The Hedgehog Review

The Hedgehog Review: Vol. 16 No. 2 (Summer 2014)

Governing the Ambient Commons

Malcolm McCullough

Reprinted from The Hedgehog Review 16.2 (Summer 2014). This essay may not be resold, reprinted, or redistributed for compensation of any kind without prior written permission. Please contact The Hedgehog Review for further details.

The Hedgehog Review

The Hedgehog Review: Summer 2014

(Volume 16 | Issue 2)

The world is thick with buzzing information. It comes at us now not only on personal computers or handheld devices or car dashboards, but increasingly in the media-enhanced environments of cities and towns, malls and airports, imposing on our attention, beckoning us to attend. When does it all become too much? When do we know it’s too much?

For information, often the best solution to too much is more: Metadata, opinions, histories, filters, and background documents help lead the way. To restrict information would be unacceptable: The communications rights of individuals and communities must be inalienable, insuppressible, and not for sale. Yet among those rights might be ownership of your personal data, and a right to undisrupted attention. Thus, when media become situated and persistent, profound challenges emerge in information ethics. Questions of stewardship, expression, privacy, pollution, and attention theft all intensify.

To a generation of conscientious users, network philosophers, policy wonks, and street-level activists, these problems may long remain topics of policy and debate. The need for governance has become difficult to ignore. Whether through unanticipated liberation, ruthless privatization, or sheer volume, ubiquitous information technology now influences even the most everyday cultural acts.

Under these conditions, it may be costly to neglect the role of augmented surroundings. For unlike the open Internet, an embodied system that people must inhabit imposes physical and experiential limits. More is not always better. Recall the consequences of such thinking in mobility and housing. Now, as shared physical spaces are flooded by media, corporations enclose cultural commons, and the dynamics of participatory networks shift to street level, what particular concerns arise with the ambient? Is there now a tangible information commons?

Recognizing Pollution

For one most obvious instance of these challenges, consider pollution. To ask whether information superabundance ever constitutes pollution seems especially problematic. Questions of intellectual and expressive freedom instantly arise. Seldom has any form of pollution been easy for a culture to acknowledge. Even chemical pollution of the air, however visible, was seldom discussed as such before the nineteenth century, didn’t become a dominant cultural theme until the mid-twentieth century, and thus has a history that would mostly fit within one current human lifetime, if you date from, say, Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring (1962) or the Clean Air Act (1970).1

Although today it is relatively easy to agree on what is wrong with dumping chemicals in the river, or that the right to dump anywhere may not be in the public good, filling the air with messages is another matter altogether. What is noise to one person may be vital communication to another—or to the same person on another day. To declare what pollutes is to censor, which is almost never a respectable act. Moreover, to claim the existence of information pollution is likely to add to it. How do you protest a problem whose solution is to say less? Yet freedom of speech is not the same as freedom to drown others out. The freedom of anyone to be heard requires some restrictions on the freedom of others to persist and to amplify. These are complex concerns.

In law, nuisance is often a matter of degree. An otherwise innocent act becomes an offense when done often enough, on a large enough scale, or in enough different places at once. You have the right to speak your mind, but not to amplify it to 100 decibels all night—or to hang it on banners on a building that you do not own. So, too, a company has a right to promote its brand, but perhaps not in a manner visible twenty miles away, nor on the doors to city hall.

If a loud party goes on into the wee hours, it is no surprise if the police show up. Noise pollution seems obvious enough, as does the “discovery” of light pollution. When is the focus of fixtures so poor, or the overall volume of artificial light so excessive, as to become unhealthy for all concerned? Somewhere, secret police subject detainees to unending brightness. Somewhere, vacationers pay top dollar for darkness, and a chance to do some stargazing.

