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P2P Trendfest (6): User-Generated Urbanism

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Michel Bauwens
30th July 2014


Jordan Kushins refers to three different models:

“The traditional model of city-making has historically involved experts with a definitive, long-term plan executed over time. The issue with that is that culture changes faster than infrastructure; we’ve surpassed our ability to keep up. One of the consequences is that we’re left living in cities we planned 50 to 60 years ago.”

That’s Blaine Merker. He’s a principal and one of the co-founders of Rebar, an art and design studio in San Francisco set on evolving the way people interact and engage with their environment. He and his team are the co-founders of Adaptive Metropolis, an upcoming symposium focusing on a new wave of grassroots urbanism that addresses the needs of places and constituents—immediately. By the people, for the people. Merker calls it “user-generated urbanism,” or “collaborative city-making.” But what, exactly, does that mean?

These ideas may be formed within traditional disciplines—architecture, engineering, landscape, design—but are adapted and promoted by locals who are most familiar with the problems and issues facing their areas. Merker describes three models:

* Open Source

Merker points to Park(ing) Day as a prime example of “open source” urbanism. In 2005, the Rebar gang put two hours worth of coins in a parking meter and rolled out some sod in a spot on a San Francisco street. Eight years later, the open-source movement has gone global with some seriously impressive installations that encouraging people to slow down, have a seat, and experience their neighborhoods with a new perspective. Check out the map for a look at how this year’s event—which took place on Friday, September 20th—went down.

* Iterative

This approach doesn’t attempt to lay out an entire, established plan upfront. Merker compares it to software development: “Try to get a beta out and break it early,” he says. “Fail quick fail often in an urban context where the risks and stakes are lower.”

San Francisco’s Pier 70 is in the early stages of a 15-year redesign by Forest City that will transform the iconic locale into a mixed-use hub for creative businesses, living spaces, rotating pop-ups, and retail space. By mapping out a plan and slowly enacting various elements, Merker says the firm hopes to be able to gauge the popular response and adjust accordingly.

* Peer Network Design

These plans focus more on crossing boundaries between disciplines—and Merker mentions the sharing economy as a great example. Take our hyper-congested streets, 75 percent of which he says are dedicated to the movement and storage of private vehicles. The existence of services like ZipCar and City Car Share are taking a significant chunk of these off the road, subsequently reducing gridlock and freeing up the thoroughfares for other shared services. “Access instead of ownership,” he says.

Social media has expanded the reach of these projects and put hyper-local efforts in an international spotlight, allowing for critical feedback and the dissemination of these ideas in other cities.

And of course, Merker’s ideas have sparked some spirited debate, as well. Even those who appreciate these concepts in theory can be critical of the execution—just have a look at Alissa Walker’s recent take on the aforementioned Park(ing) Day. But to the Adaptive Metropolis gang, these opinions are actually part of the plan. “Friction is an incredibly productive space,” Merker says. Dialogue is key, and the discussions that result from the tension between guerrilla movements and tactical solutions will get to the heart of what matters to the people who these changes impact the most.”

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Posted in Featured Trend, P2P Architecture and Urbanism | No Comments »

Book of the Day: The Transforming History of Land Ownership

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Michel Bauwens
30th July 2014


* Book: Owning the Earth: The Transforming History of Land Ownership. By Andro Linklater. Bloomsbury, 2013.

From a review by David Bollier:

“the new book .. describes how the Pilgrims imposed their notions of private property on the land commons in the New World. The consequences – while perhaps inevitable, whether from them or other settlers – were nonetheless pivotal in the future development of America.

In 1623, William Bradford, the future governor of the colony, declared that land would be privately owned and managed, with each family assigned a parcel of land “according to the proportion of their number.” This decision had profound effects on how individual Pilgrims managed their land and related to each other.

As Bradford wrote: ‘‘And no man now thought he could live except he had catle and a great deale of ground to keep them all, all striving to increase their stocks. By which means they were scattered all over the bay quickly and the towne in which they lived compactly till now was left very thinne.’’ You might say that private property rights in land were the beginning of suburban sprawl.

Linklater points out that the native people, the Wampanaog, had allowed individual parcels of land to be used and occupied by individual families, but no one could have exclusive, permanent ownership of the land.

As the Wampanaog leader Massasoit explained:

- ‘‘The land is our mother, nourishing all her children, beasts, birds, fish, and all men. The woods, the streams, everything on it belongs to everybody and is for the use of all. How can one man say it belongs only to him?’’

