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Archive for 'Culture & Ideas'

Video of the Day: 3 global experiences on Degrowth technologies

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
22nd September 2014


Can technology also help degrowth objectives, giving humankind a lighter touch on the planet ? A debate with two colleauges at Degrowth 2014.

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Posted in Commons, Conferences, Culture & Ideas, Events, Featured Content, Featured Video, Media, Original Content, P2P Ecology, P2P Foundation, P2P Technology, Videos | No Comments »

Project of the Day: Growstuff

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
22nd September 2014



Help our friends at Growstuff in their righteous campaign to build a global, open-source database to help foodgrowers around the world. Please read the campaign text posted below and head on over to their crowdfunding page to help in any way you can.


Help build an open database for food growers everywhere

Every day more of us are growing our own food. The number of people growing food in the US doubled from 2008-2013. Other countries are seeing similar growth.

As growers, we need information suited to our local climate.  Most books and websites are surprisingly bad at this, so instead we rely on local networks of growers: neighbours, family, or other people who grow food nearby.

When we started Growstuff, we reviewed dozens of crop databases and gardening websites, looking for food growing advice that:

  • had specific local growing advice
  • for people anywhere in the world
  • was relevant to small-scale home food gardeners (not just big farms)
  • and was available under an open data license

Sadly, most gardening websites claim control of all the data in them, so that you can’t use it except for a single, limited purpose.  You agree to share your data with them, but they don’t share it with you in return. There’s no way to download the whole database, or build something new on top of it.

Terms of service from one of the sites reviewed by Growstuff.

We need a community-based solution, to serve everyone.  It needs to reflect real-world growing practices that small-scale food growers use.  It needs to be global, and cover all regions, climates, and conditions.  It needs to be free for anyone to use for any purpose, and stay free forever.  And it needs to be built collaboratively.

We believe the way to build a worldwide database is to crowdsource food-growing information from individual growers, then make the data available in aggregate form under an open license.

About Growstuff

Growstuff is a platform for gathering and sharing crowdsourced food-growing data, under an open license, which means anyone can use it at no cost and for any purpose: from personal record keeping to building mobile apps or researching growing trends worldwide.

Growstuff’s website already has real growers and real crop data.

We have members all around the world, around 370 crops in our database, and we’re growing every day.

Growstuff’s database of about 370 crops is maintained by volunteers.

As our members record what they’re growing, we learn from them.  Our data grows with each person who records their own activity.  We currently track planting, harvesting, and seeds.

We use this information, along with each grower’s location, to see patterns and learn how and where people grow each kind of crop.

Growstuff’s information on growing lettuce: locations, planting advice, pictures.

As well as displaying this information on our website, we also provide it in several other formats that anyone can use: downloadable CSV files to load into a spreadsheet program, or via a JSON API (Application Programming Interface) to help software developers access our database.

Our code is 100% open source (check it out on Github), and our data is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license that allows anyone to use it, even for commercial purposes.  This ensures that Growstuff will always be free and open.

Along the way, our inclusive community has offered mentoring to help dozens of contributors improve their software development as well as their food-growing skills.  We have a fantastic reputation as a welcoming and supportive communityfor new developers, especially from under-represented groups in the tech and open source fields.

We want everyone to use our data

Growstuff’s data can be used for any purpose at all!  For instance, anyone can build:

  • A harvest calculator to show you how much money you save by growing food
  • Emailed planting tips and reminders based on your location and climate
  • A map showing how food-growing patterns change over time in a region
  • Web apps, mobile apps, apps embedded in specialised hardware gadgets — anything is possible

We want to improve our API (Application Programming Interface) to make it easier to build apps like these. We’re also going to work with the developer community, from mobile app creators to data scientists, to help them use our API.

Here’s what we’ll deliver over the course of this project:

  • Consultation with the API developer community
  • An improved “version 1″ API, with advanced query options and more complete data structures
  • A suite of well-documented code examples and demos showing how to use our API and data
  • Educational materials for developers and others interested in using Growstuff’s open data

 

Our qualifications

Growstuff’s not vaporware.  We are an established open source project, and have built a great platform with mostly volunteer contributors.  Our team have bucketloads of experience as developers, API users and creators, data designers — not to mention food growers!