Many towns now govern light pollution, with easily attainable advantages. By improving nighttime visibility while conserving power, this form of pollution control illustrates the possibility of doing more with less.2 This begins with better design. Lighting experts say that you should see the effects and not the fixtures. The effect of visibility depends not so much on the volume of light as on the absence of glare, that is, on not having too much light coming from any one direction. As with conversations in a restaurant, speaking ever more loudly as the background noise level increases definitely doesn’t help; it only worsens the problem. Similarly, light shouldn’t trespass. By selecting, aiming, and masking light fixtures more effectively, everyone can see better while using less electricity. And with glare mostly gone, natural night vision has a chance to revive, and you can see some things with no lighting at all. You might also see the stars, and remember a larger (and planetary) place in the scheme of things.

Often lit, now increasingly emitting light themselves, or just commanding the view in broad daylight, large outdoor signs demand similar consideration. Many towns have signage ordinances against full-motion billboards that distract drivers, for example, or against excessively tall sign pylons. You can clearly tell where such ordinances are being enforced when, on one side of a town line, there are no pylons at all and even the gas station logos hug the ground. The environmental graphics industry has learned these subtler ways in the last generation, much to the displeasure of kitsch enthusiasts nostalgic for early, now historic strips such as Burnet Road in Austin and US Route 1 just north of Boston.

Back when competition among sign owners on the strips was wide open and automobile mania was new, an eminent art critic published a general environmental lament. Peter Blake’s abundantly illustrated 1964 classic, God’s Own Junkyard, was the most prominent work of the first wave of environmental recognition after Silent Spring. Actual junkyards were much more plentiful then, when cars lasted only a few years and material reuse was minimal. But to Blake, the real junkyards were the get-rich-quick commercial strips. “In destroying our landscape, we are destroying the future civilization of America,”3 Blake warned, with what now seems uncanny accuracy. The signage depicted in God’s Own Junkyard looks primitive and innocent by today’s standards. Much less was known about marketing then. But, more obviously, there were also far fewer signage ordinances.

Learning From Signage Law

Many soon followed. Some previous exceptions first deserve mention. The Supreme Court had ruled in 1917 that it was a valid exercise of Chicago’s police power to require “consent of a majority of residents before a billboard could be placed in a residential neighborhood.”4 The landmark Highway Safety Act of 1936 had brought a degree of moderation to the era of serial roadside messages such as the famed Burma-Shave advertisements.5

That early history of roadside signage has relevance today in debates over deadly texting while driving. Only with the rise of general environmentalism in the 1960s did local signage ordinances become the norm in America, however. Following the publication of God’s Own Junkyard, the passage of Lady Bird Johnson’s famous Highway Beautification Act of 1965, and eventually the publication of William Ewald and Daniel Mandelker’s influential municipal sign codes book, Street Graphics: A Concept and a System (1971), a wave of governance swept across the nation. Since then, various cities and advertising lobbies have gone back and forth on the constitutionality of signage bans and separate laws for “commercial speech.”

Context is vital in signage law. The cultural geographer Wayne Franklin once observed, “You will not fare well as a literalist in the world of signage. Most signs require a fitting sense of context and, even more, a tactful regard for the slippage inherent in all social situations and most texts.”6 Thus, generally speaking, signage ordinances apply fewer restrictions to “on-site” signs. To avoid falling into censorship, they restrict the placement rather than the content of speech, and in such a way that other outlets are always available.7 And, as one sign industry organization explains, “many jurisdictions are amenable to a variance that would permit the renovation or retrofit of a building façade in order to enhance a district theme.”8 All told, signage law navigates delicate democratic issues for the greater good. Sign owners avoid the costs of runaway competition; localities avoid getting covered with references to someplace else; citizens avoid having to look at quite so many eyesores; and yet nobody is silenced.

Achieving a more general communications commons seems much more difficult, however. If you don’t filter the pathogens from the air, you can become chronically ill; but if you don’t filter offensive ads from your daily experience, you won’t suffer any obvious health consequences. Parents at the supermarket take great care in selecting the foods they buy for their families. Yet on returning home, they may leave the television on with no concern about its contents. Preoccupied with chemical pollution, they are oblivious to information pollution.

