Wednesday, January 16, 2008

the power of the commons

The Library of Congress today announced a partnership with photo-sharing site Flickr to upload digital reproductions of thousands of photographs in the LOC's archives. The purpose goes further than PR (though it's great PR--all photos are freely available with no copyright restrictions, a public asset that will quickly be put to creative use at a massive scale), but instead to allow anyone to help to catalog the massive photo library using common-language tags.

It's a brilliant idea--harnessing the power of the crowd to help bring order to an undertaking that would normally take decades. Additionally, it helps to democratize a usually cloistered task, that of ordering information.

But more than that, it exhibits a trust in the commons--that shared place where people of all stripes have a stake and a claim--that the corporate media has yet to embrace. What a refreshing thing, to see a usually lumbering industry decide to step up and lead. Who will be the first to follow?