 

alex-growstuff-headshot.jpg

Alex Bayley, Growstuff’s founder and lead developer, has been developing open source software since the 1990s, and led developer relations for Freebase, a giant open data repository acquired by Google in 2010.  Her vegetable garden and fruit trees provide much of the fresh food for her household.

frances-growstuff-headshot.jpg

Frances Hocutt, who will be the main API developer on this project, has recently worked for the Wikimedia foundation developing a gold standard for API client libraries, including work with the Wikidata API.Growstuff has previously received support from:

What people are saying:

“On the internet, it’s generally our personal data that’s cultivated, harvested, and converted into profits. Perhaps freely sharing data might be the thing that sets Growstuff apart. After all, gardeners have always been good about sharing their bounty.” – Grist

“I think food gardening is a natural fit for the kind of community-first approach Growstuff wants to pursue. I jumped at the chance to pick a project coming out of this friendly, highly collaborative world, and I can’t wait to see what it grows into.” –Maciej Ceglowski, Pinboard

Help us meet our goal

We are trying to raise $20,000 to improve Growstuff’s API and help people use Growstuff’s open data.

The funds will go towards:

  • Paying two experienced software developers to work on the project (approx. $16,000)
  • Fulfilling crowdfunding rewards, fees, etc (approx. $4,000)

We have structured this campaign as “flexible funding”; if we raise less than $20,000 we will pay our developers for a proportionally smaller amount of their time.

Stretch goals:

  • up to $40,000: pay our developers for more of their time on the API project
  • $50,000: support an intern under either Rails Girls Summer of Code or Gnome’s Outreach Program for Women to work on Growstuff in 2015 (includes paying the intern and the Growstuff team member who supports them). Growstuff is well known as an supportive and welcoming project, and we’re very keen to help mentor an open source novice in this way.

Risks

Growstuff is not vaporware. We’re an established project, with experienced developers. However, as with any crowdfunding campaign, there’s always a risk that something will occur to prevent us delivering our project.  We foresee that the most likely risks are as follows.

Insufficient funds to complete a useful amount of work

We have structured our campaign with “flexible funding” because we believe that even if we do not meet our overall goal, it is still worthwhile for us to do a smaller amount of work on improving our API, building demos, etc.  However, there’s a chance that if we do not meet our goal, a scaled-down effort may mean that our API is not as useful to third-party developers.

Illness, injury or other unavoidable personal crisis

If Frances or Alex are unable to deliver the planned API work for these kinds of reasons, we’ll make every effort to find other developers to do the work, or to re-scope the project and deliver meaningful benefits with the resources available.

Insufficient third-party developer interest

We’re planning to work closely with developers to establish their needs and preferences, and to develop API features that meet their requirements.  A lack of engagement from third-party developers would make it harder for us to improve our API.

Technical risks

Growstuff’s source code and infrastructure are well managed.  We do not foresee any technical risks such as downtime, lost data, etc, however such things are always possible and should be noted as a slight risk.

Other ways to help

Become a Growstuff member – it’s free!

Sign up for Growstuff, then use it to track what you’re growing and harvesting.  Your data will help growers near you and worldwide.

Get involved in the Growstuff project

We welcome contributors from all backgrounds and levels of technical expertise, including food-growers and gardeners interested in having input into the project.

Some links to get you started:

  • Growstuff Talk (discussion forums for Growstuff project contributors)
  • Github (source code)
  • Wiki (project documentation)

Spread the word

Help us get the word out about this campaign.  Tell your friends, family, or local gardening club.  Word of mouth can really make a difference!

 

Visit Growstuff’s crowdfund campaign page to help them reach their goal!

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Posted in Campaigns, Commons, Crowdfunding, Ethical Economy, Featured Project, Food and Agriculture, Media, Open Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, Sharing, Videos | No Comments »

A short video on Commons Based Reciprocity Licenses

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
21st September 2014


Work on developing Commons Based Reciprocity Licenses (or CBRLs, for short) continues apace here at the P2P Foundation. When speaking of the types of licenses, we often find it hard to explain how they fill a niche in the alt. license spectrum, falling somewhere between the straight up copyleft and the popular Creative Commons Non-Commercial License.

To that end, I asked Michel Bauwens to condense his thinking on CBRLs into a short (5 minute) video we could share with people, which you’ll find below. It was filmed by our associate Kevin Flanagan and recorded at a break during the Open Everything Convergence held in the Cloughjordan Ecovillage in Co.Tipperary, Ireland.

