How to promote social cohesion and belonging in our neighbourhoods through Internet and why centralized corporate architectures, as twitter or airbnb, cannot.
We’re so used to seeing the world from the point of view of institutions, that the most important things are hidden from us. We all “feel” it when a neighborhood or a city begins to decompose, even before anybody tells us to only call “trusted” taxi drivers, not to be on the street after six in the evening, or that we have to pay the rent in cash. It may even be that a society, like in many countries in eastern Europe before the fall of the Wall, is not insecure simply because the repressive capacity of the state prevents security, but because it is so decomposed that as soon as the State withers, the vacuum is immediately filled by organized crime of a new kind that, to everyone’s surprise, is woven into the culture overnight.
It’s true that it’s difficult to define, because even though it can be measured, it’s produced in a space so intimate… Continue reading »
The STWR report ‘Sharing as our common cause’ explains how a call for sharing is consistently at the heart of civil society demands for a better world, even though this mutual concern is generally understood and couched in tacit terms.
As part of STWR’s ‘global call for sharing’ campaign, it is therefore useful to highlight how recent protest or campaigning activity is invariably focused on the need to share wealth, power and resources more fairly and sustainably, especially in relation to grassroots mobilisations for social and economic justice. In this light, the massive demonstrations in many countries against harsh austerity measures are implicitly concerned with how resources are shared throughout society, most obviously in relation to how a nation’s finances are pooled and redistributed to maintain public services such as education and national healthcare.
Thousands of people are continuing to march in protest against crippling government cutbacks to these services, while the interests of corporations and rich individuals are favoured at the expense of ordinary citizens. The basic injustice of these flawed policies are now commonly hailed by anti-austerity movements the world over, as recently… Continue reading »
What does it actually mean ‘to share’? This might seem like an obvious question, but the concept of sharing is increasingly being debated, discussed and redefined in our modern age of rapid technological change and planetary crises.
The rise of the sharing economy in recent years has given particular impetus to this debate, in which many academics are now analysing how sharing is a conflated economical concept that has been co-opted by corporate interests. It’s interesting to observe how savvy young progressives are resisting against this trend, while many social activists and environmentalists are beginning to chart a new direction for (and entirely new understanding of) the sharing economy – not as a profit-oriented business model, but as a potentially transformative mode of social exchange and economic activity.
For example, a community-building innovator based in New York, Lee-Sean Huang, has coined the term #WeWashing to help identify and critique the abuse of terms like “sharing”, “community” and “we”, which are often debased through online technology platforms or manipulated by corporate marketing techniques. Yet these words are… Continue reading »
“Federation issues” may look like a “bug”, but they are really the result of an agreement, an implicit contract: to be part of a conversation on another node, I first have to have received the trust of someone who is taking part in it.
Can law be used to protect and advance the commons? One of the most promising new developments here is a new jurisprudence of “biocultural rights.” Biocultural rights represent a bold new departure in human rights law that recognizes the importance of a community’s stewardship over lands and waters. Instead of focusing on individual rights and private property, biocultural rights explicitly recognize a community’s identity, culture, governance system, spirituality and way of life as embedded in a specific landscape. In other words, it recognizes the existence of a commons.
The history and character of biocultural rights are wonderfully explained in a recent law review article in the Journal of Human Rights and the Environment. The article,“Community Stewardship: The Foundation of Biocultural Rights,” is by Kabir Sanjay Bavkiatte, a cofounder of Natural Justice, an international collective of environmental lawyers, and Thomas Bennett, a professor at the university of Cape Town, South Africa. (Vol. 6, No. 1, March 2015, pp. 7-29)
Here’s an abstract of the article:
The term ‘biocultural rights’ denotes a community’s long established right, in accordance… Continue reading »
“JOHN Deere and General Motors want to eviscerate the notion of ownership. Sure, we pay for their vehicles. But we don’t own them. Not according to their corporate lawyers, anyway.
In a particularly spectacular display of corporate delusion, John Deere—the world’s largest agricultural machinery maker —told the Copyright Office that farmers don’t own their tractors. Because computer code snakes through the DNA of modern tractors, farmers receive “an implied license for the life of the vehicle to operate the vehicle.”
