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Archive for 'Culture & Ideas'

The ‘New Republics’ documentary: Will holomidal collective intelligence replace the pyramidal one ?

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
28th May 2015

Check thenewrepublics.org for more.

Jean-Francois Noubel explains that:

“We name holomidal collective intelligence the new form of collective intelligence that emerges thanks to the Internet. Local and global, decentralized and distributed, agile, polymorphic, based on leadership, individuation, open source, integral wealth and mutualist economy, this young form of collective intelligence still lives through its infancy phase. However we can already see its huge impact on humanity where more and more people in civil society self-organize in order to address societal issues that pyramidal collective intelligence cannot address and even provokes.

Socialware and communityware serve as the keystone on which collectives can rely on, in order to self-organize and scale up, locally and remotely.

Holomidal collective intelligence will soon build advanced forms of Holopticism and augmented holopticism.”

He also explains:

“Our species evolves. We explore the reason why holomidal collective intelligence will soon become the prevailing form of collective intelligence on the planet.

We explain how holomidal collective intelligence has begun to build its own economy and technological infrastructure. We explore the R&D state of the art in the evolution of wealth technologies paving the way to a post-monetary society.

We explain how and why holomidal collective intelligence triggers a new way to understand and address reality. It thinks differently, it describes reality differently, it innovates differently. We see the same magnitude of a leap than what pyramidal intelligence did in the past when it appeared.

Thinking evolves from linear reductionist to non-linear understanding of reality (complexity and chaos theories)
Holistic, local and global, inter-related ways to apply science and technology prevail

We forecast the most groundbreaking paradigm shifts that will scale up in the next few years and why holomidal CI only can embrace them.

We develop the sociological concepts of the I in the We, and the We in the I as self-mirroring and co-evolving processes.

The movie demonstrates and concludes that none of us ever has had as much capacity to evolve and transform the world. The power to innovate, the power to evolve the I and the We, the power to invent tomorrow’s world.”

Watch the documentary trailer here:


Posted in Collective Intelligence, P2P Hierarchy Theory, Videos | No Comments »

The Prospects for Radical Democracy in Spain

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
24th May 2015

A rally for Ahora Madrid in April. (Ahora Madrid / Flickr)

A rally for Ahora Madrid in April. (Ahora Madrid / Flickr)

Continuing our series on Spain’s all-important municipal elections, we are happy to present this article, originally published in In These Times, and authored by Vicente Rubio Pueyo and Pablo La Parra

The upcoming municipal elections will be a key test for the rising leftist movement in Spain.

“Do you hear the buzz? The buzz says: let’s defend the common good.” These are the lyrics of the campaign song of Barcelona en Comú–one of the new “confluence” platforms of “popular unity” running in the May 24th municipal elections in Spain, sung (with the help of autotune) to the rhythm of a popular Catalán rumba by its candidate, Ada Colau. According to pre-election polls, Colau is poised to win the mayoral election in Barcelona this Sunday.

Colau is part of a rising electoral insurgency across Spain by candidates trying to reimagine radical democracy, drawing from social movements to create a new participatory style of “governance by listening.” Four years ago, the May 15 movement appeared during the campaign for municipal and regional elections. Then, the characterization of the movement by many politicians and mainstream media oscillated between patronizing and condescending, along the lines of, “If these kids want to achieve anything, they should organize a party, and run for elections.”

Four years later, the political landscape has changed. As a popular slogan puts it, “Fear has changed sides.” Or perhaps happiness and hope have changed sides, as Spaniards finally have a political alternative to austerity. The emergence of PODEMOS in the European parliament elections one year ago was the first electoral manifestation of a growing political shift to the left in Spain. The buzz could be heard by anyone in the streets, in the plazas, in every mobilization in defense of public education and healthcare, in every neighborhood. Today, several cities and numerous smaller towns are running candidates from these new political parties, with elections on May 24.

From outside of Spain, it’s easy to conflate all the post-15M new electoral alternatives under PODEMOS. But the reality is more complex. On May 24, there will be two elections in Spain. One is the regional elections, which will take place in every “autonomous community” (the Spanish term) except four. PODEMOS is running electoral candidates at the regional level. This process has shown a rich diversity among the party itself. Pablo Echenique, for example, is now running for the Aragón regional government. Nicknamed “the other Pablo of PODEMOS” (in relation to Pablo Iglesias, PODEMOS’s Secretary-General), Echenique is prominent within the party as a strong advocate for participatory methods in constructing the party’s program.

“This participatory ethos is the heart and soul of the confluence candidacies: from online primaries to configuring electoral rolls to the collective composition of the party’s platform through open assemblies in each neighborhood.”