 

 

Are CBRL’s perfect or will they work? We don’t know, but we believe that we’ll only arrive at an answer by creating them and testing them out. Whatever their viability, they represent a statement that Free/Open Culture shouldn’t be appropriated by capital while the Commons withers, unable to ensure it’s own social reproduction. We’d like to thank Dmytri Kleiner, for his pioneering work in this area, not just for providing a critique of Creative Commons, but for actually getting his hands dirty (along with John Magyar) and creating the first working CBRL, the Peer Production License, which can be adopted right now. In fact, the PPL has already been adopted by a number of collectives, such as Sharelex, Infrastructures.cc, En Defensa del Software Libre and the other  organization I regularly work in: Guerrilla Translation.
I’d also like to acknowledge Primavera De Filippi and Miguel Said Vieira for their excellent critique of the concept in their must-read article: “Between Copyleft and Copyfarleft: Advance reciprocity for the commons“. The P2P Foundation is now working along with Primavera, Annemarie Naylor, Karthik Iyer, Joel Dietz and others to develop new CMRLs partly based on Primavera´s and Miguel’s recommendations.

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Posted in Commons, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Video, Media, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Foundation, Peer Production, Sharing, Theory, Videos | No Comments »

IASC Commons Releases Six Short Animated Videos

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
20th September 2014


The IASC Commons (International Association for the Study of Commons) has released a series of six short, artfully produced videos, “Commons in Action,” that amount to short advertisements for important commons projects.

Each begins with the words:  “Commons are forms of governance and governance strategies for resources created and owned collectively.  Commons are a reality today.”

The longest video, at four-and-a-half minutes, focuses on the newly created Workshop on Governing Knowledge Commons, which bills itself as “a collaborative, interdisciplinary research project based on studying cases of commons governance for knowledge and information resources. The Workshop and its methods are inspired by the work of The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University.”

Professor Michael Madison of the University of Pittsburgh School of Law is the host of the website.  The Workshop is a collaboration among prominent academic scholars of the knowledge commons such as Brett Frischmann (Cardozo School of Law), Charlotte Hess (Syracuse University), Charles Schweik (UMass Amherst), among others.

Other videos in the series provide brief vignettes of commons in MexicoJapanIndia and the UK in very attractive animations done by Carlos Gamboa. The videos are a joint project of the IASC and the Elinor Ostrom Award.

This text was originally published in bollier.org

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Posted in Commons, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Project, Featured Video, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Foundation, Politics | No Comments »

Human Ecosystems in São Paulo: the Real Time Museum of the City

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
20th September 2014


Human Ecosystems in São Paulo: the Real Time Museum of the City

Source: http://human-ecosystems.com/home/human-ecosystems-in-sao-paulo-the-real-time-museum-of-the-city/

From September 23rd to 28th, as a parallel program of the International Meeting on Culture and New Technologies, the SESC Vila Mariana will hosts the Human Ecosystems project, by the Italian artists Salvatore Iaconesi and Oriana Persico (Art is Open Source).

Human Ecosystems is a global project which captures the real-time public conversations happening on major social networks in cities, to analyse them, to create real-time interactive visualisations, and transform them into a source of open data. “This is a crucial point”, states Iaconesi currently in Yale as a World Fellow 2014

“Social networks are our new Public Spaces: citizens are the only ones who do not have access to all this information. In Human Ecosystems we transform this information into a new digital commons, accessible by everyone”.

The event marks the launch of the project in Brazil, in partnership with the Metodista University of Sao Paulo, under the leadership of Dr. Fabio Josgrilberg and his research group, according to which

“It is an innovative and provocative project. Working with Salvatore and Oriana will stimulate research, as well as opportunities for collaboration with civil society”.

In Vila Mariana the Relational Ecosystem of the City will become a work of art in the “Real Time Museum of the City“.

Situated in the beautiful Atrium, visitors will be immersed in the real-time city, exploring the emotions, desires and issues discussed by citizens, understanding the flows of information and knowledge, and how people constantly form networks, and human constellations.

“It directly engages people’s perception and imagination”, points out Persico.

“When confronted with visualizations, people are surprised to discover that they are close or distant from each other, how people and organizations in the city are connected or distant, and more.
A new set of opportunities immediately becomes possible: to identify communities with similar, dissonant or complementary perspectives; people who are discussing issues of common interest; establishing contacts and forming new relationships. You can even start asking questions to the city: where do people go to have fun? Where do they talk about football, ecology, or punk music? Which roles do they assume in their communities? Possibilities for research and to gain a better understanding of the city’s social dynamics are endless”.

Together with the installation, a two day open workshop completes the experience.

