Stewardship and open culture

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