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Gambiarra: From Maker Culture to Repair Culture

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
20th April 2015


capa-thumb

“Why had the maker culture become concerned only with industrial methods – prototyping future mass-produced objects? What would be the concrete outcomes of a number of success-eager young talents spitting out objects made out of melted plastic, hardly – if ever – recyclable, everywhere in the world? Doesn’t the planet have enough useless objects made of plastic already?”

by felipefonseca – Source: http://efeefe.no-ip.org/livro/repair-culture/gambiarra

Maker culture has gained a lot of ground in the last few years. Maybe too much, in fact. We can of course ignore those people who are only, as always, surfing the current wave of hype. They seldom have any clue of the ideas they are selling themselves with anyway. But it also feels as though everybody else is talking about maker culture. Those words are even being uttered by people who have always been opposed to what they should mean. Or is it me? Did I get it wrong all the way?

First time I read about a “maker culture”, it was a sort of relief. I had finally found – or so I thought – a way to explain a number of initiatives some of us in Brazil had been involved for some years before that. Framing those things as “making” enabled us to mix critical thinking with DIY (as brilliantly put by Matt Ratto on “critical making”), proposing a sort of creative engagement that escaped the dead-ends of tedious market-driven innovation. A culture of conscious makers could recognize and promote alternative solutions and new perspectives for everyday problems, valuing distributed and collaborative approaches and seeking the common good. It would help overcoming traditional institutions and their clogged circuits of information. Local, cooperative formations would challenge the logics of global industrial capitalism, treating every human being – or small group, however loose it was – as potentially creative and productive. Industrial products that suffered of planned obsolescence would be repaired as armies of amateurs used the internet to share digital models of replacement parts. New kinds of meaning and engagement would evolve influenced by such approaches to material and cultural expression. Possibilities emerging from the free software and hacker movements would finally evert to the world of things.

And yet, we ended up in a world of newbie geeks assembling prefabricated kits of 3d printers, with which hipster designers-to-be (often the new-geeks themselves) can melt lots of plastic which is hardly recyclable into prototypes of new products, hoping to become rich and famous. Most such prototypes will never be used to anything at all, but their creators will anyway spam all over facebook, twitter and instagram trying to convince us they are building our (better, in a way no one can precise) future. Who knows, they may be invited to do a TED talk or raise some buck on kickstarter. Or at least become consultants for an international NGO willing to develop “technologies for education”.

And there we go. Forget about hackers getting blisters in their hands as they struggle to become carpenters. Those times are gone. Sadly, the most important skill in the maker culture these days seems to be keeping a spreadsheet on google drive with a business plan and a consistent strategy on social media. Numbers everywhere.

In more general terms, instead of portraying an acceleration towards the end of industrial age, celebrity author-speakers are now talking about a “new industrial revolution”. In the same direction, the Obama administration in the US is reportedly planning to pour one billion dollars to set up 15 “manufacturing innovation hubs” with the goal of sustaining industrial growth. As if the centuries oriented by industrial paradigms didn’t bring enough harm to the world already. Sure, one can not deny the improvements brought about by industry – especially in terms of driving scientific development and its implications in food, transportation, health and communications. At the same time, though, we have seen some aspects of contemporary life go in a totally wrong way. Think for instance about waste and pollution, inequality, disintegration of cultures and social ties, permanent global war and many other consequences of the industrial age. I’m not sure we should be even trying to promote a new industrial revolution if those aspects are not carefully taken into account. And judging by the prevailing discourse within the current breed of maker culture, I’m not sure they are.

When the maker culture becomes eminently entrepreneurial, we should wonder what mechanisms are set into motion. It may as well be the old capitalist drive to turn the critique to itself into the gears of its own reinvention gaining ground. Could we ever escape that path?

Continue to Read the Full Article: http://efeefe.no-ip.org/livro/repair-culture/gambiarra

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Posted in Open Hardware and Design, P2P Art and Culture | No Comments »

Open Value Networks and Commons Based Peer Production

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
20th April 2015


Originally Posted on – http://commonsfest.info/en/2015/anichta-diktia-axias/

Open Value Networks and Commons-based Peer Production

With the advent of the computer and the internet, we are able to communicate and coordinate with an increasing number of people. That has allowed new possibilities in the organizational forms of production that were never possible before.

Commons-based Peer Production

One such form is the Commons-based peer production. It is characterized by the fact that resources are shared ,as commons, and that the participants of such production take roles according to their skills and interests and not based on hierarchical structures of governance.

This organizational form of production has many advantages that makes us want to foster it.

From an economic point of view, the fact that resources are shared reduces the production and development costs of products for society and thus it increases the pace of innovation. Moreover, it allows a great number of people to participate in it and can draw resources from many sources. That gives the ability to those that participate in such a production to be competitive to big enterprises that have huge capital resources.

From an ethical point of view, Commons-based peer production allows any person to lead or decide about a project as long as he/she has the skill or interest. Decisions are based on merit , not based on hierarchy. At the same time, people are treated equitably when it comes to compensation of their work.

The OVN model

For the above advantages, the OVN model is trying to foster this form of production. First proposed, developed and implemented by SENSORICA, it was further developed by many other people. The OVN model uses the current advent in communication technologies and software methods of accounting to do that.

The OVN model is a model of production in which we have radical transparency and radical openness.

What does radical transparency mean?

The economy currently works with the collaboration of multiple process around the world that coordinate their efforts to produce products.

Screenshot from 2015-04-19 15:48:53

At the same time each production process has a wealth of information about its functioning that is kept away from the public eye.

The OVN model proposes that each production process publishes all information about its internal functioning. That allows production methods to be copied. Provides accountability. Public view allows people to propose better solutions and to detect errors sooner. Moreover, ecological and other externalities are easily Identifiable.

The OVN model also proposes that information about the supply chains be also visible. All production processes should provide information about their product and the requirements they have in tools, materials and human resources as well as the current suppliers and customers.

