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Essay of the Day: An Opportunity for Innovative Credentialing for eLearning in Africa

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Michel Bauwens
1st October 2014


* Article: eLearning in Africa and the Opportunity for Innovative Credentialing. Gertjan van Stam

From the Abstract:

“The ubiquitousness of Information and Communication Technology triggers the current revolution in education. Online repositories of courses, through MOOCs or otherwise, open exciting possibilities for access to learning, also in Africa. A multitude of constraints must beovercome, spurred on by a vision of moral obligation and commitment to prepare the next generation and the swell of young people in Africa. The changing form of future education and the need for relevant certi?-cation calls for innovation in credentialing and validation of knowledge.”

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Book of the Day: The Solidarity Economy Alternative

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hartsellml
30th September 2014


Book: The Solidarity Economy Alternative: emerging theory and practice. Ed. by Vishwas Satgar. University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2014.

Review

“Taking as its background the rise of transnational activism, the World Social Forum, the Arab Spring, Occupy and the Climate Justice Movement, The Solidarity Economy Alternative: emerging theory and practice sets out to clarify meanings of the solidarity economy, emphasize the crucial theoretical concepts at work in the emergent solidarity economy around the world, and to highlight situated movement-building experiences. All those concerned with democracy, transformative politics and/or emancipatory utopian alternatives will be interested to hear this discussion!

Dr Vishwas Satgar is Executive Director of the Cooperative and Policy Alternative Centre (COPAC) in Johannesburg, and a senior lecturer in international relations at the University of the Witwaterstand.” (http://www.tni.org/events/solidarity-economy-alternative)

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Book of the Day: The Prince of Evolution

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hartsellml
29th September 2014


* Book: The Prince of Evolution, By Lee Alan Dugatkin.

= the story of the Russian prince, evolutionary theorist, and political radical Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin

 

Description

Eric Michael Johnson:

“In The Prince of Evolution Dugatkin tells the story of the Russian prince, evolutionary theorist, and political radical Peter Alexeyevich Kropotkin whose Darwinian theory of mutual aid was the first to argue that cooperation was an integral part of natural selection. Today, the quest to understand how cooperative behavior evolved is one of the hotest areas in the life sciences, though few researchers realize that many of their questions were first posed by Kropotkin more than a century ago.

“Kropotkin was not only the first person who clearly demonstrated that cooperation was important among animals,” Dugatkin writes, “he was the first person to forcefully argue that understanding cooperation in animals would shed light on human cooperation.”

Dugatkin’s book [an excerpt of which has been posted at Scientific American.com] is a précis on Kropotkin’s life and work, an overview that highlights the common theme of mutual aid in both his scientific and political ideas. Some may be familiar with Kropotkin as the revolutionary theorist of anarchism, a political system in which people organize their own affairs at the local level without interference from an external government, but few are likely to realize that this “anarchist Prince” started out as a physical geographer and geologist whose work was celebrated around the world. The discoveries that Kropotkin made of glacial formations during the Quaternary Period in Russia were received with international acclaim and earned him invitations to join the Imperial Russian Geographical Society, the British Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as a Cambridge University endowed chair in geology (which he turned down because it came with the stipulation that he give up his political work).

The Prince of Evolution offers a tantalizing peek into the life and ideas of a man Dugatkin calls “one of the world’s first international celebrities,” someone who filled auditoriums throughout Europe, England, and the United States with talks ranging from biology to anarchy to Russian literature. Kropotkin was a thinker whose ideas were so large that a single discipline could not contain them, and they were thought to be so dangerous that he was arrested multiple times and spent lengthy prison terms in Russia and France for communicating them. Part of what made him such a threat to the monarchs of Europe, Dugatkin suggests, was that Kropotkin refused to accept any authority that wasn’t based on scientific principles. He urged people everywhere to reject illegitimate tyranny and to use the tools of critical thinking and science to build a more equitable society themselves.” (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/2011/09/13/prince-of-evolution/)

 

Discussion

From an interview of author By Lee Alan Dugatkin by Eric Michael Johnson:

“He generally had a negative view of capitalism but, even more important, was his work on mutual aid in human evolution from early on through the medieval period. His research showed that over and over again people figured out a way to create small, interacting cooperative groups like the guilds in the Middle Ages. But the problem he found was that, as soon as these cooperative groups emerged, it immediately created selection pressures that favored parasites. These parasites would come in and suck up what they needed from individuals who were being good to one another and, eventually, cause the society to crumble. So, certainly, Kropotkin would not have been at all surprised by what has happened today.

I think this gets to the episodic nature of social change in Kropotkin’s view. As soon as you establish a cooperative society, you immediately create these dramatic forces that favor cheating. The question of how to stop that was one that Kropotkin was obsessed with.” (http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/primate-diaries/2011/09/13/prince-of-evolution/)

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Book of the Day: Digital Labour and Karl Marx

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hartsellml
28th September 2014


Book: Fuchs, Christian. 2014. Digital Labour and Karl Marx. New York: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-71615-4.

