David Bollier (www.bollier.org) is an American writer, activist and blogger. He co-edits the website Onthecommons.org, and is the author of ‘Viral Spiral: How the Commoners Built a Digital Republic of Their Own (New Press)’, available at www.viralspiral.cc.
The Internet and various digital technologies are enabling the rise of the “Digital Republic,” a new trans-national global culture that is based on principles of openness, participation, and decentralised control. A sprawling federation of digital tribes, from hackers and Wikipedians to artists using Creative Commons licenses and academics managing their own open-access journals, is creating their own “sharing economy” based on self-organized virtual commons. If the Digital Republic is going to survive the opposition of large telecommunications and content industries, many of which oppose open platforms, collaborative production and less stringent copyright laws, then the “commoners” will need to pursue an agenda that enables them to 1) study and fortify the commons as a means of value-creation; 2) secure government support for the commons just as it already supports the market; 3) explore open business models that work in tandem with the commons; 4) consolidate the diverse tribes of the Digital Republic into a more coordinated political movement; and 5) change the neoliberal discourse by introducing a new language of the commons.