Category Archives: 01. growing new stories

a. summary

Kurt Vonnegut: On the Shape of Stories


Meanwhile, let us have a sip of tea. The afternoon glow is brightening the bamboos, the fountains are bubbling with delight, the soughing of the pines is heard in our kettle. Let us dream of evanescence and linger in the beautiful foolishness of things. (Kakuzō Okakura: The Book of Tea, 1956)

Since we don’t really have a language for naming commons – real commons- they tend to be invisible and taken for granted. The commons are things that no one owns and are shared by everyone, such as shareware, the human genome, urban squares, forests, wikipedia, creative commons licenses, the commons of language itself, etc. Unfortunately, due to the dismal performance of corporate capitalism and government, countless public resources are getting privatised. In response, the commons sets forth a very different vision on human fulfilment and ethics, and invites people to achieve their own bottom-up, do-it-yourself styles of emancipation.

The concept of the commons is not a dogma, it is a political critique to the status-quo-system and a new way of managing resources.  […] Basically the commons is shared resources that a given community wants to manage for the collective benefit of everyone with a focus on fairness and sustainability of the resource. It is pioneering new forms of production, more open and accountable forms of governance, innovative technologies and cultures and healthy, appealing ways to live. It is a quiet revolution – organised, diversified and socially minded. (David Bollier: Think like a Commoner, 2014: 1–9)


b. Buckminster Fuller on ‘Spaceship Earth’


Philadelphia, USA
1975, 2 min

Initially published in 1969, and one of Fuller’s most popular works, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth is a brilliant synthesis of his world view. In this very accessible volume, Fuller investigates the great challenges facing humanity. He provides us with answers on questions that form the basis of “the commons movement”.

How will humanity survive? How does automation influence individualization? How can we utilize our resources,  more effectively to realize our potential to end poverty in this generation? He questions the concept of specialization, calls for a design revolution of innovation, and offers advice on how to guide ‘spaceship earth’ toward a sustainable future.

c. David Boillier: What is the Commons?


, 23 min 37 sec

David Bollier is an activist, writer and policy strategist who studies the commons and tries to protect it (‘the word commons’ is singular and plural). In short we can state that his definition of the commons is that most basically it is about shared resources that a given community wants to manage for the collective benefit of everyone with an accent on fairness and sustainability of the resource.

In this fragment he elaborates on the concept of the commons as well as the practical (managing resources) and political (critique to the political status quo of this present time towards the commons) sense of it. He responds to critiques and specifies why he is a pro-activist when it comes to a different approach of the commons.

d. Alberto Manguel, The City of Words


The Massey Lecture Series; Radio National; the Big Ideas; Queensland, Australia
, 38 min 56 sec

This Sunday night on Radio National, the Big Ideas program begins a new series of six programs: the Massey Lectures, first broadcast on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation last year. The lecturer is internationally acclaimed writer and translator Alberto Manguel, who has written novels, film scripts, essays and a range of non-fiction works.He has edited anthologies on a variety of themes including A Dictionary of Imaginary PlacesA History of Reading and, more recently, The Library At Night.

The Massey lecture series is titled The City Of Words and in it Alberto Manguel turns our attention to a variety of literary sources from the biblical story of the Tower of Babel to the Epic of Gilgamesh; from Don Quixote to Stanley Kubrick’s film of 2001: A Space Odysseyand many more. The aim is to address the problem of how we are to live together in this complex, multi-voiced world, where many of the voices are raised in anger and in fear.

e. Britta Riley: A Garden in My Apartment


Britta Riley, TEDxManhattan; New York, USA
2011, 7 min 53 sec

Window farms consist of vertical hydroponic platforms for growing food in city windows. Britta Riley wanted to grow her own food in her tiny apartment. So she and her friends developed a system for growing plants in discarded plastic bottles — researching, testing and tweaking the system using social media, trying many variations at once and quickly arriving at the optimal system. Call it distributed DIY. And the results? Delicious.

Instead of perfecting and patenting the invention, Britta Riley created a social media site where she published the design for free, and even pointed out the flaws, designed in conjunction with an online citizen science web platform, with over 18,000 community members worldwide sharing ideas and contributing to perfecting the Window Farm techniques.

i. further reading & research



David Boillier, Think like a Commoner: A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons (2014)

David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, Patterns of Commoning (2015)

David Bollier, The Commons, Short and Sweet (2011)

George Monbiot, Out of the Wreckage: A New Politics for an Age of Crisis (2017)

David Bohm, On Dialogue (2004)

Max Haiven, Crisis of Imagination, Crisis of Power. (2014)

P2P Foundation, The Commons, Transition Primer


The Commoner
On the Commons
International Journal of the Commons
Digital Library Of The Commons
Tank Magazine Podcasts



h. The Deeper Magic of the Commons


Crafted Recordings Podcast, God and Radicals, USA
2016, 56 min 23 sec

This episode is an extended discussion of the Commons, with contributions from David BollierGeorge CaffentzisMassimo de AngelisPeter Linebaugh, and our own Dr. Bones. Thanks to The Droimlins — Eddy Dyer on guitar and Jimmy Otis on accordion — with their songs “Horse Hooves on the Steppes of Eurasia (765 AD)” and “Tenement Polka.” Also thanks to Eddy Dyer for his vocals and Ethan Winer for his bass on our punk-tinged cover of “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got” by Ral Donner. Above all, thanks to the birds in the forest for allowing me to record their conversations one morning.