At the local electoral level, a series of experiments in constructing movement-influenced electoral platforms are taking place. In these so-called “confluence” processes, PODEMOS is one force among many. Confluence forces have become important new players in the upcoming local elections. In addition to the aforementioned possibility of a mayoral victory in Barcelona, polls this week point to a technical tie in Madrid between the ruling Popular Party and Ahora Madrid (loosely affiliated with Podemos), which would allow its candidate, Manuela Carmena, to become mayor of the capital city with the support of other forces. There are similar possibilities for parallel initiatives in other major cities throughout the country: Zaragoza en Común, València en Comú or Málaga Ahora, among others.

What does this confluence mean? How does it work? What are the ingredients of these new municipal initiatives? The “confluence candidacies” bring together a wide spectrum of participants: from grassroots activists to members of Left political parties, from well-known scholars to common citizens from diverse professional backgrounds. Rather than reproducing the traditional “electoral coalition” model (the tactical merger of a group of parties that preserve their strong, visible identities), the confluence logic is based on the idea of the “non-hierarchical encounter.”

Take, for instance, the case of Barcelona en Comú. The parties and individuals willing to join this initiative agreed to a “Code of Political Ethics,” which had been previously discussed, amended and approved in an open, online debate. This participatory ethos is the heart and soul of the confluence candidacies: from online primaries to configuring electoral rolls to the collective composition of the party’s platform through open assemblies in each neighborhood. No longer a top-down politics of opaque pacts and closed policy platforms, but an open-source process based on grassroots collective participation.

Manuela Carmena and Ada Colau themselves are good examples of the heterogeneity of the people involved in these political experiments. Carmena, a 71-year-old retired judge, has a long history of political judicial work, from her involvement with the clandestine movement of labor lawyers involved in the anti-Francisco Franco workers’ movement to her later defense of inmates’ human rights in Spanish prisons, or her work to guarantee social housing to evicted people in Madrid. Colau is a 41-year-old social activist, co-founder and former spokesperson of the PAH (Platform for People Affected by Mortgages), undoubtedly one of the most tenacious and innovative grassroots social movements developed in Spain during the recent economic crisis.

The generational span and complementary trajectories of Carmena and Colau hints at the dialogue between different activist traditions underlying these municipal movements–as when Carmena praised the contributions of the squatter movement in Madrid or Colau reclaimed the memory of the proletarian neighborhood struggles of the 20th century in Barcelona.

Both Carmena and Colau were elected through open and participatory processes, and both have put into practice a logic of leadership that looks quite different from traditional electoral spectacles and entrenched authority. As Colau argued in a recent interview, participation has to be understood “not as a top-down concession but as a way to rule,” thus it is necessary to develop non-patriarchal modes of leadership inspired by feminist and ecological thought. Similarly, Carmena has repeatedly criticized traditional political rallies, instead promoting what she calls close “encounters” with neighbors.

“Ahora” (“now”) and “En Comú” (“in common”) have been recurring themes in most confluence candidacies. On the one hand, “Now” summarizes the sense of urgency in recovering basic social rights and, more so, overturning the neoliberal model of urban growth that has been the model for Spanish cities over the last decades. After almost 25 years under conservative rule, Madrid has become one of the most aggressive laboratories of neoliberal privatization throughout Europe, propelled by a conglomerate of political power, major construction companies and financial interests–repeatedly proven corrupt–that have overtaken basic public infrastructure such as hospitals and water access.

The apparently kinder, social democrat/nationalist-ruled model of Barcelona is perhaps one of the most exemplary cases of the effects of branding in a city’s everyday life: streets have been turned into shop windows for tourist consumption, while spectacular buildings coexist with one of the highest eviction rates in all of Spain. Confluence forces advocate for a profound shift in this model of urban development, rooted in social economy and sustainable practices.

On the other hand, “In Common” appeals to the demands for extended participation within the political institutions that 15M first put forward. The programs of these citizen platforms are packed with proposals for newer forms of political accountability, transparency and the use of both online and in-person assembly methods of deliberation in the elections of district representatives, among many other developments. Although focused on immediate needs, and thus pragmatic and realistic in many of their proposals, these programs also convey an open-ended character focused on defending and democratizing the public domain. These forces have an experimental character that goes beyond the anti-austerity Left’s usual reactive framework: in their combination of audacity, openness and realism, these new political projects represent not so much a simple “return of the Left”–or, at least, of the Left as we knew it–but the building blocks of a whole new political constellation.

