In these years we, as human beings and as members of local, global and trans-local societies, are living yet another step in our social and political mutations.
From the notion of the Information, Communication and Knowledge Society we are moving onward to embracing the Network Society.
In the Network Society Information and Knowledge are produced and experienced ubiquitously.
Services like Google, Facebook and Twitter create a knowledge/information, identity and information/updates ecosystem which is spread across devices and modalities which interact with what we know about the world and its inhabitants, and also transform the ways in which we experience places, locations, events, monuments, tourist locations, restaurants, venues and more.
Messaging applications reach us ubiquitously. Imagine running in a park, within nature, and receiving an important message from the office: the park instantly – if temporarily – disappears, replaced by an ubiquitous office, from which we interact with colleagues and co-workers.
Devices, sensors, gadgets and wearable technologies (and, soon, prosthetics and bodily add-ons and plugins) interconnect our bodies, emotions, medical conditions, movements, feelings and more to the network, exposing them on social networks, sharing them with services of the most varied kinds and more.
The Internet of Things, CCTV cameras, security and surveillance schemes, algorithms and processes of various types provide even more ways in which information and knowledge are generated with every one of our gestures, movements, clicks.
This condition is far from being transparent and clearly understandable.
The information we produce – wether we realize it or not, wether with an explicit click or by behaving in certain ways which can be algorithmically interpreted – is sold and purchased millions of times without us realizing it. And, most of all, without being able to have our say about it, wether it is to preserve our privacy, to create our own business model or in the desire to be able to determine just how our information is used, as individuals, and as members of a society, culture, organization, nation or else.
The terms of service documents which we sign for when we register to online services are not enough: barely accessible and understandable without professional legal advice, they are also too many and well-placed so that they become just too many to read, or they pose a condition of exclusion from the services which they relate to.
On top of that, these services are of peculiar types. For example Facebook. With its 1.3 billion subscribers and its policy of expansion to provide authentication facilities to millions of websites, apps and other services (even ones in the physical space), it is not a mere web application, but an identity provider and a massive societal connector. Thus, this problem cannot be simply dismissed with banal answers such as “You don’t like what Facebook does with your data? Unsubscribe!”
This scenario is true for multiple typer of operators, ranging from social networking, health solutions, finance, retail, communications, media, entertainment, up to the producers of the objects and services we use every day for our life, work, relations, education, and more.
On top of that, the interface politics and policies of these operators dedicate major efforts to the creation of visual, interaction and relational narratives which convey the supposed controllability of the publicness and privateness of these online/offline spaces. These are opaque situations, in which an expectation of controllable publicness and of privateness is created in billions of users which is instantly betrayed, with algorithms and processes systematically abusing these expectations.
On top of that, humanity is delegating the preservation of global visual and textual cultures to private services: we produce images, texts, movements in space, videos, representations of traditions and heritages; we put them onto operators’ servers or in the cloud; they give it back to us with an arbitrary license. We, as a society, remain the authors but loose the possibility to control our culture.
Ubiquitous Information and Knowledge is different from the content which can be handled using, for example, the Creative Commons or other current licensing schemes. It is not about mp3s, JPEGs, GIFs, PDFs, MOVs or other digital formats.
It is about the data, information and knowledge produced by bodies, locations, movements, desires, expectations, cultures, which are created, reproduced and mediated ubiquitously, online/offline, through mobile applications, sensors, cameras, augmented reality, maps, Internet of Things, and more, consciously and unconsciously, and about the ways in which these information and knowledge are used.
Depending on the intents, rights, desires, freedoms and opportunities for individuals, communities, societies, environment and more, it should be possible for all of these subjects to be active, desiring, aware and informed parts of the decisions wether to protect or share these data and information, and on the exact ways in which to do so, wether through licensing, encrypting, paying, openness, or else.
In the end, some part of them should/could/would be protected, some would be shared, some would be shared for specific purposes, and so on, according to the desires, strategies and tactics of multiple individuals, communities, collectivities, societies, organizations, institutions etc.
In order for these type of decisions to be made meaningfully, the availability of a potentially infinite (abundant) Common Resource Pool (CRP) is not enough, as it is needs to be supported by the presence of an High Quality Relational Environment (HQRE), as all historical, scientific, technical, technological, anthropological, social, economic and political evidence about the Commons shows us.
Ubiquitous Commons is the commons in the age of Ubiquitous Technologies.