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Meeting the Commons


Listening at the CC Global Summit. Photo by Sebastian Ter Burg, CC BY

As a Copyright and Digital Scholarship librarian, I spend a lot of time talking to people about the rights they have to the things they create, and as an active member of the open community, I often find myself encouraging others to apply Creative Commons licenses to their work. For these reasons, I was thrilled to have the opportunity to attend and speak at the Creative Commons Global Summit in Toronto. I was looking forward to meeting a community of individuals committed to openness connected through a tool that facilitates openness in scholarship and art,but I also was new to the idea of the commons, and I was drawn to the summit partially through a deep curiosity. What – or who – made up the commons? How did they work? And how could I make my way into the heart of the open movement?

But I was also wary of this environment – a microcosm of open superheroes that could easily turn into a Batman vs. Superman situation. When you have devoted your career to advocating for a cause, it can be inspiring to see how others achieve similar goals. But it can also be difficult to be open to ways others achieve those goals, especially when they conflict with your own modus operandi. On the other hand, these events can create a self-congratulatory echo-chamber, where people are unable to engage in a meaningful and critical discourse that helps to generate meaningful, future-oriented action. At events that gather smart, hard-working, and dedicated advocates, striking this balance can be tenuous.

The Creative Commons Global Summit has set a gold standard for this balance. From the moment a smiling volunteer handed me a name-tag, I felt warm, welcome, and safe in this space. Even before the opening remarks, I met and connected with brilliant people both within the Western library world that I was familiar with, but also people from outside of libraries and academia, and people from all over the globe. So rarely can an organization succeed at creating an aura of effortless inclusivity. From the Women of the Commons colouring book under every chair, to the unveiling of New Palmyra, every action taken by the organizers was brushed with these undertones. It was unspoken but evident in each action.


Ashe Dryden at the CC Global Summit, Photo by Sebastian Ter Burg, CC BY

This commitment to inclusivity made Ashe Dryden’s keynote all the more powerful. She began with primer on time travel –light and accessible – then she dug a little deeper. As she spoke about the importance of bringing in new voices to open, about giving people an opportunity to express themselves and to shape this space, she not only empowered every person in attendance who did not feel they had a voice in the community to speak, but the also mandated those with a voice to take a breath, step back, and listen. Her talk enabled us all to be individuals, and allowed us to feel like we are the commons. I came to Creative Commons looking for an in, but the door was always open.

Posted 18 May 2017