The political scenario after the upcoming regional and municipal elections this Sunday remains uncertain, although some indications for major changes are at stake. If Ahora Madrid and Barcelona en Comú finally win the elections in the two major Spanish cities, what potentials and limits will they find operating at a municipal scale? Are Madrid and Barcelona at the brink of a new definition of municipal autonomy, popular empowerment and a grassroots reactivation of the right to the city? To what extent would a hypothetical new political landscape in the regional elections influence PODEMOS’s strategy towards the November 2015 general elections, at a moment when many critical voices are reclaiming a critical examination of the “middle-classist” turn of the party?

PODEMOS started from the top tier of the European parliament elections to try to produce change at the state level, while these municipal confluence forces have started from the local level. The elections tomorrow and over the next few months will determine if these two distinct approaches can intertwine in order to prepare for the fall elections. Meanwhile, the buzz keeps getting louder.

Vicente Rubio Pueyo and Pablo La Parra are affiliated with the NYC to Spain delegation.


Posted in Activism, Campaigns, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Politics | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Ethnography of a Humanitarian Hacking Community

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
22nd May 2015

* Article: The Ethic of the Code: An Ethnography of a ‘Humanitarian Hacking’ Community. By Douglas Haywood. Journal of Peer Production, Issue 3, July 2013

From the Abstract:

“Hackers and computer hacking have become important narratives in academia and popular media. These discussions have frequently portrayed hackers as deviant, framing them ethnocentrically within North Atlantic societies. Recently, however, events such as the politicisation of hacking through ‘hacktivism’ and those who hack for humanitarian causes have forced us to reconsider such typologies, although the body of empirical research in such areas remains relatively sparse. The aim of this paper is to present the findings of an ethnographic study carried out during a hacking event in 2012 which focused upon those involved in ‘Humanitarian Hacking’. Online and offline research explored the events that hackers took part in, the technologies they produced and the individuals involved. Based around the ‘Humanitarian Hacking’ event, this paper explores the motivations of participants, contrasting against previous studies and theory, particularly the idea of a ‘hacker ethic’; the extent to which these groups comprise a ‘community’ and its nature; and finally the social shaping of the technological artefacts produced by these groups. These three themes are explored together as they were often interlinked and provide interesting insights into the nature of this group. Drawing upon the works of previous researchers including Gabriella Coleman, Christopher Kelty and Pekka Himanen, the author will provide ethnographic evidence which demonstrates that not only is the ‘hacker ethic’ an important element within narratives of open-source technology, but that elements of it are also increasingly seen in wider areas of society from open-data to crowd-sourcing to the Anonymous movement. By tracing the historical origins and context of ‘Humanitarian Hacking’ and exploring their practices, this paper seeks to explore something of the motivations behind this activity. By doing so, it will reveal the wider symbolic significance of hacking within a ‘network society’ in which informational networks hold a central role, and in which the ability of hackers to manipulate such networks can be both feared and revered. Such groups present a methodological challenge for ethnographers since they are multi-sited, mobile, and take place both online and offline. This paper therefore draws upon practices in the social sciences including internet ethnography, multi-sited studies, ‘shadowing’ actors and ‘following’ technologies as cultural artefacts. The hackers engaged with in this project were often themselves academics, with research taking place within the ethnographers ‘own tribe’ and the degree of separation between fieldwork and ‘everyday life’ constantly blurred. This made a more participatory style of ethnography essential and challenged pre-existing notions of ‘the field’.”


Posted in Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Featured Essay, P2P Movements, P2P Research, P2P Subjectivity, Peer Production | No Comments »

The Meaning of the Paris Commune

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
21st May 2015

Communard at the barricades during the Paris Commune.

Todays book of the day is “Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune” by Kristin Ross http://www.versobooks.com/books/1864-communal-luxury. We feature here an extract from an interview with the author for Jacobin.

What can the Paris Commune offer to present struggles for emancipation?

On March 18, 1871, artisans and communists, laborers and anarchists, took over the city of Paris and established the Commune. That radical experiment in socialist self-government lasted seventy-two days, before being crushed in a brutal massacre that established France’s Third Republic. But socialists, anarchists, and Marxists have been debating its meaning ever since.

Kristin Ross, in her powerful new book, Communal Luxury: The Political Imaginary of the Paris Commune, clear-cuts the accumulated polemics regarding the Commune, which she says have calcified into false polarities: anarchism versus Marxism, peasant versus worker, Jacobin revolutionary terror versus anarcho-syndicalism, and so on.