The ability to search and analyze these data allows for different groups that were otherwise isolated and small to interconnect. This has the profound advantage that these small groups can cooperate, coproduce value and thus be able to compete with traditional companies with a higher number of capital assets.  Moreover the information about the supply chains allows people to suggest more efficient  supply chains and at the same time bypass the supply chain middlemen entirely.

What does radical openness mean?

Radical openness means that any person is able to join a production process. The only constrains  are there to protect the shared resources, the commons. This has a profound effect on the way the production process works.

From an economic point of view, radical openness and radical transparency allows engagement to the production processes by a great number of people that can produce value in amounts that could have never before being conceived(wikipedia, wikispeed).

From an ethical point of view, the production process tries to maximize product value rather than profits. At the same time revenue is distributed to a greater number of people. Because everyone is free to join and cocreate value, in an open and democratic way, people love to work, they work on things they like or are good at.

Software infrastructure and value accounting

To achieve these goals, we are building software for the OVN. This is a work in progress. We need tools that publish the information of projects, searches the information and provide interesting results. We need tools to log the work that each participant has done so as to compensate him according to his contributions. We need tools that can coordinate a great number of people while at the same time reduce the information overload.

The people that work on these tools form a network too. Each with his own point of view, our software complement each other. You can find a review of the tools we have already built or are building in the following sections.

Legal structure

The legal structure of the processes that take part in an OVN is still debatable. We are experimenting with a specific form of legal structure in which we try to achieve the below goals.

We want to reduce the possibility that a project can be overtaken by a single point of power. We also want to reduce the cost of participation due to bureaucracy since we want massive participation.

To achieve that, we propose to split a production/research process to a number of legal forms, to distribute some responsibilities to them so that the process can function while at the same time having no real control over the process. We propose the existence of 2 legal forms.

A custodian that is given control of the resources that the project has.It has the responsibility to coordinate the access to those resources according to predefined rules without discrimination and to as many people as possible while at the same time protecting them. The custodian is not allowed to make a profit, its only role is to help the commons based peer production flourish.

The exchange firm that has the responsibility to sell the products in the market and then distribute the revenue back to the participants. The exchange firm can also be responsible for the merchantability and insurance of the product.

It is important to note that the participants do not belong in any of those legal structures. They have their own informal form of organization and without them, none of the above legal structures can function.

Moreover, since all the earnings go directly to the contributors, there is no need for a structure that would need to decide on how to spend the profits. The distribution of revenue ,at the same time, achieves the distribution of investment decision making.

The next two sections describe groups/projects that are using the OVN model as well as the software that is used by them. They have been written in collaboration with the 2 programmers of the software, Bob Haugen, Lynn Foster as well as Tiberius Brastaviceanu, one of the founders of Sensorica.

Open Value Networks for producing material goods

Peer production has been recognized mostly in the domain of open source software. But now, OVNs for producing material goods are emerging.

Sensorica

Sensorica, in Montreal Canada, is the pioneer, developing the organizational patterns and production and financial practices that can make such OVNs work.

http://www.sensorica.co/

Sensorica specializes in open hardware, especially sensors and other related electronic devices.

Here is the short version of their extensive project list:

Food Networks

Food networks to aggregate and distribute food from many farmers to many customers have been sprouting up around the world. They are not exactly the same as Open Value Networks: they tend more to organize as cooperatives. But they share a lot of the same patterns.

Here’s one from New England in the US:

1-hardwick_graph

Another food-oriented cooperative network is being formed among fishing boats in Nova Scotia, Canada:

2-

And here is the Tanzanian agricultural innovation network, modeled after Sensorica:

3-radial_graph

OVNs like these offer the potential for a full Commons-based peer production economy.

The NRP software

OVNs are different from other business forms, and the software created for other business forms does not fit them very well, but neither does any other kind of software. The usual business software assumes corporations, not networks. And assumes hierarchical management, not peers. But social network software does not handle the production and economic relationships of OVNs.

New software is emerging designed for OVNs producing material goods. One such application is Network Resource Planning (NRP), which is ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) for networks.  NRP is being developed by a collaboration between Sensorica (described above), and some open-source software developers who have experience in “lean manufacturing” supply chains (http://mikorizal.org).

Here’s the source: https://github.com/valnet/valuenetwork

Some documentation here: https://github.com/valnet/valuenetwork/wiki

This is operational software, for running an open value network as an economic organization. It logs contributions, coordinates work, and distributes income to contributors. It also does multi-party accounting: that is, accounting reports for each participating person and organization, covering their activities within the network. It does not do ecommerce or social networking.

Here is the basic functionality:

4-NRP Flow landscape

A server running this software is available for the April 17 CommonsFest event for participants to try. (It is actually available now, for organizers and different groups to try before the event.) The website URL is http://commons.webfactional.com.

The software at this stage does not offer self-signup (working on that for April 17). So for now, please send an email to info@mikorizal.org and they will set you up with login credentials and explain how you can create login credentials for other people.

Be gentle. The software is still young, a bit crude, and unfinished. It does work, however, and is being used extensively by at least one OVN now, with more getting started. The software is also not yet translated into Greek. However, the system is designed to be translatable, and since it is open source, if there is enough interest, a free account at https://www.transifex.com/ can be set up to do the translation using Commons-oriented peer production! (And of course any other desired improvements can be accomplished using that same mode of production.)

The following sections describe other projects and tools.

Ryaki

Ryaki is the project that the main author of this article is working on.  Ryaki wants to build tools to achieve 2 goals.

The first goal is to create a metaprogramming framework with which new models can be easily programmable. The end goal is to build custom software per production process based on the model of the domain that would allow it to support OVNs. Custom software allow us to build custom protocols of massive coordination.

source code :https://github.com/xekoukou/metareact

The second goal is to help OVN find financial capital. Since we will never be able to acquire perfect information that would eliminate investment risk, the existence of risk also introduces risk aversion by poor people and thus a dependency of production from rich people. Ryaki is a restricted ripple network that is closer to the production process and can provide cheap capital to OVN.

A site describing it: www.ryaki.org

Wezer

Wezer is ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) for non enterprises.  It is a distribution of Odoo (ex Open ERP), containing a set of integrable Odoo modules designed for P2P actions.

