Mon 26 Jun 2017 6:00PM

Open system / Contributive system

D Draft Public Seen by 80

Hi everyone.

I really need your advises on this question, I think it's a tricky one, and I really need an answer.

The question is : what kind of system is a common ?

Definition of a system

Wikipedia says : "A system is a regularly interacting or interdependent group of items forming a unified whole. Every system is delineated by its spatial and temporal boundaries, surrounded and influenced by its environment, described by its structure and purpose and expressed in its functioning.".

So a common is a system.

Open system and closed system

An open system is a system that interacts with its environment. A closed system does not interact with its environment.

The problem is , in management, every organisational systems are open. A common and a classical corporation are both open system, but a common has not the same interactions with its environment than a classical corporation.

In informatic science an open system is equal to open source system, which is really close to a common.

Contributive system

However, in management, we need to make a difference between an open system and a system like a common.

That's why I'd like to create another type of system, who would be "contributive system".

A contributive system is an open system wich have rules that enable people from the outside to contribute to it in less than an hour (very low barriers between the system and his environment).

It has no rule about governance, or durability of the ressources it manages.


To make the difference between a classical corporative system and a common system

Open system is not enough to explain what's the system behind a common. We should make a different between these two different meta-systems.

To introduce a common and prepare transition

A contributive system is more easy to understand than a common. It could be the first step to make people aware about commons.


A common is a very specific thing and needs a lot of time to be managed. Whereas a contributive system is more easy to manage. It can be a first step for organisations to turn into a common.

To abstract things

When you want to explain, make documentation and theorise things; it's great to be precise in your explanations. So you need vocabulary to be clear in your theories.

To put into questions contributive systems which are not commons

When you have a contributive system which is not a common, it's weird. It's like it misses something and people are being exploited by this system. It enables us to say "hey good, you are a contributive system, why don't you wanna had some rules so you can be a common. Like that you would stop to exploit people".

Tell me what you think about it !


Simon Grant Tue 27 Jun 2017 6:33AM

Can you give examples of what you would count as a contributive system? Or is it an ideal in your mind?


Draft Wed 28 Jun 2017 3:55PM

I thought a common was a very porous system. But according to @asimong , it is not. I thought the ressource was accessible to anyone by respecting certain rules.

Is there any documents with attributes of a common ?


Michel Bauwens Thu 29 Jun 2017 5:36AM

I agree up to that phrase:

these rules have been identified by the Ostrom school for the classic natural resource commons (the famous 8 rules)

according to some people , like me, digital and urban commons do not seem to correspond to the Ostrom model, but there are others

however, open and closed should be seen as polarities, though contributive systems are much more open, they may not be totally open (for example, rules against trolling etc ..)


Michel Bauwens Thu 29 Jun 2017 5:38AM

I would disagree with that:

the commons is increasingly understood, at an exponential rate, but hardly anybody understands the contributive logic, outside of complexity experts


Michel Bauwens Thu 29 Jun 2017 5:40AM

hmmm no, a common a contributive system; and the difficulty of managing it depends on the complexity of the resource, social system etc ...

digital commons aka contributive systems may be more easy to manage because of the non-rivalness of the resource, the availability of tools, the transparency of the digital


Michel Bauwens Thu 29 Jun 2017 5:44AM

in the commons literature, we speak about open access vs commons; I find your formulation confusing, since the commons is a contributive system which is regulated; and it is the unregulated systems which are problematic, because it invites extraction instead of contribution

the open access systems are based more on extraction than contribution, i.e. hence the tragedy of open access systems (misnamed 'tragedy of the commons'); while in commons, contributions are regulated (more regulated in physical commons than in digital systems);


Draft Thu 29 Jun 2017 2:29PM

Thanks for the answer !

I guess a contributive system can't be anything else than a common.

Do we agree that a common have to create rules about his system openess ?

Other question : Is there any document on the P2PF wiki which could answer to the question : "Is my system a common ?" or "Am I contributing to a common ?"


Greg Cassel Thu 29 Jun 2017 2:52PM

@michelbauwens1 you said mostly what I planned to say (thanks)!

@draft I don't think that a common must create rules proactively. However, risk management is always a valuable design principle.

Each common occurs within a social context. Some commons directly enable visitation by random strangers. The commons which allow random visitors may or may not require those visitors to proactively sign "terms of use" agreements.

Note that copyright laws typically apply by default to "intellectual property". I'm not really a fan of that, but it means that the (substantial and distinct) information resources in a common are copyrighted. Creators must apply open licenses (such as Creative Commons or GPL) to directly authorize open usage without legal risks.


Simon Carter Thu 29 Jun 2017 7:01PM

I've only been involved in the commons movement for a short while, but in that time what I have found most refreshing is it's philosophy, the mindset it both promotes & attracts. It would seem to me that all systems are a manifestation of that. If the mindset is toxic, no amount of systems in place will stop exploitation raising it's ugly head. As such, the social context to which Greg refers is the only system that ultimately really matters.


Michel Bauwens Thu 29 Jun 2017 11:33PM

yes, these rules must be eventually developed, but as Greg says below, they can be developed a posteriori as well, as issues arise

I don't think we have a formal list of characteristics, but I have assembled a fair amount of material here: https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Commons (part of https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:Commons)