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Submissions/The short term, the long term, and the commons

From Wikimania 2012 • Washington, D.C., USA

This is an accepted submission for Wikimania 2012.

Submission no. 89
Title of the submission
The short term, the long term, and the commons
Type of submission (workshop, tutorial, panel, presentation)
Author of the submission
Kat Walsh
E-mail address
Country of origin
Affiliation, if any (organization, company etc.)
Personal homepage or blog
Abstract (at least 300 words to describe your proposal)

Looking at short-term and long-term orientations, and how favoring short-term thinking presents challenges to building a commons. We as a society have created a system that works against creating a commons: there is a culture of stories we've been told and biases we hold that work against our own interests. Even as an internal culture of Wikimedians, sometimes short-term orientation leads us into trouble.

This sometimes comes up presented as a conflict between idealism and pragmatism--many of these conflicts can be explained instead as short-term vs. long-term thinking, that "idealism" is in fact pragmatic.

Examples of short- and long-term conflicts:

  • free file formats: ease of use now, or an environment where the free solution is easy to use later
  • calculating value now vs. value later -- how to put numbers to the value of free knowledge. (The difficulty of quantifying value to the commons in the long term means it is difficult to make a strong economic case. The "content industries" often frame the story when they pull out numbers.)
  • perception of worth now and perception of worth later (Many works are not released because we don't see their value immediately, or think them valueless; when we want them, they are unfindable.)
  • value of a small piece/value of a collection of small pieces (We don't think about the commons when we have a small piece that has little value on its own, but when we think of it as a seed for a larger project, we think differently.)
  • self-reinforcing social structures and quick-fix solutions within the projects that have unforeseen consequences. (Or sometimes, the consequences are foreseen but judged minimal--because when successfully prevented, "nothing happened".)

What biases prevent us from acting in our best long-term interests? What incentives are set up the wrong way? What small changes could have great effects? Who's telling the wrong stories and how should we respond to them? And are we telling the wrong stories, ourselves?

WikiCulture and Community (maybe)
Length of presentation/talk
25 Minutes
Will you attend Wikimania if your submission is not accepted?
Slides or further information (optional)
none yet
Special request as to time of presentations
Ideally, would be scheduled near Mike Linksvayer's presentation if both are accepted.

Interested attendees

If you are interested in attending this session, please sign with your username below. This will help reviewers to decide which sessions are of high interest. Sign with four tildes. (~~~~).

  1. Mike Linksvayer (talk) 03:34, 19 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  2. Tbayer (WMF) (talk) 13:02, 19 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  3. Geoffbrigham (talk) 20:08, 19 March 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  4. JoBaWik (talk) 12:21, 17 May 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  5. NaBUru38 (talk) 17:30, 7 June 2012 (UTC)[reply]
  6. Your name here!