Each community can determine its appropriate package.

Wezer contains the functionalities to be organized as a P2P organization:

- social networking

- action (projects, task, timesheet, resources planning, meeting…)

- exchange (crowdsourcing multi currencies, multi indicators)

- emergence (collaborative space to make quality of information emerge from any content + deliberation)

- operation (all daily normal business activities : accounting, sales, supply chain…)

http://wezer.org

The OVN vocabulary project

This is a collaborative project among several people and organizations who are all working on some aspect of software for open value networks. The goal is to agree on a common vocabulary by means of which all of these applications can work together to fulfill the needs of networks of open value networks.

https://github.com/openvocab/ovn

Other related projects:

EISSP: http://bshambaugh.org/eispp/

Metacurrency: http://www.metacurrency.org/

TransforMap: http://transformap.co/

Portable Linked Profiles: https://github.com/hackers4peace/plp-docs

Metamaps: http://metamaps.cc/

buildingCommons

Open Apps Ecosystem: http://p2pfoundation.net/Enspiral_Open_App_Ecosystem

http://www.enspiral.com/

ShareTribe: http://www.sharetribe.com/

Produce Run: https://github.com/producerun/produceruncatarse

Ernte Teilen: https://github.com/teikei

Open Food Network: http://openfoodnetwork.org/

by Apostolis Xekoukoulotakis – ryaki.org

Originally Posted on – http://commonsfest.info/en/2015/anichta-diktia-axias/

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Meta-Industrial Villages: what happens after the miniaturisation of technology ?

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
18th April 2015


Excerpted from William Irwin Thompson:

“DECENTRALIZATION of cities and the miniaturization of technology will alter the center-periphery dialectic of traditional civilization and make a whole new cultural level possible. What will take place in the metaindustrial village will be that the four classical economies of human history, hunting and gathering, agriculture, industry, and cybernetics, will all be recapitulated within a single deme. We will look back to where we have been in history, gather up all the old economies, and then turn on the spiral in a new direction.

The hunting and gathering economy could focus on the gathering of wood, wind and sun. In a way, the work of the New Alchemy Institute is to create a food and energy base for a small tribal band of people living in isolated circumstances. As sociologist Elise Boulding has remarked, “I sometimes wonder if our motto today does not need to be: ‘Forward to the Paleolithic!’ The folk of the Neolithic, with their cozy farm communities, working like dogs and breeding like rabbits, have little that is useful to say to us.” New Alchemy is not a civilized strategy; it is not going to feed the huddled masses of New York and Calcutta; it either will be co-opted and absorbed by conglomerate NASA as the ecology of a space colony or will enable small groups to live in dispersed settlements – or both.

The agricultural economy of the metaindustrial village would focus on organic gardening and the replacing of fossil-fuel agribusiness with natural cycles in the food chain. Since the shift from gardening to field tillage with the plow originally displaced women from food production, the return to ecologically sophisticated gardening enables women to return to take up significant roles in the economy of the village, and thus to overcome the sexual alienation characteristic of industrial society.

The third economy of the community would be industrial, and this is where I part company with many critics of contemporary culture. The metaindustrial village is not anti-industrial and Luddite; there will be industry and technology, but they will be brought down to scale as workshops in converted barns. A village could produce artistically beautiful glass bottles which could be kept as art objects or reused as containers in place of plastics. Or the village could produce bicycles, clothing, rotary tillers, or other well-crafted and durable instruments. In a return to the mystery of the craft guild, particular communities could focus on the revival of particular crafts and industries. Whatever the industry chosen, the scale of the operation would be small, in harmony with the ecosystem of the region, and devoted more to a local market than an international one.

The fourth economy of the community would be postindustrial, or cybernetic. The characteristic feature of a postindustrial economy is the emphasis on research and development and education. Since the entire village would be a contemplative educational community, after the manner of Lindisfarne and Findhorn, the adventure of consciousness would be more basic to the way of life than patterns of consumption. Everyone living in the community would be involved in an experiential approach to education, from contemplative birth, after the thought of Dr. Frederick LeBoyer, to contemplative death, after the thought of Dr. Elizabeth Kübler-Ross. And at the various stages of life in between, the entire community would function as a college, in which children and adults would work together in gardening, construction, ecological research, crafts, and classes in all fields of knowledge.”

Source: from an article in Being A Planetary Villager (IC#1); Originally published in Winter 1983 on page 44 1983, by Context Institute; This excerpt is taken from Thompson’s book, Darkness And Scattered Light, (pages 95 – 97)

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Posted in P2P Architecture and Urbanism, P2P Infrastructures, P2P Manufacturing, P2P Technology | No Comments »

To Minimize the Influence of Cars is a Key Factor for Successful Neighborhoods

photo of Øyvind Holmstad

Øyvind Holmstad
16th April 2015


Read the original article at CARFREE.ORG.

The Problem

The industrialized nations made a terrible mistake when they turned to the automobile as an instrument of improved urban mobility. The car brought with it major unanticipated consequences for urban life and has become a serious cause of environmental, social, and aesthetic problems in cities. The urban automobile:

  • Kills street life
  • Damages the social fabric of communities
  • Isolates people
  • Fosters suburban sprawl
  • Endangers other street users
  • Blots the city’s beauty
  • Disturbs people with its noise
  • Causes air pollution
  • Slaughters thousands every year
  • Exacerbates global warming
  • Wastes energy and natural resources
  • Impoverishes nations

The challenge is to remove cars and trucks from cities while at the same time improving mobility and reducing its total costs.

The Solution

The urban automobile can only be supplanted if a better alternative is available. What would happen if we designed a city to work without any cars? Would anyone want to live in such a city? Does it make social, economic, and esthetic sense? Is it possible to be free of the automobile while keeping the rapid and convenient mobility it once offered?

Public transport is typically a disagreeable and slow substitute for the car. It needs to become a pleasant experience and should attain the average speed of a car in light city traffic. This can be achieved using proven technology, but densely-populated neighborhoods are a prerequisite for rapid mobility and economical public transport. Fortunately, dense cities can also offer a superior quality of life.

