Blog Posts on David Bollier, _Think Like a Commoner_, Introduction through Chapter 3

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28 thoughts on “Blog Posts on David Bollier, _Think Like a Commoner_, Introduction through Chapter 3

  1. Think Like A Commoner is a brilliant piece of literature that really captures the significance of commons. It describes in detail not only what a commons is, but also gives an insight behind why people are so against commons because they are misinformed to its purpose and how it benefits individuals and their economy along with their environment. Commons are shared by everyone; it suggests morality, behavior, and aspirations. In chapter one there is a relationship between people and their resources; things of economic necessities such as food, firework, water, fish, and wild game. Not only this, but a collaboration of community can bring about merit driven commons not only that, but a distinct community that combines together brings about social practices, values, and norms that are used to manage the resources that are our commons. I agree with this commons are things shared whether values or actual resources. The point should be how we grow in a community connected by commons that makes us as a people stronger and more well equipped to handle situations together. There are several types that are mentioned by David Bollier, like Parking commons and passive commons each contributing to society in their own way. I like how he mentions that commons is a living organism that co-evolves with its environment and then grows and changes. Basically we as a community managing our resources are growing together, at least if we want to grow stronger.
    In Chapter two he is stating the misconception behind what people think a commons is. Many people see commons as a failure because they have the perspective that when people gain motivation to take responsibility for resources it is only to be guaranteed private ownership and access to free markets; often times this can cause tragic outcomes. One failure contributed to the commons is when you are out for personal gain. I agree though that that is what I have heard as well, but it is true that the reason for this is when people are trying to further their individual success and not to help out the community. I like how Ostrom states that commons must be organized in multiple layers of nested enterprises so that we can be given general guidelines. This is why CPR’s are created as a common pool of resources. This means that no one has private property rights or control over collective resources. We need this so that we can govern our commons.
    Then we get to chapter three and it is stated that for many commoners commons is cultural identity or a personal livelihood. It gives people an understanding of life and practices. This is entitled Enclosure of Nature. My favorite quote that he states is this, ‘the process in which corporations pluck valuable resources from their natural contexts and say they are valued through a market price.’ I disagree with this kind of thinking. If you are looking at your resources as a way to get rich then you are missing the value and meaning behind commons that we share as a community. Enclosure seems to be defined by progress and development that privileges private ownership./ This interferes with peoples ability to self organize and control their form of governance. Over all we should see commons for what it really is; managing resources in the form of governance as a community instead of misrepresenting it for personal gain and market prices.

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    • 5 points. Very thorough! “Enclosure” does tend to happen when people or entities view a resource too narrowly–when you see it as only one thing (a source of profit, for example) without seeing its totality, you’re more prone to violate the commons.

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  2. The main concept of the first three chapters of “Thinking Like a Commoner” is defining what the commons are. The commons are not owned by anyone, they are shared by everyone. The commons is a sum of a resource + a community + a set of social protocols. All of these parts are integrated and interdependent as a whole. Contrary to common belief the commons are not just about the resource. As stated in the book there is “no commons without commoning,” meaning it is not only about the resources it also requires social practices and values put in place by a community. It combines a distinct community with a set of social practices and norms that are used to manage a resource. He explains that these parts come to be depend on each other and love each other, the relationship between the people and their resources matters. Bollier states that there is no standard formula for the commons, there are several factors that affect the commons. These factors include the character of the resource whether it is limited or unlimited; the experience and participation of commoners; historical, cultural, and natural conditions; and reliable institutions. Bollier also explains how the commons are adaptable, they grow and change with its environment and text.

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  3. In Monday class,we spent a lot of time in discussing what is commons.At the beginning I still kind of confuse about it and only know it’s “free and own by everyone”but not just ourselves.After I watch the video,I understand David Boiler also defined climate and weather in specific region as commons.Boiler talked about the tragedy of commons,and I started to think about my experience with commons.When I was a child,I always play hide-seek with my friend in garden.There were several huge stones at the central of garden. We always hide under trees and do finger-guessing game.After we finished our game,the winner sit on the biggest stone for all night before we went home.Taking another example,when my family had spare time when I was a child,we would kite-flying at park to relax and entertain ourselves.We mange commons to benefit us without destroying or bothering it in negative way.I believe people mange commons in different way.In the book,the example with the seed perfectly with positive effect for environment and themselves. These book’s topic commons is a novel topic for me since I never realized and used resource with my strategy about protect our environment.