Although concerns about overload date back centuries, high anxiety over media you cannot escape is far more recent. It began before smartphones, nevertheless. Seventeen years have passed since sociologist David Shenk, in his book Data Smog, gave an early warning: “Data smog gets in the way; it crowds out quiet moments, and obstructs much-needed contemplation. It spoils conversation, literature, and even entertainment. It thwarts skepticism, rendering us less sophisticated as consumers and citizens. It stresses us out.”9 Any future environmental history of information will do well to reconsider anxiety as an effect of information pollution, especially where media practices coexist and persist in shared sites of life. For without a way to talk about these issues, there may not be much to do about them, or with them, except to filter your own feeds and tune the rest out.

Information Ethics

Superabundance amplifies the costs of poor information ethics. Many of these costs have become everyday realities: spam, scams, loss of privacy, pornography, identity theft, incivility, censorship, polarization, disinformation, piracy, spyware, shutdowns, denial of service. On one level, these ills seem to belong to more general problems in ethics, where culture cannot keep pace with technological change, and where public education in the fundamentals of political philosophy and of the social contract has fallen by the wayside. On another, more obvious level, weak ethics belong to the frontier mentality of the Internet, where the advantages of new technology so outweigh the side effects that the latter increase, as it were, under the radar. By becoming features of our increasingly media-saturated environment, such potentially noxious side effects compel us to consider whether and how we should go about governing the ambient.

Many scholars credit cybernetics pioneer Norbert Wiener with the earliest expressions of computer ethics. In The Human Use of Human Beings: Cybernetics and Society (1950), Wiener foresaw an “automatic” age in which machines would have agency nearly equal to that of humans in the creation and governance of communications, which would play an ever more important role in society. He explained how the new computer age created gaps and ambiguities in customs and policies, and he issued clear warnings that profound moral choices lay ahead.

Many long-term principles of information ethics come from the library sciences, which foster data stewardship, especially in seeking to keep the most accurate information most readily available. Among such principles: don’t introduce bad data; don’t lose data; don’t forget where data came from; don’t restrict access to data. Data integrity has become a central ethical challenge, made all the more difficult now that so many amateurs across the globe are producing and sharing data.

While the information ethics of the early web era focused largely on the acts of individual users and the automatic agents they released, today it just as often involves notions of commons and threats of enclosure. For example, in the upkeep of commons, and in contrast to copyright, there exists a notion of “copyduty.” In enclosure, culturally shared names of long-existing places become property of corporations. Information ethics is highly participatory and the stuff of everyday Internet policy debate. Cory Doctorow, a luminary in this debate, has explained how the ethics of copyright have been distorted by the “agreements” you have to accept even for personal use of media artifacts. As originally conceived, and as usually practiced, copyright was not intended that way: “The realpolitik of unauthorized use is that users are not required to secure permission for uses that the rights holder will never discover.”10

Among other gaps in information ethics, not enough has been done to make “attention rights” into an everyday ethical theme. Filling this gap begins by protesting how intrusions have diversified. Thus, as Internet strategist Tom Hayes has observed, commercial interruptions were predictably part of the bargain in thirty-minute television programming, but they operate differently and more annoyingly in the more selective, real-time experience of the Internet. “As marketers and advertisers hungrily explore ways to monetize online attention, they face mounting challenges. Consumers have migrated online precisely because they want more control over the media they consume. The old bargain [from broadcast television]—content for attention—is broken.”11 Precisely because so much more now occurs out of context, badly placed media cause upheaval in the economics of attention. Might violations of these rights be one main source of widespread perceptions of overload? Hayes foresees an attention rights movement. Among the principles in his seven-point manifesto: I am the sole owner of my attention; I own my click stream and all other representations of my attention; Attention theft is a crime.

Much as a citizen has a right to be heard, and not to be silenced or drowned out by more powerful players, so also a citizen has a right to attend, and, just as importantly, to choose not to. This suggests a right of ownership of attention. A society has a duty to prevent thefts of that. Normally, this begins in civility. Respecting the mental life of others, especially amid the conduct of civic life, civility upholds the right to reflect. Wherever speech is a right, civility moderates how that right is exercised. Wherever self-interest prevails, civility needs careful upkeep, especially in this age of disembodied media.

