My name is Carolyn, and I am happily writing an introduction post as a new member of the Commons Network team, joining for the season as an intern. I study Societal Resilience at Vrije Universiteit, and in this Master’s program, we are asked to look broadly and deeply at many aspects of how we organize our social world to support the health and well-being of people and the planet. While some of my colleagues focus on studies of disinformation, education, or immigration, I feel most passionate about the governance systems we use to organize sharing finite resources.
I grew up in an intentional community in Upstate New York, where I gained a felt experience in living closely with others and sharing the task of meeting our collective needs. Our intentions were, and remain to be, to live in intergenerational community, to live in unity with the earth acting for a thrivable world for all, to create wealth that embodies integrity and steps away from destructive elements of our current economic system, and to include a good measure of joy, fun, and creativity in our lives. It is from this upbringing that my interest in organizing politically at a societal level for commons-based governance principles ignited. I witnessed the challenge that groups of people interested in sharing resources equitably faced operating in a winner-takes-all society. I see the challenge our world faces as inequality grows and the consequences of an extractive culture grow more visible and drastic. I believe that at a societal level, we need public governance structures that support local, globally interconnected community economies.
In addition to being raised in an eco-village, I am a millennial. This matters because I grew up with the internet, and quite frankly, I cannot imagine a world without it. The web infrastructure is as basic and necessary to me as roads, railways, and the postal system. About four years ago, I learned how much of the internet and my life was in the hands of large private corporations such as Facebook, Apple, and Google. My connection to friends and family, where I get my news, my education, and my work are all dependent on big tech companies. Recently, I have heard more and more stories of people’s posts being removed, accounts being deleted or “shadowbanned,” and entire internet shutdowns during times of political unrest. The internet, and its users, need advocates for its maintenance as a public good and service in the climate of privatization.
For the past few years, I have worked with Holochain, supporting the development of a protocol made for building peer-to-peer (P2P) distributed applications. In the decentralized web space, I see a clear connection between sociopolitical organizing and the movement to build a better web. DWeb activists and builders work for internet infrastructure that is in the hands of the people who use it. In this space, I was formally introduced to the concept of ‘the commons.’ While theories of the commons were popularized initially in physical, agricultural communities and primarily dealt with land sharing, the concept has since been translated into many digital spaces. The most well-known example of a digital commons is Wikipedia – a site where the information base is both created and maintained by its user base. I landed at Commons Network due to my interest in the intersection of commons-based organizing and the movement to build a better web. I am keen to educate, advocate and create alternatives to our current tech platforms that meet our collective needs with Commons Network.
Working in the Public-Civic Digital Ecosystems program, I will be supporting the work of shifting our current internet infrastructure from one that is extractive and precarious to one that is in service to all. First, I will help share stories of the current transformations in human life that digitalization has brought. In this manner, we may be able to see how real people have been affected by recent technological shifts, learn from their stories, and collectively think about how we wish to set up digital public infrastructure. In addition to this project, I will support the creation of an incubator for the development of platform cooperatives and advocacy of technologies that are already being built for the public good as the guiding north star.
I am grateful to collaborate with Commons Network and excited to get to work with the various initiatives in Amsterdam and beyond! So, if you are reading this and are interested in learning more, please reach out – I want to connect with you. Perhaps you have a story of how technology has impacted your life, want to start your own digitally-based cooperative or adopt some new alternative technologies into your community, or maybe you just want to talk. Any which way, give me a shout!