Participants will learn how to use the Human Ecosystems platform to extract and visualize data, and use it to create new scenarios for the city of San Paulo: for culture, business, knowledge, policy making, participation, freedom.

According to Bruno Rondani, chair and founder of Wenovate,

“the exhibit, together with the workshop, will allow people to interact with data in a human and artistic perspective. This possibility itself is a great source of new other possibilities. We are very interested in the potential of the Human Ecosystems project to become a source, and even a tool, for people to develop projects and ideas related to the concept of innovative cities.”

Human Ecosystems is a global initiative. It has already started in Rome, Toronto, Montreal, Detroit, Istanbul, Cairo, and it is being used as a tool for planning, cultural policies, art, civic engagement.

In 2013 Human Ecosystems has been awarded the “Consequential Outcomes” Grant of the prestigious Eisenhower Fellowships.

 

For further information visit

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Events, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Mapping | No Comments »

The 4th International Degrowth Conference: New Convergences

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
19th September 2014


In a sign of the growing convergence of alternative economic movements, the Degrowth movement’s fourth international conference in Leipzig, Germany, a couple of weeks ago attracted more than 2,700 people.  While a large portion of the conference included academics presenting formal papers, there were also large contingents of activists from commons networks, cooperatives, the Social and Solidarity Economy movement, Transition Town participants, the “sharing economy,” and peer production.

By my rough calculation from browsing the conference program, there were more than 350 separate panels over the course of five days. Topics ranged from all sorts of economic topics (free trade, business models for degrowth, GDP and happiness) to alternative approaches to building a new world (Ivan Illich’s “convivial society,” permaculture, cooperatives, edible forest gardens). 

Degrowth?  For most Americans, the idea of a movement dedicated to non-growth, let alone one that can attract so many people, is incomprehensible.  But in many parts of Europe and the global South, people see the invention of new socio-economic forms of production and sharing as critical, especially if we are going to address climate change and social inequality.

Some degrowth activists are a bit defensive about the term degrowth because, in English, it sounds so negative and culturally provocative.  (The French term décroissance, meaning “reduction,” is apparently far less jarring than its literal transation as “degrowth.”)  One speaker at the conference conceded this fact, slyly noting, “But unlike other movements, it will be exceedingly hard for opponents to co-opt the term ‘degrowth’”!

In a 2013 paper, “What is Degrowth:  From an Activist Slogan to a Social Movement”(pdf), Frederico Demaria et al. write:  “”’Degrowth’ became an interpretive frame for a new (and old) social movement where numerous streams of critical ideas and political actions converge.  It is an attempt to re-politicise debates about desired socio-environmental futures and an example of an activist-led science now consolidating into a concept in academic literature.”  A new beachhead of this academic inquiry is a book Degrowth:  A Vocabulary for a New Era, due out in November.

In many respects, degrowth is more of a gathering space for alternative-economic perspectives than a unified philosophical approach in and of itself.  As the book Degrowth puts it, ‘”Simplicity,’ ‘conviviality’, ‘autonomy’, ‘care’, ‘the commons’ and ‘dépense’, the social and ritual destruction of accumulated surplus, are some of the words that express what a degrowth society might look like.”

Degrowth as a concept and social movement got its start in France in 2001, but it wasn’t really introduced to a larger public until a 2008 international conference in Paris, which has been followed by other international conferences in Barcelona, Montreal, Venice and now, Leipzig.

What was amazing about the Leipzig conference from September 2 to 6, 2014, was not just its size but its diversity.  Unlike earlier degrowth conferences which were dominated by academics, this conference had a wide range of practitioners and activists as well.  It seemed as if many movement had come to the conference because it might serve as a larger open congress of trans-movement, trans-European activists.  You can get a feel for the international appeal of the gathering by the simultaneous translations into Spanish, English and German, and sometimes French.

My colleague Silke Helfrich delivered a terrific talk (in German) at the opening plenary in which she touted the commons as a way to “expand our agency and move beyond top-down politics and the logic of the market.”  She also called on peple to “create infrastructure and conditions for new commoning,” with an eye to making commons “as common as shopping.”

Despite the different modes of analysis and presentation by alt-economic movements, they do generally share basic values and goals:  bottom-up empowerment and governance, reductions in the consumption of resources, an ethic of sufficiency, production for human needs, not for capitalist imperatives. In this sense, this is already a considerable convergence among the movements; it’s just that the deeper reality of the convergence is a bit obscure.

