long term project or a moment of transcendence. Beginning with an introduction to commons theory from a library and information science lens and ending with a few specific, non-exhaustive examples of the commons in libraries as well as specific practices to engage in commoning practices, I will attempt to blend theory and praxis in order to introduce another vision outside or beyond traditional institutional paradigms.

Commoning as a Set of Practices

When librarians think of a commons, they likely think of the academic commons buildings in their institutions, Creative Commons licenses, or preprint servers like Humanities Commons. These examples are illustrative: Humanities Commons functions as a governed network and community working toward the common good and Creative Commons licenses provide a necessary intervention in capitalist systems of copyright enclosure.1 More specifically, the Humanities Commons and other preprint servers support communities that come together to govern a field of knowledge, working together outside of the confines of a hegemonic and unequal access system, building interventions through engaged scholarship to provide access for all. This example from the library world provides an in-road to begin to think about the commons and commoning as a set of practices.

As professionals concerned with the free and open dissemination of knowledge, librarians could and should enact commoning practices in their communities, but more often than not fall into the neoliberal paradigm of the managerial business class and free-market values. Library literature often treats patrons as customers, and librarianship as an institution is rooted in supremacy and oppression, drawing on the values of the white middle class women who dominate the profession (Ettarh 2018). In “Neoliberalism within Library and Information Science,” Jonathan Cope writes, “As more information is produced in distributed networks that have new and ambiguous relationships to the specific geographical and educational communities, which libraries have traditionally served, it is LIS’s responsibility to articulate a vision of how to view information as a public and common good” (Cope 2014, 7-8). Thus far, libraries as institutions have struggled to define themselves within this context of the common good, coopting the language of commons and making broad statements about “freedom” without inscribing these values in policy, worker rights, or provisioning of indigenous voices and voices of color in the field.

In Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action, Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom writes, “All efforts to organize collective action, whether by an external ruler, an entrepreneur, or a set of principals who wish to gain collective benefits, must address a common set of problems. These have to do with coping with free-riding, solving commitment problems, arranging for the supply of new institutions, and monitoring individual compliance with a set of rules” (Ostrom 1990, 27). In addressing existing social systems, particularly those that collectively govern the use of non-renewable resources such as water ways, Ostrom proved that economically alternative situations could be beneficial to all parties involved. Her writing is rooted in traditional economic reform – the commons in this definition provide a necessary alternative to the free market, rather than an overhaul of capitalism.  In other words, Ostrom addresses what Lewis Hyde calls “The Tragedy of Unmanaged, Laissez-Faire, Common-Pool Resources with Easy Access for Non Communicating, Self-Interested Individuals”2 (Hyde 2010, 44).

To contrast Ostrom’s fundamentally reformist vision of the commons, theorists Fred Moten and Stefano Harney present another form of commons: the undercommons. The undercommons is a state of “permanent fugitivity,” one that functions through “stealing” and “collective orientation” as a mode of functioning within and beyond institutions. The critical academic in this worldview questions everything, creates solidarity networks, and shares an aversion to neoliberal professionalization of communities, particularly academic communities. The undercommons can provide an important reframing of the commons, particularly when considering it from an historical and anti-colonialist point of view. In considering the institution, Moten and Harney write that libraries in the academy are “this incredible gathering of resources… it’s nice to have books,” but that the undercommons is “a kind of comportment or ongoing experiment with and as the general antagonism… it’s almost impossible that it could be matched up with particular forms of institutional life” (Moten and Harney 2013, 112). Institutionally, the work in the undercommons is the work of the coalition, of the social, and against the neoliberal institution that precludes resistance and sociality.

