Information Environmentalism

Information Environmentalism

A Governance Framework for Intellectual Property Rights

Robert Cunningham

Information Environmentalism applies four environmental analytical frameworks – ecology, ‘the commons’, public choice theory, and welfare economics – to the information environment. The book neatly captures the metaphorical relationship between the physical environment and the information environment by alluding to the environmental philosophy of ‘social ecology’ and the emergent informational discourse of ‘cultural environmentalism’.

Chapter 6: The social ecology of information environmental governance

Robert Cunningham

Subjects: economics and finance, law and economics, law - academic, intellectual property law, law and economics


Just as ecologists recognise that minor changes in the physical environment may produce effects that reverberate through species, food chains and habitats, ultimately disrupting larger patterns of sustainability, changes in the regulatory framework of the information environment may lead to large disruptions in the ecology of creative culture and innovation. As both the physical environment and the information environment can be perceived as macro systems, it follows that each respective system can move to new equilibriums as a consequence of feedback mechanisms. By drawing upon ecological governance principles this chapter explores the interaction between equilibrium and feedback. The chapter begins by situating ecology within an information environmental context. Defining ecology and exploring the ‘methodological interrelational’ dimensions of ecological thinking is part of this discussion. The chapter will then explore an empirically based information environmental discipline, which is referred to as ‘information ecology’. This will be followed by the application of the precautionary principle to the information environment. More often than not principles such as the precautionary principle are founded upon an ethical foundation. For this reason the chapter seeks to build information environmental governance principles upon the foundation of an ‘information environmental ethic’. This ethic imports the ecological governance principles of resilience, diversity and modularity. The application of these principles to the information environment will be contextualised with reference to the FLOSS production mode.

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