Classic case of enclosure of the commons

Keith Parkins
Mar 17, 2017 · 6 min read
Snaith Marsh enclosure map /

One of the most insidious things about enclosures is how they eradicate the culture of commons and our memory of them. — David Bollier

We’ve decided to make some major changes at Medium. — Ev Williams

I am one of the privileged writers offered the opportunity to be paid for my quality writing on Medium.


I’m Brian, an editor here at Medium. I’m reaching out to you as a popular writer who’s published high-quality stories on Medium.

You might have read that we’re launching a new subscription product for our readers shortly. It’s the next step in our vision to build a place on the internet where ideas are rewarded for their value, not simply their ability to attract a few seconds of attention.

As fans of your work, we’d like to offer you the opportunity to pitch your ideas or relevant posts early, and become part of a select group of contributing writers for our initial launch.

Our subscription will be an optional upgrade for people to become supporting members of Medium. These people will be able to access additional member-only functionality and new, exclusive content.

Writers across the world will continue to be able to publish on Medium for free, but we know there’s a great deal that never gets written or published by great writers, for lack of it making economic sense to do so. We want those stories — well-researched explainers, insightful perspectives, and useful knowledge with a long shelf life — to exist on Medium as well, and we think our paying readers will want to read them too.

That’s where you come in, because we thought your writing could be a great fit. So what types of posts have you been burning to write? If you knew you had a paying audience waiting for your ideas, what stories could you tell?

We’re looking for pitches within the following categories to start: US Politics, Technology/Science/Future, Self Development/Productivity, Business/Startups, and Culture. So tell us what you’d like to write about and your rate. If it sounds like a good fit, we’ll get back to you with a thumbs up or feedback as soon as we can. If you’re interested, we’d love to receive your initial pitch before Friday, March 17th.

This is just the first opportunity to be part of Medium’s subscription offering. We’ll be following up soon with more writing opportunities, as we continue to evolve our subscription and learn what our members enjoy reading most.



This is a retrograde step, a classic case of Enclosure of the Commons.

Between late 1600s and mid-1800s, one seventh of the common land of England was enclosed. Commoners who up until then had been able to pasture their livestock, cut peat, allow their pigs to root for acorns in the autumn, were denied access by the erection of fences. Unable to gain access to these free resources, they became paid workers, either on the land or in the factories.

A commons is a resource that is managed through collaboration of the commoners. A commons self-regulates, adapts to prevailing conditions.

Medium functions as a commons, a shared resource, some contribute to the commons through their writing, others draw from the commons by reading what has been written, but there is also social interaction, the commoners may be both writers and readers, or one article may lead to another, as can be witnessed here.

There is a falsehood of the self-interested individual, much loved by economists, that any action, will only be undertaken for pecuniary gain. It ignores that many actions are not for pecuniary gain, that it is not only what is traded, it is who trades with who, the social interaction.

When I am lost in the street and seek help, I am not charged a fee.

Medium are attempting to enclose a commons, create a walled garden where access was free, or worse, a fenced in ghetto.

When people write on Medium, they are not doing it for financial gain, that is not their motivation, they are doing so because they have something to say, that others may be interested in. And if we look at the drivel in mainstream media by paid hacks, paid to fill empty column inches, we see Medium has a superior offering. Why would an article on Medium have a longer shelf life, because someone has been paid to write it?

Ev Williams in announcing major changes to Medium wrote:

2016 was our best year yet. Key metrics, such as readers and published posts were up approximately 300% year on year. And we witnessed important stories published on Medium — from world-famous leaders to unknown individuals — on a daily basis. We’re proud of Medium’s role in promoting intelligent viewpoints and new ideas no matter who they’re from, becoming the default outlet for thoughtful people who have something to say about the world.

Clearly being paid, was not the motivation, that led ‘from world-famous leaders to unknown individuals to write on Medium ‘on a daily basis’, for Medium to become ‘the default outlet for thoughtful people who have something to say about the world’.

Those who contribute and interact, are creating a common wealth, something that is not for sale.

Writers also write to be read. Let us assume I wish to read Think Like a Commoner. I could borrow from a library. I could buy from a bookshop.

What if the library charged for entering, or charged each time a book was borrowed. We know the result, fewer books would be borrowed. And yet that is what Medium are proposing, to charge for reading an article.

Medium may well say, someone has to provide the land, in this case the platform, on which the commoners exercise their commoners rights.

This may be true, in the past a lord or maybe held in common by the community, but think of innovative ways to provide the platform, open source software to which all can contribute, crowdfund to raise the funds, make an appeal, organise as an open coop, enable payment if readers wish to pay, but always retain free access.

Linux and its associated suite of programs runs the internet. Developers freely contribute, the software is free to use.

Post-capitalism, we are moving away from failed neo-liberalism, towards open coops, collaborative commons. Medium are going against the trend.

It as though post-capitalism does not exist.

When Medium CEO Ev Williams announced on Medium , where else, that he was laying off fifty employees, and the wish to charge for access, the response was how to make money. Some raised concern for those who lost their jobs.

One of the big mistakes Medium has made in the past, is to keep changing how Medium functions, presumably to justify bullshit jobs.

How to make money on the internet?

This is discussed in Sacred Economics, in a nutshell you do not.

None discussed enclosure of the commons, none recognised that Medium functions as a collaborative commons, take that away, and Medium has nothing to offer.

The arguments should be, how does Medium continue to function as a viable commons?

Medium need to think again, and not enclose the commons.

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

Keith Parkins

Written by

Writer, thinker, deep ecologist, social commentator, activist, enjoys music, literature and good food.

Light on a Dark Mountain

The machine is stuttering and the engineers are in panic. They are wondering if perhaps they do not understand it as well as they imagined. They are wondering whether they are controlling it at all or whether, perhaps, it is controlling them.— The Dark Mountain Manifesto

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