It’s John Deere’s tractor, folks. You’re just driving it.
Several manufacturers recently submitted similar comments to the Copyright Office under an inquiry into the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. DMCA is a vast 1998 copyright law that (among other things) governs the blurry line between software and hardware. The Copyright Office, after reading the comments and holding a hearing, will decide in July which high-tech devices we can modify, hack, and repair—and decide whether John Deere’s twisted vision of ownership will become a reality.
Over the last two decades, manufacturers have used the DMCA to argue that consumers do not own the software underpinning the products they buy—things like smartphones, computers, coffeemakers, cars, and, yes, even tractors. So, Old MacDonald… Continue reading »
Shock and austerity. Stock market instability. Stagnant wages and the decline of purchasing power. War. Climate change. Despite these multiplying crises, capitalism retains an essential tool that allows it to perpetuate itself on a global level despite its internal contradictions: the ability to leverage technological developments to liquidate the political power of those who would oppose it. At such a crossroads, when labor as an organized force is being dissolved into flexible precarity, how does one attempt to tip the scales and reverse our accelerating fragility? The answer lies in a shift of focus, from a politics of power to a politics that looks critically at infrastructure, a politics of re-purpose, (re-)design, appropriation and the reclamation of space, and of new forms of economic expression.
Whatever the future will be, or whatever name we want to label the path to it, there is one realization that is facing us: it must be post-capitalist. We firmly believe that another world is possible, but it must be built, and the rules and programs for this construction are still… Continue reading »
Harvard law professor Yochai Benkler gave attendees at the World Economic Forum in Davos a dire warning about future instability if the “Uber-ification of all services” continues. In his intense six-minute talk, “Challenges of the Sharing Economy,” Benkler notes how open networks and collaborative production models have led to the “destabilization of the firm,” and ultimately threaten to bring about “the potential reorganization of the entire services sector.”
In light of this epochal shift, he declares, the critical question is: “Will allow embedding economic production in the same kind of social solidarity trust models that we saw with the emergence of Wikipedia? Or will the externalization of risk onto the people formerly known as employees create severe disruption?”
The big challenge today, he argued, is that the social and the political have diverged, as demonstrated by the Occupy movement. And this leads to worrisome social pressures that the political system is disinclined to address.
I realize that Benkler must have been under a strict time limit — he was talking quite rapidly for this talk — but it sure would be nice to… Continue reading »
Ana is an independent researcher currently working on two projects: knowledge as a ubiquitous commons, a topic she will discuss as part of the Citizen Science Track at Ouishare 2015, and a project proposal for community-based forest monitoring, which is to be 100% driven by a p2p and commons rationale. This project has been developed as a final work for the UNEP international post-graduate course on environmental management for developing countries, which Ana is currently attending.
Ana’s Master’s research explored the role and challenges of crowdsourcing and citizen science in the context of the data revolution, as well as platforms for sustainability and social innovation. You can find the full document here. Below is an extract from Ana’s abstract:
“Despite persistent efforts on the part of organizations aiming to solve or to alleviate the world’s most challenging issues, there are limitations to the current problem-solving system based on hierarchical bureaucratic models. These are mainly related to the powerlessness of the professional sector when, alone, facing global issues of ever increasing complexity and uncertainty. The current context, often called “the network age”, has in turn, supported and enhanced systems which serve as a means for coping with these complex and uncertain… Continue reading »
This week we are serialising extracts from an article by Rebecca Ratcliffe at the Guardian looking at how students around the world are fighting back against the commercialisation of University education.
London School of Economics and Political Science, UK
What’s happening? A central administration room has been occupied by students since 18 March.
What caused the protest? The occupation is a reaction against the marketisation of education.
Natalie Fiennes is an MSc student studying political sociology and Ellen Lees is an undergraduate student studying social anthropology at LSE.
LSE is the epitome of the neoliberal university. It is managed and organised around corporate interests, which promote elitism and perpetuate inequality. OccupyLSE proposes that students, lecturers and workers should run a university – and we have named this project the Free University of London.