I've been interested in the sustainability of open communities for a
while, and with the NIH Data Commons effort, was finally able to start
connecting some dots and finding some reading material. As far as I
can tell, the relevant literature is fragmented across a bunch of
fields that include social and technical studies, sociology,
economics, and political science. This reading has led in some interesting
directions (see a high level post as well as my overall collection of CPR blog posts).
Every time I talk to someone in depth about it, I get some more
reading. Notwithstanding that, some of the reading I have already
found is really interesting! And (at the encouragement of Josh
Greenberg, among others) I thought I'd post a few of the books and
links that I've found inspiring. I'll also give my "first read"
impressions of them - this is very different from what I'd do if I
were a true scholar, but hopefully those impressions will help motivate
people to look into these books more!
Acknowledgements are due first -
Michael Nielsen is a rich source of references,
Nadia Eghbal. Thank
Governing the Commons,
by Dr. Elinor Ostrom. This is a classic book that covers the topic she
is most well known for, and for which she received the Nobel Prize in
Economics. The first third of the book is a bit of a heavy slog, but
the last two thirds contains a number of fascinating case studies
about how common pool resources can be managed sustainably and how
these "commons" can be governed in such a way to promote
Logic of Collective Action,
by Dr. Mancur Olson. This is another classic book that talks about how
there is no incentive for large groups of people to act collectively
to reach a common goal. I have a long blog post on this in
waiting... but it needs a lot of editing first.
The Social Life of Things,
edited by Dr. Arjun Appadurai. This is a collection of mind-blowing
studies of how commodities acquire and retain value. Two particularly
pertinent quotes out of (literally) a hundred I noted down:
Here Renfrew shows us very persuasively that the decisive factors in
technological innovation (which is critical to the development of new
commodities) are often social and political rather than simply
This circuit ensures barrenness and death instead of fertility and
prosperity. It is based on the transformation of reciprocity into
commodity exchange. (p53, referencing Taussig, 1980:224).
by Dr. Sara Wylie. This is a recent book by Professor. Wylie, who is
at at Northeastern, and it talks about her efforts to coalesce a
community around collecting reports of fracking. Several themes of
this book that stuck with me is that people are hungry for community,
and that technology can be used in very intentional ways to build this
community. (Thanks to Gabriella Coleman for the introduction to this
work and to Dr. Wylie!)
by Dr. Kathleen Fitzpatrick. Dr. Fitzpatrick is a professor at
Michigan State who ironically enough arrived just as I left for UC
Davis! Her book is about how to change the way we engage with each
other in the university to embrace a more generous kind of
engagement - one in which we take inspiration from each other, rather
than diving straight into a critical analysis.
Josh Greenberg pointed me at
"club goods", and in
particular the matrix of excludable/rivalrous types of
goods. See my tweet for a hand drawn version that some people liked and some people hated :).
World after Capital, by Albert
Wenger. This (free!) book has a lot of great discussion about the role of
attention in the modern world.
That's all for now. I have about 50 other links and books to look at
after this, too! More ...not soon.
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