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Book of the Day: Society 3.0

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21st August 2014

Society 3.0. Ronald van den Hoff.

URL = http://www.society30.com/ free digital copy


Neal Gorenflo, Shareable:

” a roadmap out of this mess exists.

Society 3.0 is a bold, no-nonsense call-to-action for those who sense something is amiss in early 21st century modern society. van den Hoff provides us with more than a history and treatise on the ills of the current centralized, sclerotic power structures of our time, but points the way forward through the emerging networked, distributed sharing and collaborative economy. It’s through the technological and social innovations described in this book that a new order — Society 3.0 — is coming into existence.

In the book, van den Hoff begins by outlining the characteristics of our modern world that have led to what he refers the “zombification” and decline of the rich, influential Western society: decadence, indecisive leadership, bureaucracy, high taxation, crippling rules and regulations, and pure arrogance.

He then gives us a history and perspective on why this is happening and describes how the future is wide open for open collaboration and the sharing economy. The near-religious zeal for the brand of oligarchy currently masquerading as a market economy is leading, van den Hoff says, to a revolution — one facilitated by technology that empowers individuals and communities that embrace new, more collaborative ways of meeting our needs that cultivate — not denigrate — the best aspects of our humanity.

That revolution is emerging as Society 3.0 — a parallel economy where, instead of competing, people collaborate; instead of owning, people share; and, instead of hoarding resources in hopes of gaining astronomical profits, people capitalize on the power and wisdom of the crowd, offering up ideas to be bettered by the masses and allowing everyone who is willing to participate and reap the rewards.

New social innovations and technologies are making this possible by empowering individuals and communities across the planet, creating informal, decentralized economies that are doing an end-run around the centralized corporate and governmental structures that have governed our lives during the 20th century.

In his book, van den Hoff provides example after example, across nearly every sector of society, of people reaping the rewards of the sharing economy, an economy in which value is measured not monetarily, but through freed-up time, good relationships, shared knowledge, well-being, and transformative experiences. Through his groundbreaking social enterprise, Seats2Meet.com, van den Hoff is facilitating tens of thousands of serendipitous encounters per year through a network that connects an estimated 60,000 freelancers in 100 free places to work in the Netherlands and beyond. Tools we have come to depend on for our everyday activities, like Twitter, Google Docs, and Wikipedia, have rapidly undercut the old, centralized power structure — the phone company, Microsoft, and Encyclopedia Britannica — under our very noses, so much so that we hardly notice it. Services like SolarCity that rent solar panels, Getaround that facilitates car sharing between neighbors, and Yerdle for sharing household goods of all types, reduce the need for ownership while cultivating community.

These new technologies are creating what van den Hoff terms value networks, social networks where participants are creating new kind of value that replaces the economic and monetary value of the old industrial society. These value networks, in turn, create The Mesh, where value is created on an as-needed basis, without the burden of ownership and heavy infrastructure, through unbundling, product-to-service transitions, redistribution markets, and cooperative lifestyles.

Society 3.0 points the way forward to a more shareable and rewarding economic system, one that liberates humans beings while greatly reducing the strain on our planet. With global implications, yet from a European perspective, Society 3.0 is a must read for sharers everywhere.” (http://www.shareable.net/blog/society-30-roadmap-for-a-global-sharing-transformation)


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Book of the Day: Think Like a Commoner

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20th August 2014

* Book: Think Like a Commoner. A Short Introduction to the Life of the Commons by David Bollier. New Society, 2014

Description from the publisher:

From the publisher:

“The biggest “tragedy of the commons” is the misconception that commons are failures – relics from another era rendered unnecessary by the Market and State. Think Like a Commoner dispels such prejudices by explaining the rich history and promising future of the commons – an ageless paradigm of cooperation and fairness that is re-making our world.

With graceful prose and dozens of fascinating stories, Bollier describes the quiet revolution that is pioneering practical forms of self-governance and production controlled by people themselves.

