The City of Linz in Austria has long been in the forefront of civic-minded uses of the Internet and digital technologies. In 1979, it started the Ars Electronica festival, a showcase for cutting-edge experiments in digital and media arts, which was followed in 1987 with the Prix Ars Electronica, a prestigious international award for the most exemplary, pioneering websites and computer art. In 2005 the city built 118 wifi hotspots in public squares so that citizens could have free access to the Internet. Through the Public Space Server project, Linz began to provide personal e-mail inboxs on the city’s servers and to host non-commercial content on the Internet.
So it is exciting to learn that the City of Linz is now trying to take the free culture/open platform sensibility to a whole new level. It wants to use the Internet to transform city politics, governance and culture into a vast ecosystem of commons. Last July city officials announced that it would launch Open Commons Region Linz, a series of region-wide initiatives that aspires to make local information and creativity as open, accessible and shareable as possible. The Green Party and politically minded digital leaders believe that by making it easy for citizens to access and share knowledge on a local basis, it will stimulate digital innovators to produce locally useful information tools while encouraging greater civic engagement and more robust economic development.