• Meeting - Common Pool Resource Governance

last modified October 30, 2011 by tomlowenhaupt

On October 20, 2011 we convened a meeting on the applicability of the Common Pool Regime governance to the .nyc TLD. The meeting report and topic links are provides here.


The Participants

    David-Bollier-at-Hangout-10-20-11.jpg

 (Commons photo courtesy of Patti Shubitz.

Tech Notes
  1. The Hangout was initiated by Thomas Lowenhaupt with the other participants joining in the first few minutes. Thomas had a bad connection throughout, and was disconnected @51:20 minutes. He presumed similar problems were system wide and being experienced by the others. And he assumed that should he disconnect, the session would end, and all would have to rejoin. He learned that the session persisted after his disconnection and that he could have exited and rejoined anytime. Recommendation: Create some hand or chat signals to indicate bad audio or video and explain these to participants at the opening.
  2. Joly's audio contributions did not record, apparently due to a technical mishap with our recording equipment, not Google.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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. If this correct, how would it advance the idea that city-TLDs, such as .nyc, are most advantageously developed as public interest resources? 

To explore the possibilities we invited David Bollier, an important voice for the commons - http://bollier.org/ - to join us at a Tea and TLDs roundtable. Joly MacFie, V.P. of ISOC-NY and Robert Pollard, a CnI board member, joined the discussion.

The Video

Joly MacFie captured and published a 57 minute video of the Hangout, available here. See the Technical notes in the sidebar about some difficulties experienced in making the recording. Minutes of the meeting are presented as The conversation below.

Summary Report

The commons are a third sector of social and economic production. Traditional accounting systems fail to report on its historic and continuing contributions to society its unpinning the market sector. Elinor Ostrom's winning the 2009 Noble Prize in Economics, for her work on the commons detailed how self organizing communities can avoid the Tragedy of the Commons and sustainably manage collective resources, brought new life to the commons movement.

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.

Thomas Lowenhaupt reviewed various governance mechanisms for a city-TLD: government, the multi-stakeholder model (civic society, government and industry), the public access cable channels, 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.

Bollier responded:

  • 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 suggest the importance of bringing open data to a more fruitful location. David mention the policy of Lentz, Austria as a possible guide. 

The Conversation

The Hangout began at 10 AM with Thomas Lowenhaupt (convener), Joly MacFie, Robert Pollard, and David Bollier participating. The following are minutes from the conversation. Time indications, e.g., @6:07, are presented to aide in locating corresponding statements on the video recording. 