Now that the Cold War is over and French Republicanism is exhausted, Ross argues, we can free the Commune from such sclerosis.  Such an emancipation can, in turn, revitalize the contemporary left to act and think about the challenges of today. No work specifies more fully Marx’s claim that, the greatest achievement of the Paris Commune was its “actual working existence.”

This book restages the Paris Commune for our own time. Why is the Commune a resource for thinking the demands of our present?

I am happy that you chose the word “resource” rather than the word “lesson.” Usually people insist that the past provide us with lessons or that it teach us what mistakes to avoid. The literature surrounding the Commune is filled with second-guessing, back-seat driving, and a delight in the listing of errors: if only the Communards had done this or that, taken the money from the bank, marched on Versailles, made peace with Versailles, been better organized. Then they might have succeeded!

To my mind, this kind of after-the-fact theoretical superiority is both inane and profoundly ahistorical. Our world is not the world of the Communards. Once we have truly understood that this is the case, it becomes easier to see the ways in which their world is, in fact, very close to ours — closer, perhaps, than is the world of our parents.

The way people, particularly young people, live now resembles in its economic instability the situation of the nineteenth century workers and artisans who made the Commune, most of whom spent most of their time not working but looking for work.

After 2011, with the return virtually everywhere of a political strategy grounded in taking up space, seizing places and territories, turning cities — from Istanbul to Madrid, from Montreal to Oakland — into theaters for strategic operations, the Paris Commune has become newly illuminated or visible, it has entered once again into the figurability of the present.

Its forms of political invention have become newly available to us not as lessons but as resources, or as what Andrew Ross, speaking about my book, called “a useable archive.” The Commune becomes the figure for a history, and perhaps of a future, different from the course taken by capitalist modernization, on the one hand, and utilitarian state socialism, on the other.

This is a project that I think many people today share, and the Communal imaginary is central to that project. For this reason I’ve tried in the book to think about the Commune as both behind us, as belonging to the past, and as a kind of opening up, in the midst of our current struggles, of the field of possible futures.

“Communal luxury” was a motto of the artists’ section of the commune and the title of your work. Could you tell us about the genesis of this phrase?

Unlike “the universal republic,” “communal luxury” was not a resounding slogan of the Commune. I found the phrase tucked away in the final sentence of the manifesto artists and artisans produced under the Commune as they were organizing themselves into a federation. For me it became a kind of prism through which to refract a number of key inventions and ideas of the Commune.

The author of the phrase, decorative artist Eugène Pottier, is better known to us today as the author of another text, the Internationale, composed at the end of the Bloody Week before the blood of the massacres had dried. What he and the other artists meant by “communal luxury” was something like a program in “public beauty”: the enhancement of villages and towns, the right of every person to live and work in a pleasing environment.

This may seem like a small, even a “decorative,” demand. But it actually entails not only a complete reconfiguration of our relation to art, but to labor, social relations, nature. and the lived environment as well. It means a full mobilization of the two watchwords of the Commune: decentralization and participation. It means art and beauty deprivatized, fully integrated into everyday life, and not hidden away in private salons or centralized into obscene nationalistic monumentality.

A society’s aesthetic resources and accomplishments would not, as the Communards made clear in act, take the shape of what William Morris called “that base piece of Napoleonic upholstery,” the Vendôme Column. In the afterlife of the Commune, in the work of Reclus, Morris, and others, I show how the demand that art and beauty flourish in everyday life contained the outlines of a set of ideas that today we would call “ecological,” and that can be traced in Morris’s “critical notion of beauty,” for example, or Kropotkin’s insistence on the importance of regional self-sufficiency.

At its most speculative reaches, “communal luxury” implies a set of criteria or system of valuation other than the one supplied by the market for deciding what a society values, what it counts as precious. Nature is valued not as a stockpile of resources but as an end in itself.. . . .

Continue to Read the Full Article – https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/05/kristin-ross-communal-luxury-paris-commune/

For more on the book visit the publishers page on Verso – http://www.versobooks.com/books/1864-communal-luxury


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(Conceptual) Art, Cryptocurrency and Beyond

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
20th May 2015

“AltCoins, crypto-tokens, smart contracts and DAOs are tools artists can use to explore new ways of social organization and artistic production, . . . .  The ideology and technology of the blockchain and the materials of art history (especially the history of Conceptual Art) can provide useful resources for mutual experiment and critique.”

1. These are the minimally reformatted and slightly expanded notes for what would have been  a 15-minute presentation.

2. The presentation was meant to be followed by questions and form part of the introduction to a panel discussion. Any questions in the comments here or on netbehaviour gratefully received.]

