Saturday, October 14, 2017

Understanding the Commons

This week has been interesting yet challenging. Articles on copyright, the commons, and open access, seem so full of legalese and complicated reasoning. Neither are my strong points! Yet, because I believe in open access to education, I waded through the difficult concepts. I came away with a few pertinent points that have further persuaded me towards an open access perspective.

The Tragedy of the Commons seems like a tragic viewpoint! The Tragedy of the Commons is the argument that if a resource is shared and everyone has a right to use that resource, it will be overconsumed and ruined. David Bollier counter-argues that it is incorrect to assume that people cannot manage a shared resource fairly and for everyone's betterment. This seems so true of education. How could you possibly over-consume education? Open access to education would encourage the open interchange of ideas.

What then would happen if we moved towards open access to education? I believe we would have the opportunity to share in the development of knowledge, a more egalitarian distribution of information. As information/education is shared, it becomes more accessible. There are huge global problems that we will not be able to solve without research across disciplines, across institutional boundaries, and even across nations. Restrictions inhibit creativity and openness facilitates innovation.

In the YouTube video entitled How Does the Commons Work, it was stated clearly, “Bollier says that the people who argue that the commons is impossible to manage make the fundamental mistake of treating the commons as a thing with those selfish commons destroying people existing outside of it. But the commons isn't a thing, it's a process that involves everyone in the community working to share and distribute it fairly.”

While considering the idea of commoning, I reflected on my own experience with producing open access resources. I realised I actually did not understand a Creative Commons license well at all. I knew that the resources were open access, but my understanding did not stretch to what was or was not permitted by the licenses I had worked with! I did a little investigating. I learned a lot from a YouTube video from Video Magazine. This video is shown below. The example of Zac and his use of Kiri’s photo of a kiwi, was simple and clear.

I then decided to investigate my own resources to find out more about the type of CC license issued. Firstly, I looked into the Second Life Education NZ (SLENZ) Project. I checked out the Literature Review and found the license information.
SLENZ Literature Review

SLENZ Lit Review Copyright statement
I also examined the Milestone Reports and found the same thing.
Milestone Report Copyright statement
I even checked our resources inside Second Life and found the hover script above the builds with the same – Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0. 
The license information hovers above the packaged build in SL
The license information hovers above the packaged build in SL

So, what does that mean? Thanks to my research I found out anyone can share (copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format), or adapt (remix, transform, or build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially). These rights are given as long as the person who makes use of the resource provides attribution (i.e. appropriate credit, a link to the license, and indicates if any changes have been made). I think this is as it should be! I discovered that all my online resources had the exact same Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0.

My research report on my Kitely literacy game, The Mythical World of Hīnātore, is available on the Ako Aotearoa website. Once again, Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike 3.0. I love being instrumental in sharing my research, my knowledge, and my abilities.
Ako Licensing statement

The Mythical World of Hīnātore


  1. I enjoyed your post Merle, thanks for sharing your perspective. Reading your text made me consider the following viewpoints: 1) perhaps it does not matter that open education is not for “everone’s betterment”, but rather it potentially could be for SOMEONE’S betterment; 2) perhaps it is more about irrelevant consumption (inputs) and creativity (outputs) than simply “over-consumption”; 3) Commons is content, a process, a product, and an environment, which relate to the notion of differentiated instruction; and 4) that there is a difference between Creative Commons 3.0 and 4.0. Cheers!

  2. Thanks Benjamin! Your comments are most insightful.