Category Archives: 02. commoning: a verb, not a thing

a. summary

David Bollier: Interview on the Commons


The commons as a new way of looking at the world.  A new way of storytelling creates a new way of being, a new ontology, of being together that has the power to overcome the stories of “havingness” and greed, and “to create new stories that slip between the languages we have been given,” as Rebecca Solnit explains in ‘Falling Together.’ And what is the artist’s role?

What’s critical in creating any commons, is that a community decides that it wants to engage in the social practices of managing a resource for everyone’s benefit. This is sometimes known as commoning. The historian of the commons Peter Linebaugh has noted that “there is no commons without commoning.” It’s an important point to remember because it underscores that the commons is not only about shared resources; it’s mostly about the social practices and values that we devise to manage them.  (David Bollier: Think like a Commoner, 2014: 17)

As the community decides to engage in the social practices of managing a resource for everyone’s benefit, we see that the focus point of “commoning” is not only the resource but also the social practice itself and the values that are being devised to manage them. Various theorectical works document the staggering international breadt and vitality of commons activities and advocacy. The commons can be found in German ecovillages, Chilean fisher commons, thousand of open-access scientific journals, the uprise of alternative currencies used by local communities, and in urban gardens that grow food and social connections. New movements of people worldwide are beginning to see how the commons paradigm describes their lives and their relationships to other people and resources. Software programmers, indigenous people, academic researchers, permaculturists, Indian textile makers, Istanbul residents defendig Gezi Park, the users of public libraries and parks, Slow Food activists: the affinity of these groups for the commons is not necessarily intellectual or scientific; it’s a personal creation of cultural identity, a way of life and a way to revive democratic practice. (David Bollier: Think like a Commoner, 2014: 33)

b. A Paradise Built in Hell


California reads, USA
2012, 2 min (selected excerpt)

In the aftermath of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina, 9/11, or the Loma Prieta Earthquake, author Rebecca Solnit collected hundreds of interviews and spent time in various disaster zones. What she found is contrary to what the media often reports: in times of crisis, humans have shown themselves to be deeply communitarian, altruistic, brave, and improvisational.

Here Solnit, author of California Reads selected book A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster, shares her thoughts on how we function within and what we really need from society. She speaks about our common desire for love and agency, a desire to contribute a voice and to be heard. While many believe that disasters turn us into chaotic and stampeding herds, Solnit asserts that times of crisis provide rare openings during which she has witnessed astonishing acts of humanity. These openings, she says, provide the building blocks for a truer and healthier democracy.

Full interview part 1 & part 2

c. Language Matters


PBS News Hour, USA
2015, 7 min 2 sec

“Language Matters,” a PBS documentary, explores how linguistic heritage is intrinsically intertwined with local knowledge and concepts as well as sustainable visions. But these languages and their ancestral knowledge are now at risk of being lost forever around the world. Poet Bob Holman elucidates his fight to revive languages inherently part of our common world legacy.

d. How Wolves Change Rivers


National Geographic, USA
2014,  4 min 33 sec

When wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park in the United States after being absent nearly 70 years, the most remarkable “trophic cascade” occurred. What is a trophic cascade and how exactly do wolves change rivers? George Monbiot explains in this movie remix.

f. Gardening Mania



Townsend Center for the Humanities California, USA
2009, 53 min 48 sec

“Gardening is to the inner city of this decade what Hip Hop was to the inner city 25 years ago,” attests Solnit, who provides us with an elaborate lecture on Gardening Mania, where she explores how growing gardens is as much as growing communities.

g. Michael Hardt, Everyday Words Disappear


Johan Grimonprez, Belgium
2016, 16 min

In 1515 Machiavelli stated that it is better for the Prince to be feared than loved. Some 500 years later, Michael Hardt, political philosopher and co-author of Empire, Multitude and Commonwealth, asks what it would mean to base a political system on love, rather than on fear. How can we transform a society that is increasingly defined by a permanent state of war and cultivated by an industry of fear? How can we realize the paradigm shift necessary to move away from a reality that depends on the exploitation of people and the cult of privatisation of public resources?