URL = http://fuchs.uti.at/books/digital-labour-and-karl-marx/

 

Description

“How is labour changing in the age of computers, the Internet, and social media? such as Facebook, Google, YouTube, Weibo and Twitter? In Digital Labour and Karl Marx, Christian Fuchs attempts to answer that question, crafting a systematic critical theorisation of labour as performed in the capitalist ICT industry. The book Digital Labour and Karl Marx shows that labour, class and exploitation are not concepts of the past, but are at the heart of computing and the Internet in capitalist society. It argues that we therefore need an engagement with Karl Marx’s theory to understand digital and social media today.

The work argues that our use of digital media is grounded in old and new forms of exploited labour. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Weibo and other social media platforms are the largest advertising agencies in the world. They do not sell communication, but advertising space. And for doing so, they exploit users, who work without payment for social media companies and produce data that is used for targeting advertisements. The book presents case studies that show that user’s activities on corporate social media is just one form of digital labour. Their usage is enabled by the labour of slaves and other highly exploited workers extracting minerals in developing countries, hardware assemblers in China, California and other parts of the world who face extremely hard working conditions that remind us of the industrial labour that Karl Marx described in 19th century Britain, low paid software engineers and information service workers in developing countries who provide labour for transnational ICT companies in the West, highly paid and highly stressed software engineers at Google and other Western ICT companies, or e-waste workers who disassemble computers under toxic conditions.

The case studies in Fuchs’ book show that the profitability of ICT companies is built on the lives and deaths of a global class of exploited workers whose labour is anonymously connected an international division of digital labour. Christian Fuchs, Production and use of digital media are embedded into multiple forms of exploitation. The information society is first and foremost a capitalist class society. The only solution is that we become conscious as a new working class and find ways to overcome the realities of exploitation.

PART I Theoretical Foundations of Studying Digital Labour

  • 1. Introduction
  • 2. An Introduction to Karl Marx?s Theory
  • 3. Contemporary Cultural Studies and Karl Marx
  • 4. Dallas Smythe and Audience Labour Today
  • 5. Capitalism or Information Society?

PART II Analysing Digital Labour: Case Studies

  • 6. Digital Slavery: Slave Work in ICT-Related Mineral Extraction
  • 7. Exploitation at Foxconn: Primitive Accumulation and the Formal Subsumption of Labour
  • 8. The New Imperialism?s Division of Labour: Work in the Indian Software Industry
  • 9. The Silicon Valley of Dreams and Nightmares of Exploitation: The Google Labour Aristocracy and Its Context
  • 10. Tayloristic, Housewifized Service Labour: The Example of Call Centre Work
  • 11. Theorizing Digital Labour on Social Media

PART III Conclusion

  • 12. Digital Labour and Struggles for Digital Work:The Occupy Movement as a New Working-Class Movement? Social Media as Working-Class Social Media?
  • 13. Digital Labour Keywords

 

Review

Joss Winn:

” On the whole, I’m very impressed with it. It’s 400 pages, comprehensively structured with a glossary at the back, and so a very useful reference and teaching resource. It combines a good discussion of Marx’s critique of political economy with a literature review and several illustrative case studies.

Fuchs’ book opens with:

“How is labour changing in the age of computers, the Internet, and “social media” such as Facebook, Google, YouTube and Twitter? In Digital Labour and Karl Marx, Christian Fuchs attempts to answer that question, crafting a systematic critical theorisation of labour as performed in the capitalist ICT industry. Relying on a range of global case studies – from unpaid social media prosumers or Chinese hardware assemblers at Foxconn to miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo – Fuchs sheds light on the labour costs of digital media, examining the way ICT corporations exploit human labour and the impact of this exploitation on the lives, bodies, and minds of workers.”

From this we are made aware that this is not a book about ‘immaterial labour’ or ‘cognitive capitalism’, although it discusses these theories, but rather it is primarily a critique of the forms of labour that contribute to the production of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

The book is divided into three main sections: Theory, case studies and conclusions.

The first section begins with an introduction to what ‘digital labour’ refers to and why it should be studied. Fuchs defines digital labour through reference to examples: mining for minerals used in mobile phones; Foxconn factory workers; Google software engineers; Amazon’s Mechanical Turk; Amazon’s warehouse workers; Work.Shop.Play, a website that rewards people for completing surveys for market research; and crowdsourcing the translation of Facebook’s website into other languages. From this, Fuchs defines ‘digital labour’ in the following way:

“These examples outline various forms of labour associated with the ICT industry. They differ in amount in regard to the levels of payment; health risks; physical, ideological and social violence; stress; free time; overtime; and the forms of coercion and control the workers are experiencing, but all have in common that human labour-power is exploited in a way that monetarily benefits ICT corporations and has negative impacts on the lives, bodies or minds of workers. The forms of labour described in this book are all types of digital labour because they are part of a collective work force that is required for the existence, usage and application of digital media. What defines them is not a common type of occupation, but rather the industry they contribute to and in which capital exploits them.” (p. 4)

In the book’s glossary (‘Digital Labour Keywords’), the entry for digital labour is:

“Digital labour Digital labour is alienated digital work: it is alienated from itself, from the instruments and objects of labour and from the products of labour. Alienation is alienation of the subject from itself (labour-power is put to use for and is controlled by capital), alienation from the object (the objects of labour and the instruments of labour) and the subject-object (the products of labour). Digital work and digital labour are broad categories that involve all activities in the production of digital media technologies and contents.

