Special issue of Metamute on the Knowledge Commons

Metamute, an excellent magazine on digital culture developments, has a special issue on the Knowledge Commons and its contradictions. Here’s an excerpt introducing the issue:

All agree that the knowledge commons must be extended and defended.But this endeavour is not without problems, political, tactical and philosophical. In this first issue of the new format Mute, we have tried to foreground the antagonisms which the Knowledge Commons throw up: How does the ideal of voluntary collaborative production, exemplified by Free/Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS), connect to the incorporation of ‘free labour’ within post-fordist production (see our FLOSS producer’s questionnaire, p.10)? How does the logic of copyleft, which turns copyright licensing on its head and which is widely used to protect the Knowledge Commons from commercial enclosure, tackle the Law’s inherent violence and arbitrariness (see Martin Hardie, p.54)? How do commons in their ‘immaterial’ informatic form relate to the material struggles of the world’s soil-tilling majority, and are knowledge workers really the vanguard of anti-capitalism (answers can be gleaned from texts by Steve Wright, p.34, and Peter Linebaugh, p.72)? What kind of an economic resource is intellectual wealth, and does the focus on a free and fertile Knowledge Commons ultimately mirror the unqualified faith placed in the knowledge economy’s ability to produce value (Steve Wright again, and Soenke Zehle, p.22)? These questions build critically on Mute’s earlier investigation of the ‘digital commons’ in 2002 – Vol 1, issue 20.

To ‘produce’ the working class, argues Peter Linebaugh, use-value had to be eclipsed by exchange-value and the agrarian commons bulldozed to smooth the passage of global trade. Perhaps today, the fight to defend the mutating contemporary commons in all its forms (from natural resources to indigenous knowledges) is producing a new mutant global class whose solidarities cross social strata: ‘strange loopsC9 odd circuits and strange connections between and among various class sectors’ – as Midnight Notes once put it (Steve Wright, p.34).

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