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Archive for 'Culture & Ideas'

Face It, Your Politics Are Boring As F-ck

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
30th November 2015


Great commentary from Nadia C. from crimethinc.com, subsequently adapted by FilmsforAction.org. Alnoor Ladha from The Rules forwarded this to us, and it reminded me of this must-watch skit by the late, great Gil Scott Heron.

You know it’s true. Otherwise, why does everyone cringe when you say the word? Why has attendance at your discussion group meetings fallen to an all-time low? Why has the oppressed masses not come to its senses and joined you in your fight for world liberation?

Perhaps, after years of struggling to educate them about their victimhood, you have come to blame them for their condition. They must want to be ground under the heel of capitalist imperialism; otherwise, why do they show no interest in your political causes?

Why haven’t they joined you yet in chaining yourself to mahogany furniture, chanting slogans at carefully planned and orchestrated protests, and frequenting radical bookshops and websites? Why haven’t they sat down and learned all the terminology necessary for a genuine understanding of the complexities of our global economic system?

The truth is, your politics are boring to them because they really are irrelevant. They know that your antiquated styles of protest—your marches, hand held signs, and gatherings—are now powerless to effect real change because they have become such a predictable part of the status quo. They know that your political jargon is off-putting because it really is a language of mere academic dispute, not a weapon capable of undermining systems of control.

They know that your infighting, your splinter groups and endless quarrels over ephemeral theories can never effect any real change in the world they experience from day to day. They know that no matter who is in office, what laws are on the books, what “ism”s the intellectuals march under, the content of their lives will remain the same. They—we—know that our boredom is proof that these “politics” are not the key to any real transformation of life. For our lives are boring enough already!

And you know it too. For how many of you is politics a responsibility? Something you engage in because you feel you should, when in your heart of hearts there are a million things you would rather be doing? Your volunteer work—is it your most favorite pastime, or do you do it out of a sense of obligation? Why do you think it is so hard to motivate others to volunteer as you do? Could it be that it is, above all, a feeling of guilt that drives you to fulfill your “duty” to be politically active?

Perhaps you spice up your “work” by trying (consciously or not) to get in trouble with the authorities, to get arrested: not because it will practically serve your cause, but to make things more exciting, to recapture a little of the romance of turbulent times now long past. Have you ever felt that you were participating in a ritual, a long-established tradition of fringe protest, that really serves only to strengthen the position of the mainstream? Have you ever secretly longed to escape from the stagnation and boredom of your political “responsibilities”?

It’s no wonder that no one has joined you in your political endeavors. Perhaps you tell yourself that it’s tough, thankless work, but somebody’s got to do it. The answer is, well, NO.

You actually do us all a real disservice with your tiresome, tedious politics. For in fact, there is nothing more important than politics. NOT the politics of American “democracy” and law, of who is elected state legislator to sign the same bills and perpetuate the same system. Not the politics of the “I got involved because I enjoy quibbling over trivial details and writing rhetorically about an unreachable utopia” activist. Not the politics of any leader or ideology that demands that you make sacrifices for “the cause.” But the politics of our everyday lives.

When you separate politics from the immediate, everyday experiences of individual men and women, it becomes completely irrelevant. Indeed, it becomes the private domain of wealthy, comfortable intellectuals, who can trouble themselves with such dreary, theoretical things. When you involve yourself in politics out of a sense of obligation, and make political action into a dull responsibility rather than an exciting game that is worthwhile for its own sake, you scare away people whose lives are already far too dull for any more tedium.

When you make politics into a lifeless thing, a joyless thing, a dreadful responsibility, it becomes just another weight upon people, rather than a means to lift weight from people. And thus you ruin the idea of politics for the people to whom it should be most important. For everyone has a stake in considering their lives, in asking themselves what they want out of life and how they can get it. But you make politics look to them like a miserable, self-referential, pointless middle class/bohemian game, a game with no relevance to the real lives they are living out.

What should be political? Whether we enjoy what we do to get food and shelter. Whether we feel like our daily interactions with our friends, neighbors, and coworkers are fulfilling. Whether we have the opportunity to live each day the way we desire to. And “politics” should consist not of merely discussing these questions, but of acting directly to improve our lives in the immediate present. Acting in a way that is itself entertaining, exciting, joyous—because political action that is tedious, tiresome, and oppressive can only perpetuate tedium, fatigue, and oppression in our lives.