We should build more carfree cities. Venice, the largest existing example, is loved by almost everyone and is an oasis of peace despite being one of the densest urban areas on earth. We can also convert existing cities to the carfree model over a period of decades.

Design Goals

The design of cities is driven by three principal needs:

  • High quality of life
  • Efficient use of resources
  • Fast transport of people and goods

Design Standards

The fulfillment of these needs in a carfree city gives rise to the following design standards:

Rapid Transport

Provide fast access to all parts of the city. In a city of one million it should be possible to get anywhere in considerably less than an hour. Passengers should never have to transfer more than once.

Nearby Stations

Both in consideration of time and of the limited mobility of small children, the elderly, and the infirm, nearby transport halts are required. The design standard is a five-minute walk.

Nearby Green Space

Green space should be available within a five-minute walk of virtually every front door.

Four-Story Buildings

Buildings should generally be limited to a height of four stories because higher buildings appear to be harmful to the people who must live in them. (See A Pattern Language for a detailed discussion of this point.)

Economical Freight Transport

City economies depend on fast, economical freight transport. A city which intends to keep trucks off its streets must make workable provisions for freight transport.

Going Carfree

The carfree city can be built. Venice is proof enough.

The four billion inhabitants of the developing world seem eager to adopt Western patterns of car use. They should be advised of the costs and encouraged to think about better solutions. Can the planet carry the ecological burden? The developed nations cannot deny developing nations the use of technology and resources that are used in the developed nations. Since most of the world’s cars are found in the developed nations, they must take the lead in designing and building carfree cities.

Carfree cities probably must become the norm by the end of the 21st Century, due to energy constraints. We should begin now to prepare for the change, which is an opportunity to build urban environments superior to any ever known.

Related reading:

With integrating the car into our lives we cannot live integrated lives anymore, and this way we lose our integrity. Or to summarize the task from the point of view of Wendell Berry:

Here we can see the radical nature of Berry’s vision. Our entire economy, our very culture of work, leisure, and home is constructed around the idea of easy mobility and the disintegration of various aspects of our lives. We live in one place, work in another, shop in another, worship in another, and take our leisure somewhere else. According to Berry, an integrated life, a life of integrity, is one characterized by membership in a community in which one lives, works, worships, and conducts the vast majority of other human activities. The choice is stark: “If we do not live where we work, and when we work, we are wasting our lives, and our work too.”

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Book of the Day: 21st Century Re­Alignments in Art and Politics

photo of hartsellml

hartsellml
14th April 2015


* Book (in preparation): A STATE OF PRE­: 21st Century Re­Alignments in Art and Politics. An anthology of art and theory. from the Re­Aligned Project. Ed. by Ivor Stodolsky and Marita Muukkonen. Sternberg Press, 2016.

URL = www.Re­Aligned.net

Description

“A State of Pre­” is a pluridisciplinary investigation into the conditions, subjectivities and agencies provoking a realignment of art, thought and politics in the 21st century.

Drawing on its diverse participants while inviting new contributors this anthology gathers together essays, theory and art related to the past three years of the Re­Aligned Project.

As a thematic umbrella­ project dedicated to art and political movements advocating change, resistance, rebellion or revolution in their respective societies, the Re­Aligned Project has been defined by an ongoing series of workshops, exhibitions, artist­in­residencies, seminars, conferences, street and public art festivals. An interactive map of the project is found at www.Re­Aligned.net, which documents three years of engagement across Europe, Russia, the Middle East and Northern Africa.

Future historians will judge whether the wave of revolts of our time bear comparison to 1640, 1789, 1848, 1968, or perhaps, following further major convulsions, will be seen as the capitalist antipode to the communist collapse of 1989. What is clear today, is that we live in a time of worldwide instability, where hegemonic government by consent is under intense pressures due to the crises of transnational elites above, and the discontent of vast majorities below, which are forced to bear the brunt of the ensuing problems. Next to the economic and ecological crises of mondial scale, there are political conflicts being played out in widely differing arenas which show remarkable structural similarities.

The notion of a non-­aligned ?positionality, which invokes the refusal of multiple mainstream positions, describes one such common structural feature. An Egyptian, Russian, Chinese or Cuban oppositional intellectual, for example, will reject (local) authoritarianism while often simultaneously maintaining a highly critical stance vis­ a vis (global) western forms of historical and/or current expansion and oppression. A European or US Occupy activist, as much as an African or Latin American intellectual, will similarly reject an authoritarian conception of communism while fighting the rapacious logic of neoliberal capitalism. In all cases, concomitant with a clear non­alignment with the outmoded mainstream social paradigms of the 20th century, we see what we call re­alignments. Although a term kept deliberately open to multiple readings, re­aligned ?initially describes a re­engagement with and re­merging of activist and intellectual currents that are replacing the apathy and disillusionment, apolitical irony, particularism, single­issue and identity politics of the previous epoch. It describes the “third”, “fourth” or “fifth” ways being sought between vertical and horizontal forms of organization, between particularist identities and unarticulated hybridities, between difference and universalism, and so on.

The period preceding our current era, sometimes called postmodernity, saw a sustained focus on cultural­ethnic issues, post­colonial and national­independence narratives, post-­communist nation­building and religious revivals, gender related liberation movements and also numerous new ways of reading popular and commercial culture and society. While subverting and superimposing and making these configurations clash, many power relations which postmodernist theory and art engaged with and critiqued, however, were often paradoxically strengthened and reproduced in this same period, rather than overcome.

Explanations for this require a re­orientation of perspectives. It has been argued that precisely postmodernism’s aversion to “meta­narratives”, the “universal”, “reality” and similar overarching conceptions, furnished the atomizing “conditions of ignorance”, so to speak, for the macroeconomic neoliberal depredations of the past decades. Discussion of general social and political structural movements remained out of fashion, suspect, even unspeakable, in an environment where collective convictions and ideals were ridiculed as simplistic, dangerous and antiquated, often forced to be couched in obscure jargon, while the power­relations they decried took their heavy toll.

