Writer's block

Community may be the best way to unblock, but can I do it myself?

I've not written a journal entry for two days again, and I'd like to reflect on why – I'd be interested to know if this reflects anyone else's experience in any way.

At the surface level, there has seemed to be too much else to do. I feel deeply drawn in to the business of making sense of the concept of knowledge commons, and this has ramified, widened, spread out, as I discover more and more books and articles that use the phrase. I recall, back in 1988, the feeling of diving into an unsettled literature – back then, it was ‘mental models’. A similar feeling comes up here: people use the same phrase for quite different concepts, or at best come at something vaguely similar from completely different angles. So I'm reading and making some notes about these different writings, among which Elinor Ostrom herself appears, with some wise words.

But then, I'm thinking, wouldn't it be good if this was not just my own private research, and instead it was somehow shared? That idea ticks all the boxes for knowledge commons. And therefore, it's even more than a meta-fedwiki that I want, more like a meta knowledge commons. And I don't mean a commons of metaknowledge (or epistemology), but a knowledge commons supporting a community of practice around the study and use of knowledge commons. So, I'm thinking (and sharing with a few others, including Michel), could we start off a kind of academic meta knowledge commons, by working towards having a page on the P2P Foundation wiki for each citable book or article in the field? That would give a great start for anyone who also wants to research knowledge commons. And also, counting academic research as production, this could count as commons-based peer production, if we had a clearly defined group of commons researchers, each contributing their own perspectives, as reviews or just commentaries, on each book or article. So I've started along that road – see the P2PF wiki Category: Knowledge Commons, which I started yesterday. (And write to me if you want to participate.)

There are many other generally useful things that I could do, from the perspective of tidying up. I could continue documenting knowledge commons articles, or any of the endless little tasks that I can helpfully do on the P2PF wiki itself. Maybe that is all I need to do: to get on with something that is actually useful, rather than spend time purely on fruitless distraction, even if it is just looking for interesting things on the web. But is this distraction a symptom of not facing up to something that I would do better dealing with now? Are my defence mechanisms actually protecting me from something harmful, or are they stopping me from doing something challenging but worthwhile in the end? Maybe there is nothing really wrong, and I'm just worrying, but worrying about nothing that is worth worrying about. People do that quite often, it seems. But there is usually some underlying reason, so what is it in my case?

So, is it really a case of “too much else to do”, then? There is very little that I am forced to do; and not a lot that it is my responsibility to do. What else could it be? Where does that unsettled feeling come from?

Clarifying and building on the concept of knowledge commons is currently one of the main things that I sense is pressing to be done. There are one or two others. But let's stay with knowledge commons. I see knowledge commons as examples of a kind of information and communication systems that arise naturally in human life, but are understood only partially.

I have a cloudy and incomplete vision of the potential of well-constructed and well-managed knowledge commons in the transition from our existing culture and economy to one that is based on the commons, is collaborative, cares for the well-being of the global ecosystem, and all the other things that most of us care about. But this vital vision, albeit cloudy, which is not being seen by others, brings me a sense of responsibility, that it may be mine to take forward; or if not mine, at least I feel the responsibility to see that someone will take it on – probably someone younger.

It's not altogether different from parenting. We parents have at best a cloudy idea of how to bring up our children, for their benefit, and to do good in the world, but it is clear that it is our responsibility more than that of anyone else. If a child of ours is not thriving, we feel a real pressure to act, and if possible to arrange to be in a situation where the appropriate action is possible.

Here's the question, then. Am I in a situation where I am best placed to look after those things that seem to be my intellectual offspring? To nurture them to independence, to maturity, to fully realise their potential? Where I am at present, I have an intellectual step-child: collective presencing. That is maturing well – I have contributed, and I still can contribute, though I don't feel I am essential for its growth and development.

When I get these worries, it would be ironic if that blocked me from doing whatever work I can. What can I, though? That's one of the things I don't feel a great deal of confidence around. I feel I would benefit from a closer involvement with people who share a compatible sense of parental responsibility for overlapping visions, to have more generative dialogue; where the collective sense can guide each of us in ways that are more insightful than our own. In the case of knowledge commons, these people might be the core of a community of practice around knowledge commons architecture. It's much too big to do just by myself.

It promises to be a productive week, though. Spring is in the air. Open the windows. Unblock things. And maybe a little more order and schedule to keep the balls in the air that are most worthwhile. To keep communicating with meaning and purpose. To enrich the relationships with those people, whoever they are.

Topics: Journal writing; Knowledge commons; Personal development

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