No more time should be wasted debating over issues that will be irrelevant when we must go to work again the next day. No more predictable ritual protests that the authorities know all too well how to deal with; no more boring ritual protests which will not sound like a thrilling way to spend a Saturday afternoon to potential volunteers—clearly, those won’t get us anywhere. Never again shall we “sacrifice ourselves for the cause.” For we ourselves, happiness in our own lives and the lives of our fellows, must be our cause!

After we make politics relevant and exciting, the rest will follow. But from a dreary, merely theoretical and/or ritualized politics, nothing valuable can follow. This is not to say that we should show no interest in the welfare of humans, animals, or ecosystems that do not contact us directly in our day to day existence. But the foundation of our politics must be concrete: it must be immediate, it must be obvious to everyone why it is worth the effort, it must be fun in itself. How can we do positive things for others if we ourselves do not enjoy our own lives?

To make this concrete for a moment: an afternoon of collecting food from businesses that would have thrown it away and serving it to hungry people and people who are tired of working to pay for food—that is good political action, but only if you enjoy it. If you do it with your friends, if you meet new friends while you’re doing it, if you fall in love or trade funny stories or just feel proud to have helped a woman by easing her financial needs, that’s good political action.

Perhaps it is time for a new word for “politics,” since you have made such a swear word out of the old one. For no one should be put off when we talk about acting together to improve our lives. And so we present to you our demands, which are non-negotiable, and must be met as soon as possible—because we’re not going to live forever, are we?

1. Make politics relevant to our everyday experience of life again. The farther away the object of our political concern, the less it will mean to us, the less real and pressing it will seem to us, and the more wearisome politics will be.

2. All political activity must be joyous and exciting in itself. You cannot escape from dreariness with more dreariness.

3. To accomplish those first two steps, entirely new political approaches and methods must be created. The old ones are outdated, outmoded. Perhaps they were NEVER any good, and that’s why our world is the way it is now.

4. Enjoy yourselves! There is never any excuse for being bored . . . or boring!

Join us in making the “revolution” a game; a game played for the highest stakes of all, but a joyous, carefree game nonetheless!

Note: this article has been adapted from its original


Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, P2P Action Items, P2P Lifestyles, Politics | No Comments »

Ten billion reasons to demand system change

photo of Rajesh Makwana

Rajesh Makwana
30th November 2015

With the release of a refreshingly pessimistic science-based documentary that connects human development with the global ecological crisis, there is even more reason for concerned citizens to take to the streets in unprecedented numbers to demand a radical shift in government priorities.

Has the international community left it too late to prevent runaway climate change and widespread ecological degradation? Does the typical citizen and career politician have the inclination to accept the severity of the ‘planetary emergency’, let alone make the lifestyle changes and policy decisions needed to address it? And can the upcoming UN climate negotiations in Paris really signal an end to the unregulated dumping of carbon emissions, or mark a shift away from the business-as-usual approach to economic development?

These are among the many troubling questions that emerge when watching a new documentary written and presented by one of the world’s foremost scientists, Professor Stephen Emmott. The film –  Ten Billion –  draws on a bewildering array of statistics to paint a grim picture of humanity’s future prospects on Planet Earth. As the title suggests, the narrative emphasises the overwhelmingly destructive impact that human ‘progress’ is having on the natural world, especially as the global population heads towards the ten billion mark at the end of this century. Given the ongoing failure to reduce population growth and curb ever-increasing levels of consumption, Professor Emmott argues that governments appear to be completely incapable of adopting a more sustainable socio-economic model, even in the face of an impending ecological catastrophe.

Notwithstanding its bleak message, this is a powerful and compelling documentary that can help raise much-needed awareness about the environmental dimensions of the planet’s interconnected crises. It’s therefore a film that (like many others) should be compulsory viewing at this critical juncture in human evolution. While the style of the documentary is reminiscent of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the Professor’s presentation takes the form of a theatrical performance rather than a public lecture, and the director Peter Webber has made full use of cinematic special effects and graphical illustrations to add context and a genuine sense of drama to the final cut.

There is much in the film to commend, including the way that a wide range of complex and interrelated issues are considered through the lens of humanity’s endless appetite for material consumption. However, many environmentalists will (rightly) be perturbed by Professor Emmott’s brief but notable statement in support of nuclear energy as the only pragmatic short-term solution to the energy crisis. Others might berate him for suggesting that the fear of reaching ‘peak oil’ is unfounded: he makes the undeniable point that new and plentiful reserves of oil are being discovered regularly, and that there is little sign that oil companies will want to shift away from fossil fuel production in the foreseeable future.