Art and Money

greek drachma, 600BC

Art and money have always been involved in each other’s production. This is a Greek Drachma from 600BC with a relief depiction of a sea turtle on one side. For many people this would be the artwork, or at least the image, that they saw most frequently in their everyday lives.

damien hirst, for the love of god, 2007

In the present day, high art and high finance (or big art and big finance) go hand in hand. Blue chip artworks produced by brand name artists like Jeff Koons are collected by hedge fund managers and oil oligarchs as investments and as signifiers of socioeconomic position (while stolen Old Master paintings are used as signifiers of value in transactions between criminal gangs…). This tendency reaches its logical conclusion for now with Damien Hirst’s “For The Love of God” (2007), a diamond-encrusted platinum cast of an actual human skull complete with the original teeth. It was sold for fifty million pounds sterling.

nanex, h.f.t. visualization, 2010

Looking inside the sale of “For The Love Of God” makes its narrative less straightforward. It was sold to a group including the artist and their dealer, making the actual figure and its ownership less straightforward than a simple sale would suggest. Nanex’s High Frequency Trading visualizations from 2010 look inside transcations in electronic stocks & shares markets, finding aesthetic forms in the activity of share trading bots. What the sawtooth waves of this bot’s activity represent is unknown: a glitch, a strategy, a side-effect. But without making these forms visible, we would not be able to ask these questions or reflect on this economic activity.

Art, Particularly Conceptual Art, Critiques This Relationship

cildo meireles, insertions into ideological circuits 2, 1970

It is part of the value of art, particularly Conceptual Art, that it can afford us these opportunities for reflection and critique. Cildo Meireles’ “Insertions Into Ideological Circuits 2″ (1970) overwrites the contemporary equivalent of the Drachma’s turtle with a rubber stamped message on a banknote, intruding into everyday use and circulation of currency in order to give its audience a pause for critical reflection.

Continue to Read the Full Article – http://www.furtherfield.org/features/conceptual-art-cryptocurrency-and-beyond


Posted in Culture & Ideas, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Money | No Comments »

Rethinking digital culture policy in Brazil after the phase of hope

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
19th May 2015

The new Brazilian Minister of Digital Culture is reconnecting with the spirit of Gilberto Gil. Here is a lecture expressing his views.

Originally posted at BrasilPost
English version by Lou Gold & Jose Murilo

Juca Ferreira: "Não podemos aceitar que uma empresa pretenda se colocar acima das leis, da cultura e da soberania de nosso país.

Juca Ferreira: “We can not accept that a company wishes to rise above the laws, culture and sovereignty of our country”

A few weeks ago, a photo from Brazil’s National Library collection portraying a bare-chested indigenous couple was censored by Facebook. The photograph was archival and was being shown as part of a larger strategy of promoting Brazil’s photographic heritage. I had heard stories of artists and activists who had encountered censorship but I really did not think that the Facebook censors might pounce upon an historical photographic posted by an official cultural organ of the Brazilian state. Well, they did censor! And we did react, announcing that we would sue them based on our laws and our respect for the Convention on the Protection and Promotion of the Diversity of Cultural Expressions (UNESCO). Before bringing an actual lawsuit, I tried to talk with managers of Facebook in Brazil, but they refused to review the censorship. After the noise we made with a press conference, they retreated. A tactical retreat, as we know, because it has been a recurring practice. This episode had several consequences. Among them, it reinforced my conviction that we need to rethink our understanding of digital culture and review the role of the Ministry of Culture in the field.

The Internet was in its infancy at the outset of the Lula government in 2003 when I began to serve as the Executive Secretary of Minister of Culture Gilberto Gil. Although broadband connectivity reached fewer than a million people at the time, we realized that access to this expanding infrastructure had democratizing potential that deserved our attention. In the United States and Europe, the excitement about this new communications infrastructure had generated a speculative bubble that collapsed with the same stunning speed and magnitude it had in its emergence. The 2001 rupture of the dotcom stock exchange, the Nasdaq, opened new horizons and triggered a series of initiatives that would change the Internet itself. By 2004, the designation “web 2.0? recognized the Internet’s new capability to promote interaction and direct participation from the users in creating and developing new digital communications, services and solutions.

The Ministry of Culture, early in our term, decided to stimulate the Internet with free software, collaboration and sharing. From the beginning we got that this technology would need to be understood in a cultural frame. Minister Gil went out and about repeatedly to speak of it and we focused on developing concrete initiatives to manifest and stimulate creativity in this new context. The earliest digital culture manifestations occurred within the program of Cultural Hotspots. Today, the program is supported by Federal legislation but early on the Cultural Hotspots simply sought to recognize and reward groups that comprise the traditional living webs of Brazilian culture but that had never been linked consciously and cooperatively with the programs of the Brazilian State.