Author/activist Naomi Klein gave an excellent plenary talk based on her forthcoming book, This Changes Everything, arguing that climate change makes “radical political change the only option” for survival.  Klein is remarkably clear and knowledgeable in critiquing the perversity of neoliberal capitalism, noting that its policy agenda has deliberately sought to sabotage precisely the innovations that we need to deal with climate change (e.g., public investment in climate preparedness, local production of food, mutual ownership of energy and utilities).

But besides calling for grassroots activism – “a blow from below,” as she put it – I found Klein somewhat disappointing on the political and policy solutions that should be pursued. (Perhaps her book is more expansive on this topic.)

My colleague on the Commons Strategies Group, Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation, helped filled the void about “solutions” with a wonderful talk about the great promise of open design and manufacturing, and the implications for a new sort of economy.

“Degrowth will only be possible by changing the artificial scarcity-based design practices and engineering of the for-profit sector and by removing the incentive to externalize the true production costs in terms of matter and energy,” said Bauwens.  “A commons-oriented approach should combine global open design based in communities, local on-demand distributed manufacturing, and the use of renewable distributed energy. Along with changes in governance and ownership, it can contribute to a global phase transition.”

You can watch Michel’s talk here.

There was far too much going on at this huge, bustling conference for any one person to grasp, so let me cite one other initiative that impressed me. Since March 2014, a group of several dozen German and Austrian techies and activists have collaborated to develop a new participatory online map.  The idea is to let people from around the world to “map” their individual alternative economic projects and so make them more visible and accessible to anyone.

Called “Transformap,” the project uses Open Street Map (an open source alternative to Google) and layers of new databases that will let alternative economic projects register themselves on the map along with self-descriptions and access information.  The projects will include urban gardens, ecovillages, sharing projects, co-working spaces, co-ops, free harvestable trees in the countryside, FabLabs, and much else. I think Transformap has the potential to be a massively important organizing and communication tool.  Its designers hope to complete it by March 2015.

The Degrowth conference may have escaped notice in most mainstream political and media circles, but I feel quite certain that the event helped accelerate the convergence of movements seeking a new socio-economic-political paradigm.


This text was originally published in bollier.org

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Posted in Commons, Conferences, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Events, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Ecology, P2P Foundation, P2P Lifestyles, Politics | No Comments »

Occupying the Money System: Enric Duran introduces Fair.Coop

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
18th September 2014


“What was missing for us to start out on this path was a monetary initiative present in these markets which, instead of relying on human competition to retain the greatest value, would be based on human cooperation as equals, creating value for all. With the arrival of Fair.Coop, faircoin has become the cryptocurrency focused on the social cooperation that was missing.

Enric Duran initially approached us during the late spring. He’d read Michel Bauwens’ policy paper for Transitioning to a Common Based Society and said that he was interested in collaborating with the P2P Foundation on a number of projects. When we asked for his impressions on Michel’s policy paper, he replied, “Yeah, we’re already doing half of what you describe in the paper at the CIC (Catalan Integral Cooperative)…now we want to do the other half”.

It is this brash, hands-on attitude that I admire so much about Enric Duran. While others were criticising the banking system and monetary creation as interest-bearing debt, Duran dared to have these same banks lend him money which he then redistributed to social justice collectives. Michel and I feel much the same way about the Fair.Coop initiative, promoted by (among others) Duran, Amir Taaki, the CIC and the P2P Foundation itself.

Monetary and economic theories centered on the fairer distribution and stewardship of the earth’s wealth abound. As invaluable as these theories are, we’re still sorely lacking practical examples to refine and adapt them to local and transnational realities. Something similar has happened in the realm of cryptocurrencies. While people are understandably excited by Bitcoin and its potential, I think that it’s a stretch to believe that a cryptocurrency with a Gini coefficient higher than traditional fiat currencies, combined with the fact that 1% of Bitcoin owners hoard 50% of the wealth, will do much to address global social inequality. Thankfully, alternatives abound, but many of them remain theoretical at best, and at worst, mired in never-ending discussions about whose monetary theory is the best, and why the rest are naive.

Back to Duran and Fair.Coop. The punk rock spirit that underlies the Fair.Coop initiative is admirable. Infused with an attitude transcending punk’s DIY ethos and arriving at a DIWO (Do it with Others) position, Fair.Coop has decided to tackle the big picture, reaching out to people and collectives who want practical action to offset the abundance of rhetoric. Rather than undermining the wealth of theoretical work promoting new models of monetary creation and wealth distribution, initiatives like Fair.Coop can only strengthen the validity of such work (in my opinion), feeding back into it and refining proposed approaches.

