Friday, 20th March 2015

Stewardship and open culture

Posted on 07. Sep, 2010 by in Open culture, The movement

The openness meme has gained credibility and vitality in recent years, with an ever increasing range of proponents advancing the cause of open access, architecture, currencies, data, government, hardware, identity, knowledge, media, platforms, protocols, source code, spectrum, and standards. Despite the popularity of the prefix, however, the layeredness of the many open applications remains to be spelled out and connected in a coherent whole. Open Stewardship suggests a synthesis of this field. Open Stewardship is an emergent concept – the product of many projects and reflections that are already bearing independent fruit and need only to be connected as a patterned whole.

Stewardship, as an ethic, implies taking responsibility for and managing a collective resource. Open Stewardship is a way of thinking, acting, and being that invites and facilitates the ongoing care and co-creation of shared resources within complex, fluid environments. These shared resources can be understood in the narrow sense of code, concepts, or designs. Shared resources can be understood in a broader sense to include our environments — both our online environments, and the places we live (our cities, towns, neighborhoods). Finally, our shared resources include our collective social contexts – our groups, organizations, institutions, and networks. Open Stewardship invites and facilitates the care and development of these resources in the context of ever-expanding networks of projects and concerns.

Open Source, Wiki Culture, and Open Space each present challenges of shared stewardship that ultimately orient us to Open Stewardship. It is the abundance of forums, sites and tools that create the need for an integrating model and approach. Projects and wikis proliferate. Unconferences abound. Participants, invitees, and users find themselves struggling to negotiate the explosion of activities, events and initiatives. We offer Open Stewardship as a response to this problem and as a rallying theme for all those dedicated to the many facets of Open Culture. How might we better manage the space between our various activities, events and initiatives? How can we best coordinate diverse efforts and intentions? The Open Stewardship model elicits us to explore working across projects, while opening them to a wider horizon of concerns, and situating them within a field of related efforts. This is our task.

This is just a sketch of the Open Stewardship model. There is much more to share. First, we must open the conversation to your intervention. We begin down the path of Open Stewardship with an invitation – an invitation that marks the opening of a new, shared space.

Our invitation is manifold:

* We invite your participation in the development of the Open Stewardship practice. The conversation, debate and critique can take place on this blog.

* We invite your participation and membership in Coalition of the Willing, understood as an open project and proliferating network (see ‘Who are we?’ for details).

* We invite you to help us advance the tools and infrastructure needed to develop the interoperative site system described in Coalition of the Willing.

* We invite you to initiate your own invitations, in this space or elsewhere. It is not for us alone to further this work.

Michael Maranda & Tim Rayner

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10 Responses to “Stewardship and open culture”

  1. Bernard 8 September 2010 at 10:24 am #

    There could be a link with a recent article and theorization on networks as a political project: Y. Rumpala, “Knowledge and praxis of networks as a political project”, Twenty-First Century Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, November 2009 (for an abstract, see: ).

  2. Jonathan Eyler-Werve 11 September 2010 at 4:37 pm #

    I am really, really excited about this.

  3. Charley Quinton 12 February 2011 at 10:57 pm #

    Well-said Michael. I especially identify with “struggling to negotiate the explosion of activities, events and initiatives.”

    Open Stewardship Models have been around awhile going by names such as,, … countless others. The role of steward in the case of Wikipedia and the WMF is an example of the complexity of Stewrdship. See


    “How might we better manage the space between our various activities, events and initiatives?”
    –That’s a toughy. A tabbed browser helps

    “How can we best coordinate diverse efforts and intentions?” –touch base at the _personal_ mission level, face-to-face (if possible) person-to-person or at least peer-to-peer on a trusted network.

    Open Stewardship needs Open Standards, too. I’m just sayin’

    Charley (tractor)

  4. Pamela McLean 8 March 2011 at 3:20 pm #

    Ref – “Finally, our shared resources include our collective social contexts – our groups, organizations, institutions, and networks. Open Stewardship invites and facilitates the care and development of these resources in the context of ever-expanding networks of projects and concerns.”

    Thank you Michael for that description – it helps to pinpoint where Dadamac fits in – in the open stewardship of networks and knowledge – but I have never had the right words to manage to explain this.

    I am an unusual information bottleneck (or information resource, depending on your viewpoint). This is because I have spent ten years as a connection point between London and rural Africa, i.e. as a connection point between the bandwidth rich and the bandwidth poor. I have a large and varied network, which connects me to a wealth of information and knowledge. I recognise the value of the people in my trust network, the tremendous knowledge resource that they represent, and the potential power-for-good of including them in other networks.

    For several years I have been trying to find ways to be less of a bottleneck, but with little success, as I have found it hard to explain what I was trying to do and why. In the last couple of years I have given up trying to explain – and instead I have turned to trying to demonstrate what I am trying to do, by starting to create systems online to make my contacts (and their work and knowledge) more easily visible to each other, and to “outsiders”. I have been doing this through my experiments with drupal (at and using posterous (at – mostly for “open letters” and links of interest – and most recently at – where I hope to encourage more of my contacts to become “directly visible” online in dadamac rather than restricted to online groups or personal emails).

    My hope is that at some point I will connect with people (who I can now describe as Open Stewardship practitioners) who have overlapping interests so we can collaborate on the effective nurturing of networks and knowledge generation, and on the appropriate pushing, pulling, parking and presenting of related information to the benefit of all concerned.


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