This means that in the capitalist media industry, different forms of alienation and exploitation can be encountered. Examples are slave workers in mineral extraction, Taylorist hardware assemblers, software engineers, professional online content creators (e.g. online journalists), call centre agents and social media prosumers. In digital labour that is performed on corporate social media, users are objectively alienated because (a) in relation to subjectivity, they are coerced by isolation and social disadvantage if they leave monopoly capital platforms (such as Facebook); (b) in relation to the objects of labour, their human experiences come under the control of capital; (c) in relation to the instruments of labour, the platforms are not owned by users but by private companies that also commodify user data; and (d) in relation to the product of labour, monetary profit is individually controlled by the platform’s owners. These four forms of alienation constitute together the exploitation of digital labour by capital. Alienation of digital labour concerns labour-power, the object and instruments of labour and the created products.” See also: digital work Digital work Digital work is a specific form of work that makes use of the body, mind or machines or a combination of all or some of these elements as an instrument of work in order to organize nature, resources extracted from nature, or culture and human experiences, in such a way that digital media are produced and used. The products of digital work are depending on the type of work: minerals, components, digital media tools or digitally mediated symbolic representations, social relations, artefacts, social systems and communities. Digital work includes all activities that create use-values that are objectified in digital media technologies, contents and products generated by applying digital media.

See also: digital labour” (p. 352)

I’ve quoted these in full because it’s important to know what we’re analysing and because I want to determine whether and how ‘academic labour’ differs from ‘digital labour’. After all, I am engaged in implementing a digital education strategy at my university, I have run a number of ICT related projects over the years and I think the label ‘digital scholar’ applies to academics like me. Am I a digital worker? Is my academic labour also digital labour?

From Fuchs’ definitions, we can say that digital labour is indeed a “broad category”. I think we can distil it as:

Alienated and exploited digital work which is defined by its association with the ICT industry; it creates value for that industry. It incorporates all physiological aspects of the human body, its relationship to nature and machines. It is objectified in digital goods as well as services that are reliant on digital goods.

Another way to define digital labour is to question what it is not. Can we think of a type of labouring activity that can not be included under this broad category? We have seen above that ‘digital work’ is not defined by its direct relationship to digital outputs. For example, in a month of work, the miner of minerals for a mobile phone may never encounter an ICT technology. They may live without access to electricity, walk to work, dig holes and that is the extent of their labouring routine. As Fuchs notes in the introduction to his case study on the slavery of mineral mining (what he calls ‘digital slavery’), “most of the slaves who extract these minerals have never owned a computer or laptop.” (p.155) So in thinking about non-digital labour, we need to think of a type of labouring activity where the ICT industry does not profit from it in any way and it does not produce ICT goods or any services that rely on ICT.

The first thing that comes to my mind is food production. Is this digital labour? The food commodity is not a digital object, yet according to Fuchs’ definition, I think large-scale, industrial food production and manufacturing (e.g. ‘e-agriculture‘) could count as digital labour. It is highly mechanised and relies on the global trade of food commodities. The ICT industry definitely benefits from the production processes of food, even apart from it keeping their workers alive.

What about nursing? The ICT industry definitely benefits from the medical and care professions. The act of care in a hospital or care home can be seen as contributing to the profits of the ICT industry. It may at first seem like a long stretch between patient care and the revenues of Dell, for example, but the labour of a nurse includes the use of ICT and management of that labour requires the use of ICT. Cisco, for example, thinks that ‘ICT [is] at the heart of NHS reform‘. [pdf] It is an “integral and underpinning part of NHS business”.

The issue that Fuchs’ definition of digital labour points to is that it could include most types of labour. Even slavery is referred to as ‘digital slavery’.” (http://josswinn.org/2014/03/digital-labour-academic-labour-and-karl-marx/)

 

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Book of the Day: Networked Apartment Project

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hartsellml
27th September 2014


Networked Apartment Project

Kelsy Colvin:

“The contemporary urban neighborhood of houses in the United States still reflects a collection of individuals who are connected as a community in how they use their space. The house offers the ability to personalize the exterior space of your home and is often more connected to neighborhood associations, while it is integrated amongst other houses. The apartment complex however often lacks the same amenities afforded home owners. Apartments often lack opportunities for tenants to socialize. This creates a situation where many people live close together without awareness of one another. A connected community helps to promote participation in neighborhood decisions, encourages good mental health, and supports safer spaces.

Many have • No community space • Many sites are cut off from other housing by having only businesses in the surrounding area. • Many face a busy street which creates a situation where the community is isolated. • Also many lack usable space outside the entryway to home that could serve as an extension of the home.

This creates a lack of personalized exterior space that could serve to connect tenants to each other.

Our book provides a how-to guide for renters that want to address this problem in their apartments. It includes concepts like creating social spaces, personalizing apartment space, and throwing events. In this it addresses common challenges and how to find resources to help you in your project. The goal of the book is to provide tenants with the resources they need to create a community project that will create a long lasting improvement to there apartments.