The civility of individual information acts shapes and is shaped by their informational environments, whether technological, societal, institutional, or biological. Information ethicists increasingly put these environments first.12 Environments have intrinsic value. The very existence of cultural artifacts has value, and the environments where these are aggregated deserve stewardship.

As in a general ethics, information ethics attributes value to the very being of something, extending this value to cultural productions such as works of art and even to personal data sharing. It assigns a moral value to the preservation and protection of informational entities. Thus, it is not just for the subject or agent who obtains, reads, copies, or sends information, but also for the information entities themselves. As explained by epistemologist Luciano Floridi, from whom the above summary is paraphrased, information ethics applies both to individual resources and entire systems, to protect them from what he calls “entropy.”13

Moreover, it assigns moral agency to the organizations, artifices, and distributed actions that operate over networks. This makes it a vital component of a general ethics of twenty-first-century life. All operators on information must understand and preserve their environments. Key to Floridi’s view of informational ethics, this responsibility extends from micro to macro scales—from individual acts of obtaining or disseminating information to what Floridi has called the “infosphere.” This makes information environmental.

Establishing Boundaries

As everyone says about attention, we all know what a commons is—or think we do—yet misconceptions abound. First off, nostalgia enters the picture. To Anglo-Americans, for instance, a commons was a simpler community arrangement disrupted by industrialization. In preindustrial England, it was a meadow for grazing livestock. In early New England towns, it became a place to assemble for the democratic process. Today, in its widespread misuse in naming suburban condo subdivisions, the word carries nostalgia for such origins. Even in its more thoughtful senses, as for data sharing or communities of practice, the word commons gets dismissed as romanticism. For as everyone knows, the tragedy of the commons is that, through pursuit of enlightened self-interest, individuals collectively exceed the total carrying capacity of the commons and deplete its resources. Worse, any mention of “commons” in a capitalist society, where the market is expected to solve all problems, might easily be dismissed as naive socialism.

Fortunately, the rise of a more networked age has established that commons are not socialist regimes, or indeed states or markets at all. They are, instead, necessary complements to both states and markets. Perhaps no better explanation of this exists than the recent contribution by Lewis Hyde, Common as Air. By now, most scholars know that the oft-cited tragedy of the commons doesn’t describe a commons at all. Indeed, “Garrett Hardin has indicated that his original essay should have been titled ‘Tragedy of the Unmanaged Commons,’” Hyde explains, “though better still might be ‘The Tragedy of Unmanaged, Laissez-Faire, Common-Pool Resources with Easy Access for Noncommunicating Self-Interested Individuals.’”14

This encapsulates more recent thinking that a commons is not an open rivalry for resources so much as a set of upkeep measures among a managed network of participants seeking both individual and joint benefits. Common as Air enumerates many sets of management measures, past and present, with an emphasis on stints, that is, frugal allotments. As a verb, to stint is to use less than you might, “only enough, with as good left for others.”15 As a noun, a stint is a voluntary restraint—something societies in decline generally lack. For example, traditional markets had stints, such as first access for locals, access only on designated days, and so on. Indeed each sphere of life had its own stints, often against the others. To govern all aspects of life on the principles of any one sphere (whether market, church, or state) was an invitation to tyranny. Today, of course, the tyrant is the market itself, and what this tyrant forcibly (through lawsuits) seeks to obtain is ownership of knowledge, even of attention.

