Jackson Hts., New York, October 20, 2011 - It’s been suggested that city-TLDs, such as .nyc, .london, .mumbai, and .paris, are “open greenfields for new local governance structures.” And that they would most effectively serve the public interest if developed as digital commons.
To explore the idea we invited David Bollier (http://bollier.org/) an important voice for the commons to our October 20 Tea & TLDs roundtable to help imagine a governance structure that best assures a city-TLD’s long term vitality.
After the market and government, the commons are a third sector of social and economic production. Traditional accounting systems fail to report its historic and continuing contributions to society and its unpinning the market sector. Elinor Ostrom’s winning the 2009 Noble Prize in Economics - for her work detailing how self organizing communities can avoid the Tragedy of the Commons and sustainably manage collective resources - brought new interest to the commons.
David indicated that a commons is a sustainable regime for both natural resources (oceans, forests…) and also, perhaps more so, for digital resources, which are not finite. (Wikipedia, Creative Commons, and open source are examples of digital commons.)
Thomas Lowenhaupt reviewed possible governance mechanisms for a city-TLD: government, the multi-stakeholder model used by ICANN, the IETF, and IGF (civic society, government, and industry), the public access cable model, and that of public broadcast media, and asked David if a city-TLD might be governed as a common pool resource: either parts of it - such as the neighborhood or category portals, or in its entirety.
- city-TLDs provided a rich opportunity for creating a new type of governance,
- the big issue of our times is a collision between bottom up, transparent, merit driven, and participatory network culture and 20th century institutions that tend to be bureaucratic, hierarchical, and too often co-opted and corrupted,
- in today’s society, government holds too narrow a view of value, with markets being viewed as the only value producers. This leads government to give public assets to the large players, ignoring the value of a more diverse market,
- non-market interests have a role in bettering society, but that value is not properly accounted for in our market centered economic model,
- to the extent that we can create a governance structure that represents and reflects a broader array of players and is bottom-up driven, like much of the Net, and more flexible than sometimes stodgy or inflexible government structures, there’s the potential of gain for all,
- a common pool regiment, traditional non-profit, city government and other options should be looked at.
David suggested that the Open Wall Street movement might offer an opportunity to explore governance options and to bring the opportunities city-TLDs present to cities globally.
Policy issues and experiences with open data were also discussed with Robert Pollard suggesting the importance of bringing open data to a more fruitful location. David mention the policy of Lentz, Austria as a possible guide.
A wiki page with the complete meeting materials - summary, minutes, and video - is available here.