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  4. The things Bollier tells us about companies having access to natural resources, or commons, by cheap prices is revolting. Most of his points in the first three chapters are revolting, since it is showing how corrupt all governments are, and how people are so focused in their lives in the cities that they forget who owns the commons. The word “government” means the body of a nation, state or community. It exists to represent people’s interests, and not to benefit just a few. It is hard to understand what is going on with many governments that claim to be democratic. Looking at protesters getting beaten and pepper sprayed when peacefully protesting, or most recent when Greenpeace fought Shell to stop drilling at Alaska/Arctic, and got hundreds of thousands of online signatures for petitions, but Obama and the Federal Government did not care and allowed Shell to do it anyways, also arresting protesters in the coast of Seattle.
    Every year governments around the world receive so much money in taxes and still don’t fix what should be fixed, or take actions on issues that would help make the world a better place. I am sure that if politicians were decent people, who truly cared about public interest and their countries, and if people were interested in the commons, this situation could be changed.
    It is also incredible how the media almost does not talk about the Scandinavian countries, or Japan, where politicians have small salaries and are in the job because they truly care about their communities.
    I’d like to conclude by saying that I believe on blaming politicians for most bad things happening in the world, but also that young people are being discouraged by their mentors – teachers, professors and parents – to fight corruption. As Kurt Cobain once said, “the duty of youth is to challenge corruption,” and I believe he’s absolutely right.

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    • 5 points. We certainly live in complicated and sometimes depressing times when our so-called public servants do not serve the public. In a democracy like the USA, though, those “leaders” do get elected by people. Granted, there is a huge issue of big-money influence in elections, but the people must take some responsibility for getting the government they voted for, don’t you think?

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  5. In David Bollier’s, Think Like a Commoner, he spends the first few chapters explaining what the commons are and gives us this overall idea of them. For me, the simplest way to describe the commons is the way the lady on the airplane did in Bollier’s story. She said that the commons are “things that no one owns and are shared by everyone.” In chapter one, he gives the example of the women of Erakulapally in India. He tells the story of how they started their own kind of community farm, planting seeds and sharing the food with everyone in the community. In the second chapter, Bollier explains the failure of the commons. He says that one of the biggest reasons, is due to the want of personal gain. Bollier writes that “a commons requires that there be a community willing to act as a conscientious steward of a resoource.” There should be no driving force of personal gain behind an action. In chapter three, Bollier discusses the process of the enclosure of the commons. He talks about how often, the government supports corporations’ actions of undermining the environment by taking valuable resources from their natural habitats. One of the biggest examples of this seen today is the bottling of water. Companies charge people for a resource that should not be profited from. Water is essential to life and the fact that water enclosures occur are almost pathetic, in my opinion.

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    • 5 points. The process of the commons–governance, management, etc.–which you mention a little later is just as important to a definition of the commons as the thing itself (the things we own in common or share).

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  6. What really surprised me about the first three chapters of “Think like a Commoner” was how relevant the ideas were to my experiences. I have taken both Macro and Micro econ and now that I think about it the idea of a commons was never mentioned in either of my textbooks. A lot of my education, especially psychology, has tried to teach me that humans naturally do things that are rational and selfish making the idea of a commons absurd. But after reading all of Bollier’s examples of commons I realize that what is absurd is thinking that a commons does not exist. Economy books and even psychology classes should really add the idea of a commons to the curriculum. The idea of a commons is something schools should be promoting and governments should be advocating for. Imagine instead of big companies using up all the resources and trying to monopolize everything, we had a commons where important resources like water and clean air are shared. This would probably increase the quality of our drinking water and increase the duration of our fresh water supplies. The idea of a commons would also promote communities and human to human interactions which today’s society really needs more of.

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    • 5 points. I’m glad you noticed the lack of discussion of the commons in other courses! Certainly human beings are complex, so the economic or psychological ideas that emphasize humanity’s selfishness or self-centeredness (which does exist) are overly simplistic and incomplete at best!

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  7. In “Thinking Like a Commoner”, which is written by David Bollier, the introduction through the first three chapters, he talks about this concept called “the commons”, and he uses these chapters to define it for us. One way to describe the commons is that they are not owned by one single person, but they are shared by everyone within a community, which is pretty much how the lady on the airplane, that Bollier told us about, described the commons. The commons also does not cost any money. In the first chapter, Bollier tells us about the place in India that created a farm that would be shared by everyone in the community. In the second chapter Bollier tells us about how the commons fails in life. He tells us that the main reason that the commons fails throughout a society is due to people wanting to make personal gain and power. In other words, there cannot be any selfishness within a society in order for the commons to work out. Finally, in the third chapter, Bollier talks about how the government always supports corporations that are wanting to use the environment for personal gains.