A broader concern is that the film lacks a robust political analysis of the structural injustice and unequal power relations that are the true cause of our environmental and social ills. For example, central to any discussion about ecological overshoot must be the recognition that the richest 20% of the world’s population are responsible for 80% of all consumption. But there is little emphasis on how unfettered consumerism in industrialised countries poses the real ecological threat, and not population growth in the Global South. Nor is there any mention of the role that neoliberal capitalism or the ceaseless pursuit of economic growth and corporate profit plays in maintaining a highly unsustainable global economic system. And despite framing the crisis as a ‘planetary emergency’ only fleeting attention is paid to the reality of world poverty and life-threatening deprivation, which is a substantial oversight given that 4.2 billion people are struggling to survive on less than $5 a day and 17 million people die needlessly every year – mainly in developing countries.

As well as failing to explore these critical systemic issues, Professor Emmott offers no guidance for those who (having been moved by his presentation) might want to get actively involved in an environmental cause, and he purposefully avoids presenting a vision of how the ecological crisis should be addressed. On the contrary, he scorns the argument often put forward by so-called ‘rational optimists’ that we can “technologise” our way out of these problems; he dispels the notion that politicians and UN conferences are capable of implementing the policy changes that are now so urgent; and he suggests it is unlikely that the general public will ever be willing or able to change their consumption habits.

With no vision of hope or tangible solution offered at any point in his presentation, the audience is left somewhat bereft by the end of the documentary. Indeed, nothing sums up the film’s essential message better than the melodramatic remark that Professor Emmott uses to conclude his sweeping analysis: “I think we are f****d!”. Although this depressing assertion is perhaps appropriate in the context of a theatrical performance, many will find it unnecessarily negative, disempowering and hyperbolic – especially at a time when the majority of people have no appetite for ‘system change’, or are disinclined to demand such change having convinced themselves that ‘there is no alternative’ to their present way of life.

When pressed during the Q&A session after a preview screening of the film in London, Professor Emmott conceded that he didn’t understand why more people – especially young people – are not protesting relentlessly in the streets to demand radical reform. On this note, the Professor’s personal views are in line with those of Share The World’s Resources (STWR), who have consistently called for ordinary citizens to unite through widespread, continual and peaceful protests for sound environmental stewardship and an end to the iniquity of poverty in a world of plenty.

In light of the scale of the crises that Ten Billion brings to life, it is safe to assume that mass public protest is now the only option left to the many millions of people who yearn for a more just and sustainable future. As STWR’s Mohammed Mesbahi argues, “The real question we should ask ourselves is not why our governments are failing to save the world, but why are we failing to compel them to take appropriate action as our elected representatives?” With government leaders preparing to meet for the concluding round of UN climate talks in Paris, let’s hope that this uncompromising documentary does ultimately encourage more people to take to the streets in unprecedented numbers – even if it is out of sheer exasperation with a perilously outdated model of human development and economic progress.


Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Featured Video, Guest Post, P2P Action Items, P2P Ecology, P2P Movements, P2P Public Policy, Sharing, Videos | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Creating an Economy for the Common Good

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
30th November 2015

Christian Felber announced during the recent Solidarity Economy conference in Berlin (September 2015) that more than 300 businesses are already using the Common Good accounting system.

Here’s the book that explains why that is needed:

* Book: Christian Felber. Change Everything. Creating an Economy for the Common Good. ZED Books, 2015

Here is the description:

Is it possible for businesses to have a bottom line that is not profit and endless growth, but human dignity, justice, sustainability and democracy? Or an alternative economic model that is untainted by the greed and crises of current financial systems?

Christian Felber says it is. Moreover, in Change Everything he shows us how. The Economy for the Common Good is not just an idea, but has already become a broad international movement with thousands of people, hundreds of companies, and dozens of communities and organizations participating, developing and implementing it. Published in English for the first time, this is a remarkable blueprint for change that will profoundly influence debates on reshaping our economy for the future.”

The book’s CORE IDEAS are:

* Economic success is currently measured using monetary indicators like the Gross Domestic Product and financial balance sheets. Success is not measured in terms of human needs, quality of life, and fulfilment of fundamental values but the accumulation of money. A “Common Good Product” and “Common Good Balance Sheet” will fundamentally rectify this distorted thinking and practice.

* One-sided economic thinking is replaced by a holistic and interdisciplinary approach, whose proposals are based on scientific and empirical research: game theory, neurobiology, social psychology, philosophy etc.

