Expanding peer production to the physical realm, part two

Martin Springer, in his latest contribution in Repositorium, makes the crucial distinction between:

1) physical space, which consists of scarce goods

2) logical space: the immaterial social sphere of our thoughts, emotions, laws and regulations

3) digital space, which allows the encoding of logical space; can be used by logical space to extends its memory and processes; but crucially, can link the three spaces together.

As Martin summarizes:

In the physical space the concept of ownership means access to and control of physical resources. In the logical space intellectual property covers rights over intangible entities like works, designs or inventions. DRM systems are currently used by rights holders to transfer the concepts of ownership and intellectual property from the physical space and the logical space to the digital space.”

The above insight is crucial when we apply it to the difference between physical commons, which are scarce and easily subject to a Tragedy of the Commons, and the Information Commons, where peer production and peer governance more naturally arises.

If you don’t understand the import considering the interlinkage of the 3 realms, consider these 2 examples:

Bookcrossing exemplifies that a simple form of DRM can turn a book into an Information Commons by means of attaching a license and registering it’s location to a database. Recycling physical objects through the digital space (e.g. using ebay) reduces scarcity and further increases the probability that objects become a physical Commons.”

When physical space and digital space are linked, objects can be protected by licenses expressing that they are a public property or a good owned by a certain community. Physical Commons experiements like Holland’s White Bicycle Plan failed, because people just stole the bikes. When physical objects are linked with the digital space it becomes harder to remove them from the system. The Call-a-bike system by Deutsche Bahn AG still operates, because the bikes are connected with the digital space, ”

If we return to our prior intervention about the possibility of expansion of peer production, and its institutional form of the Commons, to the physical realm, we can see a whole new range of possibilities arising from this insight and these examples.

The condiditons of success are summarized by Martin in the following way:

I believe that a basic requirement for the realization of physical Commons is that the technical infrastructure to protect the Commons in the physical space needs to be distributed so that it cannot be controlled by a single corporate entity. To achieve this the design of the hardware and the software of the DRM system needs to be linked to a Commons in the logical space (e.g. source code protected by an Open Source license, hardware based on patent-free hardware specifications).

There is a lot more to think about in the original entry.

1 Comment Expanding peer production to the physical realm, part two

  1. AvatarSam Rose

    I agree with this as well. Totally. The Commons-oriented licenses are like constitutions that govern how we agree to use the commons in question.

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