Thus, a commons exists as rights of action, and in the networked practices that stint them. This helps resolve small conflicts over uses before they become large and contentious. Acceptable boundaries, ways of monitoring, and scales of penalties are all negotiable. Whether explicitly encoded, implicitly practical, or both, such governance enacts an ethics of situated information. It arises from patterns of use, often in what today are called micro-transactions. For it is a fundamental fact that information technology improves many such patterns, and that these social patterns, and not just the resource they manage, are the commons. The late Nobel laureate Elinor Ostrom may have been the first to summarize these principles for an age of networked, resource-managing organizations. Most notably, from Ostrom’s summary list: “Rules in use are well matched to needs and customs…. Individuals affected by these rules can usually participate in modifying these rules…. A system for self-governing members’ behavior has been established…. Community members have access to low-cost conflict resolution mechanisms.”16

“Neither the market nor the state,” Ostrom’s oft-cited slogan, helps explain how networked organizations compensate for the oversights and shortcomings of those more distant spheres. To activist entrepreneur Paul Hawken, networked organizations are nothing less than the human component of a planetary immune system. To Hawken, the members of these organizations “were typically working on the most salient issues of our day.… They came from the nonprofit and non-governmental world, also known as civil society.” He initially estimated 100,000 such organizations, but he now believes there are “over one—maybe even two—million organizations working toward ecological sustainability and social justice.”17

Wherever arrangements arise to complement what markets can and cannot value—especially to manage upkeep, access, and experience of resources by means of networked noncommercial transactions—there the idea of a commons takes new form. Today, there are many kinds of commons. “The language of the commons,” activist David Bollier has asserted, “serves a valuable purpose. It provides a coherent model for bringing economic, social, and ethical concerns into greater alignment.”18

These concerns exist because some resources are inalienable, such as attention. Otherwise, markets tend to diminish regard for anything that cannot be bought and sold.

Many more organizations have come to recognize that treating the drawdown of human, cultural, or natural capital as income constitutes a serious problem, and have used information networks to uphold the intrinsic, and sometimes also highly instrumental, value of these resources. The Internet became such an environment in the 1990s, amid the explosive rise of the World Wide Web. As Ostrom and coauthor Charlotte Hess later reflected,

The “information commons” movement emerged with striking suddenness. Before 1995, few thinkers saw the connection. It was around that time that we began to see new usage of the concept “commons.” There appears to have been a spontaneous explosion of “ah ha” moments when multiple users on the Internet sat up, probably in frustration, and said, “Hey! This is a shared resource!” People started to notice behaviors and conditions on the web—congestion, free riding, conflict, overuse, and “pollution”—that had long been identified with other types of commons.19

Like so much else at the time, this particular notion of commons was conflated with cyberspace, virtual reality, community networks, and digital civics. This was before talk of Web 2.0 or the rise of social software, especially for resource sharing. It concerned technological prospects for what was then a young discipline of information architecture—not naive notions of immersive visual data navigation as in the novels popular at the time, but ambitious agendas in ontology, findability, and other such forms of server-side stewardship that computer scientists-turned-service-designers thought about. (They still do, but with less venture capital being thrown at them.) This early phase of information commons anticipated something other than today’s corporate creed of the Cloud or today’s non-market realities of social production. From an age before broadband, it was less about traffic and more about stewardship. After all, the Internet began among researchers who used it partly as a data commons. This raises two obvious questions: Are the peer-reviewed papers of an academic society a knowledge commons? Are the petabytes of data streaming around universities a commons?

In many ways, the event that coalesced the idea was the foundation of Creative Commons in 2001, which made it clear that an information commons was not cyberspace writ large but an intellectual property regime. This was surely an act of recognition: clearly, the web was a cornucopia resource, that is, one where each user increased rather than depleted the resources shared. For as any YouTube contributor now knows, much scarcity is purely artificial. The Net was more a “comedy of the commons.”20 Here, more use made the resource better, and copyduty was to share and share alike.

Instead, thirteen years later, copyright law has become a main battleground of Internet policy. “If democratic practice (not to mention creativity) depends on plural speech and plural listening,” lamented Hyde, “we should be reluctant to give any modern form of Negative Voice [similar to a king’s censorship or veto] a presence in the public sphere. But of course we have.”21 For instance, there appear to be too few stints on media companies searching private hard disks for even the smallest copyright offenses, and then threatening to deny access, simply on the grounds of accusation, for what by now is a common-carrier necessity of Internet service (as America’s ill-conceived Stop Online Piracy Act would have done, had it passed in 2011).