* It is an open and evolutionary approach promoting learning from experience and open to integrating elements from other similar and related approaches like solidarity economy, economic democracy, degrowth, blue economy, care economy, gift economy, and others.”


Posted in Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Featured Book, Open Models, P2P Books | No Comments »

Mapping the emerging post-capitalist paradigm, and its main thinkers

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
29th November 2015

Current Capitalist Paradigm

Blaq from blaqswans.org recently approached us with the original French infographics he co-produced with his colleague Celine Trefle depicting the current capitalist paradigm and the emerging post-capitalist alternatives seeking to counter it. The diagrams were originally inspired by a discussion on Michel Bauwen’s book with Jean Lievens on P2P post-capitalist solutions and they were subsequently complemented with other notes and sketches. Blaq and Celine have been kind enough to translate the French originals for publication in our blog, as well the accompanying text below. You can find higher resolution versions of the diagrams in the links at the bottom of this post.

“We do not live in an era of change, but in a change of eras” is the way Jan Rotmans from the University Rotterdam describes the structural changes impacting our societies. This is also the phrase Michel Bauwens chose to open his latest book yet to be published in English which title is likely to be close to “Towards a post-capitalist society with the Peer-to-Peer”. (link in French)

For thinkers like Jan Rotmans and Michel Bauwens this change of eras is akin to the Industrial Revolution in the second half of the 19th century, and characterized by transitions in various fields. In a nutshell, our societies face 3 major tipping points:

Following this analysis, it is to gain further insights that we at blaqswans.org wanted to paint a big picture of the emerging post-capitalist paradigm, underpinned by peer-to-peer and collaborative dimensions. We started mapping various domains to go beyond the anecdotal evidence that such or such initiative is venturing into car-sharing or house swapping.

Post Capitalist Thinkers

We confirmed a few things as we drew this map:

This map is very much work in progress and will be improved as we progress. We wanted to stop contemplating the problems of the current paradigm, and instead show how each of those issues has robust thinkers and influencers offering credible alternatives (we have chosen just a few to illustrate but there are obviously many more), and how those alternatives have started to be implemented to form a coherent system that will bring a post-capitalist society to life.

For this to be successful it will require a movement of movements, an alliance of separate movements, including a coalition of the global social and environmental justice movements, environmentalists, activists for the cancellation of debt, and so on. There is of course no guarantee of success. Every change requires a successful transition: that will be the challenge. But counting and mapping our troops is a first and necessary step to make this cause prevail.

High Resolution Links

Current Capitalist Paradigm Diagram: PNG, PDF

Beyond Capitalism Diagram: PNG, PDF


Posted in Commons, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Graphic, Guest Post, Open Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Education, P2P Movements, Politics, Sharing, Visualisations | 6 Comments »

Book of the Day: Towards Holonomic Business Strategies

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
28th November 2015

“The authors of this remarkable book have distilled the essence of the ideas and values taught at Schumacher College, a unique transformative learning centre based on systemic thinking and grounded in deep ecology, and they show how these teachings can be applied with many case studies of enlightened businesses. Holonomics is a powerful antidote to the fragmentation and materialistic orientation of today’s dominant culture.” – Fritjof Capra

* Book: Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter. By Simon Robinson and Maria Moraes Robinson. Floris Books, 2014

Here is a description of the book’s argument and content:

“This ground-breaking book argues that people in business must adopt a ‘holonomic’ way of thinking, a dynamic and authentic understanding of the relationships within a business system, and an appreciation of the whole. Complexity and chaos are not to be feared, but rather are the foundation of successful business structures and economics.

If we look at what lies at the heart of our book Holonomics: Business Where People and Planet Matter, it is the practical implementation of deep, profound and lasting transformational change. If we analyse this in relation to organisations, what we often find is that the leadership only focus on the structural aspects of strategy. The behavioural aspects are ignored, therefore resulting in sub-optimal execution.

Holonomics presents a new world view where economics and ecology are in harmony. Using real-world case studies and practical exercises, the authors guide the reader in a new, holistic approach to business, towards a more sustainable future where both people and planet matter.

Commenting on how the book can change the mental models of executives, Simon Robinson said “It is not the case that we need to change our methodologies. What we need is a new way of seeing and thinking that allows us to be mindful and truly make sense of complex situations. A new mental operating system is available, and we have termed it holonomic thinking.”


Posted in Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Featured Book, P2P Books | No Comments »

Movement of the Day: The Humanist Management Network

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
26th November 2015

The Humanist Management Network is “working on reconnecting the old humanistic traditions with the insights of the sciences to provide an alternative narrative for human organizing”.