As an historical concept, the commons take root in medieval England, as lands where peasants could tend land in common, hold festivals, and govern independently outside of the purview of a feudal lord. This Eurocentric definition is rightly criticized by many scholars. In “Decolonization is Not a Metaphor,” Tuck and Yang address the commons directly, writing that the commons are often caught up in the liberal values of a natural right to property, a value that is withheld from native communities. In contrast, they describe, drawing from undercommons theory, “a labor that is dedicated to the reproduction of social dispossession as having an ethical dimension includes both the refusal of acquiring property and of being property” (Tuck & Yang 2012, 27). In commons discourse, the process of colonization is often described as “enclosures” of commons, but to “marshal all indigenous civilizations under the banner of the commons is to reduce a wide diversity of social formations under a Eurocentric term… [and] reinforce a romantic idealism towards both the notion of the commons and indigenous civilizations”  (Haiven 2016, 275). Though fundamentally rooted in Eurocentricism, the commons framework is diverse enough to hold radical, anti-colonialist, and anti-capitalist scholarship, particularly as regards decolonization, and Blackness. Addressing these roots, some of the most compelling commons writing comes from scholars like Silvia Federici or the work of the Zapatistas, who declare autonomy and a “radical imagination that sees beyond the horizon of the state” or institution of “one no [to globalization], many yeses [to the commons].” If, as Haiven writes, “when those many ‘yeses’ sound at once, we will hear the word ‘commons,’’ what do those many yeses look like for librarianship?

When considering the patterns of commoning, which Bollier and Helfrich describe as a “triad” that contains many different elements, a theoretical framework can begin to be applied to libraries. The triad is defined by Bollier and Hilfrich as: Social Life, Peer Governance, and Provisioning. Elements within the triads include “Cultivate shared purpose and values,” “Bring Diversity into Shared Purpose,” “Consent-Based Decision Making,” and “Make and Use Together” (Bollier & Helfrich 2019, Introduction).

Which aspects of this triad do libraries represent? Can an institution ever implement the care that the patterns of commoning require? How can we uphold the value of the crucial interactions within the library without descending into institutional awe or unfair criticism? Why is solidarity between libraries important? How can we uphold the values of libraries while critiquing the institution?

Libraries in the Commons/The commons in Libraries

In “What’s in a Name? The Evolving Library Commons Concept,” Sheila Bonnand writes, “While there are many attempts in our professional literature to define commons specifically, what seems to hold up over time is not any one definition or a perfectly consistent and discrete set of commons attributes, but a more generic, profession-wide concept that grows out of our literature, dialogue, and shared knowledge of individual institutions’ commons efforts” (Bonnand 2010, 230). The article adopts a positive outlook regarding the adoption of “learning commons,” discussing how the use of the name is a “compelling example of successful professional dialogue,” transforming spaces and technology that “conjur[e] up thoughts of sharing, collaboration, unrestricted access, public use, and other egalitarian concepts” (Bonnand 2010, 230). This definition calls to mind Haiven’s assertion that “the commons has become something of a floating signifier” (Haiven 2016, 271). Is this the case in academic or learning commons? “These names in large part are signals to each other,” writes Bonnand. “They guide our discussion and stand as evidence that the commons concept is evolving” (Bonnand 2010, 231). “Commons” in this context provide a signal that the library is up on trends rather than being actually committed to provisioning of communities, direct democracy, and governance that commoning entails.

Parsing the word “commons”within library spaces is unnecessary at best and a fool’s errand at worst. The unthinking use of the word commons that has pervaded the neoliberal university articulates the worst parts of our profession: the majority white, professional, competitive, assessment obsessed, rigidly taxonomic and “neutral” mainstream, which sees itself as “sharing and collaborative” no matter its behavior. Indeed, most of the behavior within libraries does not constitute commoning within theoretical, academic, or political frameworks, from the managerial mindset of library staff to the conservative and uncritical approach to policing to the data brokering vendors that hold the profession hostage (see Lamdan). In the popular liberal imagination, libraries are a trusted “knowledge commons” with librarians as tenders or maintainers of that commons. With libraries claiming stake to the word and invoking its spirit, it is worth investigating the meaning and patterns of commons and commoning that are part of the current moment, in which consumer choice has taken over public good in our spaces and workplaces, including libraries. As neoliberalism continues to erode civil society, leaving libraries as one of the few visible bastions of enlightenment liberalism, is it any wonder that the public clings to the fairy tale of the commons? In “Commons against and beyond Capitalism,” Silvia Federici and George Caffentzis write, “it is hard to ignore the prodigal use of ‘common’ or ‘commons’ in the real estate discourse of university campuses, shopping malls and gated communities. Elite universities requiring their students to pay yearly tuition fees of $50,000 call their libraries ‘information commons.’ It is almost a law of contemporary social life that the more commons are attacked, the more they are celebrated” (Caffentzis & Federici 2014). Within libraries, we see this pattern taking shape as more institutions adopt “commons” within capitalist learning spaces. As libraries continue to define and redefine themselves in the 21st century, the reformist and the radical branches are split – the problem with the Information Commons is the institution it protects rather than the idea it espouses. In critiquing the institution to uplift the worker and the patron, the commons can be reconstituted and revealed.

