The fiberoptic cables running through the streets of San Francisco and New York are not a commons, they are corporate-owned. The ISPs through which we connect are no longer public universities but private media companies who not only sell us access but sell us content, block the ports through which we share, and limit the applications through which we create. They are not turning the free, public net into a shopping mall. It already is a shopping mall. Your revolutionary YouTube video has a Google advertisement running across the bottom. Yes, that’s the price of “free” when you’re operating on someone else’s network.
But unlike our medieval forebears, we don’t have to defend our digital commons from corporate encroachment. Fighting and losing that un-winnable battle will only reinforce our sense of helplessness, anyway. Instead of pretending that the Internet was ever destined to be our social and intellectual commons, we can much more easily conspire together to build a real networked commons, intentionally. And with this priority embedded into its very architecture and functioning.
It is not rocket science. And I know there’s more than a few dozen people reading this right now who could make it happen.