Week Seven: A Further Exploration of ‘The Commons’

A discussion on ‘The Commons’ with reference to an Elinor Ostrom interview.

Last week I discussed the immediate issues and ideas behind ‘the commons’, so that this week I may further explore notions of ‘the commons’ with reference to Elinor Ostrom. The Commons is a theory in which ideas of publishing data, and the rights involved in accessing it, are consulted. The concept of ‘the commons’ relates to the question of who owns, who publishes and who can view public information or resources. The notion that such information is public, relies heavily upon our ideals of liberalism. However, there are large debates over what information should be common (accessible to all) or privatised (accessible to a select few).

Elinor Ostrom, who won a Nobel Prize in 2009 for her works in Economics (particularly ‘the commons’), provides a good explanation on public ownership and ‘the commoners’ rights.


In this video Elinor Ostrom argues privatisation and regulation are not the only solutions to benefitting information systems. She suggests common property regimes to be quite successful, enabling shared property amongst the “common pool”. This all refers back to ideas of resource management and distribution, which Ostrom states will not succeed with our current theories on such systems. These current theories adopt privatised, regulated notions of property, rejecting the opportunity “public pools”. There is also a discussion about where to make the distinction between private and public, which I addressed in last week’s blog. This is a difficult question, and is far more complex than suggested. This interview is enlightening, providing for a greater understanding of our experiences with the public ‘commons’ and the issues of privatisation.

So what does this all mean? Notions that common property regimes could reduce the strain on society, by minimizing the negative ideas of privatisation and regulation. However due to our discrepancies between ideals of “public pools” and privatised property, this seems a highly difficult solution to implement.

In regards to publishing,  a distinction between ‘public pools’ and privatised content would benefit the media world. There need to be guidelines set as to what is available to the entirety of the public and what is to be kept private. However there emerges the dilemma; who would we trust to make such guidelines? how could we formulate guidelines in which all countries could agree upon?


Walljasper, Jay (2010) ‘The Commons Moment is Now’, Commondreams.org, <http://www.commondreams.org/view/2011/01/24-0>

Video: OECD, ‘Elinor Ostrom on Managing ‘Public Pool’ Resources’, Youtube, June 2011, Standard Youtube License, Accessed April 17th, 2013, <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D1xwV2UDPAg>


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