The Commons Against the Institution

After years of pressure, the American Library Association’s key strategic values are framed through a social justice lens in fall 2018, a list of lofty ideals including “advocacy; information policy; and equity, diversity, and inclusion.” As an optional professional organization rather than a union or worker’s rights organization, the ALA’s framing of their mission does not necessarily reflect their actions. Even if the organization did not continuously take problematic political stances for “neutrality” and “free speech,” the ALA’s lack of teeth and enforcement means that the member-led, volunteer organization upholds the institution rather than the worker, or as Lindsay Cronk writes, “Imagine if we stopped defending the idea of libraries and started to defend one another/stand together” (Cronk 2019). In Fobazi Ettarh’s influential article on vocational awe, she writes, “Librarianship, like the criminal justice system and the government, is an institution. And like other institutions, librarianship plays a role in creating and sustaining hegemonic values, as well as contributing to white supremacy culture” (Ettarh 2018). From data brokering vendors that sell data to ICE to management structures that cause and contribute to burnout to the “nice white lady problem” leading to a shameful lack of diversity in the field, the major organizations that uphold the institution focus on the institution rather than the worker. Without fundamental, structural change, librarianship will continue to be reflective of racist, white supremacist society rather than its potential as a commons-space that works for all.

In Places Journal, anthropologist Shannon Mattern observes that “public libraries are among the last free, inclusive, “truly democratic” spaces in American cities and towns” while recognizing that “libraries are not a universally inclusive space” (Mattern 2016). Drawing on the theory of “fugitivity as spatial condition” and the undercommons, she highlights a number of Black archives that utilize this language and theoretical framework as a mode of operation. The highlighted projects, from Alexis Pauline Gumbs’s “Eternal Summer of the Black Feminist Mind” to OlaRonke Akinmowo’s “Free Black Women’s Library,” are largely artist created and outside of the formal frameworks of institution, instead using library as metonym for free exchange of information, fugitivity, and the commons. Embracing and supporting radical interventions in the space are crucial for libraries to provide a flexible canvas for marginalized groups. As Mattern writes, “Today’s fugitive librarians are free to transgress institutional conventions, operating outside the demands placed on (or imposed by) state-supported and commercial institutions” (Mattern 2016). Perhaps radical fugitivity will never, by definition, inhabit library spaces, but a more critical dismantling of the structures of oppression within the library can help libraries better partner with communities who are creatively working beyond boundaries. The promise is, drawing from a piece I wrote in community with other artists last year, “an alternate vision… to develop new ways of sharing resources, collaborating across boundaries, and engaging with larger movements for the liberated exchange of resources needed to live dignified and joyful lives in right relationship with one another and the planet” (Arts, Culture, and the Commons 2019).

 While it sometimes seems as if neoliberalism can function as a proxy for “all that is wrong within academia and the social sphere,” the undercommons and its related concepts can provide an alternative to the business mindset and settler-colonial Enlightenment paradigm that pervades the taxonomic organization and vendor training that has become a pandemic within library work. In an interview with the Association of Research Libraries, Sylvester Johnson says, “Libraries cannot simply become tenants in the platform ecosystem of private capital, handing over billions of dollars to a small number of data landlords in exchange for storage, access, and analytics services. Libraries will either become bankrupt in this new environment, or they will become active agents on the value-creation side, not as vehicles for private capital but levers for public good” (Kennedy 2019). Unfortunately, the landscape of information retrieval and access through licensing and databases has severely hindered the “public good” aspect of libraries and made workers and communities increasingly beholden to vendor capitalists who charge the public obscene amounts for what should be public, free, and shared. Rethinking the library from an anti-capitalist commons perspective means upholding the value of the library worker, of the daily interactions that make the instruction, the arranging, and the describing useful and significant. In adopting a radical and experimental lens that seeks to change the world rather than simply maintain it, librarianship can engage more fully with the world that could be, rather than the world that is.

