Evolution of the Commons – A request for help

For many who consider themselves as part of Monhegan Commons, it is recognized that one of the major goals of this virtual commons is a search for ways to avoid the logical results described in Garrett Hardin’s essay, “The Tragedy of the Commons”.  The dilemma  posed  by Hardin here, in over simplified terms, points out that it is rational and in the best interest of each individual sharing a commons to increase their use of the fixed resource, as in so doing, they reap the total profit from the increase while the cost of doing so is distributed amongst all the users of that commons.  Or, in purely eco-political terms: capitalizing the gains and socializing the losses.  There are so many current examples of this in our US Commons, negating the need to show that while good for a few in the short run, it is a disaster for most in both the short and long run.  We are still left to deal with the privatizing of this continent’s indigenous people’s land, to say nothing of the short term gains from slavery.

Far better to look at the way Monhegan dealt with the outside world.  For close to two hundred years the Island’s inhabitants welcomed artists to the Island. Edison’s ‘Monhegan Associates’ formalized the relationship between the winter and summer communities.  ‘Daytrippers’ are a welcomed and even necessary part of the economic life of the Island as a whole.  The Museum shares this Island’s culture with all that visit.  Monhegan Artists’ Residency Corp. facilitates the evolution of emerging Maine artists. While these examples are obvious, more abound.

Events on the ground present challenges to which we must respond.  Failure to do so is perhaps worst than responding inappropriately.   Monhegan’s record  is far better than most commons in dealing with the threats of the day. Even so we might do better in dealing with the world’s latest threat, technology.   Wishing that it did not, or will not affect the Island is denialism  in the extreme.  If you can buy that, the next step would  be to find ways of getting technology to work for/with you –  not be overrun by it.  Yet technology by itself is not the issue as much as content.  Sure, the daily photos are refreshing, but really, they’re not much compared to a bunch of Zimmie’s post cards.  MC’s photos are daily, however, and that is where we’ve gotten the advantage.  What I feel is lacking as of right now is content: ideas, issues, discussions, debates

As you might guess, I have some ideas.  These ideas are crude and in the need of massive input from the likes of you (it is a commons, not a fiefdom).  I appeal for your thinking on just what is in the best (virtual) long term interest of Monhegan Commons, given the reality of technology.  After kicking this idea about a bit we’ll try to construct a new ‘statement of purpose’, incorporating the best of what we would hope for.

Please, add your comments (knowing that transparency and accountability are the necessary price tags for this vehicle of free speech).



14 thoughts on “Evolution of the Commons – A request for help

  1. I think the key to this becoming the Commons that Peter wants it to be is for more people to be generating content. My vision (and Peter is free to disagree with it) is that there would be more contributors/editors/authors.

    As there is now a poetry editor, there would also be an arts editor, who might post either an artwork or some writing (review, history, artist profile, etc.) once a week or so. And someone who knows Monhegan lobstering might keep us up-to-date on that (prices, new lobstermen, boat repairs, etc.)

    I’d propose editors for: art, history, natural history, birding, lobsters, tourism, real-estate, islander news, etc. I’m sure I’ve forgotten something; feel free to add to it.

    I propose this with a caveat: my connection to Monhegan is tenuous at best (half a summer spent there more years ago than I care to admit). So I don’t know the island well enough to say who might be willing or able or good for these positions. I leave that to you all, who likely know the island much better than I ever have or will.

    I am primarily Peter’s tech consultant and my input regarding content is probably worth every penny that he pays me for it. I am the person who first introduced Peter to the internet and for that I suspect I’ll feel forever obligated to try to push him in the most reasonable direction regarding his online endeavors.

    I stand ready to provide support to what I hope is an expanded online Monhegan community.

  2. Jim,
    I like the suggestions you have made. For me the purpose of the Commons is to feel connected during the time when I am not there. It would be wonderful hearing from islanders about what is going on and to see seasonal photos.

  3. Come on guys, there has to be more to this commons than Jim and myself!

    But on to Jim, now. Jim not a techie, but Jim as part of Monhegan Commons (MC). “Membership” to MC is limited to those who (in some way) identify with this Island. It is the identification (whatever way) that needs to be shared for there to be a commons.

    As you might expect, Jim and I talk a lot about Monhegan and MC. As all people are both different and yet sharing a common Humanity, so it is with Jim and myself. I have no objections to what he wrote above, but would point out that I come at it from a different point of view. (Either way is fine by me as long as it happens). As I read Jim’s post, I would say he is closer to constructing “the end game” than I think we are ready to do. What he suggests, needs to happen, it is just that I think we (all of us) need to first arrive at a common vision for what our commons might become. Jim is more into “how” while I want first to get into “what”. Once we agree on the end game, we can then figure out how to play it out.

    For beginners —- my vision of the end game (for me) is when mc becomes a fully functioning, self sufficient, fully integrated, self sustaining, non-hierarchical community.

    And yours?

  4. Sorry, that I haven’t had enough time the last few days to respond in a thoughtful manner, so let me respond in my usual off-the-top-of-my-head, knee-jerk manner.

