The debate over the commons used to focus on how to protect shared resources from private predators. Now, increasingly, the focus is shifting to how the commons and market forces can constructively work together while preserving the integrity of the commons. That is to say, the focus is on how to preserve the social relationships and free flows of information that constitute the commons while permitting some sort of monetization and/or developing external revenue sources.
I consider this whole conversation is a significant “developmental stage” in the evolution of the commons: how to develop a sustainable balance between commons and markets? This sort of talk was much in evidence at the Free Culture Forum in Barcelona in late October; at the International Commons Conference in Berlin on November 1-2; and most notably at the “Economies of the Commons” conference hosted by the De Balie Center in Amsterdam on November 11-13. The tagline for the latter conference put it well: “Paying the cost of making things free.”