Our book will address types of projects a tenant can start in your apartment community including: upgrade the courtyard into usable space, organizing regular community events, putting up a bulletin board, personalizing the entryway, and creating seating in communal spaces. It will also include how to make a goal into a community goal. Which will include throwing an event, going door to door, creating an apartment community blog space or an apartment website, and using existing community space to make more community space.

Our book will also help you to present your ideas in order to acquire funding and support for your project. Resources are available in the book to help with this including: contacting a local neighborhood association, finding local activist groups that could be involved, contacting a local university, and contacting local government organizations. Facilitating these projects can be hard which is why challenges and trouble shooting is also addressed in the book to give the user all the tools they will need to get their project going.” (http://networkedurbanism.com/posts/networked-apartment-project-2/)

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Posted in Featured Book, P2P Architecture and Urbanism, P2P Lifestyles, Peer Property | No Comments »

On the Dangers of Monetizing Nature

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David Bollier
26th September 2014


double sérénité

“We can see the application of economic valuation in the real world and the damage that application has in far too many cases already done to communities who depend on and defend their territories against outside decisions that will destroy the land that provides them with a livelihood.”

I remember in the late 1970s how the corporate world essentially invented the use of cost-benefit analysis in health, safety and environmental regulation. It was a brazen attempt to redefine the terms for understanding social ethics and policy in terms favorable to capital and markets.  Instead of seeing the prevention of death, disease and ecological harm as a matter of social justice, period, American industry succeeded in recasting these issues aseconomic matters.  And of course, such arcane issues must be overseen by a credentialed priesthod of economists, not ordinary mortals whose concerns were snubbed as selfish NIMBYism (Not in My Backyard).

And so it came to be that, with the full sanction of law, a dollar sum could be assigned to our health, or to the cost of getting cancer, or to a statistical baby born with birth defects. Regulation was transformed into a pseudo-market transaction.  That mindset has become so pervasive three decades later that people can barely remember when ethical priorities actually trumped big money.

It is therefore a joy to see Barbara Unmüssig’s essay,“Monetizing Nature:  Taking Precaution on a Slippery Slope,”which recently appeared on the Great Transition Initiative website.  Unmüssig is President of the Heinrich Boell Foundation in Germany and a stalwart supporter of the commons, especially in her backing of the 2010 and 2013 conferences in Berlin.

Striking a note that is note heard much these days, Unmüssig points out the serious dangers of seeing the natural world through the scrim of money.  Here is the abstract for her piece:

In the wake of declining political will for environmental protection, many in the environmental community are advocating for the monetization of nature. Some argue that monetization, by revealing the economic contribution of nature and its services, can heighten public awareness and bolster conservation efforts. Others go beyond such broad conceptual calculations and seek to establish tradable prices for ecosystem services, claiming that markets can achieve what politics has not.

However, such an approach collapses nature’s complex functions into a set of commodities stripped from their social, cultural, and ecological context and can pose a threat to the poor and indigenous communities who depend on the land for their livelihood. Although the path from valuation to commodification is not inevitable, it is indeed a slippery slope. Avoiding this pitfall requires a reaffirmation of the precautionary principle and a commitment to democratic decision-making and social justice as the foundations of a sound environmental policy for the twenty-first century.

Unmüssig’s essay is followed by comments by some fantastic commentary by nine ecological economists and environmental policy experts, among others, who take issue with parts of the essay and elaborate on points of agreement.  Among the commentators are the noted ecological economists Herman Daly and Bob Costanza, but there are also some insightful comments by Neera Singh, Jutta Kill and Neil Glazer.

I especially liked biologist Jutta Kill’s comments:

We can see the application of economic valuation in the real world and the damage that application has in far too many cases already done to communities who depend on and defend their territories against outside decisions that will destroy the land that provides them with a livelihood.

And finally, adopting someone else’s frame—the frame that sees “nature” in a way that capital does—by default requires devaluing and undermining the values we (used to) consider worth fighting for. That would likely entail losing moral authority and legitimacy, at least over time. Adopting the concept of economic valuation means adopting the values of actors whose business model is built on limitless growth and the associated wrecking of “nature”—and many people’s livelihoods.

Forestry scholar Neera Singh also has a nice response to the perversity that sees ecological conservation as a sacrifice for which market payment should be paid:

“How can we honor the gift of conservation care labor that goes into the production of ecosystem services in ways that it is seen as a gift rather than as production of a service whose exchange can be sealed with a payment? And can we see these gifts—gifts by nature, by people who live in ecologically sensitive landscapes, gifts emerging from human-nature relations—as invitation for long-term exchanges in sharing the burden and joy of environmental care?”

Read the essay and then the comments.  Some terrific insights into the pathological monetization of nature.


Originally posted in Bollier.org

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Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Original Content, P2P Bibliography, P2P Ecology, P2P Foundation, Politics | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Capitalism vs. the Climate

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hartsellml
26th September 2014


This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. By Naomi Klein.