Over the past years, the clarity of the need for common agency has led us to speak of the re­aligned approach as engaged in multilectic?thinking. Careful to avoid reversions to single­issue, single­culture, single­tradition thinking, that is, abandoning diversity or falling into undifferentiated universalism, this likewise multivalent term describes the aim, amidst the maddening multiplicity of our times, to redevelop models for holistic worldviews. The plethora of currents and movements which constitute re­alignments we speak of, are a type of globalisation ‘from below’. Due to their undeveloped, still­localised nature, we hence describe them as having a pre­mondial?agency?. This is an agency for which politics, art and thought are only now beginning to imagine structures for and give a language to.Following the near­collapse of global markets in 2007-8, multiple waves of resistance and rebellion against diverse forms of oppression, enslavement and injustice have washed the world. From dramatic battles for basic freedoms and human rights, to forceful anti­corruption movements, to rising rejection of corporate and state control and disenfranchisement, to angry demands for advanced forms of equality and justice, not dissimilar grievances and claims have been brought to “the square” in a wide range of societies. Although nothing is certain, the chances are these grievances, and bold proposals for solutions to them, will again cross critical thresholds with the amplitude of ongoing ecological, financial, social and cultural crises.

In short, we wish to investigate the horizon which lies before us. We are in a state of “pre­”. Contrary to the fin de siècle pessimism of what may be called the non­aligned generation of the “post­”, re­aligned movements are part of a quest for a wider mondial commons. Going beyond the ubiquitous “post­” of the outgoing epoch (post­war, post­modern, post­Soviet, post­communist, post­ideological, post­history, post­colonial, post­human, etc.) what may be called a re­aligned generation of the “pre­” ­ naturally defined not by age but vision ­ seeks the proliferation of common orientations, desirables and initiatives in face of mondial crises. The Re­Aligned Project has set its focus on these currents of antecedent, not to say antediluvian predicament.”

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WHAT IS AN UNFOLDING?

photo of Øyvind Holmstad

Øyvind Holmstad
12th April 2015


By Christopher Alexander. Original post here.

The elements of a generative code are “unfoldings”. Whether in the evolution of a neighborhood or in the evolution of a building, each unfolding is an operation which gets you from one stage or moment of development (whether conceptual or physical), to the next moment of development. The full sequence of unfoldings gets you all the way from the first stages of conception when a project is no more than a gleam in somebody’s eye, all the way to the final stages of physical, built completion and use.

Unfoldings slightly resemble patterns, in that they are nuggets of information, which help you shape some part or aspect of the environment. However, unfoldings are vastly different from patterns in the way they work, and it is these differences which give them their power and effectiveness.

Each unfolding has three key features which define its operation and its effect.

  1. Unlike a pattern, which is a static configuration, an unfolding is dynamic. It acts to generate form.
  2. Unlike a pattern, an unfolding arises from the whole, is shaped by the whole, and acts upon the whole
  3. An unfolding is by its nature personal, and requires human input and human feeling from the people doing the work, as an essential part of its contribution to the formation of the environment.

1. Unlike a pattern, which is a static configuration that merely serves as a model, an unfolding is dynamic. It acts to generate form.

1.1 An unfolding is a process which gets you from one stage or moment of development to the next moment of development, in the evolution of a neighborhood or in the evolution of a building.

1.2 It is helpful to compare such unfoldings with similar phenomena in plant morphogenesis and embryology. Both in the angiosperm shown below, and in the embryo shown beneath it, you can picture each unfolding as a limited and brief process which in the first one gradually shapes the seed, and in the second, takes the blur that is the beginning of a hand in the embryo, to the next stage of development where the hand gets its first outline fingers.

Diagram of a typical angiosperm (flowering plant) unfolding

Photographs of a human embryo unfolding

Two photographs, three days apart, of a mouse foot unfolding

1.3 An unfolding is a process that operates on the whole. But unfoldings may be very short in duration, or longer. In the angiosperm example, the unfolding that happens between one frame and the next is relatively short in duration, and accomplishes a modest task. The entire sequence of seven pictures for the angiosperm may also be viewed as one unfolding packet, composed of the seven smaller unfoldings happening in a coordinated sequence.

1.4 An unfolding is a process that operates on the whole. But unfoldings may be very short in duration, or longer. In the angiosperm example, the unfolding that happens between one frame and the next is relatively short in duration, and accomplishes a modest task. The entire sequence of seven pictures for the angiosperm may also be viewed as one unfolding packet, composed of the seven smaller unfoldings happening in a coordinated sequence.

1.5 Such unfoldings are the key process elements of every generative code. Only unfoldings can gradually, and one by one, cause the creation of a living neighborhood. Their attention to the whole, and their capacity to generate minute and careful adaptation, step by step, results in the infinite variety and beautiful fitness that we see throughout nature, and in the work of countless thousands of traditional builders in different cultures.

1.6 In providing this first sketch of a library on this website, we are doing our best to pass on, and make public, a first cache of the source material from which a neighborhood can actually be made living: and above all, in a form that can be generated by the neighborhood people themselves, if given the proper framework.

1.7 Pattern Languages. For those who have studied pattern languages, it may be useful to make a brief comparison of patterns and unfoldings.

Originally, the patterns in A Pattern Language were thought of as unfoldings. The languages of traditional society did work like that — by unfolding building designs. Pattern languages were intended to be similar. However, as my colleagues and I worked on the pattern language throughout the sixties and early seventies, the functional content of the patterns, though humane and sensible, was at that time profoundly inconsistent with the modern way of looking at architecture that was then fashionable: in short, modern architecture, for all its talk about functionalism, was not focused on function at all. Indeed modern architecture was studiously avoiding it. In order to make the (then) radical nature of the true functionalism of the pattern language as persuasive as possible, and in order to communicate with people who had lost sight of real function, we spent more and more of our energy writing functional background, to make it clear that these functional things and their spatial correlates raised in the patterns really were true.

