i3, une unité mixte de recherche CNRS (UMR 9217)

Institut Interdisciplinaire de l'Innovation

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Digital Commons and Ecological Transition
25 November 2022 • 9h-17h • CNRS site Pouchet

This study day is organized by the working groups of the GDR Internet, AI & Society, Politiques environnementales du numérique [Digital Environmental Policy], coordinated by Clément Marquet (CSI, Mines Paris – PSL, i3) and Sophie Quinton (Inria, GDS EcoInfo), and Politiques des communs numériques [Digital Commons Policy], coordinated by Cristiana Sappa (IÉSEG School of Management) and Sébastien Shulz (LISIS, Université Gustave Eiffel)

Friday, November 25, 2022 from 9am to 5pm.

Centre Internet et Société, 59-61 Rue Pouchet, Paris 17e.

 Please note that registration is required

The event will be held in French, but it will be possible to address questions in English.


The objective of this study day is twofold. On the one hand, to question the links between the digital commons and the ecological transition through dialogue between interdisciplinary researchers and practitioners directly involved in this connection. On the other hand, to explore the first avenues towards a common set of research issues and to design a research program. To that end, the study day will be organized in two sessions. The morning session will be dedicated to three presentations that will frame the day and open up avenues for reflection. The afternoon session is organized around three participative workshops.


Context. The digital commons movement is rooted at the crossroads between the American academic and Internet worlds. This movement advocates open access, peer-to-peer production and shared governance of digital resources in the networked information space. Free software, Wikipedia or the Open Street Map are paradigmatic examples of these arrangements, called “digital commons” by theorists of the movement. In the 2000s, their claims were translated outside the academic and activist spheres of the Internet, for example within the worlds of cultural production or politics. But for the past few years, a new phenomenon has been emerging that has not yet been fully explored by research: mobilizations seeking to link the digital commons to the challenges of the ecological transition (Labaeye, 2020). We have identified three forms of articulation between digital commons and ecological transition. First, a number of digital commons projects integrate ecological concerns. For example, free software communities try to reduce the ecological footprint of their production through “eco-design” practices, and are sometimes critical of the strong growth of the digital sector with regard to its environmental and climatic consequences (Maurel, 2020). Secondly, we see the creation of “cooperative platforms” that are being specifically set up to respond to ecological issues. This is the case of Mobicoop, an open source software developed by a SCIC [Société Coopérative d’Intérêt Collectif, or cooperative community-oriented enterprise], whose objective is to develop shared mobility by offering an open platform (Vercher-Chaptal et al., 2021). Third, digital commons are being used in distributed manufacturing projects. Original partnerships are being built between academics, engineers, and practitioners in the field of agriculture to co-produce open source blueprints for more environmentally friendly farm machinery (Benkler, 2006; Giotitsas, 2019). More generally, there are many other examples we could cite of distributed manufacturing, allowing for reduced transportation logistics costs, in the various branches of the “maker”, “fablab”, or more generally “third place” movements (Scaillerez et al., 2017; Lallement, 2018; Kostakis et al., 2018).


Issues. However, these three convergences between the digital commons and ecological transitions are not self-evident. To begin with, ecological and digital transitions have rarely been thought of together. On the contrary, classical representations of the Internet tend to make a distinction between the physical and virtual worlds. A naive perspective presented “cyberspace” as the sphere of the mind where the attributes of the body had no hold. From a more sociological point of view, the worlds of activist Internet and political ecology have been quite hermetic, with a few rare but notable exceptions (Gorz, 2003). Not to mention that an increasing number of voices are being raised to criticize the environmental impact of digital technology and its physical infrastructure (Flipo, 2021; Allard et al., 2022). This raises the question of how different social worlds (developing and promoting digital technologies and/or working on the ecological transition) dialogue with each other. What are the common grammars and the stumbling blocks? From a more empirical point of view, what tensions arise from these attempts to hybridize issues and representations? How are communities of practice structured? What are the emerging new institutional, economic or partnership forms?


9:00 am – Welcome breakfast

9:20 am – Morning plenary session

  • Introductory address followed by three presentations
  • Corinne Vercher-Chaptal, university professor in management and specialist in cooperative platforms
  • Agnès Crépet, computer scientist and software sustanability fairphone manager
  • Vasilis Kostakis, researcher in political economy at Tallin University of Technology (TalTech), associate researcher at the Berkman Klein Center of Harvard, director of the ERC research project Cosmolocalism

12:45 am – Lunch (not paid for) in a booked restaurant

2:30 pm – Afternoon workshops

  • Cooperative platforms supporting the transition
  • Ecological issues addressed by digital commons collectives
  • Open-source distributed manufacturing

4:30 pm – Conclusions and closing remarks in plenary session

5:00 pm – Closing drink



Benkler Y., 2006, The Wealth of Networks. How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom, New Haven, Yale University Press, 528 p.

Berrebi-Hoffmann I., Bureau M.-C., Lallement M., 2018, Makers. Enquête sur les laboratoires du changement social, Paris, Éditions du Seuil.

Flipo F., 2020, L’impératif de la sobriété numérique, Paris, Éditions Matériologiques.

Giotitsas C., 2019, Open source agriculture. Grassroots technology in the digital era, Palgrave Macmillan.

Gorz A., 2003, L’immatériel, Paris, Éditions Galilée, 152 p.

Kostakis V., Latoufis K., Liarokapis M., Bauwens M., 2018, « The convergence of digital commons with local manufacturing from a degrowth perspective: Two illustrative cases », Journal of Cleaner Production, 197, p. 1684‑1693.

Labaeye A., 2020, The Role of Digital Commons in a Socio-Ecological Transition of Cities, Thèse de doctorat, Berlin, Humboldt-Universität Zu Berlin.

Lallement M., 2015, L’âge du faire. Hacking, travail, anarchie, Paris, Le Seuil, 448 p.

Maurel L., 2020, « Low Tech, logiciels libres et Open Source : quelles synergies à développer ? », Passerelle, no 21, Low tech : face au tout-numérique, se réapproprier les technologies.

Scaillerez A., Tremblay D.-G., 2017, « Coworking, fab labs et living labs », Territoire en mouvement Revue de géographie et aménagement., 34. Vercher-Chaptal C., Acosta Alvarado A.S., Aufrère L., Brabet J., Broca S., Carballa Smichowski B., Coriat B., Compain G., Eynaud P., Maurel L., Srnec C., Wanner P., 2021, « There Are Platforms as AlternativeS. Entreprises plateformes, plateformes collaboratives et communs numériques », Research Report, Paris, DARES – Ministère du Travail, de l’Emploi et du Dialogue social ; DREES.





25 November 2022
9 h 00 min - 17 h 00 min
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