Parallel sessions on “open” starting the day today; I’m at “The Language Of Openness“:

Nothing matters more than what the Net is. Yet when we call it a “space” or a “stage” or “pipes,” we frame it with metaphors that yield very different purposes, laws and business models—also different futures. What different laws and regulation do we get by framing the Net in terms of real estate (“domains,” “sites,” “commons”), transport (“packets,” “content,” “pipes”) or theater (“audience,” “experience”)? How do these different frames guide debate over net neutrality, open infrastructure, governance, regulation, public good and business opportunity? Are there other ways of framing the Net that are more useful?

Doc Searls introduces the session by talking about ‘framing’ and how this affects our debates, and David Weinberger mentioned George Lakoff (I’ve read Don’t Think Of An Elephant, one of the best books on politics in recent years, despite being very short). For the Internet, we talk about space and we talk about pages/publishing/etc.

A good concrete example is the difficulty in talking about net neutrality in the US Congress, where the language of telecommunications legislation is based around transportation. In general, the metaphors that we apply can have differing impacts, as they can make it easier to get support/buy-in but the choice of words can/may have an impact on what the end product is, as once you’ve adopted the frame, it’s hard to move away from it.

Provocative question from Judith Donath (who is the third panelist)- is contributing to open source a gift? This leads to an interesting exchange on the framing of open source itself (especially as compared with free software!). From the floor, Lewis Hyde wonders whether discussions of (re)enclosure (i.e. James Boyle) are helpful? He draws a distinction between commons and public domain; the former is a collectively managed resource while the latter is not collectively managed (and thus available for appropriation).

Towards the end, from someone I didn’t know – “what did we call an ecosystem before we had the word ecosystem”…this means that we need new words for the Internet and for the commons, we may not have that frame yet.