eCommons3: first impressions

The economies of sharing

The economies of sharing

by Images for the future

On 11 and 12 October, the third edition of Economies of the Commons themed Sustainable Futures for Digital Archives took place, exceeding the previous editions in scope and numbers. The large-scale digitization project Images for the Future had a central place in eCommons3, with a full track about “the challenge of large numbers” and several reflections on the achievements and (un)met challenges throughout the conference.; During the conference these challenges where discussed through informative keynote presentations and discussions between panels and the audience.


We may conclude that the conference was a great success. The view over the IJ-river, the program full of highly esteemed national and international speakers, extraordinary keynotes, the look behind the scenes of the Images for the Future project in the parallel track, 280 participants from the academic and professional realms, #eCommons3 as a trending topic on Twitter––all of this contributed to a successful eCommons3.

The success of eCommons3 as a great learning experience is for to large extent due to the moderators of the conference, Joeri van de Steenhoven (main track) and Emjay Rechsteiner (parallel track), who where responsible for the entertaining and informative hosting of the conference. 

The speakers and panels however have the most substantial share in the success. With the first keynote ‘We’ve digitized the archive ... now what? – Speculations on the cultural dynamics of the 21st Century’, William Uricchio (MIT) framed the big themes of eCommons3 in a theoretical yet powerful manner. The sessions that followed dealt with these themes from different perspectives and by a variety of interpretations.

In the Economies of Sharing session, the commons-theorist David Bollier shared his visions on the bigger ideas behind the commons in connection to the challenges for archives (“archives as cultural infrastructure”).

Mirko Tobias Schäfer & Kate Theimer

Kate Theimer (ArchivesNext) opened day two of eCommons3 with her keynote stressing the idea that the future archive is less about the ‘stuff’ and more about the users. Today, people can act as users, experts and curators at the same time––and their wishes need to be central to all efforts. Julia Noordegraaf (UvA) nuanced this idea by stating that archives need to embrace their role as curators because of the importance of putting the material in context and guiding the users.

John Ellis’ impressive interpretation on the use of copyright, explained by him as “We should move away from copyright and exceptions to copyright as exception”, led to a discussion between him and Marco Rendina on copyright issues. In the mean time, the copyright discussion in the parallel track between Pictoright and Geraldine Vooren (EYE) also fired up. Although the conference tried not to put too much emphasize on copyright issues, the subject turned out to be very actual and weighty for both speakers and participants. 

The last session, Strategy and Agenda for the Future, was about reflections on the gains and missed opportunities of the Images for the Future project by Hans Westerhof (Sound and Vision) and Marjan Hammersma (DG Culture & Madia, MinOCW). In their reflections, they both shaped the contours for the future of the cultural heritage sector. While the conference had already brought forward many, mainly copyright related, obstacles, Westerhof and Hammersma accentuated more thoroughly that as a result the project has so far failed to achieve broad accessibility to the material. Hammersma, involved in the Images for the Future project from the very beginning, confirmed that the necessary changes in the copyright system have a high priority for the policy agenda. A broad accessibility of the digitized material is of great importance: only then the cultural, economic and social value of the material will be translated into real public value.

Paul Keller, Marjan Hammersma & Sandra den Hamer

Over the next weeks we will publish the videos, and a number of reports on eCommons3 from students of the Master Preservation and Presentation of the Moving Image of the University of Amsterdam on the website In the meanwhile you can have a look at the pictures. 

Day 1 + Day 2