Michael Pirson explains:

“The Humanist Management Network, of which I’m a founding partner, has been working on reconnecting the old humanistic traditions with the insights of the sciences to provide an alternative narrative for human organizing. The baseline of this group is that to counter the power of economism, you need to have a parsimonious (simple) assumption set of who we are as people and what we wish to organize for. We call it “protecting human dignity and promoting well-being.” This is not new at all, yet possibly quite relevant when examining alternative ways of organizing (which I would submit is the crux of many problems we are facing: poor organization).

I would argue that the notion of dignity as that which is intrinsically valuable can be helpful. Dignity escapes the exchange and market logics and therefore could be critical in the quest for organizing formats that complement/supersede the market.”

“We therefore do not get rid of assumptions, but think we can better defend those:

1) we are endowed with dignity, intrinsic value

2) we do care about us and each other (otherwise we would not have survived)

3) we ultimately wish to flourish/be happy

4) we therefore intuitively understand that treating others with dignity serves us all best (we still need to learn how: education is the humanist theory of change)

5) and we are in pain when we destroy our life-systems.”


Posted in Ethical Economy, P2P Collaboration, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

City as a Commons Conference Reimagines Cities, and in High Relief

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
26th November 2015

Bologna Commons

Neal Gorenflo shares his report on the recent The City as a Commons conference, held in Bologna, Italy. For more coverage on the conference, check out David Bollier’s take on the event.

The City as a Commons conference broke new ground earlier this month. As the first International Association of the Study of the Commons (IASC) conference on the urban commons, it urged that the historical focus of study and action on rural natural resource commons should shift, at least somewhat, to material and immaterial commons in cities. This is appropriate now that humans have become an urban species for the first time within the last decade.

However, the conference organizers, legal scholars Sheila Foster and Christian Iaione, took things even further. This was not just a call to shift the focus, but a call to recast the city in the image of the commons. The wording of the conference title was carefully considered. As co-organizer Sheila Foster has made clear, the city as a commons is a claim on the city by the people that calls for us to rethink how cities are governed and resources allocated and by whom. The city imagined as commons is a starting point that can lead to more fair, convivial and sustainable cities.

While a radical proposal for cities, one well aligned to Shareable’s vision, it was well grounded in theory and practice by scholars and commons practitioners alike in the conference’s dizzying number of panels (related papers available here until December 1, 2015). Moreover, one of the goals laid out by Foster in her welcome message — to create community around the urban commons — seemed work out too.  After two days of sessions and delicious Italian meals together, this diverse group seemed to jell.

The conference was hosted by LabGov, the International Association for the Study of the Commons, the Fordham Law School’s Urban Law Center and LUISS University in Rome. It was appropriately held in Bologna, Italy, a historical center of urban innovation which more recently celebrated the one year anniversary of its Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of the Urban Commons, a groundbreaking new law and process empowering citizens to be hands-on city makers.

The conference was bookended by two powerful keynotes, one about the past and one about the future. The opening keynote by Tine De Moor, President of the organization (IASC) Nobel Prize winner Elinor Ostrom co-founded 1989, gave a short, insightful, and sobering history of the commons. Silke Helfrich, one of the world’s most astute commons activists, closed with a keynote imagining the urban commons in 2040.

De Moor’s speech outlined the long history of European commons, with a heyday starting in the 11th century and ending in the 19th when the commons were literally legislated out of existence. She warned that we should not place too high an expectation of the commons as they are revived or we risk repeating the mistake of the private property story as a one fits all solution. She urged attendees to be realistic about what can and can’t be governed by the commons.

She also highlighted the revolutionary nature of the commons. She reminded us that people lost their sense of collectivity with the rise of the individual and market paradigm, and that the commons re-introduces this sensibility and way of being. She put the urban commons in historical context noting that commons rise during economic crises. Urban commons like cooperatives, associations, and credit unions are all a product of such crises. She noted a similar dynamic at work today in the Netherlands, her home. There’s been a dramatic spike in the formation of cooperatives in the last decade.

Helfrich speech was the perfect closing to the conference. She prefaced her exploration of a future urban commons with this philosophical bottom line about the commons:

Human beings are free in relatedness but never free from relationships. That’s the ontological bottom line. Relation precedes the things being related to, i.e. the actual facts, objects, situations and circumstances. Just as physics and biology are coming to see that the critical factors in their fields are relationships, not things, so it is with commons.