Whether the project succeeds or not, the experience and insights gained will prove to be invaluable. It is also worth mentioning that Fair.Coop isn’t merely a stunt designed to engorge a cryptocurrency detached from any social or environmental responsibilities. Instead, it is a working project for a whole financial eco-system as articulated by the P2P Foundation’s proposed guidelines for Open Cooperativism, which underlie the transnational structure of the coop. I won’t describe the project itself here, for that you should read what’s copied below, originally published by Duran on his personal blog, where he offers a personal narrative and perspective on the project. For more technical details and an abundance of supporting material, please visit Fair.Coop’s excellent new website, and if you’re motivated to contribute, join their social network.

Faircoop _

An open cooperative as a revolutionary tool for building a new global economy

By Enric Duran

Today I have not expropriated any banks, nor am I presenting anything which anyone can call illegal. I am not presenting a strategy directly related to my return to public freedom (perhaps contrary to what many may expect), although that does not mean I am not still defining that plan.

What I am presenting here is a revolutionary project on a global scale, a fruit of the immersion and learning afforded to me by 19 months of intense activity in seclusion and hiding.

The moment this project was born during my nights of creative solitude, it became clear to me that I had to make this both a priority and a reality before taking any risk as an individual. Today, I am pleased to have acted on that determination, and I hereby submit the project so that it may become everyone’s.

It is the open, global cooperative Fair.Coop, one more step in the extension of the integral revolution worldwide, along with P2P society values, open cooperation, and hacker ethics, among others.

Now I will explain some of the thoughts which inspired me to do this:

esquemaFairCoopThe blockchain and Bitcoin brought the world one of the few missing pieces to allow us to become independent from the old economic system. Old centralized and new decentralized systems have begun an open competition for domination of the future world. And, for the first time in thousands of years, decentralized systems now have another chance.

However, for those of us who understand the world in terms of cooperation, decentralization is not enough. We believe this new world needs self-organization and mutual support; cooperation needs to penetrate all the corners where domination has fallen behind.

Cooperative, self-managed, collective, community-based projects are extending and multiplying everywhere.

The practices that model the everyday ways this other world could be are very much alive. Although these practices are starting to interconnect at a bio-regional scale, they are still too isolated; there is mutual ignorance among initiatives separated by thousands of kilometers, on different continents, based on different languages.

Large amounts of commons are being built in parallel at the local scale, but any one project’s evolution has so far been insufficiently shared with the others. We need more powerful tools to help us share our knowledge, and we must be able to finance their development.

We don’t want to remain spectators in the confrontation between the old oligarchical and the new netarchical capitalism. We also want a cooperative system on a global scale, just as we already practice it at local scale – and if we want to see it happen, we have to build it.

Therefore, we felt it was necessary to develop a project that puts social cooperation back on the stage where these dominance struggles between economic systems are playing out, and to show that the path toward putting human beings back at the center is possible, it exists, and it’s ready for us to expand.

This project has arrived, and is called Fair.Coop, The Earth Cooperative for a fair economy.

The initial push to boost this initiative is what we call, “hacking money markets to introduce the virus of cooperation”.

This means:

A cryptocurrency, negotiable outside the control of decentralized markets around the world, can be understood as social capital, in which the number of shares is equal to the total number of coins created .

If we choose it as our founding capital for a cooperative, it means that this capital, rather than being accounted in the dominant currency (euro, dollar), would be in a currency the system can not control. Additionally, as our cooperative project grows and provides resources and services of proven usefulness, the value of this capital and the entire cryptocurrency will grow accordingly.

This is an important point, and I will explain what this means in a different way to be sure it is fully understood:

Consider traditional capitalism. Company owners extract value primarily through:

  • Income from capital
  • Labour exploitation

In some transnational corporations, netarchical capitalism adds a third way to extract value: free collaboration between humans. For example, Facebook and Google ads generate a lot of money because we use their “free” services, while we in fact we are working for them, for free.

What if we were to create technological tools for cooperation between equals, and then use them to generate free knowledge, a global commons?

Well, then we could do the things which we like and consider helpful, such as cooperating, sharing, and learning, while letting the economic value of our work remain in cooperative projects, and even revert to ourselves.

Therefore, it became necessary to find a coin that was not controlled by old capitalism (euros / dollars…), nor exploited by the most innovative capitalism (Bitcoin), one in which we could incorporate our values and cooperative practices. With all this in mind, Faircoin was chosen.

