The Information Commons/Definition

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Information Commons: "a complex ecosystem, a resource shared by a group of people that is subject to social dilemmas" (Hess/Ostrom).[1]

An Information Commons is an information system, such as a physical library or online community, that exists to produce, conserve, and preserve information for current and future generations.

Examples of Information Commons (aka "Knowledge Commons"): Libraries, the Internet, "all intelligible ideas, information, and data in whatever form in which it is expressed or obtained" (Hess/Ostrom).[1]

"The traditional study of knowledge is subdivided into epistemic areas of interests. Law professors argue the legal aspects of knolwedge in regard to intellectual property rights. Economists consider efficiency and transaction costs of information. Philosophers grapple with epistemology. Librarians and information scientists deal with the collection, classification, organization, and enduring access of published information. Sociologists examine behaviors of virtual communities. Physical scients study natural laws. Every discipline, of course, has a claim on knowledge; this is the common output of all academic endeavors" (Hess/Ostrom). "Further, knowledge is cumulative" (Hess/Ostrum). "Acquiring and discovering knowledge is both a social process and a deeply personal process" (Hess/Ostrom).[1]


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  1. a b c Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice. ed. Charlotte Hess, Elinor Ostrom. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007. Kindle Ebook.