As a result, the crucial and central importance of unfolding as the main attribute of patterns became less visible, was obscured, and even our own work on that aspect had temporarily to slow down.

So, it is not surprising that the unfoldings presented here do, in terms of functional content and their overall network relations to one another, resemble the patterns in a pattern language. But the inner content of the unfoldings is different, and it goes back to the intention that originally inspired the pattern language in the first place.

1.8 The actual content of an unfolding, is entirely different from the content of a pattern.

A pattern describes a static configuration that should be made present in a neighborhood, and gives no information, really, about how to make this pattern appear within an ongoing process of design or construction. As a result the design process, which dominates the result of any neighborhood and architectural planning, has little power to be profoundly affected by the pattern.

An unfolding is primarily dynamic. It describes “how to get there from here”, how and when a particular emerging morphology is to be injected into an emerging design, and what actions must be taken to make the appearance succeed geometrically. Thus an unfolding is a hugely different thing from a pattern, and a most important step forward.

In addition, the unfolding (as the very word itself suggests) unfolds the currently existing whole — eg. a building in its environment, a neighborhood in a city. It is focused on the whole at all times, and shows how this whole unfolds, to give birth to new form and new differentiations. This explicit reference to the whole and its unfolding, provides us with a new conception of architecture as that which is being born from the pre-existing whole, and continuing it, thus always helping to give continuity to the city and the earth.

The concept of an unfolding provides an entirely different vision of the nature of architecture and planning, one which is, in principle, at last capable of helping living structure to come into being.

2. Unlike a pattern, an unfolding arises from the particular whole in which it is forming. It is shaped by the whole, and acts upon the whole, and causes the rebirth of the whole.

 2.1 An unfolding, is a glimpse of wholeness, a small microcosm of “the” whole, the whole seen within a small portion of the universe, the world in a grain of sand.

2.2 Imagine the universe as a fountain. It is composed of quarks, electrons, fields, light, and motion. But all this apparatus — the apparatus shown to us by modern physics — has one purpose only. It is as if the purpose of this apparatus, were to create a fountain, which can give forth unending novelty and harmony. It isa fountain in which the drops may be whole worlds or galaxies; and in which the supply of newness that comes from this fountain, is dazzling and inexhaustible.

And the newness comes forth from unfolding. This means, literally, that what comes forth, is always, and continuously, coming from what is there already. In fact, it depends on what is there already to suggest its form.

You know how flake pastry is made. You roll it, and then fold it; roll it and then fold it. What comes out is always the same and always different. That is what this fountain of plenty does.

2.3 Consider a simple unfolding: the process by which house fronts are to be placed in such a way as to create positive space between them. This is not merely an arrangement of house fronts, nor an arrangement of houses. It is a kind of stirring of space, in which house fronts are to be imagined, and placed, in such a way that beautiful space is formed between them. This stirring of space, animates space — creates feeling there. It cannot be imagined by placing prefabricated objects.

2.4 It used to be thought that an electron was a very small object, moving around the atomic nucleus. But the insight of quantum mechanics says something different. In order to see what sort of thing is going on, we have to imagine that the electron is a waveform, extending in the vicinity of the nucleus as a kind of cloud that is, say, the size of an apple. It is a shadowy entity, interpenetrating others, but large, ghostly, and present (as far as atomic dimensions are concerned) everywhere. When we recognize that a small dust particle contains millions of atoms, and millions of electrons — and we begin to see that each one of all these millions is the size of an apple — we begin to see what a hugely different picture this gives us of reality.

Each unfolding is like the apple-size electron. It reaches out, and it is part of the greater whole. It is not a fragment, like a matchbox. It embraces a considerable part of the world beyond itself. It embraces reality, and is reality.

2.5 Consider a relatively simple pattern, like Light on Two Sides of Every Room. This pattern, appears as #159 in A Pattern Language. The problem is stated as follows:

When they have a choice, people will always gravitate to those rooms which have light on two sides, and leave the rooms which are lit only from one side unused and empty.

 

The solution is then given as follows:

 

Locate each room so that it has outdoor space outside it on at least two sides, and then place windows in these outdoor walls so that natural light falls into every room from more than one direction.

This pattern gives us powerful insight about one of the conditions that makes a room pleasant. But it is still abstract, and it is up to us to make use of it, by holding it up as a target of some design process.

What does it mean to say that it is “abstract”? It focuses attention on the end state that is desired: but it does not tell us how to get there. Indeed, producing this pattern in a building, is quite difficult, because it will only come about by some decisions having to do with the volume of the building, by making sure that the building has, at least in some degree, wings of light which are narrow and not too thick, and placing of rooms on the corners of these wings. There is no one moment in the unfolding of the design, in your mind, or on paper, when you can undertake all these acts together — so it is difficult to visualize the action as a real process. It does not fit, in a commonsense way, into the real time when you are making these decisions.

So, you understand what is desired, but you do not have a concrete, and practical picture of how to get there.

2.6 Now imagine an unfolding which tells us that in an important room, we must begin to reshape the exterior walls of the room, its position in the house, the container like quality that is created by the windows bringing light from both sides to the place where we are standing.

First, this unfolding is plainly dynamic, it tells us to do something. It does not merely give us something as a target. This reflects the dynamic quality of every unfolding. But it also mobilizes our emotional energy and emotional engagement, in an entirely different way. If we imagine standing in the place, and are then (in our minds) made comfortable by the sun shining in on us, by the beauty of the light, at the same time coming from another direction, this tells us in a new way — in an entirely new way — the emotional impact which this unfolding has, and ought to have on our actions, and on our results.

The final result of this engagement is that the room, its exterior, its interior, its windows, the relative placement of the windows as they stand around us — all these are mobilized, and the whole, THE WHOLE, is now being transformed and modified in a profound kind act of awakening.

The pattern gives us very useful information. But the unfolding ignites a new sensation that is much deeper than mere information, and that has a much deeper effect on the building which is being formed, and on the mentality and feeling of those who are doing it.

Unfoldings, which are dynamic in nature embrace feeling, and show us the world unfolding and becoming, through the advent of feeling.