But the Pilgrims went in a different direction. The Pilgrims’ governor, John Winthrop, writes Linklater, “put forward a revolutionary proposal, usually ascribed to John Locke half a century later.”

- “In a pamphlet published in 1629, he argued that private ownership of the earth did not depend upon the law, but was created by human toil. He constructed this novel explanation by weaving together Puritan doctrines and the pragmatic outlook of the enclosers. ‘God has given to the sonnes of men a double right to the earth,’ Winthrop declared, ‘a natural right, and a Civill Right.’’’

- “Winthrop was breaking new ground when he asserted that the purely English civil or legal right to own land as private property came about when men enclosed and improved that land. The natural right was established by use and occupancy.”

Unsatisfied with a secular, civil justification for private property rights, the Pilgrims went further. They wanted to establish a Biblical basis for their individual land ownership.

Reverend John Cotton obligingly reached into the Bible to invoke a story from the Book of Genesis about Abraham’s search for a place to settle among the Philistines:

- “When [Abraham] was prevented from using a well he had dug in the dry land of Beersheba, Abraham appealed to the Philistine king, Abimelech, claiming that he had the right to draw water because he was the person who had sunk the well. In Cotton’s sermon, however, Abraham also made a specific claim of individual ownership, based on ‘‘his owne industry and culture in digging the well.”

In other words, there was biblical evidence to reassure the new Americans that their right to individually owned, landed property depended on their own efforts in improving the ground, and not on English law.

- “If property was created by individual effort, and not just by the king’s “mere motion,” then there was another authority in the land whose power rivaled that of the royal prerogative. And it was one that everyone possessed.”

Interestingly, the assigning of private property rights brought with it a new need to measure land in universally recognized units. Instead of land being judged as organic ecological tracts based on idiosyncratic local knowledge, new systems of surveying took root that measured land in universal, objective units. The local identity of land was in a sense stripped away. This, in turn, enabled the land to be treated as a marketable piece of property, leading to the financialization of land through mortgages and other legal instruments.

And what about the Native Americans and their right to the land?

Here is how John Winthrop rationalized the Pilgrims’ taking of their land:

- ‘‘As for the Natives of New England they inclose noe land neither have any settled habitation nor any tame cattle to improve the land by, & soe have noe other but a natural right to those countries. Soe as if we leave them sufficient for their use wee may lawfully take the rest, ther being more than enough for them & us.’’

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Posted in Commons, Featured Book, Peer Property | No Comments »

P2P Trendfest (5): Social Recession

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Michel Bauwens
29th July 2014


Excerpted from Charles Hugh Smith:

“Social recession is my term for the social and cultural consequences of a permanently recessionary economy such as that of Japan—and now, Europe and the U.S.

Forget Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of expansion (“growth”) or recession—what really matters is the social recession, which continues to deepen in America.

The term social recession has two distinct meanings: around 2000, the term was used to describe the erosion of social cohesion via the decline of institutions such as marriage and the rise of social problems such as teen pregnancy.

Many commentators pinned the responsibility for this erosion of social constraints and bonds on rampant individualism and overstimulated consumerism, while others pointed to urbanization, the commodification of child care, women entering the workforce en masse and similar trends. Poverty was explicitly rejected as a causal factor, hence the term “social recession.”

This notion of social recession was aptly described by Robert E. Lane, author of the 2001 book The Loss of Happiness in Market Democracies:

There is a kind of famine of warm interpersonal relations, of easy-to-reach neighbors, of encircling, inclusive memberships, and of solidary family life… For people lacking in social support of this kind, unemployment has more serious effects, illnesses are more deadly, disappointment with one’s children is harder to bear, bouts of depression last longer, and frustration and failed expectations of all kinds are more traumatic.

(For more on the subject, please see “The Social Recession” (The American Prospect.)

I use the term social recession to describe a very different phenomenon, the social and cultural consequences of permanently recessionary economies such as Japan, and now Europe and the U.S.

I have defined and used social recession in this way since 2010:

The Non-Financial Cost of Stagnation: “Social Recession” and Japan’s “Lost Generations” (August 9, 2010)

Here are the conditions that characterize social recession:

1. High expectations of endless rising prosperity have been instilled in generations of citizens as a birthright.

2. Part-time and unemployed people are marginalized, not just financially but socially.

3. Widening income/wealth disparity as those in the top 10% pull away from the shrinking middle class.

4. A systemic decline in social/economic mobility as it becomes increasingly difficult to move from dependence on the state (welfare) or parents to the middle class.

5. A widening disconnect between higher education and employment: a college/university degree no longer guarantees a stable, good-paying job.