In order to meet the demand of the community, the library should cast an eye toward the amateur, the outside of the box, the small, and the messy – the libraries, organizations, and communities that are the life-blood of what makes up the commons of libraries.

Toward the Unprofessional, the Small, the Messy, the Worker Power of the Library

As librarians, we are taught that the undergraduate degree, graduate degree, professional job track has taught us invaluable skills that no other professional could possibly replicate. We are the chosen ones, and we have skills – if only the public, faculty, and management would listen. Some of this possessiveness derives from the bleak job outlook of libraries, which has suffered from poor job prospects for at least the last 15 years. A “pink collar” job with over 80% of librarians identifying as women, libraries are one of the least racially diverse professions in the country. Library leadership remains predominantly white and male, and job outlooks have been on a downward slope with depressed wages and cutbacks for as long as anyone can remember. With debt at our backs, we find ourselves thrust into institutions stuck in the past. Our patrons and our communities are the lifeblood of the profession, but an administrative mindset and lack of worker autonomy within many libraries causes a high burnout rate and a feeling of lack of control. In conversation with communities, we can continue to shape another vision for what the library can be.

Constituting and reinventing commons ideology within the library context will be a series of small, local interventions, possibly coming from outside the field, and it must happen in conversation with communities. In order to define what commons ideology looks like more concretely, I will use the triad of commoning previously mentioned (governance, social life, and provisioning) to define the interventions and reinterpret commoning for information professionals.

Peer Governance: Worker Power

Though the majority of librarians express relatively high job satisfaction, the field is rife with stories of burnout, micromanagement, exhaustion, and frustration with the status quo. In a recent survey, nearly 80% of library workers responded that they have experienced burnout in their careers (Geary & Hickey 2019).

According to Alique Geraci, union members, who comprise approximately 21-26% of the library workforce, generally have higher pay and are provided better resources for negotiation and collective bargaining within the library. Union members earn 38% more than their non-union counterparts, and are more likely to be covered by health insurance. When joined with teacher’s unions, librarians have made historic gains, as in the case of the University of California, which ratified a new collective bargaining agreement in 2019. Besides major raises, the contract also included an intellectual freedom clause, protecting workers and patrons at the contract level (AFL-CIO Fact Sheet 2019). From a commoning perspective, unions provide access to direct democracy, which provides access to autonomous and self-organized groups.

Union drives, like the recent one at MIT to unionize clerical workers, are a crucial step to build worker power, but there are other types of worker power that libraries could harness. In the book Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism, Richard Wolff considers “worker self-directed enterprises” as central to the struggle for a more civic-minded and engaged workforce. He writes, “Workers in most modern capitalist corporations are required by law and/or custom to accept working conditions over which they exercise no democratic control… For most workers in capitalist systems, there is no democracy in the workplaces where they must spend most of their lives” (Wolff 2012, 147). Worker self-directed enterprises (WSDEs) can provide a series of democratic options to managers who may be hostile to unions. In their purest sense, the WSDE is democracy in action, and there are several steps toward democracy that libraries can take on their way to worker autonomy. In WSDEs, no executive is paid more than five times the lowest paid worker, and workers sit on the board of the organization. Rather than following a managerial chain of command, a WSDE as a “worker managed enterprise” provides workers more autonomy over the cooperative outputs of their labor. For example, in a traditional library context, directives would come from an executive director with a series of committees reporting upward, often creating bottlenecks and a lack of final decision-making power. In a WSDE, the executive director would serve a primarily administrative role, with workers and committees running the primary functions of the library. Participation in democracy at work has been shown to improve democracy in communities – a stated goal of many libraries in the 21st century.3

As the economy becomes increasingly rapacious and hostile to workers’ rights, it is imperative for libraries to move out of corporatized managerial space. To quote Mark Fisher, “if businesses can’t be run as businesses, why should public services” (Fuller 2009)?