Then took us on a walk of the 2040 version of the city as a commons exploring commons-based housing, food, workspaces, services, and more. She brought to life a total vision of the city as commons in 2040. She called this a “concrete utopia” because all the pieces of it already exist but have not been assembled yet. Then she told us how it came to be, or rather how we can get there. The key is to, “connect commons, confederate the hot spots of commoning, create commons-neighbourhoods, commonify the city.”

The conference was just such an effort. I agree with commons expert David Bollier that we’ll see increasing activity in this space. People may look back at this conference as the catalyst for a powerful movement.

Vision of a city as a commons from Helfrich’s presentation, created by N. Kichler und D. Steinwender. City of Workshops – green, Lizenz: CC BY SA


Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Conferences, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Guest Post, Open Government, Open Models, P2P Architecture and Urbanism, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Governance, P2P Public Policy, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

unMonastery: The Year Ahead

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
26th November 2015

Unmonastery People

An update from our friends at the unMonastery in Matera, Italy and, as you’ll soon see, beyond.

Over the past 6 months the unMonastery has been going through a number of significant developments, explorations and experiments?—?these initiatives have had mixed results, some very successful and some borderline disastrous; the net effect has restricted our capacity to report back in our usual constant stream of communication (un)consciousness.

This post signals an initial effort towards opening out those activities by updating you on major developments, flagging plans for the year ahead and inviting people to play a greater role.

Key areas covered in this post are; the formation of a formal unMonastery organ(isnation), the ongoing development and creation of individual unMonastery nodes and our part in a very exciting H2020 consortium (focused on the development of localised community owned offline networks). Obviously there’s a lot to cover; so this post will for the most part serve as an index for a series of posts to be published over the next two months that go into greater detail on specific areas of exploration.

‘Waking the unMonastery Organ’

The flashy news is the formation of our formal organ: back in February of this year we hosted the first unMonastery unSummit in Berlin as part of Transmediale: Capture All (at which the majority of the core family were gathered). As part of this gathering we held a series of meetings and events, in which together we sought to identify what was essential to the ongoing development of unMonastery.

One of the central requirements identified during our circles, was the need to form an autonomous legal organ in order to establish clearer structures and models for participation, acknowledge the vast mix of contributions being made by individuals to unMonastery over time, decentralise tacit control within an accountable structure, and advance opportunities for resources to support the establishment of individual unMonastery nodes. This was particularly crucial given that over the past year the initiative and network had grown far beyond its early stage development within the EdgeRyders community.

During this meeting we hit upon an organisational model that we felt was both open and inclusive. Whilst light as a foundational starting point, the key invention for this was that membership can be claimed by all those who commit significant energy and time to the development of unMonastery. Thus The unMonastery Deep Time Bank was born.

The unMonastery Deep Time Bank

As a decentralised membership steered organisation, we needed a criteria for inclusion. We settled upon a membership ‘fee’ of 100 hours of unpaid unMonastery labour as the marker for meaningful commitment, and?—?we sent out an invite to all those that had contributed this level of time to the initiative up until then. We then got deliciously sidetracked by field level developments in Athens. Now, finally back on track, this organisational document should outline how we anticipate the organisational structure will work in practice as both a membership base, organisation forum and commitment management account. We are very happy to announce the composition of this new organisation of intrepid souls committed to the continuation of the unMonastery initiative:

If at this stage you would like to participate to a greater degree, or have been working in isolation on unMonastery related activity let us know (admin@unmonastery.org) and time permitting be sworn into the unOrder at the next annual general meeting.

If the model we’ve established is of interest to you and you’d like to help us to refine it further, use it for your own organisation or assist in the development of a complementary technology stack, drop into this thread on discourse.

Development of unMonastery Nodes

Since leaving Matera in October 2014 the majority of energy being injected into unMonastery activity has been focused on three key areas: the creation and release of a toolkit for establishing individual nodes (see unMonastery BIOS), scouting missions and site visits to offers of land and property for possible future unMonasteries, as well as supporting others who are interested to establish the model.

Image shared by BenB from a recent trip to a possible site in up state New York.

To give an overview of these activities, please find a brief list below.

MAZI?—?Building offline networks together.

“We have ths mode of thinking outside of the internet, of local networks for local interactions, this is a specific technology very popular for many years but mostly between hackers and activists, but it has not yet arrived for the mainstream.”?—?Interview with Panayotis Antoniadis’ during CAPS2015.