3. An unfolding is by its nature personal, and requires human input and human feeling from the people doing the work, as an essential part of its contribution to the formation of the environment.

3.1 Unfoldings are written in common language. They describe what happens as one moves around in space, sees, feels, and takes an action. They involve the feeling and participation of the doer, so that a person acting to undertake an unfolding, is fully engaged, can visualize both the feeling, and the necessity, and then the simplicity of the thing that is taking place, and the simple, but beautiful field which then takes form before our eyes.

I believe these unfoldings, for this reason, come finally, very much closer to the framework of engagement with people which first set me on this architectural path, almost fifty years ago. I believe that at last, I may have found a way — the simplest of all — of engaging people’s feelings — all people’s feelings — in the process of building, in such a way as to undo the results of mechanical, and mechanical-mental oppression — which we have all suffered, through nobody’s fault, during this last age of the two hundred years from 1800 to 2000.

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What is Shared is Loved

photo of Øyvind Holmstad

Øyvind Holmstad
11th April 2015


IF ONE THING, MORE THAN ANY OTHER, distinguishes a real neighborhood from the corporate machine-architecture of the 20th-century developer, it is the fact that real people have — together — conceived it, planned it, and built it. It is this human reality which makes it worth living in, pleasant to be there, and valuable. - Christopher Alexander

I do so often hear the claim that people care most about what they own. That’s a myth. As everything is interwoven, only a shared creation can be loved.

The Western view of property was created out of the destruction of the Native North Americans, using the philosophy of John Locke for all its worth. Well, Locke was actually arguing for the property rights of the nobility, but the settlers adapted his teaching for justifying their takeover of Indian land.

What the settlers did was that they destroyed the beautiful commons of the Native Americans, replacing it with a Cartesian hell of property rights. This is also the reason why Garrett Hardin’s essay “The Tragedy of the Commons” found such a fertile soil in the Western mind, and became like our civilization’s parallel to Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount”.

Read more about this in David Bollier’s essay: The Fateful Choice: The Pilgrims Assign Private Property Rights in Land.

The sad truth is that with this atomized worldview, where everybody does their own thing on their sacred property lot; in the end everything will be destroyed. And this way we lose the goal with our lives, the meaning of our existence. And we commit a terrible sin to the Earth.

Read more about this in my essay: Let’s Make Our World Whole.

In the world today we only find a few places created out of shared value. One of these is Damanhur in Italy. I hope to someday bring my family there for a period, to experience how our insane world of property could have been like if it was shared. If Me were We!

But even our world is no longer shared, but owned, the commons has again set new sprouts in these darkest of times.

Our societies have become a nightmare of disconnected parts, where we hate our lives and hate each other. As I just read in a Norwegian newspaper, never before have Norwegians quarreled more in the courts, and newer have there been more lawyers in Norway than today. To be sure, our Lockean/Cartesian society has become a paradise for the lawyers. When the commons is destroyed, the lawyers become fat.

It’s time to make a change! Let’s wreck John Locke and replace him with Ellinor Ostrom. Let’s learn from the commons the settlers destroyed. What is strange to think about, the settlers did not just destroy the USA; with their achievements they also destroyed my own country, Norway, which is now nothing but a slum of modernity.

To get inspiration for our fight, in spite of that everything is destroyed, read the essay by Mehaffy & Salingaros: A Vision for Architecture as More Than the Sum of Its Parts.

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Book of the Day: Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media

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hartsellml
11th April 2015


*Book: Fuchs, Christian. 2015. Culture and Economy in the Age of Social Media. New York: Routledge. 424 pages.

URL = http://fuchs.uti.at/books/culture-and-economy-in-the-age-of-social-media/

Description

This book applies Raymond Williams’ approach of Cultural Materialism to critically analyse cultural labour, digital labour, ideology, politics, democracy, the public sphere, globalisation, social media in China, the international division of digital labour, productive labour, and social struggles in the age of digital capitalism.

Contents

1. Introduction

PART I: Theoretical Foundations

2. Christian Fuchs and Marisol Sandoval: Culture and Work

3. Communication, Ideology, and Labour

PART II: Social Media?s Cultural Political Economy of Time

4. Social Media and Labour Time

5. Social Media and Productive Labour

PART III: Social Media?s Cultural Political Economy of Global Space

6. Social Media?s International Division of Digital Labour

7. Baidu, Weibo, and Renren: The Global Political Economy of Social Media in China

PART IV: Alternatives

8. Social Media and the Public Sphere

9. Conclusion

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The Most Important Entities

photo of Øyvind Holmstad

Øyvind Holmstad
10th April 2015


By Christopher Alexander. Original post here.

Use the following list of “entities” as a model for making your own first rudimentary list for the neighborhood — just to get started. Once again, the exotic nature of this list is intended to encourage you to allow free reign to your imagination at this early stage.

A vivid example,
originally written for
Samarkand city center,
Uzbekistan, 1994

This was the second list I wrote for the project. After trying to understand the system of patterns as a whole, and as we worked on it, the list was then transformed as a whole to modify the global feeling and content of what this place was going to be — as it matured in our under­standing. We kept on thinking of the whole way of life which would be created by these patterns, and then changed the patterns, intensified them, improved them, made the centers more explicit, as our understanding of this whole increased. We kept on working at it until the living whole revealed itself, as fully as we could manage, in the list of centers. After much more work, the list — or pattern language — for the project ended up with the following centers: Note, the earlier statements are written in the active form, in italics, which sketches the content of each possible center. The second, longer list which follows is given in small capital letters, to indicate that by this stage the ideas had materialized and solidified ascenters— as potentially solid objects which were reliable and recognizable as entities.

the main bridge

the forbidden city

massive surrounding wall

the festival promenade

view to registan

the observatory

the orchard of peach trees

main terrace

 outdoor theater

craft school and bazaar

 the inner city

small hotels

walled path

music school

inner city gate

five small walled gardens

chaikhanas

main street from the registan

fountains and streams

exhibition hall

covered bazaar

the library

the manuscript museum

arched bridge

soccer and games

wall of arches

gates in the outer wall

the hospice or kulliye

inner part of the forbidden city

blue-tiled walks

the mosque

The above photograph shows the model we made for the project, on the basis of this pattern language.