6. A failure in the status quo institutions and mainstream media to recognize social recession as a reality.

7. A systemic failure of imagination within state and private-sector institutions on how to address social recession issues.

8. The abandonment of middle class aspirations by the generations ensnared by the social recession: young people no longer aspire to (or cannot afford) consumerist status symbols such as autos.

9. A generational abandonment of marriage, families and independent households as these are no longer affordable to those with part-time or unstable employment, i.e. the “end of work”.

10. A loss of hope in the young generations as a result of the above conditions.”

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Posted in Economy and Business, Featured Trend | No Comments »

Essay: Grassroots Sustainable Community-Based Enterprise in India

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Michel Bauwens
29th July 2014


* Article: Jasmine growers of coastal Karnataka: Grassroots Sustainable Community-Based Enterprise in India. Entrepreneurship & Regional Development: An International Journal. Volume 23, Issue 5-6, 2011. Special Issue: Community-Based, Social & Societal Entrepreneurship

From the Abstract:

“The case of the jasmine flower growers in coastal Karnataka is an example of a local successful grassroots enterprise that has proved robust for over 70 years. The aim of this research is to examine the history, mechanisms, interconnectedness, and success of the jasmine growing program in coastal Karnataka and assess its compatibility with the community-based enterprise (CBE) model as proposed by Peredo and Chrisman [Peredo, A.M., and J.J. Chrisman. 2006. Toward a theory of community-based enterprise. Academy of Management Review 31, no. 2: 309–28]. We found that the existence of a natural, autonomously developed CBE without ‘western’ intervention can help to fine tune our knowledge of sustainable CBE and assist in helping practitioners learn what works and what does not when proposing a CBE.”

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P2P Trendfest (4): Community Biolabs

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Michel Bauwens
28th July 2014


Excerpted from Aaron Saenz:

“No matter what intentions the community has, however, the idea of people performing biotech research on their own (even at a low level and just for fun) doesn’t sit well with many in power. It often doesn’t sit well with me. DIY biologists are generally a responsible bunch, but DIY biology does have the potential to be dangerous.

What can we do about that? Well, we could ask amateur biologists to get together and form their own labs, complete with insurance and documented adherence to safety regulations, just like any professional group. That’s an idea that’s already springing up all around the world. ‘Community labs’, like Biocurious in the San Francisco Bay Area, are working towards providing a space where amateur biologists can get together and pool resources in order to perform safe and interesting science. These community biolabs are probably going to follow the hackerspace model with monthly member fees, group education, and a mixture of private and community wide projects.”

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Posted in Featured Trend, Open Innovation, P2P Research, P2P Science | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Revisiting Associative Democracy

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Michel Bauwens
28th July 2014


* eBook: Revisiting Associative Democracy. How to get more co-operation, co-ordination and collaboration into our economy, our democracy, our public services, and our lives . Ed. by Andrea Westhall, 2011

This eBook further develops Paul Hirst’s views of Associative Democracy and their current relevance.

Andrea Westhall explains:

“What are the limits of representative, deliberative or participative democracy? Is there anything else? How can all forms of democracy respond to the future and the environment? How might the language we use, and our unconscious assumptions, limit, or even disable, our ability to respond to some of the biggest challenges of our day? How do you understand and change systemic and complex situations, without creating catastrophic unintended consequences? And just how should we run, or think about, economic activity?

These are some of the big questions that sit at the end of society’s ‘to do’ list. Like ‘Change my life’ we never quite get round to them properly. We have lots of ideas but ? through habit or the need for survival ? we tend to put the action off for later. And we can’t do them by ourselves, whatever the self-help gurus or management consultants might say.

In order to break out of habitual ways of thinking, or to promote creativity, sometimes it is worth focusing on ideas or approaches that challenge and provoke you. This was the thinking that brought together a group of people around a particular text and a particular concept. Associative Democracy, a book by Paul Hirst, was written in 1994.”

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Posted in Featured Book, P2P Governance, Politics | No Comments »

P2P Trendfest (3): Stochastic Science

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Michel Bauwens
27th July 2014


Excerpted from Sebastian A.B. :

“Nassim Nicholas Taleb recognizes that “stochastic tinkering” rather than systematic, institutional agendas yield the greatest discoveries. Taleb is best known for coining the term “Black Swan,” to describe hard-to-predict and disproportionately momentous events.

Stochastic tinkering is a process of trial and error, present in all creative endeavors, where randomness plays a great role.