    To build community, particularly THIS community, we need to first mend some very real riffs and divisions that divide us into off-islanders (with the usual prejudicial Disneyland Dreamer stereotypes) and on-islanders (with the usual prejudicial cold, isolationist “go-away!” stereotypes). Both stereotypes are (well, usually) unfair and demeaning, because we are all, by and large, good folks just trying to get through Life with a little Warmth, Joy and Comfort.

    In the past decade or two, some confrontational issues widened that schism here on this website and, to a large degree, there has been little effort to mend the hard feelings or to try to arrive at consensus.

    For a very short while, there was the fresh air of open discussion about a couple of issues, where both “sides” of issues were fully explored by articulate advocates of the various positions (and with other folks asking questions or adding their own thoughts), but eventually the discussion started go round and round and not get anywhere toward a consensual solution, and that openness rapidly died out when everyone got tired, tuned out and just went home.

    Then there was the phase of anonymous sniping and insulting (not to mention a near-fatal infection by porn spammers) that brought on the new format requiring registration. I’ve always been an advocate for standing up for my own words and thoughts (i.e., using my real name), but we did lose some of our most creative, colorful and pot-stirring voices that gave us idealists a much-needed reality check (anonymous voices, yes, but we all came to know and love them by their “handles”). For that reason, I still have mixed-feelings about the move toward accountability through sign-in.

    On the other hand, I also remember the “good” times when this forum actually built consensus and support for various issues (Lobster Wars, MISCA, consolation and support in the face of illnesses/deaths, celebrations of births or achievements, etc.). That could still happen on issues such as the wind-generator, MISCA (still!), etc. where there are voices on contrary sides of issues and where solutions acceptable to most could be sought with just a little listening to each other and taking all concerns into account.

    Oh, I don’t know what to say or suggest right now, other than to pose the idea that we perhaps talk about mending fences (well, more appropriately, tearing down walls), so that we treat each other fairly, as real people, instead of passing each other on the main dirt road without even looking each other in the eyes and saying “Hey!”

    Can these Commons ever be a Monhegan community unless we somehow evolve to where the on-island voices are heard here again at least equally (or even predominantly) in open, respectful conversation? How can that happen again? Any ideas? Or should I just go back to my scrapbook of Norman Rockwell paintings (heh!)?

    Douglas Wray

    “In the end, only kindness matters.”

  5. Oh my, what has happened to our Commons? Perhaps the emphasis should be placed on ‘has’! Where ‘has’ everyone gone?

    I love Peter’s thoughts! And those of Jim, too! Why, they are practically talking about a whole ‘New World Order’ – is that the right term? (Hurry – open Wilipedia.com hmmm…maybe not…)

    The new website is wonderful: it is open yet structured, pretty, inviting, and free. The old site was closed, difficult to maneuver, tight in content and space. So what has happened? Isn’t progress what should be happening?

    Perhaps it was the move from Picture to Word. In the original site, the picture was the focus – we all turned to the page to look at the surprise of the day. It was fun, too, because there was always the possibility of further surprises: a different photo under the one published, a familiar face in a familiar background, an old photo gleaned from someone’s album or box of forgotten vacation treasures, and of course, “Zimmie’s” postcards (because that’s where we bought them). Important messages and notices of a Monheganite’s passing would also greet us on that page, as well as the title of the poetry of the week/month. And my favorite aspect – being able to look over a week’s worth of photos.

    We did not have to look at the Rope Shed, although many did, in search for the discussion du jour, the hot topic, the explanations. A few responded and some really got into the fray! (remember, deer ticks?) There was friendly teasing, taunting, and joking. There were misspellings, incorrect grammar, and cryptic responses – little insider jokes that meant nothing to most of the readers. How about the time someone started a story, with everyone adding a paragraph, or a page? There were wonderful memories, too, reported in little bits or in short essays. Some favored us with even more pictures or web sites that provided additional information – or maybe something not immediately related, but thought to be of communal interest.

    So what has changed? All of this is still possible, isn’t it? The same elements are there, aren’t they?

    Could it be that moving the emphasis away from pictures to words is intimidating those of us who are really just looking for our daily fix? Or is it that some incredibly well written essays have already been posted, written by knowledgeable, thoughtful people who don’t have to rewrite knowledgeable twice to see if they spelled it correctly? Is it related to the length of the items that are being written (like this one, sorry) whereas before, a short comment was sufficient? Have we moved into the sphere of blogs? Are we going to have to be serious and grown-up to comment?

  6. I feel the need to point out that the Rope Shed is still very much in existence, though obviously less visited.

    Do we need to trumpet it more or make the link clearer?

    Granted some of its function is replaced by the commenting function. But a forum like the Rope Shed allows anyone (with registration of course) to start their own conversation.