D.R. Tucker:

“This Changes Everything deserves to be viewed not as one of the greatest nonfiction works of the 2010s, but as one of the greatest nonfiction works of all-time. Disregard that 2008 Obama speech—the publication of this book will truly mark the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow, and the planet began to heal. I write this filled with self-doubt; I’m not certain I can put into words the majesty, the power, the glory of this book. I grew covetous of her talent as I read it; how can one communicate so much truth so effectively, so clearly, so crisply?

“What is really preventing us from putting out the fire that is threatening to burn down our collective house?” Klein asks early on, before observing:

= I think the answer is far more simple than many have led us to believe: we have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis. We are stuck because the actions that would give us the best chance of averting catastrophe—and would benefit the vast majority—are extremely threatening to an elite minority that has a stranglehold over our economy, our political process, and most of our major media outlets.

As Klein observes, the twin demons of globalization and market fundamentalism began to possess the developed world in the late-1980s, and have yet to be exorcised. Only a powerful, determined, diverse, international, grassroots progressive movement can drive those demons out:

- The mainstream environmental movement…generally stands apart from…expressions of mass frustration, choosing to define climate activism narrowly—demanding a carbon tax, say, or even trying to stop a pipeline. And those campaigns are important. But building a mass movement that has a chance of taking on the corporate forces arrayed against science-based emission reduction will require the broadest possible spectrum of [progressive] allies.

Klein notes that climate-change deniers are so grotesque in their attacks on climate science because they know what’s at stake if concerned citizens take emissions seriously:

- More fundamentally than any of this, though, is [deniers’] deep fear that if the free market system really has set in motion physical and chemical processes that, if allowed to continue unchecked, threaten large parts of humanity at an existential level, then their entire crusade to morally redeem capitalism has been for naught. With stakes like these, clearly greed is not so very good after all. And that is what is behind the abrupt rise in climate change denial among hardcore conservatives: they have come to understand that as soon as they admit that climate change is real, they will lose the central ideological battle of our time—whether we need to plan and manage our societies to reflect our goals and values, or whether that task can be left to the magic of the market.

Klein holds nothing back, condemning the decision by certain prominent environmental organizations to play pattycake with polluters, faulting former Vice President Al Gore for being “largely responsible for getting so many Big Green groups on board” to support the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1993, exposing the chasm between the words and the deeds of Richard Branson, Michael Bloomberg and President Obama on climate.

Klein notes that even the political center-left trembles at the implications of the climate crisis:

- This is where the right-wing climate deniers have overstated their conspiracy theories about what a cosmic gift global warming is to the left. It is true…that many climate responses reinforce progressive support for government intervention in the market, for greater equality, and for a more robust public sphere. But the deeper message carried by the [climate crisis] is a profound challenge to large parts of the left as well as the right. It’s a challenge to some trade unions, those trying to freeze in place the dirtiest jobs, instead of fighting for the good clean jobs their members deserve. It’s a challenge to the overwhelming majority of center-left Keynesians, who still define economic success in terms of traditional measures of GDP growth, regardless of whether that growth comes from rampant resource extraction.

The book is profoundly hopeful, praising the emergence of “a resurgent grassroots climate movement” opposed to tar sands mining, fracking, and the overall culture of contamination that the fossil-fuel industry has fought for decades to maintain, a movement that “is winning a series of startling victories against the fossil fuel sector as a result,” including victories on the divestment front. She notes that the fossil fuel industry’s obsession with sucking every last bit of dirty energy from the ground has awakened sleeping giants across the economic spectrum:

- …[T]he scope of many new extraction and transportation projects has created opportunities for people whose voices are traditionally shut out of the dominant conversation to form alliances with those who have significantly more social power…In the 1990s, it was trade deals that brought huge and unlikely coalitions together; today it is fossil fuel infrastructure.

Klein concludes by noting that in addition to resisting the abuse of the Earth by the fossil fuel industry, the new grassroots climate movement is “actively building an alternative economy based on very different principles and values” than the economy that gave birth to the climate crisis. Either this alternative economy is out future…or we won’t have a future.

Klein declares:

- …[A]ny attempt to rise to the climate challenge will be fruitless unless it is understood as part of a much broader battle of worldviews, a process of rebuilding and reinventing the very idea of the collective, the communal, the commons, the civil, and the civic after so many decades of attack and neglect. Because what is so overwhelming about the climate challenge is that it requires breaking so many rules at once—rules written into national laws and trade agreements, as well as powerful unwritten rules that tell us that no government can increase taxes and stay in power, or say no to major investments no matter how damaging, or plan to gradually contract those parts of our economies that endanger us all. Fundamentally, the task is to articulate not just an alternative set of policy proposals but an alternative worldview to rival the one at the heart of the ecological crisis—embedded in interdependence rather than hyperindividualism, reciprocity rather than dominance, and cooperation rather than hierarchy. This is required not only to create a political context to dramatically lower emissions, but also to help us cope with the disasters we can no longer avoid. In the hot and stormy future, we have already made inevitable through our past emissions, an unshakable belief in the equal rights of all people and a capacity for deep compassion will be the only things left standing between civilization and barbarism.” (http://www.washingtonmonthly.com/political-animal-a/2014_09/damn_right_this_changes_everyt052173.php)

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Kostakis & Bauwens: Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy

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David Bollier
25th September 2014


Vasilis Kostakis and Michel Bauwens

Vasilis Kostakis and Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens and Vasilis Kostakis have just published a new book that offers a rich, sophisticated critique of our current brand of capitalism, and looks to current trends in digital collaboration to propose the outlines of the next, network-based economy and society.

