[Discussion] A Circular Commons



UK Political Commentators on CE and Distributed Production

In this panel discussion by Novara Media (a left-wing new media platform in the UK), Paul Mason talks about the ‘circularity’ and James Meadway about ‘distributed production’. Two important aspects of our work.

It is quite light referencing and even though Paul Mason acknowledges the limitations of the nature of the ‘circularity’ there seems to be an endorsement of it regardless. Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, perhaps there is an opportunity to put forward our alternative idea for the ‘circularity’ to him.

A Circular Commons

I was watching this video and reading quite a lot of things lately, in particular:

Governing the Commons (Elinor OStrom)
Ours to Hack and to Own (Scholz & Schneider)
Platform Capitalism (Nick Srnicek)

I have been thinking, that while the framework and methodology of ‘open source’ captures our approach to the development of products, I think our work is about a much broader valuing of the commons. For example, many of our ideas/concepts require different forms of organising companies e.g. in platform cooperatives. For me the methodology of open source, while I think crucial for us, might not fully capture the broader remit of what we do.

Then I thought of the term the “The Circular Commons”, which might be a useful term for us.

However, it might also be tautologous, because the preservation of the commons is typically embedded within any commons valued work.

@seigorobinson @Lars2i interested to hear your thoughts.


Admin note: I put this into the category “Meta & More”

Comment: I like this. One argument for focussing on “Open Source” is, that when you try to find business and organisation-models working with it, you can land relatively quickly at the “commons” for some solutions/problems. So somehow commons is implied – but only for where it makes sense to either support circularity or open source for circularity. But only there!


Another thing that I’ve been thinking about is how, while we espouse its success, open source software is centrally embedded in the development of these new digital mega-platforms. It seems to me that open source software is actually a key part of the development of the digital economy as we see it now.

This of course raises many questions for us. So, what I think is that, open source processes are essential infrastructure to enable us to do things that we can’t now. But it is not enough on its own.

Maybe you already knew this.

Perhaps you have thoughts on this @cameralibre @Jaime


Here is a slide by Stefan Meretz I shared a while ago in this blogpost (in german)

It translates to:

Open Soure is Two-Faced

  • It is pro-capitalistic
  • It is commonostic
  • Both is true at the same time: This contradiction is to grasp/comprehend/comprehend

And actually this contradiction/opposition is and important part why I am interested in it. Because it is pro-capitalistic there might be a way for existing companies to buy in to it – to transform towards circularity – and maybe as a side effect a third unexpected way to run our economy will emerge.


Interesting thoughts, I don’t have anything too insightful to say right now, will have to mull on it.

The only observation to point out is that I think there’s an agreement that open source is seen as a means and that the circular commons is seen as an end, and it’s a question around how the emphasis should be placed. One view is to say that we believe in open source and that it can lead us to outcomes we can’t even yet imagine but are different and most likely better than our current economic (thus social/environmental) system - likely a circular commons. The other approach is to say here is the end goal, the circular commons, which we want to get to and that we will try nudging the system at the right leverage points to get there - using open source approaches but potentially many other ways.


I’ve been thinking about this and the key is the governance approach (e.g. the business model). It’s not enough to just talk about open source product development, nor is it enough that the business model is “open”. The business model must also provide mechanisms that do not deplete the commons, in the same way that Ostrom determined. In fact, the more I think about it, the more the “openness” of the business model appears to be problematic for balanced resource governance.


What do you mean with “openness” of the business model?

And why is it problematic?


These thoughts are formative, Lars. I don’t have complete answers, but will get back to you.