Saturday, January 20, 2007

And now for something totally different

Introducing Prospero. Prospero is going to launch a visual commons. As I understand it, the idea is common space is now filled with other people's stuff - mostly advertising. The project folks behind Prospero want to create public displays that will show what the community wants. Or, as they put it:

"In much of modern life, public spaces, public media and public art are designed to send us messages that we passively receive, process and absorb. However, we believe that in a democracy, citizens must actively shape the public sphere. This necessitates "talking back" to the elements that constitute the public sphere. Public displays, that is, displays located in public spaces and accessible to a public, constitute an increasingly important element of the public sphere. We will develop an infrastructure for community-aware public displays that are controlled by users' expressed needs and preferences; we see our endeavor as part of an ongoing, democratic reclaiming, by citizens, of control over an increasing number of aspects of the public sphere in general."

What is the visual commons? "More than just billboards," they will be public displays informed by and reacting to, the community.
So what for philanthropy? The folks* behind Prospero are many of the people doing really important work on the commons. The commons is critical to philanthropy, if in fact, philanthropy is to function for the public good. What is public? What is common?

Oh, and another first for philanthropy. Here, unlike anything else you might find on the web, is the successful grant proposal that was submitted to get this project off the ground.

*Paul Hartzog is leading the work out of the U of Michigan. Full Project team is in the posted proposal. He's being linked to by Howard Rheingold, David Bollier and others at Onthecommons.

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