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    • 5 points. You’ve touched on essential points regarding the commons. (Seems you’re repeating the same points some others have made–if you’re reading through other’s postings, which is great and something I encourage, maybe consider adding some new ideas to the conversation, too. 🙂 )

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  8. David Bollier is introducing what the commons are in the first 3 chapters of his book, Think like a commoner. This book reminds me of a class that I am taking right now called ‘the water wars”. In this class, I also had an opportunity to read Hardin’s article, Tragedy of Commons. I really enjoyed reading his piece and helped me a lot to understand what the important concepts for commons are. Commons are defiend as a place where it is not owned by anyone but owned by everyone. Because of this concept, the current world is having continuous disputes over commons to claim themselves that they are the owners of them. In the first chapter, Bollier spends time on establishing the kinds of commons that exist currently with some examples such as a seed-sharing and surfers in Hawaii who have rules to avoid interfering with others. The second chapter talks about the “tragedy of the commons”. I really think it is important for everyone on the planet to realize how important commons are and how all should take care of them carefully in order to treat and preserve as best as they can. To me, as tiem goes, people are having a lack of knowledge in the importance of commons. Indscreet usage of commons will make a result that no one wants to have in the future. Therefore, it is very important for everyone to keep the importance of commons in mind at all time.

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    • 5 points. I’m glad you’re taking a class on our water crisis–it is probably the world’s major issue for survival. The commons is a process as much as a thing. You touch on that toward the end–the management and governance are as important as the thing itself, and without them, there are only conflicts over shared resources.

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  9. In Think Like a Commoner by the author David Bollier in the introduction chapters, the main idea was having to do with the topic “the commons”. After reading through this you can begin to put together that the commons is not owned by anything or anyone and can also be used by anyone. Also you learn that there are a lot of aspects that go into the idea of a commons place. Two of the factors are community and a sense of rules. All together they are dependent on one another. When I first read these chapters and the things that make up a “commons” I immediately made a connection to my high school. At my high school, in the middle of the school there is this huge room with linoleum floors and lunch tables all over it. This huge room was called the “commons”. In the commons we would eat lunch, meet for club meetings as well as team sport meetings, meet up here before we went to an activity being held in the gym or auditorium, basically it was used for all sort of things. I think it relates to the idea of commons in the book for the sole fact that is was used by the people attending school for multiple things, just like Bollier described a community using a commons.

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    • 5 points. The process–governance, rules, management–are just as important to “the commons” as the thing itself. The “commons” area in a school is a good example. Was this just a commonly used space for you, or were there actual collective governance and management rules and processes, whether informal or formal, that were in effect?

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  10. The first three chapters of David Bollier’s “Think Like A Commoner” are quite interesting as they introduce and define the ‘commons’ concept. I like the simple definition the lady at the beginning of the first chapter gives for ‘the commons’, which was “The commons are things that no one owns and are shared by everyone.” I think that this is the basic explanation of what it means. Bollier goes on explaining more about the commons, the factors of it, what affects it and its relationship with people and society. One of the things that I immediately thought of while reading these chapters is what “the commons” was in the school I graduated from. My school not very large and had all three levels of education: elementary, middle, and high school in the same school campus. There was an area right in the middle of the school where all floors and main hallways connected. That area was what we considered as the commons because everyone had access to it and it was open to all staff and students. I could go there and see elementary and middle school students and teachers. This idea directly relates back to what Bollier talks about in his book. One of the things we talked about in class that I found was very interesting was the whole concept of water and how day after day, everyone is realizing how important it is to watch out for water because we will eventually run out. Also, we talked about the idea of ‘bottled water’ and how some people debate whether that should be allowed or not because water is a resource that is a right for everybody to use and maybe people shouldn’t sell it for money.

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    • 5 points. You were lucky to share a commons space with students of all ages in a school–too often, in American society anyway, we really segregate students of different age groups. Were there commons processes in place in this common space–formal or informal governance and management?