Earlier this year in the run up to CCC and Transmediale a number of those involved in unMonastery began to participate in the offline networks community, as part of the Transmediale we deployed a localised network for the Alpha release of the unMonastery BIOS. Following this gathering, Nethood (Ileana Apostol and Panayotis Antoniadis) set about bringing together a group under the banner MAZI (meaning “together” in Greek) that could develop specific tools, platforms and contexts with the objective of making DIY network’s more widely available and useful to more people. As part of this a consortium formed to apply for CAPS, building upon existing initiatives in the creation of community owned local wireless networks.

a meeting of the MAZI earlier this year

From the MAZI website:

“MAZI wishes to invest in an alternative technology, what we call Do-It-Yourself networking, a combination of wireless technology, low-cost hardware, and free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) applications, for building local networks, mostly known today as community wireless networks. By making this technology better understood, easily deployed, and configured based on a rich set of customization options and interdisciplinary knowledge, compiled as a toolkit, MAZI will empower citizens to build their own local networks for facilitating hybrid, virtual and physical, interactions, in ways that are respectful to their rights to privacy, freedom of expression and self-determination”

In September it was announced that the bid was successful, and we’re very excited to get started working with the incredible combination of partner organisations that make up MAZI, which includes the NITlab at the University of Thessaly, the Zurich-based non-profit organization NetHood, the Edinburgh Napier University, the Design Research Lab at the Berlin University of the Arts, the Open University, the INURA Zurich Institute, SPC in London and Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin

Over the course of the last months we’ve already begun to participate in and contribute to a number of related workshops including Networked Social Responsibility (Brussels), 2nd International Conference on Internet Science (Brussels), From Smart Cities to Engaged Citizens (Volos) and Hybrid City (Athens), our core role in MAZI will be as a use case in the deployment of this localised technology at specific unMonastery sites, which Katalin discusses here.

Future Gathering Points

From the unMonastery Atlas, Designed by Luisa Lappaciana

We would like to meet with you and ourselves face to face more often.

Despite our very distributed nature, we’ve found in recent months that working remotely and online has produced significant difficulties in maintaining alignment and ensuring an accessible model of participation. This has been under much debate and in a move to learn from Robin Hood Co-op’s recent establishment of ‘Open Offices’ and ‘Labs’, we’ve begun to formulate our own iteration, whilst we’ve yet to christen this with its own conceptual framing (although we hear murmurs of ‘General Chapter’ ) we have begun to set a series of future dates for possible meeting places. In the new year we will put forward a schedule for the year.

Things you might have missed:



Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Project, Networks, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Governance, P2P Movements, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

Notes on the Horizontality of Peer to Peer Relationships in the Context of the Verticality of a Hierarchy of Values

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
25th November 2015

* Essay: Par Cum Pari. Notes on the Horizontality of Peer to Peer Relationships in the Context of the Verticality of a Hierarchy of Values. Michel Bauwens. In: Pursuing the Common Good: How Solidarity and Subsidiarity Can Work Together. Fourteenth Plenary Session, 1-6 May 2008. Acta 14, eds Margaret S. Archer and Pierpaolo Donati. Vatican City, 2008 pp. 708.

This is an older essay of mine from 2008, written for an invitation to participate in a session of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, inside the Vatican, dedicated to the social doctrine of the Catholic Church, and its great compatiblity with p2p thinking (i.e. the centrality of civil society, with state and market at the servive of it), was a great discovery for me.

Here is the abstract:

“This essay has several aims. Firstly, we aim to offer an ethical evaluation of the emerging mode of peer production, governance and property, and see how it stacks up as an implicit or explicit expression of a number of ethical values. We will also specifically examine whether peer to peer represents an opportunity for a more complete realization of the aims of the social doctrine, in terms of its four key principles (i.e. personhood, common good, solidarity and subsidiarity).”


Posted in Ethical Economy, P2P Collaboration, P2P Hierarchy Theory, P2P Spirituality, P2P Subjectivity, P2P Theory | No Comments »

Robin Hood Coop, an Activist Hedge Fund

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
25th November 2015


Now here is an improbable idea:an activist hedge fund.Out of Tampere, Finland, comes the Robin Hood Asset Management Coop, which legally speaking, is an investment cooperative. It is designed to skim the cream off of frothy investments in the stock market to help support commoners. As the website for the coop describe it:

We use financial technologies to democratize finance, expand financial inclusion and generate new economic space.Robin Hood’s proposition is no different than it was 600 years ago in Sherwood: arbitrage the routes of wealth and distribute the loot as shared resources. Today we just use different methods to achieve the same:we analyze big data, write algorithms, deploy web-based technologies and engineer financial instruments to create and distribute surplus profits for all. Why?Simply, we believe a more equitable world is a better one.