The absurd extent of unstinted privatization can be seen in physical space as well. Thus, in one review of a pop-art exhibit in London’s National Portrait Gallery, with the work of original mashup appropriation artists such as Andy Warhol on display, Cory Doctorow found that he was not even allowed to photograph the “No Photography” sign. “If true, presumably the same rules would prevent anyone from taking any pictures in any public place—unless you could somehow contrive to get a shot of Leicester Square without any writing, logos, architectural façades, or images in it. Otherwise, I doubt even Warhol could have gotten away with it.”22

In other words, early conceptions of information technology as a cornucopia commons arose before widespread recognition of how networks help turn ideas into commodities. The problem had been recognized as early as the rise of the personal computer. In 1983, Ivan Illich cautioned that “computers are doing to communication what fences did to pastures and cars did to streets.”23

By the dawn of the new millennium, as corporations ever more aggressively privatized knowledge and cultural identity, this effect became known as the “second enclosure movement.” According to James Boyle, who is credited with that expression, “once again, things that were formerly thought of as either common property or uncommodifiable are being covered with new, or newly extended, property rights.”24 Genetics research provides the most salient examples, but enclosure also happens in everyday life: the naming of ballparks, the appearance of particular retail districts, traditional stories made into Hollywood movies, and even some words. According to Hyde, in mass consumer culture, “the young are taught a language that is not theirs to own.”25 There must be a right for a community to own its speech. There should be ways to know without being instructed. There should be rights to conversations without covert surveillance, to hold third-grade class without commercial messages, to assemble in the park with no declared purpose, to use cash as legal tender, and to see the night sky.

Tangible Information Commons

What would make a good set of cultural stints at street level? The noise, light, and signage ordinances noted above only begin to address the challenge presented by embodied media. Thus, they say nothing about whether walking past a store might cause a pop-up ad on your phone, or whether it would be wrong for that ad to occur in audio, either as an interruption to a stream on a device or as a targeted beam in the space of the sidewalk. Signage law has few restrictions on how a physical site might search your phone for history data, just as websites do with cookies on your hard disk, so as to decide which content to display on an outdoor screen as you walk by. But then, unlike a message on your laptop or smartphone, an embodied media message would be seen not only by you but also by incidental bystanders.

In the design and governance of shared built space, information ethics can improve environmental experience. By giving intrinsic information its chance and by forming digital information into more appropriate textures and resolutions, design practices make some spaces more usable, while also letting the world speak for itself. Although some people surround themselves in an ever greater array of media, and others simply seek ways to unplug, all seem to manage their attention in some new way. Some of these choices involve personal will and discipline. Other choices involve law and civility. But together, these choices lead the way out of a growing sense of overload to more reflective lives amid more richly layered latent possibilities for attention. In other words, there may somehow emerge some prospect for governing the ambient.

The considered life requires a balance between messages and things, between mediated and unmediated experience. Citizens have a right to engage one another and the built world they inhabit in ways that are unmediated, uninstructed, unscripted, and undocumented. Under an ethics of preserving and protecting existing information environments, there should also be a right to preserve the subtle high resolution of the intrinsic structure of the local world, to protect it from being covered over with the crude low resolution of one-size-fits-all media productions. Does having more ambient information make you notice the world more, or less? Can mediation help you tune in to where you are? Or does it just lower the resolution of life?

Today, ambient information media become more difficult to escape. They channel more kinds of communications into shared physical contexts that, like city parks, come with expectations of being commons. They also take on aspects of commons as they make the city more usable. So far the ambient commons is just an idea, and hardly a usual one. Yet in its potential for becoming a commons, the ambient is a very rich cultural challenge, and no simple meadow.

