2.8.1 Self-assessment Questions (SAQs)

These questions should help you test your understanding of what you have learnt so far. If you have difficulty with the questions it would be a good idea to go back over Section 2.

1. What do we mean by ‘commons’?

Answer

Many will think of ‘the commons’ as meaning the UK's houses of parliament or possibly a village green or common land. Lessig talks about ‘the commons’, in Chapter 1, as being related to ‘free’ resources. For the purposes of of this unit, a commons is essentially a resource which is open for anyone to use. There are no gatekeepers who can control access to that resource. The original design of the internet is an example. The network had no intelligence. The network could not decide which kinds of innovations would be permitted and which would not. The right to innovate on the internet was open to everyone equally, and network owners (originally the phone companies), for example, could not control that innovation. ‘The commons’ will be defined more fully in Section 3.

2. Why is it important to think critically about the material we read in the set book?

Answer

Lessig has produced a very powerful, cogently argued book. It is important to remember, though, that he also brings a particular perspective to this important subject area. His values are those of a committed American constitutional lawyer and our personal values have a big influence on how we see the world. He may have done the most joined-up thinking about law, the Net and society, but some of that thinking may be controversial. The very title of the set book, The Future of Ideas, suggests that he is at least partly in the business of predicting the future, so he may even be wrong in places. Hence it is worth critically analysing the ideas put forward.

‘Sleep faster; we need the pillows.’

(Old Polish saying)

The cartoon caption above suggests that some activities just cannot be rushed, so don't worry if it is taking you some time to get to grips with the concepts. Just remember the important point that free resources are valuable, and the rest will eventually fall into place.

Make sure you can answer this question relating to Section 2: Why is this subject important

  • for me?

  • for society?

and record your thoughts on this in your Learning Journal.

2.8 Summary and SAQs

2.9 Study guide