The Robin Hood Coop currently has 808 members from some 15 countries, and manages about 651,000 euros in various stock market investments. Started in June 2012, the coop has generated over 100,000 euros for its members and to its common pool, which is used to support commons projects. Robin Hood reports that in its first year, it had “the third most profitable rate of return in the world of all the hedge funds.”

Anyone can join the coop for a 30€ membership fee, which entitles members to invest a minimum of 30€.Members can then choose eight different options for splitting any profits (after costs) among their own accounts, Robin Hood Projects and the general Robin Hood Fund. Most members choose a simple 50-50 split of profits to themselves and Robin Hood Projects. For the past two full years of its operations, the project has been profitable. (As of November 19, however, net asset value was down 6.38%.) Robin Hood says that its operating costs are quite low compared to normal asset management services provided by banks.

The enterprise is driven by Robin Hood’s “dynamic data-mining algorithm,” which it calls “Parasite,” because it tracks actual transactions in US stock markets and mimics the best market actors. The coop’s website explains:“The parasite listens to the feed of the NYSE, watching for traders and what they trade. Then it competency ranks traders, identifying ones that are constantly making money on specific stocks. When it sees that a consensus is forming among such competent traders, it follows.” Robin Hood appears to be out-performing many leading hedge funds and reaping impressive returns, and it provides a modest but welcome source of income for some commons projects.

I do have my doubts about the transformative impact of the project. Is it really changing the system, and is it “stealing” anything from the King’s forests? It seems to be playing by the King’s rules, albeit more successfully than many other players. What’s different is its channeling of its gains to commoners and commons-based projects rather than to the 1%. This has great value in its own right while bypassing the philanthropic or nonprofit intermediaries who often don’t really see or care about the commons.

As a financial enterprise, the Robin Hood Project has a rather unusual interest in “art, politics and finance” – and more broadly in subjective experience and cultural theory. The project’s website features a page for n-1 publications, a book publisher whose authors include Susan Sontag, Michel Foucault, Felix Guattari, and other cultural critics. In an interview on the website, Chairman of the Robin Hood Board, Akseli Virtanen, invokes Jacques Derrida, Gilles Deleuze, and Italian theorists such as Christian Marazzi and Maurizio Lazzarato. Not the usual bedtime reading of financiers.

Virtanen explains that the Robin Hood Coop is a cultural experiment in creating new forms and subjectivities by using the financial apparatus in paradoxical and “monstrous” ways. This has apparently prompted some reporters to question the very existence of the Robin Hood portfolio. Virtanen responds by citing audit reports from Ernst & Young, legal registration papers, and other such totems of trust. He adds:

“Robin Hood sounds like a ponzi scheme, a fake, or it could be a private group of aggressive entrepreneurs ready to take advantage of the naïve cultural people. It could be a hoax, a scam, or just an ‘art project’. It definitely parasites also the old ideal of community and cooperation. It is unallowable, impossible and disgusting… a monster… but it corresponds to our subjectivity.”

I confess that I had trouble following some of Virtanen’s reflections about the cultural significance of the Robin Hood Coop. Still, he makes some good points: The very idea of “value” IS a flimsy social construction, and Robin Hood is eager to provoke us to think about that. Why should we trust the official documentation about financial value when it is itself so abstract, arbitrary and almost theological?

The truth is, the meaning of value is elusive and socially contingent, and capitalist totems of value are in many respects laughable. No wonder conmen like Bernie Madoff could so easily exploit gullible investors. The trusted representations of “value” are so remote from the real economy and actual value that they can be easily manipulated to defraud people.

So Robin Hood has funded some worthy projects with the yields from its portfolio, and it has considered an impressive array of applicants. Its criteria: “Only projects that are bigger than only for themselves can be selected — projects that open up the common space, that produce the commons.”Projects must be “generative and expansive, generating growth in subjectivities, in possibilities, in organization, in sharing, in scale, in mobility, in access, in independence, in desire. They should make our existential territory more habitable.”

Among the recent projects funded are Casa Nuven, an autonomous, self-managed space in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with 5,000 euros, as well as the P2P Foundation’s project with the Catalan Integral Cooperative and Commons Transition in Spain, with 4,000 euros. Check out the many applicants for Robin Hood funding here.


Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Featured Project, Original Content, P2P Business Models, P2P Development, Peer Property, Sharing | 1 Comment »

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