The Visible Commons is Not the Public Commons

This is one in a series of posts on Visibility.  In these I am thinking deeply about our visibility and the part it plays in, and how it impacts our individual and shared lives.  I welcome you to think with me.  — Linda

Cluster Photo by Kurt Hentschläger

Cluster by Kurt Hentschläger

To participate in the privileges of the Public Commons of The Network, we make ourselves visible. Together we share a “Visible Commons” where we, and what we visibly create, are visible to each other.

We each purposefully contribute to and participate in the Visible Commons.  What we explicitly make visible there becomes part of the Public Commons.

What is made visible is not accessible to all.  Human and non-human actors, for the profit of the few, mediate who is visible, which aspects of each of our visibilities is placed within the Visible Commons, and to whom it is visible.

Visibility is not shared by all.  Whom or what is visible is decided on for the purposes of a private venture, not as a public good nor for the public.  We do not all share equally in the currency of visibility.

Each of us owns our own visibility within the Visible Commons. We are visible to each other by mutual agreement and by our explicit participation in The Visible Commons.

I explicitly contribute to the shared cultural Public Commons through my visibility, and those things of mine I make visible: my stories, my conversation, my connections.  The fact of my visibility does not make me or my connections a public good, owned by the public, to be used and shared by all.

My visibility welcomes you to engage with me.  My visibility is also a platform for you to interact and collaborate with others. Your visibility provides me the same opportunity.  We do not own each other’s visibility, even though we each benefit from the act of our visibility.  It is not our mutual right to claim or leverage the other’s visibility.

Glitch Photo by Kyle J Thompson

Glitch by Kyle J Thompson

I own my visibility.  My visibility is me, my place, my voice, my channel, my connections.  My visibility is my unique and personal asset.  It is my tool for making a living, nourishing my human relationships, for building my identity and my social capital.

My visibility is by my assent.  My visibility, and the degree to which I am visible, is mine to give, to control and to use to facilitate my life.

My connections are not yours.  They are my assemblages of people and relationships and we benefit each other in various aspects of our individual lives, for varying reasons.  My interactions with my assemblages belong to me and to those in my assemblies.

My connections and their assembled visibility do not define me.   Because we each are visible to each other to varying degrees does not mean we are of the public domain.

My participation in both the Public Commons of The Network and within its Visible Commons does not mean I am your social or economic capital.  No matter if you are an individual, a news entity, a corporation or a non-human agent, the fact I am visible does not give you the implicit right to sweep me, my visibility, what I make visible, nor the visibility of my connections into the gears of your economic engine.

When I choose to enter your spaces I share my visibility with you there.  My interactions with you are shared assets between us for our mutual benefit.   They belong to no one else.  When I leave you, my visibility to you extends only to what visibility I have agreed to provide you. You do not have the right to any more than I explicitly make visible.

Photo credits:
Cluster: Kurt Hentschläger via Anti-Utopias on Tumbler #contemporary art
Kyle Thompson: Glitch on Tumblr #artists on tumblr

Categories: Visibility


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  1. The Visibility Manifesto | Channel & Place - March 24, 2013

    […] The Visible Commons is not the Public Commons. […]

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