the Coronavirus information commons

In Wired, Natalie Chyi offers an excellent list of ways that people are fighting misinformation–and promoting reliable and useful information–during the pandemic:

Neighborhoods are creating Slack groups and communities are coming up with mutual aid spreadsheets to coordinate aid and support each other. … Local geographies have been reconstructed in online spaces, most notably as students are rebuilding their universities within Minecraft. … . Volunteers on Wikipedia have been working tirelessly to ensure that the site serves reliable and up-to-date information, especially surrounding the virus. Students are compiling master lists of summer internship updates, cancellations, and opportunities across various industries. Groups are creating crowdsourced libraries of resources tailored to the unique needs of everyone from mourners to remote workers to policymakers. New online platforms have been created for specialists like doctors, engineers, and scientists to find and contribute their expertise to ongoing relief projects. Thousands of Covid-19 related open-source projects are popping up, with the source code and documentation freely available to enable their use. Some focus on software, like code for a hospital impact model developed by the University of Pennsylvania; others on hardware, like instructions for 3D printing medically-approved masks and other critical supplies.

Finally, knowledge previously locked behind paywalls or intellectual property protections has been made available to the public for the purposes of fighting the pandemic.

Chyi credits Elinor Ostrom and Charlotte Hess for the idea of an information commons (itself an application of Lin Ostrom’s ideas to the special case of information), and she cites me to the effect that “this form of collective action and participation of place-based knowledge strengthens communities by giving them a shared sense of identity, understanding, and trust.” Incidentally, the whole book by Ostrom and Hess, Understanding Knowledge as a Commons (2007) in which my chapter appears is–fittingly–online and free.

See also my new chapter on Elinor Ostrom and Civic Studies; the legacy of Elinor Ostrom and the Bloomington School; Elinor Ostrom, 1933-2012; understanding knowledge as a commons.

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.