Network Society and Future Scenarios for a Collaborative Economy is a scholarly book published by Palgrave Macmillan. If you’d like to look at a working draft of the book, you can find it online here.

Bauwens is the founder of the P2P Foundation, and Kostakis is a political economist and founder of the P2P Lab. He is also a research fellow at the Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance at Tallinn University of Technology, Estonia.

Kostakis and Bauwens write:

The aim of this book is not to provide yet another critique of capitalism but rather to contribute to the ongoing dialogue for post-capitalist construction, and to discuss how another world could be possible. We build on the idea that peer-to-peer infrastructures are gradually becoming the general conditions of work, economy, and society, considering peer production as a social advancement within capitalism but with various post-capitalistic aspects in need of protection, enforcement, stimulation and connection with progressive social movements.

The authors outline four scenarios to “explore relevant trajectories of the current techno-economic paradigm within and beyond capitalism.” They envision the rise of “netarchical capitalism,” a network-based capitalism, that sanctions several types of compatible and conflicting forms of capitalism – what they call “the mixed model of neo-feudal cognitive capitalism.”  There are variations that are possible, including “distributed capitalism, resilient communities and global Commons.”

Kostakis and Bauwens regard resilient communities and the global Commons as “the hypothetical model of mature peer production under civic dominance,” and propose that this scenario – the Commons – represents “a sustainable alternative to capital accumulation.”  However, moving to this scenario requires transition strategies for the state, the market and the civic domain, for which Kostakis and Bauwens make some tentative proposals.

Those of you who have been following Michel Bauwens’ thinking for some time will find many familiar themes and arguments.  Yet this book also represents a the best single, comprehensive overview of Bauwens’ pioneering thinking, informed by dozens of real-life examples around the world. The great virtue of this book is its careful, empirically informed analysis and its integration of political and cultural factors in making sense of the economy.  Highly recommended!

Contents

PART ONE: THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK

1. Capitalism as a creative destruction system

2. Beyond the end of history: Three competing value models

3. The P2P infrastructures: Two axes and four quadrants

PART TWO: COGNITIVE CAPITALISM

4. Netarchical capitalism

5. Distributed capitalism

6. The social dynamics of the mixed model of neo-feudal cognitive capitalism

PART THREE: THE HYPOTHETICAL MODEL OF MATURE PEER PRODUCTION: TOWARDS A COMMONS-ORIENTED ECONOMY AND SOCIETY

7. Resilient communities

8. Global Commons

9. Transition proposals towards a Commons-oriented economy and society


Originally published at Bollier.org

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Posted in Campaigns, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Featured Book, Featured Content, Open Content, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Foundation, P2P Theory, Politics, Theory | No Comments »

Algorithms of Emancipatory Modes of Production

photo of Orsan Senalp

Orsan Senalp
23rd September 2014


algoritmi-capitaleAlgortihms of Capitalism is the new book curated by Matteo Pasquinelli. This link would direct the reader to the Italian version of this very exciting volume which brings together the Accelerationist Manifesto, some reactions to it, and some important reflections relevant to what Toni Negri calls ‘the #Acclerationisty politics’ that can be drawn from the manifesto. Most of the articles have been already online in English as well. Here I collected some of those:

#Accelerate: Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics by Alex Williams and Nick Srnicek

Reflections on the Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics by Toni Negri

Matteo Pasquinelli: “To Anticipate and Accelerate: Italian Operaismo and Reading Marx’s Notion of Organic Composition of Capital”, Rethinking Marxism journal, vol. 26, n. 2, 2014.

another intriguining peiece from Pasquinelli: “The Power of Abstraction and Its Antagonism. On Some Problems Common to Contemporary Neuroscience and the Theory of Cognitive Capitalism”, Psychopathologies of Cognitive Capitalism, Part 2. Berlin: Archive Books,  2014.

Red stack attack! Algorithms, capital and the automation of the common by Tiziana Terranova:

On this blog [http://syntheticedifice.wordpress.com/] it also possible to follow other reactions and relevant discussion around the Accele-rationalism. Below is for instance a friendly but undermining critique by McKenzie Wark, taken from there:

#Celerity: A Critique of the Manifesto for an Accelerationist Politics

To be honest #Accelerationist manifesto also sounds to me, at first several readings, like a call for Kautskian and/or Plekhanovian politics 2.0. It suggests that to breakdown the global networked cognitive savage capitalism we must lead it into a future trap by Accelerating it until it is broken!

Although this sounds like an excitingly good-crazy idea, I have to step on the brake…. It has always been hard for me to accept the idea that suggest that in order to or if you want to negate and transcend something bad, first you need to let it be worsen and worsen, faster and faster, violent and violent… then bam! Even though political imagery says ‘push it harder towards the cliff’, scary question remains: ‘what if… it still survives then!’ It is great and energizing to hear about the anger and hope being formulated in such intelligent way; crying that the time is up and we need get away with this maniacal system as soon as possible. However, I find myself sympatyizing with Wark’s strong and friendly criticism, suggesting that ‘ok, lets get rid of it, but not accelerating it.. by hacking it, now!” I believe that Wark is right. There exists another ways to hack the capitalist mode of production instead of making it happen faster.