Taleb writes, in his essay The Birth of Stochastic Science (PDF):

- The world is giving us more “cheap options”, and options benefit principally from uncertainty. So I am particularly optimistic about medical cures. To the dismay of many planners, there is an acceleration of the random element in medicine putting the impact of discoveries in a class of Mandelbrotian power-law style payoffs. It is compounded by another effect: exposure to serendipity. People are starting to realize that a considerable component of the gravy in medical discoveries is coming from the “fringes”, people finding what they are not exactly looking for. It is not just that hypertension drugs lead to Viagra, angiogenesis drugs lead to the treatment of macular degeneration, tuberculosis drugs treat depression and Parkinson’s disease, etc., but that even discoveries that we claim to come from research are themselves highly accidental, the result of tinkering narrated ex post and dressed up as design. The high rate of failure should be sufficiently convincing of the lack of effectiveness of design. [...] All the while institutional science is largely driven by causal certainties, or the illusion of the ability to grasp these certainties; stochastic tinkering does not have easy acceptance. Yet we are increasingly learning to practice it without knowing — thanks to overconfident entrepreneurs, naive investors, greedy investment bankers, and aggressive venture capitalists brought together by the free-market system [sic]. I am also optimistic that the academy is losing its power and ability to put knowledge in straightjackets and more out-of-the-box knowledge will be generated Wiki-style. But what I am saying is not totally new. Accepting that technological improvement is an undirected (and unpredictable) stochastic process was the agenda of an almost unknown branch of Hellenic medicine in the second century Mediterranean Near East called the “empirics”. Its best known practitioners were Menodotus of Nicomedia and my hero of heroes Sextus Empiricus. They advocated theory-free opinion-free trial-and-error, literally stochastic medicine. Their voices were drowned by the theoretically driven Galenic, and later Arab-Aristotelian medicine that prevailed until recently.”

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Posted in Featured Trend, Open Innovation | No Comments »

P2P Trendfest (2): Open Source Talent

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Michel Bauwens
26th July 2014


“Today’s evolving workforce is a portfolio of full-time employees, contract and freelance talent, and, increasingly, talent with no formal ties to a company at all. People move from role to role and across organizational boundaries more freely than ever. Global markets and products are driven by accelerating innovation and growing scale, and they demand talent pools and systems that can be rapidly assembled and reconfigured. Business leaders and customers expect agility, scale, and the right skills on demand. These new business and talent models look less like integrated factories and companies and more like highly orchestrated networks and ecosystems with a multitude of approaches to mobilizing, orchestrating, and engaging talent, skills, leaders, and ideas. What the open source model did for software development, the open talent economy is doing for work.”

The quote below will not be surprising for those knowing the collaborative economy, but the Deloitte report to which it is linked has the merit of systematizing a new approach to talent pooling for corporations that is no longer linked to the vision of jobs.

Excerpted from Jeff Schwartz, Andrew Liakopoulos et al. :

“In recent years, a totally new way of working has become possible. This can be seen in the advent of a range of new business models with a new set of players and a new language. There are three emerging models of open source talent that are central to understanding this evolving landscape:

Volunteer-based models: Examples of volunteer-based open source talent models include Wikipedia, an online encyclopedia written and updated by 100,000 volunteer contributors. It currently includes 26 million articles in 286 languages.

Crowdsourcing idea marketplaces: Among the best known of the crowdsourcing idea marketplaces is InnoCentive, a site that posts challenges for researchers, inventors, and problem solvers around the world.

Crowd work and project marketplaces: Crowd work and project marketplaces are composed of a growing set of business models and websites that distribute and manage small components of projects (and sometime entire projects or subprojects) to be done remotely. Work can be done by the piece, project, or hour. One example is Mechanical Turk.”

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Posted in Featured Trend, P2P Labor | No Comments »

Book of the Day: A Reader for Digital Currency Design

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Michel Bauwens
26th July 2014


* Book: Alternative Currency Adaptor, the DYNDY Reader for Digital Currency Design. Jaromil and DYNDY, 2013

A description excerpted from Jaromil:

“After a selection of the best pieces that we have humbly put together to date and together with a most welcome contribution from Prof. Adam Arvidsson, the result is AC-Adaptor or Alternative Currency Adaptor, the DYNDY Reader for Digital Currency Design. True, the theoretical and political reflections emerged in more than three years of conferencing, networking and study had brought us to crossing the threshold with the real socio-economy. Designed around a ‘lean user experience’ methodology, D-CENT is a project that will create a virtual pan-European Collective Awareness Platform hosting tools for aggregate democratic decision-making to the benefit of social movements in Spain, Iceland and Finland. On top of the CAP, a second pilot on Social Digital Currencies will see Freecoin – a Bitcoin based client for customizing the genesis block in order to issue alternative and complementary digital currencies while adding tailor made modules conditioning the currency and communicating with the blockchain, and Threadgate – a geo-localised market place for the horizontal exchange of value among D-CENT users.

