3.12.1. Self-assessment Questions (SAQs)

1. What do we mean by ‘commons’?


A commons is a resource where nobody gets to decide how it gets used or who gets to use it. It 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.

2. What are the three layers of the internet?


The content, code and physical layers.

3. What does Lessig mean by the term ‘architecture’?


It can mean lots of things depending on the context in which he uses the term. Generally he thinks about architecture as the structure or built environment of the internet (you can think of it as the laws of nature of the internet). Frequently he uses the term interchangeably with the term ‘code’.

4. How did we get to the point where the internet was created, when AT&T were refusing to allow an alternative network?


Three reasons:

  1. Network designers chose to use this e2e design at the code layer. This meant that the network owners could not discriminate.

  2. The legal regulations governing the telephone networks meant that phone companies could not control what people could connect to their wires.

  3. Shared code and knowledge at the content layer.

Oliver Wendell Holmes' definition of history: One damned thing after another.

Make sure you can answer these three questions relating to Section 3 before you continue:

  • What is a commons?

  • What is the three-layers model?

  • What does the history of the internet teach us about facilitating innovation?

Record your thoughts on this in your Learning Journal.

3.12 Summary and SAQs

3.13 Study guide