Social Life: Decolonize, Decolonize, Decolonize

The impetus to “decolonize” praxis in librarianship is powerful. From re-reckoning with collections to stripping the institution of the “neutral” values that too often pervade professional spaces, decolonization is key to reconsidering libraries in anti-racist space. As nina de jesus writes in “Locating the Library in Institutional Oppression,” “The clear solution is decolonization…no reform is possible if we understand libraries as fundamentally white supremacist institutions” (de jesus 2014).

Providing some specificity to the steps of decolonization and steps of dismantling of white supremacy within libraries and knowledge institutions, in “Imagining: Creating Space for Indigenous Ontologies,” Duarte and Lewis identify five steps to building indigenous knowledge systems toward decolonization. “Make no mistake,” they write. “Imagining is a specific, difficult, laborious task. It requires seeing with fresh eyes, and thinking with a new mindset. It requires imagining Indigenous futures.” The five steps are summarized thus:

  1.     Understand how colonization works
  2.     Identify means to decolonize
  3.     Spread awareness of Indigenous epistemologies
  4.     Build deep domain knowledge
  5.     Design experimental systems, theory (Duarte & Lewis 687-688, 2012)

Canadian libraries, particularly the Vancouver Library System, have taken concrete steps to begin a decolonization process. From addressing structural biases in classification to culturally appropriate space planning, their management report addresses colonization by name, asking even if the process of decolonization applies to location of branches, not only layout (Vancouver Public Library Report 2017). Through their First Nations Storyteller-in-Residence program and culturally aware programming, Vancouver Public Library is incorporating living culture into their work, programming and community (Roy & Frydman 2013). At X̱wi7x̱wa Library, also in Vancouver, the library has taken an indigenous approach to cataloging, learning from people and users to better classify their collections, organizing their collections geographically and in support of indigenous research and needs (Worth 2019). Amy Parent, the researcher who created the ontology, described the librarians at UBC as “very much aligned with the way we form relationships with our communities” and committed to creating a “safe space” for indigenous communities (Worth 2019). 

In “Imagining,” Duarte and Lewis cite the example of the Southern California Tribal Chairmen’s Association Tribal Digital Village intranet, a homegrown system built to bridge the digital divide. Supported by a doctoral student in information studies at UCLA, the community created an ontology based on their ways of knowing, posting artifacts and discussing the intellectual project within their own knowledge framework (Duarte & Lewis 690, 2012). 

Moving from colonization to decolonization can take many forms, from alternate ontologies to creating more inclusive digital and physical spaces, and the work continues to emerge within the library and information context, if the end goal is to divest from colonization, hegemony, and white supremacy. 

Decolonization and coming together in alternative and community built knowledge systems creates a social life, or what Moten and Harney call “study.” To enter into the undercommons, they write, one must be engaged in a “study,” or social life, and the undercommons and the study are “What you do with other people. It’s talking and walking around with other people, working, dancing, suffering, some irreducible convergence of all three, held under speculative practice… To do these things is to be involved in a kind of common intellectual practice” (Moten & Harney 2013, 110). From a sociological point of view, a social life of the commons can help, per Bollier and Helfrich “cultivate shared purpose and values,” and “ritualize togetherness” (Bollier & Helfrich 2019, 103-105). Building community and taking steps to decolonize is not just creating culturally sensitive programming. It means bold and often uncomfortable action to dismantle privilege and oppression within institutions. 

Provisioning: Funding and Supporting Communities

Library funding is a loaded subject, and one that is seemingly endlessly beholden to the influence of foundations and grant cycles, taxpayer dollars, and $40,000 per semester tuition. Bollier and Helfrich provide several examples that communities can use to resource themselves by “relationalizing property” and supporting care work. In Bethany Nowviskie’s words, “How might taking care—and taking the concept of care more seriously in graduate education and cultural heritage infrastructure-building—serve to expand our scope” (Nowviskie 2019)?