  • Tom Lowenhaupt @ 0:03 introduced the participants, presented a brief overview of Internet governance, and introduced David Bollier.
  • David Bollier @ 6:07 stated that commons are emerging as a third sector of social and economic production, separate from the state and separate from the market. He noted that there is a vast literature on the subject, prominently added to recently by Elinor Ostrom, who in 2009 won the Noble Prize in Economics for her work on the commons. Ostrom's work focused on how self organizing communities can avoid the Tragedy of the Commons and sustainably manage collective resources. 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 and deletable. Wikipedia and open source software are examples of where digital commons resources have been successfully governed. David presented the commons as a wholesome, transparent, participatory form of governance. 
  • Tom Lowenhaupt @ 9:00 referenced examples of ocean and bay fishing interests successfully governing  fisheries using the precepts of Common Pool Resource (CPR) governance techniques detailed by Elinor Ostrom, and asked if city-TLD portals (hotels.nyc, restaurants.nyc, GreenwichVillage.nyc) might be an appropriate digital resource to be governed by commons. Presenting some background on Internet governance, the multi-stakeholder model used at ICANN and the IGF, and he reviewed the experience with governance of the city's public access cable TV channels, wherein not-for-profits were created in each of the 5 boroughs with funding coming from monthly cable subscriber fees. He asked if CPR governance might be appropriate for a TLD commons.  
  • David Bollier @16:20 stated that TLD provided a rich opportunity for creating a new type of governance. The big issue of our times is a collision between network culture - bottom up, transparent, merit driven, and participatory - with the 20th century institutions that tend to be bureaucratic, hierarchical, and too often co-opted and corrupted. Also, in today's society, government holds too narrow a view of value, with today's markets being viewed as the only value producers. This leads government to give away 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. So 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 is more flexible than sometimes stodgy or inflexible government structures, there's gain for all. That could be traditional non-profit or city government but there are other options that might be looked at.
  • David Bollier @17:55 The commons offers some alternative models that might work for TLDs. But pressure to move on this needs to come from "the commoners themselves." That's why he's thrilled by the cultural space Occupy Wall Street has opened and the opportunities it presents for exploring alternative governance structures, that might offer socially constructive outcomes. Different models that have already succeeded in the digital realm are Wikipedia and open source software models that operate through non-profit foundations. In the natural resource realm stakeholder trust models seem to work. For example, the Alaska Permanent Fund offers a model for allocating oil money. But that model has its problems as too frequently the trustee for the commons have been corrupted. Perhaps a better approach is entities more independent of government, with performance rules or parameters set by government. The High-Line Park in NYC might be a good example. The state charters entities to do the public interest. Why can't it do similar chartering for a city-TLD commons?
  • David Bollier @20:30 The challenge is finding a forum for exploring these many ideas.
  • Joly MacFie @21:30 Audio did not record. (A technical problem resulted in Joly's contributions not being picked up. We will try to recreate them as we share these minutes with the participants.)
  • Robert Pollard @ 23:10, drawing on experience with data provided by city government (the data mine), he raised the question of services available through the TLD. Rather than relying on a registrar such as Godaddy.com to provide names and services to city residents and organizations, might we facilitate the delivery of certain services through the TLD: an open source platform as part of the TLD operators names registry offering; and providing a template for access to city data.
  • David Bollier @26:50 spoke to Robert's ideas and suggested that perhaps the city might envision itself as the host of an open source infrastructure. He referenced the city of Linz, Austria which created Open Commons Linz as a regional information commons. Historically a tech leader offering wi-fi hot spots and free email for citizens for non-commercial purposes, Linz is now putting all city data online and promoting open source, mashups, and creative commons licenses. They are doing this as a practical economic matter, not out of some ideological leaning. They want to "reduce costs, avoid dependency on outside vendors, promote local initiatives, strengthen the economy, create value, and establish transparency and legal certainty." They are trying to reestablish sovereignty over their information resources. David said "Let's take charge of our digital infrastructure: city-TLDs provide a perfect opportunity to start that process."
  • Joly MacFie @ 29:50 - Faulty audio.
  • David Bollier @ 30:10 (After listening to Joly's "Faulty audio) said there needs to be a top-down structure that enables a bottom-up organic development. The structure needs to allow the new, the civic to participate. And that the TLD not be seen solely an incubator for commercial enterprise. 
  • Joly MacFie @ 32:15 - Faulty audio.
  • Tom Lowenhaupt @33:55  -- faulty audio --   if we can't devise a governance structure that has all New Yorkers overseeing the TLD, taking ownership in its operation, then it will be just like .com. He told of the need to develop a protective culture around the TLD. "I am a New Yorker and .nyc is the thing I protect." We need to think of the TLD as important as our streets, our subways, our reservoirs, and other infrastructure.  
  • David Bollier @37:20 noted that identity and localism can also be facilitated by a TLD.
  • Joly MacFie @ 38:10 - Faulty audio.
  • Tom Lowenhaupt @38:30 responding to the (inaudible) MacFie question, stated that speed in allocating domain names was important in 1993 when the Net came to commercial life. But today, the allocation of city domain names need not be rushed. We only have one opportunity to do this right. And if it takes 5 years, that's OK. -- additional faulty audio -- He noted that today there is no discussion of the options on the TLD's operation and governance at city hall, common pool resource or otherwise. It's a totally closed process. 10 years ago the opportunity to apply for.nyc was brought to city hall's attention and it didn't act. (He mention a recent post on this.) Expressing concern about the entire process he said "How do we know it will even act now?"
  • David Bollier @41:30 one way to engage city hall is through involving other cities, creating solidarity with them and shaming those not working through open processes. "We want our .denver, our .seattle" should the the cry from around the city and around the world.
  • Joly MacFie @ 42:38 - Faulty audio.
  • Robert Pollard @42.40 said he'd like to see the city become a leader in the digital realm: enhancing digital literacy, tying it in with ecological data, with QR codes, to have the city lead the way into showing what it is like to live in a digital universe. Make creative commons curricular for school. 
  • bad audio
  • David Bollier @ 45:00 
  • Robert Pollard @45:45 on limits of WikiMedia software for some broad civic commons.
  • Tom Lowenhaupt @46:30 spoke on the utility of engaging other cities in developing standards and best practices. (See 2010 IGF panel on City Governance and Best Practices.)
  • David Bollier @ 47:20 said the Occupy movement might see a city-TLD as short term goal, and as a way to claim long-term control over infrastructure, and to create a real-life governance system over a resource beyond a city park.
      • Joly MacFie @ 48:10 - Faulty audio.
      • Robert Pollard @ 48:25 said he had a problem locating a site Joly referenced.
      • Tom Lowenhaupt @ 49:00 asked about the High-Line example presented earlier as a possible model.
      • David Bollier @49:25 said the High-Line had a good lease of authority from the city which enabled a broad range of activities and offered an interesting precedent. He likened it to Application Trail Club arrangements with the U.S. Forestry Service.
      • Robert Pollard @ 50:15 said the Central Park Conservancy does something similar, but on a larger scale than the High-Line.
      • Joly MacFie @ 50:30 - Faulty audio.
      • Tom Lowenhaupt @51:20 looses connection and exits conversation.
      • David Bollier @51:45 suggested that registration fees for domain name use could provide stability over time. 
      • Robert Pollard @ 52:35 suggested that ISOC-NY might play a role in facilitating a governance structure. 
      • Joly MacFie @ 52:40 - Faulty audio.
      • David Bollier @53:35 offers agreement to Joly's inaudible. And he indicated an interest in following up on next steps. 
      • Joly MacFie @ 54:00 - Faulty audio. (apparently speaking of next steps)
      • Robert Pollard @55:15 noted that Tom Lowenhaupt had invited her (apparently referring to the city's Chief Digital Officer, Rachel Sterne) to participate in these discussions and asked how do we extend an invitation she will accept.
      • David Bollier @55:40 said that if the inside effort doesn't work perhaps creating outside pressure is an alternative. (Other cities.)
      • Joly MacFie @ 55:50 - Faulty audio.
      • David Bollier @56:40 - That's a great idea.
      • @57:05 the recording ended at 11:00 AM, as planned.

      Commons Resources 

      Key .nyc Links