Crisis of the commons

Last week, Shinjoung and I were invited to participate at the Crisis of the California Commons Conference. Our panel discussion was with Megan Shaw Prelinger, Annalee Newitz and Bodo Balazs entitled, "Information Commons: Rebirth or Siren Song?" I think there was a lot of discussion about different commmons (environmental, cultural, information etc) that resonate for librarians in general and documents librarians (keepers of the public domain!). You can access the audio here.

One of the best talks (well besides ours!) was Rick Prelinger's plenary on the cultural commons was especially interesting (at 44:20 of the audio file with Jeff Lustig, Jonathan Rowe, Ruth Rosen, and Iain Boal). Rick talked eloquently about interoperability, sampling, and openness, issues near and dear to our collective heart. Enjoy!

Commons requires interoperability so it can be open to all; you don't need a special key to enter the commons...

Here's some examples of openness taken from the cultural domain:

Openness means not just seeing the image of a bookpage but seeing the text too and being able to grab it, mix it, manipulate it. It means not just watching a movie but being able to download the shots and the edit list and make your own cut. It means not just the music but the MIDI. It means not just the freedom to read, listen, watch, feel, smell, taste, but the freedom to remix in all of these sensory domains. So in the world that we're entering, the digital world, it means that we have to be able to touch the digital object itself and touch the code that makes it play, display, or manifest itself. In other words, not just see things but be able to transform them.

I encourage you to publicize

I encourage you to publicize a wonderful creative commons book swapping initiative, called Bookmooch.

I've been using this new online book exchange for about seven months and have high praises for it. You create an account and offer books that you'd like to clean off of your shelf. You pay a media mail rate (about $1.25) to send your books to people who request them, and receive points which you can use to request books from others. The project began in the fall of 2006, and the database currently has more than 400,000 books in it (a continuously changing collection). I've encouraged my students to use it to offer books they wish to get rid of, and acquire books that they need for class. It's a way for them to save a little money on their college books, and participating teaches them to value nonmarket economic exchange. I think that the resource would be wonderful for librarians. The founder of Bookmooch tours internationally doing promotion, so there's a growing offering of non-English texts. The bookmooch database draws data from the library of congress and, so that when you type in an isbn or title, an entire record and book jacket image appears -- making the database seem like an online bookstore... the only difference being that all of the books listed are being offered in noncommercial exchange.

Here is the website:

And here's a link to learn more about the project:

Thought that some of you might be interested in this.


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