After months of networking and creation, Fair.Coop is born today

The space is open to start cooperation among us all, and we have supplied the cooperative 10,000,000 faircoins, which represents 20% of total existing coins.

This social capital was injected into Fair.Coop with the following distribution:

And the following conditions:

Except for the Pooled fund which can be used to cover operating expenses at the discretion of the Ecosystem Council and the whole Fair.Coop, contributions to the other three funds can not be touched during a period of one year.

With the Global South fund, we call for a redistribution that can reach as many local projects as possible, prioritizing the empowerment of the areas and environments most under attack by the current system, generating a peer-to-peer cooperation environment to restore global economic justice.

As for the Commons and Technology Infrastructure funds, the call is to qualitatively prioritize projects that can most benefit the global common good.

This period may well serve to build a participatory, creative and mutually supportive process leading to decisions in relation to the right priorities, defined collectively and efficiently. Also, as collaboration between equals multiplies under all Fair.Coop and especially the FairNetwork, the value of Fair.Coop’s social capital is expected to respond by appreciating relative to fiat currencies – not forgetting, as a symbol of our independence, that 1 faircoin will always equal 1 faircoin.

tierraThis way, just for starters, 20% of the existing monetary resources remains in the hands of a participatory and open political process. Meanwhile, Fair.Coop will work to continue recovering resources for the common good which may be redistributed through the same funds.

So this time, if our collaborative and freely shared vocation is to benefit someone financially, it will be the same ones who are building it before anyone else, that is all cooperatives, and through the funded projects, all of humanity.

In other words, we have finally found a way to cooperatively organize, share, learn, and help; one that can self-manage without the need, at least in the most delicate initial phase, to depend on others, or to prioritize selling our production in the market, not even keeping up with regular member fees. All we need in this first phase is to create free knowledge, share and become interwoven the way we know best, extend the intangible, and build the material commons; build social currency networks based on faircoin, such as the Faircredit project already presented.

We can innovate to create value together in many areas of the commons.

We can each contribute our bit of knowledge, political participation, time, donations, products, services, investment, network-building, each based on their capabilities and priorities.

The market will value this by buying our cryptocurrency and pushing up the value of our social capital, in relation to other currencies. So, we can finally “squat” or “occupy” the forex markets, responsible for so much inequality, and recover from some part – large or small, only time will tell – of these injustices.

I can imagine that this all might seem contradictory to some anticapitalists – me, articulating the role of money markets in this project.

Anyone trying to quit using money,  who has already done a lot of work involving community economy and direct exchange, can certainly go beyond Fair.Coop’s monetary initiatives. This does not prevent them from getting involved as one more in collective creation and political participation.

But most of us who often do use currency, whether fiat or social, for trading or saving, are dependent on a reference framework for prices and store-of-value function (which is imposed by central banks), so we are in some ways passive partners of the system we want to overcome.

Moreover, I would like to remind you that the foreign exchange market is an indisputible historical reality, over 100 years old, with a trend toward being less and less regulated. In recent years, only authoritarian states (such as the case of China, where value is set by government decision) have explored a second path in relation to how to deal politically with the market. Meanwhile, as far as I know (from sectors with related ideas, shared in the context of the integral revolution), despite having tried various pathways toward using social currencies as exchange tools, up until now there have been no previous approaches created regarding how to confront the forex market to build global economic empowerment.

In recent years, new cryptocurrency exchange markets have appeared, outside the control of governments. Therefore, it is no longer necessary to have a country and a central bank in order to have a currency that can be exchanged across the world. The banking system is outdated, and more and more of us are realizing it. The path we’re taking now is toward building something that will someday consolidate a global alternative.

What was missing for us to start out on this path was a monetary initiative present in these markets which, instead of relying on human competition to retain the greatest value, would be based on human cooperation as equals, to create value for all. With the arrival of Fair.Coop, faircoin has become the cryptocurrency focused on the social cooperation that was missing.

We will see over time whether the way we’re choosing is the best or not, but at least with this initiative we now have a path to explore, as far as addressing this global issue of how to create a more just economic system, with the level of social cooperation that this planet needs and the current technology allows.

Fair Coop is born! Let’s get interconnected – let’s share, discuss, build!

Everything is waiting to be done and everything is possible. Now it’s up to us!

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world!