By their nature, libraries already participate in relationalized property, as an extra-market space where commons should thrive. However, when asking how libraries fund and support their communities, it is important to remember that, like a field, commons are cultivated, and not left to grow without supervision. Ostrom’s examples of watersheds and ecosystems are all highly complex, governed, dynamic systems, and under constant “intentional cultivation.” Creating a commons is animated by acts of commoning, which is always active. The cultivation of “collaboration, horizontalism, direct democracy, member-participation, egalitarianism, anti-oppression, and the radical imagination” is essential to building the world that we want to see (Haiven 2016, 280).

While there are multiple examples of community funding in librarianship that invest in large-scale collective action and institutional buy-in for resources, the Educopia Institute can provide a model through its hosted communities: the Library Publishing Coalition, the BitCurator Consortium, and the MetaArchive Cooperative. Educopia provides a “Community Cultivation Field Guide” that “provides a powerful lens that can provide both emerging and established communities with ways to understand, evaluate, and plan their own growth, change, and maturation” (Skinner 2018, 7). Through a matrixed community empowerment model, Educopia provides resources on four aspects of community growth: formation, validation, acceleration, and transition. By centering communities in their work and assisting them in funding, HR, infrastructure, engagement, and governance, Educopia is building smaller commons or community based projects outside of the traditional institution and providing an alternate vision for library work and funding.

Alternatively, by hiding their participation in extractive capitalism, whether through necessary capitulation to greedy e-book publishers or purchasing data brokering systems like Westlaw that exploit patron information, libraries are effectively shutting their communities off from important conversations about procurement of resources that directly affect or threaten them. And when libraries address the needs of their communities, for example by eliminating library fines, communities are better served and provisioned. A budget is an expression of values. Another concrete step libraries could take to better provide for and support their communities is participatory budgeting, which is used around the world to better resource communities and meet their needs. Participatory budgeting “empowers people to decide together how to spend public money” (Participatory Budgeting Project). Direct, participatory democracy strengthens communities, and libraries should be at the center.


A quote from the Gwendolyn Brooks poem “Paul Robeson” ran through my head throughout the writing of this article, “. . . we are each other’s harvest: we are each other’s business: we are each other’s magnitude and bond” (from Danticat, 2017). The commons is a space of empathy, a knowledge that we are all interconnected with the gifts and abundance that the earth has to offer. It means moving beyond scarcity economics, resource hoarding, and anti-egalitarianism. The promise of the commons is what drew me to libraries to begin with, and it is the vision that keeps many of us working toward a more equitable future.


To the editorial board of ITLWTLP, thank you for accepting this paper and working with me to refine it. Thank you in particular to Ian Beilin for his communication throughout the process and Ryan Randall for edits. Enormous thank you to my friend and co-conspirator Jessica Farrell for her excellent feedback and support. Overflowing love to my partner Josh Tetenbaum for endless discussions, edits, and book recommendations.

Thank you to my Cohousing community for living the commons in daily life, to the Harvard Law School Library for providing me the intellectual space to explore this topic, and to my colleagues and community members at Creative Commons for supporting thought and action to inspire sharing in action.

So much gratitude to Arts, Culture, and the Commons. Your art makes the world a better place for everyone who’s lucky enough to be in community with you.


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  1. I worked for Creative Commons from 2013 to 2016. The “Creative Commons Network,” reorganized in 2017, is a hierarchical structure built on top of the licenses to encourage uptake. Organizationally, it is fully subsidiary of the organization and not autonomous. []
  2. Garrett Hardin, who coined the phrase “tragedy of the commons” was a eugenicist white nationalist whose disproven theory nevertheless continues to be cited. His influence extends to neoliberal systems, which are also called “neo laissez faire economics.” []
  3. See Democracy Collaborative, in particular white papers about the Cleveland Model. []

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