A Cultural Hotspot might take any form, some were quite innovative. For example, an association that conducts the Afro-Brazilian “coco de umbigada” tradition became associated with tech crew of a hip-hop group. They received a multimedia kit including computers, cameras, recorders, free software and a free Internet connection to produce content showing the traditional practices which were then distributed on the network. The initiative was a success and it generated a network of young enthusiasts who wanted to integrate their tech skills with a variety of cultural forms and traditions. The innovations produced by this public participatory approach resulted in our country receiving important international recognition.

Our promotion of Digital Culture literacy and action through the Cultural Hotspots resulted in numerous other initiatives including electronic games, collaborative audiovisual, development of free platforms, and more. In 2009, in my new role of Minister of Culture following the resignation of Gilberto Gil, I promoted the First Digital Culture Forum for the purpose of drawing up a comprehensive policy for the field. We started developing digital solutions for social participation and for strengthening the dream of an expanded participatory democracy during this time. For example, the public consultation process for the new Brazilian Civil Rights Framework for the Internet — the “Marco Civil” — took place on MinC’s network platform, Culturadigital.Br.

These developments were walking hand-in-hand with a number of emerging services based on collaborative principles and inclusion, such as new social networking sites and promoting widespread access to computers and connectivity. When I left the Ministry in 2010, the number of Brazilian Internet users had reached 65 million and our view of digital culture had a clear agenda to achieve that included: a National Broadband Plan, the Internet “Marco Civil”, the modernization of copyright law and innovative cultural policies to encourage creativity.

Nowadays, having resumed the helm at the Ministry of Culture, I see another scenario…….

Continue to Read the Full Article – http://culturadigital.br/jucaferreira/2015/05/16/juca-ferreira-its-time-to-rethink-digital-culture/


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Thesis: Towards a Participatory Way of Knowing

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
19th May 2015

* MSc Dissertation: Encounters with otherness: Towards a participatory way of knowing. By Joana Formosinho. 2014 class of Holistic Science at Schumacher College,2014.

Excerpted from a review by “Simon”:

“Joana Formosinho is a zoologist with a background in animal behavioural research, but as she says in her introduction, she felt that her research and research methods had not brought her a profound level of insight:

– I found that the doing of the science took me away from my study subjects rather than bringing me closer to them. After months of science on a particular species, I would find I knew a lot about them that was factual, but did not understand more about their way of being in the world; sometimes, I found I understood less, as though being was drowned in a sea of facts.

This is a feeling deeply shared by many scientists, including myself, trained in cognitive psychology, which brings them to Schumacher College, and to the masters degree in Holistic Science which has as its focus the mission of developing a science of qualities to complement quantitative scientific practices.

Joana’s dissertation … in focusing on encounters with otherness, is her journey into acquiring knowledge of things in themselves. The dissertation is written from the first person perspective, as Joana points out for the following reasons:

Firstly, because one of the problems with modern science is the passive, impersonal way we talk about it. By virtue of the methodology—detached objectivity—the scientist is removed from the science, and from the sharing of the science with others. The intention behind this is a striving towards objectivity, to get ourselves out of the way of seeing. It has a fundamental problem, however: that we, us as subjects and seers, are the only way we have to access the world and that no matter how much we try to remove ourselves, we are still there, trying to remove ourselves.

Secondly, because experiential narrative is in keeping with the phenomenological tradition within which I am working, where the focus of investigation is on direct experience as lived.

Thirdly, because the direct experience of the practicing scientist matters. Science is a human narrative of the world and scientists are transformed as citizens in the doing of their science. The science we have is an expression of our society and, engaged with at the level of process as well as outcome, can reflect our society’s state of being back to us for reflection.

Reading Joana’s dissertation is an opportunity to experience a first-hand account of ‘exact sensorial imagination’ and the other stages of Goethe’s extremely fluid methodology. As she writes in her closing section, ‘Goethe saw the essential aspects of nature as unquantifiable and sought instead to participate in nature’s qualities, to open himself to the things of nature, to listen to what they say.’ When I speak to students, I tell them I am attempting to help them master just two things – seeing and being receptive. When we acknowledge otherness, we acknowledge that we need a degree of humility to achieve this degree of openness to otherness, but those who do achieve this humility, gain an expansion of vision and untold power. Not a power over others, but in recognising others, the ability to co-create untold new realities in authentic participation.

To be taught how to listen to nature is to be taught from nature about our own powers of perception. These are huge lessons to learn, and I hope you enjoy all of these dissertations, that you yourself may then wish to be inspired to explore further the participatory way of knowing.”


