Event – The Long Now of the Commons – 17th October 2019

My current project is soon coming to an end, and during the last few weeks, I have been busy organizing a final outreach event that relates to it. Only small details remain to be sorted out now. The large bulk of work has been done, and I am fairly sure that with all the diverse contributions hosted during the event we will have a very interesting day.

Here, you can find more information on:

The Long Now of the Commons – People, Infrastructures and Dilemmas

17th October 2019, 9.00-16.30, IT University of Copenhagen

The event will gather contributions by internationally renowned researchers and practitioners experts in the topic. Attendance is free and open to anyone interested.

If you plan to attend, please remember to register on eventbrite.

Interest group on commons/-ing at ITU, Copenhagen

In connection with my work on the ISSP project and with the help of colleague Joanna Saad-Sulonen, during the last months we activated an informal interest group around the topic of commons and commoning. While based (for practical logistic reasons) at IT University of Copenhagen, the group is open to anyone. The main goal of the group is to provide a venue for students, scholars, and practitioners to gather together and exchange ideas, ongoing works, collaboration, or simply to know more about commons and commoning.

The main activity through which the group has operated during spring 2019 has been that of a monthly reading group. Here, we spanned the vast literature around commons that exist in fields ranging from social sciences, economics, computer science, participatory design, urban planning, and more, in order to find interesting and provoking texts to read and discussed together. Students, researchers, junior and senior scholars has attended the meetings at ITU and when possible also joined remotely over video conferencing systems.

The group is currently on hold for the summer break, but we have already started brainstorming on the possible activities for the next term, and we will resume very soon with similar activities.

If you are interested, you can read a bit more about it on the Interest Group blog.

Some examples of sustainability challenges: the case of OpenStreetMap

During the last weeks, through my twitter feed, I stumbled upon a few posts by an acquaintance of mine, who is heavily involved in the Italian community of OpenStreetMap (OSM): the collaborative, free, editable map of the world. These posts, commented below, show some of the challenges that OSM is facing; and they also inspired this post, which in no way intends to be exhaustive 1.

Of course, the challenges of sustainability for online collaborative commons have many faces. Furthermore, each commons is unique and different from any other, thus it’s quite difficult to pinpoint what are the fundamental aspects or issues that must be considered when trying to support their sustainability. However, by looking at ‘infrastructural breakdowns’ (as I would call them, by borrowing from STS vocabulary) as they are realized, handled and perceived in the commons, by the commons, I think is possible to start characterizing them. However, first of all, is quite important to be able to recognize them.

These, I argue, are some relevant sustainability challenges which OSM is facing.

  • OSMF Request for Proposals: Data Centre 2018 – hosting for the whole technical infrastructure is usually donated to OSM. Every once in a while, the whole system needs to find a new ‘home’. Recently, OSM Foundation issued a call for donation of hosting space to keep the infrastructure running during the next three years.
  • OSM and Gender – Invitation to Online Discussion – basically, any collaborative project suffer, to a certain degree, of some form of exclusion (e.g. marginalization or discrimination) or even abuse of power (e.g. bullying and harassment) that are  based on gender or ethnicity. OSM is no different and, improving gender balance in the participants pool, it is something that many there are trying to understand and tackle.
  • Why OpenStreetMap is in Serious Trouble – as many other contemporary web-based and complex services, also OSM needs to constantly evolve and scale to remain relevant. That is to say to remain useful, used, and supported by many. However, according to one core long time contributor, there are several socio-technical aspects in OSM that are crucial in this regard and need being faced for the project to survive 2.

At the frontstage, many people worldwide praise, use and rely on OSM as an alternative free and open online service for geographical data and information. However, in the backstage, many volunteer mappers, system hackers and designers continuously, face challenges that might undermine the long term viability of the system as a whole. This, of course, does not come as a surprise to them, but it deserves more attention also at the frontstage.