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Definition

digital commons

Contributor(s): Ivy Wigmore

A digital commons is a discreet online resource that is collaboratively developed and managed by a community.

Examples of digital commons include wikis, such as Wikipedia, open licensing organizations, such as the Creative Commons, open source software repositories, such as SourceForge, and open source software communities, such as the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) and the Free Software Foundation (FSF).

Mayo Fuster Morell, a researcher in social movements and online communities, proposes the following definition for digital commons:

...information and knowledge resources that are collectively created and owned or shared between or among a community and that tend to be non-exclusivedible, that is, be (generally freely) available to third parties. Thus, they are oriented to favor use and reuse, rather than to exchange as a commodity. Additionally, the community of people building them can intervene in the governing of their interaction processes and of their shared resources.

Although a digital commons is typically an open resource, with standards that seem permissive in contrast to proprietary and commercial enterprises, it is nevertheless subject to regulation. The oversight and management of a digital commons is essential for sustainability and for adherence to the values and collective interest of the community. 

See also: tragedy of the commons

This was last updated in August 2013

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