AC-Adaptor is both the end of the theoretical era of DYNDY and the beginning of the application and testing of DYNDY findings, belief systems and design principles together with socio-economic values and novel governance constituencies for making this a better place. Conscious that DYNDY does not have the solution to all money problems of this world in its pockets, we nevertheless continue to strive, self-reflect, put to trial and share what we consider to be the tools that will unavoidably replace the ones currently dominating monetary life and impairing our Freedom of Economic Interaction worldwide (only in this sense the global crisis is a desirable event).

Through D-CENT, we are going to put in practice with energy our advocacy for an explicit participation of society at large – the Multitude – to the decisions that mostly affect individuals in Europe (and worldwide) today, ie user data protection and privacy at the service of P2P monetary transactions in transparent circuits of mutual trust. This is the first building block for avoiding by design the hubris of speculation and utility maximization at all costs (as for the core of single-currency thinking) in favor of a polidoxy in human-friendly money and payment systems design for the creation of a G/Local multi-currency system co-owned and co-managed by the users.”

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Posted in Economy and Business, Featured Book, P2P Books, P2P Money | 1 Comment »

P2P Trendfest (1): Rural Coliving

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Michel Bauwens
25th July 2014


Excerpted from Cat Johnson:

“What if coworking was a slower, more spacious affair that offered a respite from the everyday grind and included meals, walks and intentional collaboration? What if, rather than being in an urban setting, the coworking space was in a small, rural town? And what if you lived, temporarily at least, in the space? Would your work benefit? Andrea Paoletti says yes.

Co-founder, along with Mariella Stella, of Casa Netural, a coworking and coliving space in Matera, Italy, Paoletti says that coliving is an essential element of rural coworking and without it there is no coworking in rural Italy. He points out that Matera is a small town and many of its young people have left, moving to big cities to seek opportunity. This leaves half-empty buildings in the ancient and beautiful Sassi cave dwellings, and a small, isolated culture. Paoletti argues that to activate the serendipity that comes with coworking, you have to bring new people and fresh ideas into the space. The coliving model does just that.”

“There are two benefits to rural coliving. The first is that it has the potential to revitalize rural communities, which is at the heart of what Casa Netural is about. Casa Netural challenges the notion that the future is just in large cities. Through it, Paoletti is exploring the possibilities for small villages and rural areas.

“I think the future can come from this kind of territory,” he says. “And someone has to do it otherwise they will disappear. Coliving can be an attractor for other people like me who are maybe inspired by what we are doing and they want to come see it. Then they maybe want to buy a house, or rent a place, then we become a group of people.”

The second benefit of coliving is that it can revitalize those who live and work in the space. In a home setting such as Casa Netura, the opportunities for conversation, connecting and collaborating extend far beyond those in a space that is solely for coworking. There are group meals, trips into the surrounding areas, bedtime chats, early morning brainstorm sessions over coffee and more. With rural coliving, the idea is to slow down and focus on the people around you, which can lead to serendipitous conversations, relationships, and breakthrough ideas.

Most of the time coworking is not really collaborative space because everyone is really focused on their own thing,” Paoletti says. “In coliving, the focus is not really on how to stress and create a better business but how these relationships can create the best business, or give you a new tool.” He continues, “In small villages we don’t have to think about IT startups or millions of Euro investments. I think starting from the small example is what can really create the biggest social impact on the territories.”

Designed with social innovators, progressive thinkers and entrepreneurs in mind, Casa Netural is a space where visitors and locals work, relax and connect with each other. It’s a homey, open and casual environment in which people can refresh themselves, enjoy what the village and surrounding territory has to offer and get a new perspective on projects. The space coordinates regular get-togethers with the Matera locals and encourages the development of connections and collaborations, while getting some work done.

“With rural coliving, you go there because maybe you have free time or maybe you want to be more focused on one priority of your life,” Paoletti says. “It can be practical work but at the same time maybe you want to write an article or write a book or take just your own time to focus on other things, so you go there. That’s the reason for coliving.”

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Posted in Default, Featured Trend, Food and Agriculture, P2P Architecture and Urbanism, P2P Lifestyles | No Comments »