These remarks were given by David Bollier at the Free Culture Forum [www.fcforum.net] in Barcelona, Spain, on October 30.
This conference takes place at a time of great promise and great peril. Great promise, because we have the opportunity to secure what I call the Digital Republic. And great peril, because the 20th Century content industries show few signs of recognizing the legitimacy and value of the digital commons and its principles of openness, participation and decentralized control.
Last weekend I traveled to Bloomington, Indiana, to speak at a community-organized conference on the commons. As I got up to speak, I paused and gulped: there in the audience was the pioneering scholar of the commons, Elinor Ostrom.
It was not an academic conference, but rather a gathering of 125 regular citizens at the local Unitarian-Universalist Church. Several slides in my presentation drew upon her work or mentioned her. Would she agree with my interpretations? Would I get something wrong?
“You just walk into the mountain,” I was told. And so I walked up to Schlossberg, a large hill that overlooks the city of Graz, Austria, and into a tunnel carved out of sheer rock that extended dimly into the distance. I stepped gingerly onto the metal grating that formed a inclined walkway, and proceeded in amazement for more than 100 yards. The air had the sharp tang of rock dust. I came to a huge open space — a 150-foot “auditorium” with a 40-foot ceiling — again, carved out of sheer rock.