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The Four C's of the Internet Commonwealth - Part 4: Communalization

While the commons can be a physical resource owned jointly by all citizens or members of a community, it can also be seen as a social regime for managing common assets. One type of commons, the gift economy, is a powerful mode of collaboration and sharing that can be tremendously productive, creative and socially robust. The Internet is a fertile incubator of innovation precisely because it relies heavily upon gift-exchange. Scientific communities, too, are highly inventive and stable because they are rooted in an open, collaborative ethic. In some gift economies, the value of the collective output is greater as the number of participants grows ? ?the more, the merrier.? The result has been called a ?comedy of the commons,? a windfall of surplus value that over the long term can actually make the commons more productive ? and socially and personally satisfying ? than conventional private markets. New America Foundation, 20042

As Adam Smith pointed out, the division of labour depends upon the extent of the market. As the "market" embodied in the internet expands, so does room for specialization. But the modular, commoditisized nature of Information Technology and the commonality of its building blocks creates a "higher order" of specialization. Specialization in the majority of tasks deals with the assembling and arrangement of commonized sollutions often in the public domain, thus promoting fruitful interaction between specialists, previously isolated by the highly specific nature of their tasks.

1A good summary of Open Source and Free Software can be found at


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