Endnotes

    1. See Adam Markham, A Brief History of Pollution (London: Earthscan, 1994).
    2. See International Dark-Sky Association, www.darksky.org.
    3. Peter Blake, God’s Own Junkyard: The Planned Deterioration of America’s Landscape (New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1964), 69.
    4. Thomas Cusack Company v. City of Chicago, 242 U.S. 526 (1917).
    5. See John A. Jakle and Keith A. Sculle, Signs in America’s Auto Age: Signatures of Landscape and Place (Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 2004).
    6. Wayne Franklin, foreword to Jakle and Sculle, Signs in America’s Auto Age, xiv.
    7. “An Outdoor Advertising Control Language Guide,” Federal Highway Administration, last revised April 2, 2013, www.fhwa.dot.gov/realestate/oacguide.htm.
    8. Johnny Duncan, “The State of Electric Signage,” SIGNINDUSTRY.com: The Online Magazine for the Sign Trade, accessed April 11, 2014, http://www.signindustry.com/electric/articles/2004-02-16-JD-StateOfElectric.php3#story.
    9. David Shenk, Data Smog: Surviving the Information Glut (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1997), 31.
    10. Cory Doctorow, “How Copyright Broke,” in Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of Future (San Francisco: Tachyon, 2008), 83–88. Also available for free at http://craphound.com/content/download/.
    11. Tom Hayes, “Next Up for the Internet: The Attention Rights Movement,” Tombomb: Ideas on a Short Fuse, January 22, 2009, http://tombomb.com/2009/01/next-up-for-the-internet-the-attention-rights-movement.html.
    12. Charles Ess, “Floridi’s Philosophy of Information and Information Ethics: Current Perspectives, Future Directions,” Information Society 25 (2009): 89–96.
    13. Luciano Floridi, “Foundations of Information Ethics,” in The Handbook of Information and Computer Ethics, eds. Kenneth E. Himma and Herman T. Tavani (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2008), 12. “Entropy here refers to any kind of destruction, corruption, pollution, and depletion of informational objects (mind, not of information), that is, any form of impoverishment of being.”
    14. Lewis Hyde, Common as Air: Revolution, Art, and Ownership (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2010), 44.
    15. Hyde, Common as Air, 38. See also Charlotte Hess and Elinor Ostrom, “Introduction: Overview of the Knowledge Commons,” in Hess and Ostrom, eds., Understanding Knowledge as a Commons: From Theory to Practice (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press): 3–26.
    16. Elinor Ostrom, Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1990), 7.
    17. Paul Hawken, Blessed Unrest: How the Largest Movement in the World Came into Being and Why No One Saw It Coming (New York: Viking, 2007), 1–2.
    18. David Bollier, “Growth of the Commons Paradigm,” in Hess and Ostrom, Understanding Knowledge as a Commons, 29.
    19. Hess and Ostrom, “Introduction,” 4.
    20. For perhaps a distant but clear second to the visibility of Hardin’s “The Tragedy of the Commons,” see Carol Rose, “Comedy of the Commons: Commerce, Custom, and Inherently Public Property” (1986), reprinted as chapter 5 in her Property and Persuasion: Essays on the History, Theory, and Rhetoric of Ownership (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994): 105–62.
    21. Hyde, Common as Air, 235.
    22. Cory Doctorow, “Warhol Is Turning in His Grave,” The Guardian, November 13, 2007, http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2007/nov/13/pop.art.copyright. All twenty-some mentions of “commons” in Doctorow’s recent book-scale compilation, Content (see note 10), are of creative commons.
    23. Ivan Illich, “Silence Is a Commons,” CoEvolution Quarterly (Winter 1983), http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Silence.html.
    24. James Boyle, “The Second Enclosure Movement and the Construction of the Public Domain,” Law and Contemporary Problems 66 (2003): 33–74.
    25. Hyde, Common as Air, 110.

    Malcolm McCullough, associate professor of architecture at the Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan, is the author of Digital Ground: Architecture, Pervasive Computing, and Environmental Knowing. This excerpt is adapted from his most recent book, Ambient Commons: Attention in the Age of Embodied Information (2013), and reprinted with permission from MIT Press.

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