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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Guest Post, Media, Networks, Open Innovation, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Foundation, P2P Money, Videos | 3 Comments »

A Truncated Interview on Racism

photo of Charles Eisenstein

Charles Eisenstein
18th September 2014


5323707At a conference (Economics, People, and Planet) in Denmark, a tall Nordic-looking man and a mixed-race woman wearing press badges asked me for an interview. They put me on camera and the woman said, “I’ll ask you the same question I’m asking all the keynote speakers. What does the conference topic have to do with the most important issue facing the world today?”

I paused for a moment, wondering what the most important issue facing the world today might be.

Before I could answer, she said with a little exasperation, “Racism!”

I said something like this:

Racism is a key enabling factor in the economic system that is ravaging our planet. You see, inequality is built into the system, and racism is a way to make that inequality palatable. You can say, for instance, that black people deserve to be poor because they are black. Without racism and other forms of chauvinism, you see everyone as brothers and sisters equally deserving of a good life, and economic injustice becomes intolerable. However, racism isn’t the cause of economic injustice; it is one of its justifications or excuses. Inequality, intensifying inequality, is built into the system, and if it didn’t fall along racial lines it would fall along some other lines. If you could magically remove racism, in our present system there would still have to be some on top and others on the bottom. In fact, I have read arguments that racism was basically invented as a justification for slavery – an effect of slavery and not a cause. Because after the fall of the Roman Empire, slavery fell out of favor in Europe. It was considered wrong to own another human being. In order to own one then, a way had to be found to dehumanize people, to make them less than fully human. Racism was how that was accomplished. The same kind of thing goes on today: even if we no longer think it is OK to own someone, more subtle forms of slavery and oppression seem acceptable when we see other races or cultures or any subgroup as inferior. It means that working to end racism, which is important for many other reasons as well, also helps to address economic injustice. And vice versa, it also means that changing the economic system removes a basic motivation for racism.

The woman became angry. She spoke at great length about how racism is the cause and not the result of economic injustice, that we whites had better watch out because people like her are going to rise up and overthrow us, and what I need to do as a white male is stand down, shut up, and give people of color a voice. The scene was beginning to attract attention from one or two of the organizers. 

After several minutes of this, I became annoyed and asked her, “If you think I as a white male should shut up, why are you interviewing me?”

At that point she and her assistant were hustled out by the organizers. Apparently they hadn’t been invited, weren’t bona fide press, and had basically crashed the conference. 

I wasn’t very happy with this result. The experience the woman walked away with merely reinforced her feeling of being oppressed and silenced. Reflecting on it, I think the problem was that I believed this was actually an interview. It was not – the interview as a cover for another kind of interaction. If I’d realized that earlier, I’d not have attempted to elucidate my views and instead would have just listened to her, asked for her story. There is real pain there, and no intellectual argument about whether racism is the cause of economic injustice will change that.  

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Posted in Culture & Ideas, P2P Epistemology, Theory | No Comments »

Theses on P2P Politics, published in “The Square”

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
16th September 2014


The latest issue of “The Square” newspaper, edited by Ivor Stodolsky, features articles by Michel Bauwens, Nika Dubrovsky/ Feminist Pencil, Grey Violet (aka Maria Shtern), Núria Güell, G.U.L.F., Noah Fischer/Occupy Museums, Teivo Teivainen & Ivor Stodolsky, Telekommunisten and Nadya Tolokno (Tolokonnikova) of Zona Prava/Pussy Riot. Michel’s piece is entitled “Thesis in P2P Politics”

 

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Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Networks, Open Government, P2P Collaboration, Politics | No Comments »

Interview: Andy Goldring on Time in Permaculture Economies

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
16th September 2014


Read the interview of Andy Goldring by Michelle Bastian here.

Michelle Bastian explains:

“One of the aims of the Sustaining Time project is to provide materials that can open up discussions around the relationship between time and attempts to move towards more sustainable economic models. As part of this interviews were conducted with a range of people involved in thinking economies differently, including Katherine Gibson (Community Economies Collective), Anna Coote (nef), Sam Alexander (Simplicity Institute) and more. These will be published as part of the Temporal Belongings Interview series which looks at the realtionship between time and community from a number of different angles.

In the first of the series, I talk with Andy Goldring, CEO of the Permaculture Association about the relationship between permaculture, economies and time. He makes the case for why permaculture practitioners should move towards becoming economists. He also gives a inspiring account of how to work for the long term, developing more poetic ways of living, valuing play and why we need to take back the calendar.”

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Posted in Cognitive Capitalism, Culture & Ideas, P2P Epistemology, P2P Spirituality, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »