Friday, November 05, 2010

From an interview with Elinor Ostrom

This interview with Ostrom, about self-management of commons property.
If you can talk with the other people who use that resource, then you may well figure out rules that fit that local setting and organize to enforce them. But if community members don’t have a good way of communicating with each other or the costs of self-organization are too high, then they won’t organize, and there will be failures.
I would need to actually read her studies, but the key point here is that you need to define "good" when it comes to finding a "good means of communication." It is not simply synonymous with cheap or free or ubiquitous. My hypothesis is that social media is actually the opposite of a good channel of communication for self-management purposes, that it becomes a distraction from accomplishing commons goals and crowds out the space where good communication might otherwise take root. Social media seems atomizing and isolating to me even though it foments all sorts of weak-tie group formation. Suspect commons management requires strong, strong group ties and the ability to conceive a collective identity rather than a personal profile. I know they are not either-or, but social media seems to have a strong colonizing tendency, conquering other forms of identity making and other mediums for self-expression and assimilating them.

One of the costs of self-organizing is surrendering the individual identity to a certain degree, relinquishing its autonomy and its priority within one's own psyche -- and that flies in the face of social media and the tendency of consumer society generally.

Fittingly Ostrom encourages localism in decision making and rejects consumerism as model for economic growth -- in other words, rejecting nationalized standards for the good life that consumerism imports and preferring instead local notions of what it makes sense to have for a fulfilling life as individual and community member.

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