Commons  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
For Wikimedia Commons see Wikimedia Commons

The commons is terminology referring to resources that are collectively owned or shared between or among populations. These resources are said to be "held in common" and can include everything from natural resources and common land to software. The commons contains public property and private property, over which people have certain traditional rights. In some areas the process by which public property is transformed into private property is termed enclosure.

Contents

Concepts

The commons were traditionally defined as the elements of the environment - forests, atmosphere, rivers, fisheries or grazing land - that are shared, used and enjoyed by all.

Today, the commons are also understood within a cultural sphere. These commons include literature, music, arts, design, film, video, television, radio, information, software and sites of heritage. The commons can also include public goods such as public space, public education, health and the infrastructure that allows our society to function (such as electricity or water delivery systems). There also exists the ‘life commons’, e.g. the human genome.

Peter Barnes describes commons as a set of assets that have two characteristics: they’re all gifts, and they’re all shared. A shared gift is one we receive as members of a community, as opposed to individually. Examples of such gifts include air, water, ecosystems, languages, music, holidays, money, law, mathematics, parks and the Internet.

There are a number of important aspects that can be used to describe true commons. The first is that the commons cannot be commodified – and if they are – they cease to be commons. The second aspect is that unlike private property, the commons is inclusive rather than exclusive — its nature is to share ownership as widely, rather than as narrowly, as possible. The third aspect is that the assets in commons are meant to be preserved regardless of their return of capital. Just as we receive them as shared gifts, so we have a duty to pass them on to future generations in at least the same condition as we received them. If we can add to their value, so much the better, but at a minimum we must not degrade them, and we certainly have no right to destroy them.

Historical movements

Contemporary movements

Key theorists

See also





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Commons" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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