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  11. Reading “Think like a Commoner,” I’ve been able to expand upon what I have learned previously and Bollier brings up a lot of good points that I was taught differently growing up. For example, I first learned about the commons in a European history class and we talked about the enclosure movement but didn’t really mention anything of modern day until I took an economics course and we talked about the Tragedy of the Commons as a sort of shortcoming of human society in which it was better for private individuals to take care of things because otherwise it may end up like our oceans and waterways today where they are massively polluted. I was always taught that the commons was a thing of the past but had been intrigued with the idea of a society based on shared ownership of the land and its resources and Bollier really hit it right on the head in laying out the different commons that we still see today. I never really thought of the internet as being something that can be used by so many and the pure amount of information on there creates a sense of a commons in which everyone can access it and use it. Bollier seems to be really well informed on the issue and helped me to look past the idea of the commons being only something read about in history books.

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    • 5 points. I’m glad Bollier has opened your awareness up to the commons more. The interpretation of Hardin’s “Tragedy of the Commons” that you describe is the misinterpretation that continues to be passed down. As Bollier and most other commons scholars say, the commons is not just a thing but also the governance and management that allow the thing to be shared–if the governance and management are not there, it is *not* fully a commons.

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  12. Most of class on Monday we talked about what “the commons” actually are. The quote of “things that no one knows and everyone shares,” was the best way to sum up the commons in my opinion. Instead of the first thought of idea that the commons are something that one can simply own, Bollier describes the commons as being things that exist within all of us as a whole such as values, emotion, behavior, etc. I like how in depth he gets when describing the commons in the first few chapters, and also that instead of directly saying what the commons are by definition, Bollier shares his ideas with us and in a way leaves the question open to think about.

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    • 5 points. The commons is certainly a broad and open idea that is subject to interpretation (in a good way, usually)! Don’t forget that the commons is as much a process of governance and management as it is the thing itself.

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  13. In the first few chapters of David Bollier’s book, Think Like A Commoner, Bollier is defining and explaining what a common is. In the beginning, Bollier’s seatmate defines commons in the most simplest way, a common is something that is not owned, rather it is shared by everyone – “The commons are things that no one owns and are shared by everyone.” Later on in the chapters, Bollier explains how commons are “pioneering new forms of governance, innovative technologies…appealing ways to live,” and “a quiet revolution — self organized, diversified, and socially minded.” In these sentences, Bollier is basically explaining how people are creating ways to make this common movement a revolution in order for us to live a selfishness way. Later throughout the book, Bollier mentions there are three parts to putting a common together as a interdependent whole. By combining “a resource + a community + a set of social protocols” you get a common and a good example he uses is the Boston neighborhoods (also the one that I was able to relate the most). The example of Boston neighborhoods that Bollier uses is basically showing/teaching us how in order for there to be commons – communities need come to some sort of agreement that allows them to not just socially practice, but, to gain value and norms. In the case Boston neighborhoods, people learn to value hard work through cleaning a parking spot and leaving an object there in order for others to know that the spot is reserved. People start living through this norm, that in order to gain/own something you have to be able to work for it. Though, the most important to take out of this common, is that this is something that the community of Boston neighborhoods came to an agreement – by coming together and sharing similar norms and values.
    Which for some reason, correct me if I am wrong, but the way we divide countries when we basically share a lot of common grounds, yet we have a border that divides us and only allows certain people to come in – I mean in the end isn’t just land? Like why should we allow a piece of paper tell us whether or not we are allowed to explore the world, we should be allowed to just do it.

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    • 5 points. You’ve got a thorough understanding of the commons early on! You raise important questions about nations and borders as they relate to the commons. Certainly if we take an ecosystem approach (that all of nature, and thus all natural resources, are interrelated), the commons idea works much better than many of our nationalistic ideas.

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  14. The concept of comons is truly interesting. The comons is anything that is not private property. A commns is shared by all. Examples of commons are community gardens, parks , sidewalks etc. David Bolie discusses the idea that the comons is not jst phsica but it is moe. Thughts, ideas and beliefs are all comons. The best quote that sums this up is “I gave a man a dollar and he gave me a dllar, we left with 1 dollar. I told a man an idea and he told me an idea, we both left with 2 ideas.’ We discussed in class whether the internet is a comons or not. It is a comons because whenever somebody tries to monetie it, somebody devalues it. Fo example, when Netfix went online, it wasrelatively pensive. Tus came Hul whc was fre at the time. After a time period, Hulu started to charge. David Bollier’s concept of the commons proves to be true in many scenaios.

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    • 5 points. It’s very true that commons are more than just physical things such as water and soil. But even beyond the more abstract commons such as the Internet and values, the process of “commoning”–the governance and management of the resource–is just as important for something to be a commons. Enclosure by privatization shuts down the commons, as you have noted.

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