  7. I have been waiting to comment, not sure what to say or what I can offer. I am not a Monhegan “insider”; whatever that is. I do not know the history of this site, although I have gathered some insight from the above comments. I am not part of the summer community. I have been fortunate enough to be able to come to Monhegan for about a week each September for the past 5 years. I love being there. I love hiking. I love the sights, sounds, smells, and freedom of being. I live in a small town where life is fairly understandable. The village of Monhegan is even smaller, but not more easily understandable, as people are what bring complexity to life in both good and challenging ways.
    I find myself looking at this website daily, sometimes more than daily. I like the reminders of what it feels like to be on Monhegan; the reminders that life works only as we, as people, work together. It is wonderful, to me, that so many people (from quite a spread geographically and I assume in other ways also) seem drawn to Monhegan Island. Something pulls us there and keeps pulling us back. That something (not in a Norman Rockwell sense) is very much alive today in the midst of all the complexities of our lives. Somehow, I think, time on Monhegan can help us distill through our own web of complexities to what does matter. As Douglas (whoever you are I don’t really know) said above, “… we are all, by and large, good folks just trying to get through Life with a little Warmth, Joy and Comfort”.
    If time on Monhegan can nourish those of us who visit in that way, I think this website can also (and does) do the same.
    I am willing to help this happen via the website, but I don’t really know how. I have photos I am happy to share. I am not a poet (but I truly enjoy the poetry I read here); I am not expert enough to edit info. coming in about wildlife (flora and fauna) on Monhegan; I only know a few of the year -round residents from relatively brief conversations; I’m not an artist. I guess I just love being on Monhegan Island.
    So, I am happy to help but don’t know how to do so. I am most grateful that this site exists!

  8. I love the comment by Dawn, “I guess I just love being on Monhegan Island” Nicely and simply said. Me too Dawn. I just sent Peter a bunch of pictures before I read all of the comments and I sent them because I too clocked in (when I lived inshore) to the daily pictures. And because of those and they kept me going, I feel compelled to send Peter pictures when I can. (Too busy in the summer to take or send pictures). I know you all look forward to them, the diehards that have stuck by the Monhegan Commons. The other thing for me is I too like Harriet, liked the banter on the way old commons. I am sorry the porn took it over but it was fun. Nice things written, some not o nice and lots of toungue in cheek. That is where the Islanders came in, and anonymous they were, but it was fun. Some used to live here and some did still live here but it was fun. More like a community. Now it feels wishy washy and the same lalalalala. Please Peter and Jim take no offense but those are my thoughts.

  9. I have never posted here but wanted to say that I hope the commons does take off. I have fallen in love with Monhegan and would love to hear about the island when I’m not there which sadly is only in the summer. (I would love to visit in the winter but it seems that lodging is hard to find) I fell in love with the island the first time I visited a few years ago and have come back every year since. The first house my family and I rented was yours Peter so I feel a special bond to this site. I thought your house was magical. I would love to help out this site in any way I can.

  10. It may sound simplistic to say this, but if Jim could post a concise but thorough “walk-through” of how to use the commons and rope shed (is it possible to keep it in the forefront for a few days?) I think that might encourage more people to contribute. I would attempt it, but think I may miss something, having not thoroughly aquainted myslef with it all yet. The blog format is very different than the old interaction on the Rope Shed of old and the people who were comfortable with that are likely to be intimidated by the new way, coupled with the old way, pointing us toward the new way, etc.

    For one thing, at first glance it seems like the blog is trying to replace the Rope Shed, especially if that was your primary interest and the first thing you went to every day on the old site. Then suddenly you see the link to the Rope Shed and, being taken there, you wonder where the main page is to the old site and possibly how to get back to the new, etc. Some people may not see all the bells and whistle that are here. One downside to the gradual changeover that occurred is that for a little while I didn’t realize that there was more to it than I first thought.

    For the computer savvy, it is all well and good, but for some once they are used to one way, and possibly having aged a bit since the last change <;-), one more change is just too much.

    1. Good points.
      I do think the Rope Shed continues to be useful primarily as a place where anyone (with a simple login) can start a conversation. The blog comments are generally a response to what’s been posted by the “admins”.
      Though the Rope Shed is getting less use now, from the look of it. Lots of what used to be there was similar to comments, of course (“nice pictures today, etc”)
      I’m not sure what How-To I can give you. I’d encourage everyone to click around and see what’s here.
      And contribute, if you want (though Peter and I are still trying to work out how that will work).

      1. I am finding that the Rope Shed and the blog comments are both useful. It is great to see people’s responses to what has been posted under feature. And, it is really nice for someone else to be able to start a conversation on the Rope Shed in addition. Both together offer the opportunity for breadth and depth – all depending on participation, of course. I think the new format is great and friendly.

  11. Hi…I too, have looked forward to the daily postings on the commons…
    poetry, photos, etc. The Commons has made me feel like I’m in touch with Monhegan when I can’t be there. I have come to Monhegan since my first
    time in 1993 almost every summer for 1-3 weeks. I love the Island and
    the people who live there! Please let me know what I can do to help….

  12. I echo Margie’s feelings and words . I started coming/going to the Island in 1972 and went for 22 years. I got to know a lot of the folks on the Island and it’s where my heart and mind reside a lot of the time. One either loves it or yearns for civilization again after a while. I’m in the ‘former’ group, completely. I know of no other place I’ve ever been to that has affected me quite like Monhegan. I love the ‘Commons’ and appreciate all the work you all have gone to to make it a wonderful place to go to and look around and thoroughly enjoy and keep informed as to what’s going on way out there. J 🙂

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