Posted in P2P Epistemology, P2P Research, P2P Spirituality, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Well-Being as the Key Concept in Political Economy

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
19th May 2015

* Article: If ‘Well-Being’ is the Key Concept in Political Economy… By Claudio Gnesutta. Economic Thought Vol 3, No 2, 2014

From the Abstract:

“If ‘well-being’ is to be the key concept in political economy, then economists are placed, from a methodological viewpoint, in an uncomfortable position. A well-being approach requires consideration of several non-economic dimensions strongly interrelated with the economic process, and failure to consider them means that the subsequent economic analysis cannot be based on steadily defined categories and, therefore, economists cannot value the full implications of their policy prescriptions. In this note, I show how an interrelated economic-social scheme able to analyse (sustainable) well-being calls for a broadening of the range of social factors interacting (in short and long term) with the market equilibria, and that this entails both new analytical categories and a new socio-economic relations model; in the absence of this apparatus, the effects of economic policies on society are not reliable and, therefore, ought to be systematically subject to a ‘precaution principle’.


Posted in Economy and Business, Featured Essay, P2P Subjectivity | 1 Comment »

The Care-Centered Economy: A New Theory of Value

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
15th May 2015

Do You Still Care?

I recently encountered a brilliant new essay by German writer Ina Praetorius that revisits the feminist theme of “care work,” re-casting it onto a much larger philosophical canvas. “The Care-Centered Economy:  Rediscovering what has been taken for granted” suggests how the idea of “care” could be used to imagine new structural terms for the entire economy.

By identifying “care” as an essential category of value-creation, Praetorius opens up a fresh, wider frame for how we should talk about a new economic order.  We can begin to see how care work is linked to other non-market realms that create value — such as commons, gifts of nature and colonized peoples –all of which are vulnerable to market enclosure.

The basic problem today is that capitalist markets and economics routinely ignore the “care economy” — the world of household life and social conviviality may be essential for a stable, sane, rewarding life.  Economics regards these things as essentially free, self-replenishing resources that exist outside of the market realm.  It sees them as “pre-economic” or “non-economic” resources, which therefore don’t have any standing at all.  They can be ignored or exploited at will.

In this sense, the victimization of women in doing care work is remarkably akin to the victimization suffered by commoners, colonized persons and nature.  They all generate important non-market value that capitalists depend on – yet market economics refuses to recognize this value.  It is no surprise that market enclosures of care work and commons proliferate.

A 1980 report by the UN stated the situation with savage clarity:  “Women represent 50 percent of the world adult population and one third of the official labor force, they perform nearly two thirds of all working hours, receive only one tenth of the world income and own less than 1 percent of world property.”

But here’s the odd thing:  The stated purpose of economics is the satisfaction of human needs.  And yet standard economics don’t have the honesty to acknowledge that it doesn’t really care about the satisfaction of human needs; it’s focused on consumer demand and the “higher” sphere of monetized transactions and capital accumulation.  No wonder gender inequalities remain intractable, and proposals for serious change go nowhere.

“The Care-Centered Economy” asks us to re-imagine “the economy” as an enterprise focused on care. While Praetorius’ primary focus is on the “care work” that women so often do – raising children, managing households, taking care of the elderly – she is clearly inviting us to consider “care” in its broadest, most generic sense.  The implications for the commons and systemic change are exciting to consider.

I think immediately of the Indian geographer Neera Singh, who has written about the importance of “affective labor” in managing forest commons. Singh notes that people’s sense of self and subjectivity are intertwined with their biophysical environment, such that they take pride and pleasure in becoming stewards of resources that matter to them and their community.

Such affective labor – care – that occurs within a commons becomes a force in developing new types of subjective identities. It changes how we perceive ourselves, our relationships to others, and our connection to the environment. In Singh’s words:  “Affective labor transforms local subjectivities.” In this sense, commoning is an important form of care work.

By setting forth an expansive philosophical framework, Praetorius’ essay provokes many transdisciplinary, open-ended questions about how we might reframe our thinking about “the economy.” The 77-page essay, downloadable here, was recently published by the Heinrich Böll Foundation in Berlin as part of its “Economy + Social Issues” series of monographs.

Praetorius begins by situating the origins of “women’s work – children, cooking and church – in the original “dichotomization of humanity” into “man” and “nature.” This artificial division of the world into realms of man and nature lies at the heart of the problem.  Once this “dichotmomous order” is established, the public realm of monetized market transactions is elevated as the “real economy” and given gendered meaning.  Men acquire the moral justification to subordinate and exploit all those resources of the pre-economic world – nature, care work, commons, colonized people.  Their intrinsic needs and dignity can be denied.