Agreeing with many others who think global working class is currently making it self through ongoing and intensifying struggles, I would formulate a good hack, as a bottom up class project, surely one part of wider free libre and open source code, of which algorithms are currently being written:

“The seed form of the self-organisation of the global working classes needs to be simultaneously well grounded, transnational, and global. It needs also be open, free/gratis and accessible for all the working people; so that they can freely enter and leave it. As modularly integrated organized networks it should be aiming at and capable of linking industrial, digital and inforamtional liek hacker-, academic-, art- workers, sex-. domoestic-, immigrant- … all fragments of the working classes, as well as social-environmental-cultural-informational-sexual justice activists. Adoptable principles and protocols, in form of the ‘code’, which can be pre-determined, as the coding process itself, has to be well documented, open and accessible to local, workplace, neighbourhood, issue based, activist or other forms of political collectives. It should be operating similar to Anonymous, 15M, Occupy, Gezi and other decentralized forms, yet based on more advanced and structured working protocols, closer to FLOSS projects, grassroots and worker’s owned cooperatives. It should not include membership, service, representation sort of logics that at the end leads to the reproduction of disempowerment for involving nodes, creating clientalism. Such form should not be organized by professional intellectuals and activists from outside in, and from top down towards the working people. With an opposite perspective, it should be an open design process led by volunteer participation, based on self-governing and representation principles.

It should be able to put forward creative, assertive and effective direct non-violent mass action, which makes fun of and ridicule the target by allowing the formation of collective intelligence. An active peer-to-peer self-learninig protocols and praxis should be at the core cultural production and re-creation beyond straitjacket put on the working ‘class’. Instead of having teachers who must show the right and enlightened road to the candidate working class members, who needs to get a self-consciousness, a global and networked labour union should be providing working people with the access to the tools, resources and key networks that would make self- empowerment easily possible. By linking spaces where continuous open exchanges take place and carry the energy from one space to other. Utilizing How to(s), Do it Yourself and Do it With Others guides, in online and real world context, by FLOSS communication tools as well as mass-action tactics it would replace top down (issue-anger-action) organizing model, which would allow self-articulation, respectful and collaborative working praxis by harmonized through peer-to-peer digital communication where possible and desirable, as well as face to face and secure meetings, cultural and recreational events cultural events. It should be collaborating with other organizations, creative and productive projects that undermines capitalist mode of production and develop the algorithms and codes of alternative modes, as operating systems that could replace capitalism. Such global network needs to grow by linking existing radical networks groups of activists, hackers, organizers, makers, DIY groups, squatters, eco-willages, diggers, immigrants, asylum seekers, solidarity networks, and so on. In a way all nodes could associate with the globally networked ties, while keeping their autonomy. Instead of #Accelerating capitalism, a better motto we should be spreading might be:

“All empower one, one empower all!”

All empowers one, one empowers all!: Coding the Algorithms of Emancipatory Modes of Production | Social Network Unionism.

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The Fabulous Future of P2P Economics, Commerce and Democracy

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
23rd September 2014


By Jules Peck Founding Partner, Jericho Chambers; Trustee, New Economics Foundation, member of the Advisory Board of the B Team.

I’ve just returned from an eye-opening, mind-expanding week in Leipzig at the 4th Annual global Degrowth congress. This vibrant gathering brought together over 3,000, mostly young, ‘prosumer’ activists and practitioners from a variety of new economy movements.

While there I learnt a huge amount from makers, hacktivists, anarcho-syndical cooperativists, collaborative-commoners, anti-capitalists, free-culturalists, buen-vivir, transitioners, Fab-Lab-ers, p2p-ers and social-entrepreneurs from places as diverse as Spain, India, Bolivia and Brazil. And continuing the theme of new economics, on the train back I read Jeremy Rifkin’s important new book the “The Zero Marginal Cost Society – the internet of things, the collaborative economy, and the eclipse of capitalism.”

In preparation for Degrowth I also spent three days in Meissen on a deep-dive with a small group of p2p and commons movement leaders including David Bollier and Michel Bauwens who, in the introduction to his book, both praise Rifkin as a visionary of a new world order.

I was in Germany as part of the research and outreach for work on the Real Economy Lab, an initiative that aims to help connect theory and practice through a collaborative mind-mapping of the wider ecosystem of the post-growth new economy movement. The hope is that this process can form the start of a global alliance building to converge these various new economy movements into one force for good.

Germany was a good place to start as its probably the country furthest ahead in the combination of the Internet of Things, renewable, decentralized and community controlled energy, grassroots commons activists and ‘makers’.