This example gives an idea of the vital role which generic centers can play in creating a whole. In this example these centers, the list alone, creates an almost magical atmosphere. As soon as we name them, just from naming them, we begin to feel the aura of the place. The patterns are evoca­tive. It doesn’t even matter in what order we take the centers. The mere list, itself, already conveys a profound atmosphere, and defines, in great de­gree the atmosphere of the place which will be made up of these centers. It creates the atmo­sphere right away. It is these centers which play the defining role. In Book 3, chapter 4, I show a drawing I made with my apprentices to show the physical character of this system of centers when they are realized.

SUMMARY OF TASKS FOR THIS UNFOLDING:

  • Compose a list of key entities (like the above list for Samarkand) for your own new, imagined neighborhood. Allow yourself free reign, free imagination, and make it poetically whole. Choose the entities so that the group of entities, taken as a whole, successfully capture the spirit of the very best, and most serious that this new neighborhood can be.
  • If possible, pin the list of entities you have written, on the wall where partners and colleagues can see it. Listen to what they say.
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Book of the Day: Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness

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hartsellml
10th April 2015


  • Book: Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness. By Nathaniel Tkacz. University of Chicago Press, 2015

Review

Paul Bernal:

“Nathaniel Tkacz … examines the entire Wikipedia project in the way that we as academics examine a Wikipedia article: questioning at every stage, digging deeper, looking through the project to its source, so as to apprehend its nature and come to a better understanding. Given the role and prominence of Wikipedia and those behind it, and how it has come to exemplify the internet itself, this is a critically important exercise – and Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness is an important book.

At one level it is a fascinating inside look at the operations of Wikipedia – from someone who clearly knows and understands it from the inside. It looks closely at three specific “incidents”: the deletion of “Wikipedia Art” (an attempt to compose conceptual art on Wikipedia itself), the process by which the controversial issue of whether to allow images of Muhammad to appear in Wikipedia was “resolved”, and the so-called Spanish Fork through which the question of whether Wikipedia should or could allow advertising was raised. Through a detailed examination of these issues, it gives us an insight into how Wikipedia works and tells us a great deal about the people involved – right up to Jimmy Wales himself, whom Tkacz at one point describes as “one of the most celebrated ‘benevolent dictators’ in open projects”.

At the next level, Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness is a critique not just of Wikipedia but of the whole idea of openness – one of the sacred cows of the internet, something considered almost beyond criticism. At times that critique is devastating. Tkacz takes apart some of the most fundamental assumptions of openness – and challenges the idealism behind them, the seemingly sincere belief by the advocates of openness in the near-perfection of their approach to consensus and decision-making.

To exemplify this, Tkacz uses “forking”, the idea that at any point in a truly open project, people who disagree with where things are going can “fork”, creating their own alternative version of the project and taking it with them, to compete with the original. As he describes it, forking is viewed with almost religious reverence: “(the threat of) forking is [seen as] a defense against tyranny and guarantor of democracy, it produces a form of consensus, transfers power from leaders to followers, achieves practical meritocracies, de-monopolizes power, ensures maximum freedom, and brings about diversity and radical innovation”.

Tkacz writes with a commendable dryness and wit – so much so that at times it is hard to tell which side of the story he is trying to tell, but that is, I feel sure, entirely deliberate. Indeed, Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness reads as though every word has been carefully chosen – and every ambiguity intended to make the reader think. The discussion of the so-called neutral point of view (NPOV), one of the five “pillars” of Wikipedia, really hits home: it is in many ways the heart of the book and of Tkacz’s criticism of both Wikipedia and the concept of openness itself. The question of whether there is such a thing as a neutral point of view is a deep one – one that touches on the nature of truth.

As Tkacz puts it: “In fact, Wales’s take on Wikipedia and truth goes even further than [academic Joseph] Reagle’s. It is not particular battles for truth that are ‘abandoned’, but truth in general. It is this ‘philosophical side-stepping’ that paves the way for consensus-based collaboration. There is, however, a second relation to truth, what might be called the truth of the NPOV or the internal truth of the encyclopedia…while the NPOV doesn’t claim to tell the truth about a thing, there is nonetheless a truth about what is neutral.”

This may be the biggest point of all – and one with a wider application than just Wikipedia. It has implications for our whole relationship with the internet, with data, with the digital world. In some ways, Wales isn’t viewed merely as a benevolent dictator but almost as a saint – and is put on a pedestal and used in the way that saints are. His appointment, for example, to Google’s Advisory Council on the Right to be Forgotten attempts to give Google the benefit of Wikipedia’s sanctified “neutral point of view”. Google – and to a lesser extent Facebook and others – also wants to be seen as neutral in the way that Wikipedia is. That way Google can avoid awkward questions, escape scrutiny and even regulation – its search algorithms viewed as purely organic, its various functions seen as provided primarily in the public interest, serving the internet and those who use it through altruism, rather than as a business whose interests are essentially economic and self-serving.

This alleged “neutrality” is critical – and our acceptance of it without real question is something that Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness challenges. It is not an easy book to read: the language is often complex and intense. To understand all the details here, one would need to be a computer scientist, a philosopher, a political scientist, an expert on actor-network theory and more – but to grasp its themes and significance, one needs only to participate actively in the modern world. Tkacz challenges assumptions and forces you to question your own views, particularly about openness itself.

As he puts it in his conclusion: “The problem of openness isn’t that it isn’t open; it is that it conceives the world in terms of this question. My task therefore wasn’t to show that Wikipedia is actually closed, hierarchical, centralized, bureaucratic, or totalitarian, but rather to try to think politically differently.”

Tkacz does think differently – and he challenges his readers to think differently. Wikipedia and the Politics of Openness made me do that. For an academic book, that might be the highest praise of all.” (http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/books/wikipedia-and-the-politics-of-openness-by-nathaniel-tkacz/2017640.article)

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