Commons Treasures

Wikimedia Commons is a unique place on the web: it is like Ali Baba’s cave but it has the major advantage of being open to anyone to explore. More specifically, Wikimedia Commons is a media file repository hosting public domain and freely-licensed educational media content (images, sound and video clips). These are available to everyone, in their own language, and for free. This means that everyone is allowed to freely copy, (re)use and modify any files provided they credit the source and the author(s) appropriately and release copies and derived works under the same freedom to others.

There is much more to it though, and it pertains to the word ‘commons’. The commons is (no grammar issues here) “the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately.” We recommend you have a look at David Bollier’s explanations:

… the commons is not so much a fixed, universal thing as a general concept describing durable, dynamic sets of social relationships for managing resources — all sorts of resources: digital, urban, natural, indigenous, rural, cultural, scientific, to use some crude categories.

Each commons has its own distinctive character because each is shaped by its particular location, history, culture and social practices. So it can be hard for the newcomer to see the patterns of “commoning.” The term commoning means to suggest that the commons is really more of a verb than a noun. It is a set of ongoing practices, not an inert physical resource. There is no commons without commoning. This helps explain why the commons is different from a “public good”; the commons is not just an economistic category floating in the air without actual people. There are no commons without commoners.

This is why promoting the commons is crucial. And how do you do it well? (Other than through cats, that is.) By going on a treasure hunt. And here is to a lovely series of pictures from the Middle East and North Africa. Every Tuesday, come back for a new treasure.