Stefan Gruber to Present at "Celebrating Commons Scholarship" Conference at Georgetown University Friday 5 October


Assistant Professor Stefan Gruber to present the paper entitled An Atlas of Commoning: Mapping a Contested Field at the "Celebrating Commons Scholarship" Conference at Georgetown University on Friday 5 October 2018.

The conference takes place from October 5-6 and is the flagship event for the kick off of “World Commons Week” activities around the world, promoted and supported by the International Association for the Study of the Commons.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Garrett Hardin's The Tragedy of the Commons. In one of the most cited articles of the 20th Century, Hardin provided a stylized and memorable cautionary tale of how self-interested actions can destroy common resources. However, even as Hardin's work gained traction with a broad array of scholars in many fields of study, it also garnered its fair share of criticism. 

Indeed, while Hardin popularized the notion of the commons, Elinor Ostrom won a Nobel Prize for her rigorous research refuting the core tenets of Hardin's cautionary tale — namely that open access resources ultimately end in collective failure, or tragedy, and that common resources should either be regulated by central authorities or privatized. Ostrom’s work successfully demonstrated that common natural resources — e.g. land, fisheries, forests, irrigation systems — are collectively managed by groups of users all over the world using “rich mixtures of public and private instrumentalities.” 

The “commons” is now employed as a framework to understand and rethink the management and governance of many kinds of shared resources. These include natural resources such as those studied by Ostrom, digital resources and the Internet, housing and other urban infrastructure, among others. At the heart of the exploration of these “new” kinds of commons is the recognition that Hardin’s Tragedy is a groundbreaking, though ultimately incomplete, conceptualization of the challenges posed by shared resources and the kind of governance solutions available to address those challenges. In addition to concerns about overconsumption (Hardin’s primary focus), these new human-created commons (e.g., scholarly communities, urban resources, and open-source software) pose questions about robust participation in creating, sustaining, and expanding the commons.

To celebrate this now multifaceted, multidisciplinary field of study, scholars from many disciplines will gather to discuss solutions, lessons, and challenges facing the commons and commons scholarship. This gathering will recognize that commons are as diverse as the scholars who study them — ranging from rainforests to the Internet to the city — and that the field is still developing in exciting ways. In a world as complex as ours, finding such interconnections across disciplines is extremely valuable.