What’s fascinating in today’s world is how the many elements of the “pre-economic lifeworld” are now starting to assert their undeniable importance.  As Praetorius puts it, “Without fertile soil, breathable air, food and potable water, human beings cannot survive; without active care, humanity does not reproduce itself; and without meaning, people descend into depression, aggression and suicide.”

As the pre-economic lifeworld becomes more visible, it is exposing the dichotomous order as unsustainable or absurd.  Climate change is insisting upon limits to economic growth.  Modern work life is becoming ridiculously frenetic.  Questions of meaning arise that “free markets” are unequipped to address.  “Why work at all if working amounts to nothing more than functioning for absurd, other-directed purposes?” writes Praetorius.  “Why keep living or even conceiving and bearing children if there is no future in sight worth living?”

As the private search for meaning intensifies, the formal political system has little to say.  It is too indentured to amoral markets to speak credibly to real human needs; it is ultimately answerable to the highest bidders. This also helps explain why politics, as the helpmate of the market order, also has so little to say about people’s yearnings for meaning.

But new meaning are nonetheless arising as the credibility and efficacy of the old order begin to fall apart. Praetorius argues that the anomaly of a black man as US President and a woman as Germany’s chancellor makes it increasingly possible for people to entertain ideas of subversive new types of order. “The supposedly natural order of the hierarchical, complementary binary conception of gender is inexorably disintegrating,” writes Praetorius.  Other dualisms are blurring or becoming problematic as well:  “belief and knowledge, subject and object, res cogitans and res extensa, colonizer and colony, center and periphery, God and the world, culture and nature, public and private spheres.”

What’s exciting about this time, she suggests, is that the “dichotomous order” is opening up new spaces for new narratives that re-integrate the world. People can begin to “collectively dis-identify” with and deconstruct the prevailing order, and launch new stories that speak to elemental human and ecosystem needs.  If there is confusion and disorientation in going through this transition, well, that’s what a paradigm shift is all about. In any case, people are beginning to recognize the distinct limits of working within archaic political frameworks – and the great potential of a “care-centered economy.”

What exactly does “care” mean?  It means the capacity for human agency, individual initiative yoked to collective practice, shared identity and meaning-making.  It means “being mindful, looking after, attending to needs, and being considerate.”  It refers to “awareness of dependency, possession of needs, and relatedness as basic elements of human constitution.”

While some might regard the elevation as “care” as vague, I agree with Praetorius:  “Care” helps break down the dichotomous order and emphasize the “pre-economic” order of human need.  “The illusion of an independent human existence becomes obsolete,” she writes.  Relationships outside of markets become more important.

Introducing “care” into discussions about “the economy” can also have the effect of transforming ourselves.  We can begin to name the pre- and non-economic activities — care, commoning, eco-stewardship – that create value.  We can develop a vocabulary to identify those things that mainstream economics deliberately does not name.  In this sense, talking in a new way becomes a political act.  It begins to change the cultural reality, one conversation at a time.

Praetorius’ essay is a fairly long read, but a rewarding one.  I came away from it with a fresh, more hopeful perspective.  I also realized how care work and commoning are part of a larger enterprise of honoring, and creating, new types of value.

Originally publshed at bollier.org


Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Essay, P2P Collaboration, P2P Gender Issues | No Comments »

Book of the Day: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
14th May 2015

* Book: Pax Technica: How the Internet of Things May Set Us Free or Lock Us Up. By Philip Howard.

From the description by the Open Society Foundation:

“Should we fear or welcome the internet’s evolution? The latest smart televisions now watch us, and report on our behavior to their manufacturers. If you don’t pay the bills on your car loan, the bank may shut down your car while you are hiking in a park. The latest pacemaker may save your life, but the data on your heartbeats doesn’t belong to you or your doctor. Recently, a refrigerator was caught sending spam. The “internet of things” is made up of device networks–connected objects—eyeglasses, cows, thermostats—with sensors and internet addresses.

Soon we will be fully immersed in a pervasive yet invisible network of everyday objects that communicate with one another. There is lots of evidence that the internet of things will be used to repress and control people. The privacy threats are enormous, as is the potential for social control and political manipulation. Yet we should also imagine a future of global stability built upon device networks with immense potential for empowering citizens, making government transparent, and broadening information access. If we can actively engage with the governments and businesses building the internet of things, we have a chance to build a new kind of internet—and a more open society.”


Posted in Featured Book, P2P Books, P2P Technology | No Comments »