One thing everyone I met have in common is a desire to create a new world order, a new way of creating, connecting and being which is beyond the market, beyond ownership, growth and capitalism. To them the idea of working for a large company for a wage has just never even been on the radar. Indeed the idea of large, shareholder owned private enterprises doesn’t feature in the world they are co-creating. Many of them have also conceptually, and in some cases, such as Cooperativa Integral Catalana, literally moved beyond any real relationship with politics and the state. Indeed, even the cutting edge of politics, Citizen-democracy parties like Partido X and Podemos, are running fast just to try to keep up with the convergence of these movements.

Emerging from this convergence is a powerful vision of a new world order and paradigm which represents real hope of building a bottom-up safety-net to catch the ever-more fragile top-down, as it unravels and collapses around us.

The new paradigm these movements are creating is post-enlightenment, lateral not hierarchical, chaordic, networked, decentralist, inclusive, open, rebellious and fun. It represents a near future that will test and fail much of the incumbent and dying models of politics and business. And it cocks a snoot at the Lockean, Millian and Social-Darwinian paradigm and story that has so atomised, excluded and isolated us from each other and so ravaged the planet.

What have till now been separate movements of the co-operative, commons, p2p, Transition and Makers are converging and learning that they have much in common and that if they stand and develop together they can be more than a side-show and thorn-in-the-side of the mainstream — they can become the mainstream in a new post capitalist, post growth world.

Jeremy Rifkin’s new book The Zero Marginal Cost Society is, along with Naomi Klein’s new “This Changes Everything – capitalism versus the climate,” a current must read. It documents an on-going shift to what Rifkin calls the Third Industrial Revolution. And it summarizes much of what I experienced last week in Leipzig about the coming together of the Internet of Things (IoT), the p2p worlds, the collaborative-commons and new economy movements.

Rifkin points to a central contradiction of capitalism which I find a useful addition to the new economy theories of people like Professors Schweickart, Olin-Wright and Alperovitz. This is that capitalism’s inbuilt dynamism drives it necessarily, if left to a truly free market, towards near-zero marginal costs of production for additional production units — what Rifkin calls ‘extreme productivity’. The implications of this are revolutionary — once at near-zero the system’s inbuilt dynamics stall and start to unravel — “goods an services become nearly free, the exchange of property on markets shuts down and the capitalist system dies”.

Thus the very DNA of capitalism, that which has made it such a success, has within it its own lethal sting in the tail. Its designed to kill itself. And to kill off any enterprise, such as the private shareholder owned corporate, reliant on its continuing. Capitalism has done its job and made itself redundant. If only we had made it to where we are now, on the edge of near-zero marginal costs, and the new economy it heralds, maybe 40 years ago, we might not now be in our nose-dive into possibly unstoppable, runaway climate chaos.

Rifkin’s view is that we are seeing the eclipsing of capitalism as a system and that incumbent centralised and vertically integrated profit-orientated businesses, whilst they will try to mimic, learn from and slip-stream this new order, will at best be carried only a short way on this journey to the new economy. Certain sectors like energy, health, finance and consumer products are first in the firing line. Some nimble incumbents in other sectors may morph into new forms of enterprise that can flourish within the new order.

The idea that we could soon all be able to 3D print our own homes, cars, clothes using open-access, open-source code, near-free energy and resources in local Fab Labs is mind-blowing but a near reality. It blows the hierarchical, inequality based current economy out of the (3d printed) bathtub. If done with a close eye on ecological limits it could herald a true circular economy.

I’ve long though the next paradigm will need to go beyond the tired state versus market, capitalism versus socialism debate and, as Rifkin says “the young collaborationists are borrowing the principles virtues of both the capitalists and the socialists, while eliminating the centralising nature of both the free market and the bureaucratic state”. I’m not sure what Marx would have made of the idea of the shift from exchange-value to ‘shared-value’, nor where this sits vis a vis ‘use value’ but as Rifkin says “The rule book that governs a market exchange economy becomes far less relevant to the life of society” in what he sees as the soon-to-be dis-enclosure of the means of production and the eclipsing of capitalism by the collaborative commons.

The vision of networked, open-source, open-access, exponentially-increasing extreme productivity in the hands of the masses, not private interests, is of course manna from heaven. I’m not entirely convinced by all of Rifkin’s logic. His future seems a world covered in endless Pv farms and wind turbines and his thinking on decoupling seems untested and incommensurable with the reality of the scale and intensity of energy and carbon reductions needed to keep us from a 4 degree world. But there is much in here which rings true.

Rifkin’s thinking dovetails nicely with Klein’s latest book which is also about the eclipsing of capitalism by people-power. Indeed Klein champions many of the movements I met in Leipzig and gave a keynote address to the congress.

This p2p, people-powered revolution in commerce, economics and democracy is all emergent stuff. Whilst experimentation is flourishing and producing real impact, the social and movement networks are not yet fully connected into a coherent global alliance. And as yet they don’t have an over-arching vision, narrative and route-map which can inform their various trajectories and combine to build a progressive anti Shock Doctrinaire alternative to the unravelling of our current systems.

But after what I’ve seen and heard this week I’m ever more optimistic. I feel a bit like I’ve just been plugged into the Matrix – only its not malign and its in our control. I’ve seen the future and it’s Fab-ulous.

Source : http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jules-peck/the-fabulous-future-of-p2_b_5836834.html

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