10 years thinking about the commons

November 21, 2006 § Leave a comment

The other day, an old friend met someone at conference who said: “have you ever seen that paper from the 1990s comparing public access TV and the Internet?”

It turns out he was talking about my undergraduate thesis From VTR to Cyberspace: Jefferson, Gramsci and the electronic commons (1.2 MB PDF). I was so tickled that someone remembered this piece that I finally got around to posting the original version to the Commons Group site (been meaning to do this for two years). Here is the abstract that I wrote to describe it:

This is a paper that I wrote in 1994 on the links between the public access TV movement and nascent efforts to use the Internet for activism. A great deal has changed since then, including the fact that things like YouTube basically make public access TV irrelevant. However, many of the observations in the paper remain valid today, including the fact that we need to actively carve out a commons that will allow us to speak about, play with and reinvent the future.

As I sit here on the Toronto tarmac headed for two telecentre network meetings, it’s nice to think back about the journey I have been on. Certainly, there have been tons of inventions and innovations in the past 10 years. However, the reasons for being passionate about community media remain as they were in 1994 … and likely the same as they were when George Stoney and Don Snowden brought 16mm cameras to Fogo in the sixties.

PS. Here is the a picture of the cover from the paper:


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