Think Like a Commoner explains how the commons:

  • Is an exploding field of DIY innovation ranging from Wikipedia and seed-sharing to community forests and collaborative consumption, and beyond
  • Challenges the standard narrative of market economics by explaining how cooperation generates significant value and human fulfillment
  • Provides a framework of law and social action that can help us move beyond the pathologies of neoliberal capitalism.

We have a choice: Ignore the commons and suffer the ongoing private plunder of our common wealth. Or Think Like a Commoner and learn how to rebuild our society and reclaim our shared inheritance. This accessible, comprehensive introduction to the commons will surprise and enlighten you, and provoke you to action.” (http://www.newsociety.com/Books/T/Think-Like-a-Commoner)

Excerpted from an interview of the author conducted by Jessica Conrad:

Jessica ConradWhat inspired you to write Thinking Like a Commoner?

David Bollier: I was inspired to write the book because I kept encountering people who wanted to learn about the commons and its significance, yet the only literature I could point them to was either Elinor Ostrom’s academic writing—which is insightful but also dense and not necessarily accessible to the layperson—or issue-specific, theoretical political writing, such as Marxist analysis. There wasn’t a book I could give to my mother or to a college freshman or to my friends that offered an easy introduction to the commons. I’ve been studying and thinking about the commons for about fifteen years, and I decided it was time for me to try to give a succinct overview of the commons in layperson’s language.

Jessica Conrad: You describe the commons as an “exploding field of DIY innovation ranging from Wikipedia and seed-sharing to community forests and collaborative consumption.” Can you elaborate on your definition?

David Bollier: The question “What is the commons?” implies that the commons is a unitary thing, but it’s a cultural abstraction just like the market or GDP, neither of which really exist. They are social constructions. We simply agree to talk about certain social activities in a certain way. The market, for example, includes everything from Wall Street to a hardware store to a lemonade stand.

Similarly, the commons is an umbrella term for a paradigm of social behavior and activity that involves self-organized governance and a self-provisioning of resources that tend to be local and specific. There isn’t a universal inventory of commons; instead there are countless commons. When a group of people identifies a resource and says “We want to manage and steward this resource collectively for the benefit of all,” that’s how a commons gets created.

So the commons is not just a resource. It’s a resource plus the social community that manages it and the rules, values, and practices that are used. All of this means that commons vary immensely across the world. But of course that’s what makes them so durable and hardy. They adapt to their locality, ecosystem, resource, and culture.

Circling back to the market, it’s controversial whether the commons can coexist with the market. I personally think they can, but the people who are involved in the commons must take great pains to ensure that the market doesn’t prey upon and destroy the commons. In other words, the temptation to monetize our relationships and resources tends to destroy the social solidarity and collective stewardship of a resource. So there needs to be certain social understandings or technological systems or legal protections to ensure that a commons remains a commons.

There are a lot of models—new and old—in the so-called sharing economy where people meet their needs through the market: local food systems, community-supported agriculture, Airbnb, Lyft, Uber, and so on. Some people think the latter three examples belong instead to a micro-rental economy, while others believe those services still require social cooperation. Either way, I think the more important question is whether or not the commons can continue to be a commons. Can it protect itself as a social organism and reproduce itself? When Airbnb, Lyft, or Uber users start to behave as consumers and producers rather than collective managers of the resource, that is the beginning of the end of the commons.

Jessica Conrad: Was there a time when the commons were more visibly central to human life?

David Bollier: I think the commons has been central to life for most of human existence. Only in the last two hundred years or so has the market essentially emancipated itself from social community, kinship, morality, and religion—and more recently, from political accountability. The Great Transformation, by Karl Polanyi, is a landmark book on this topic. It talks about how the market became the universal ordering principle for society after the industrial revolution.

In some ways the contemporary commons movement is trying to recover a way of life that existed before industrialization, which, not coincidentally, emphasizes provisioning for basic needs (as opposed to profit), a rough social equity, and limits on the exploitation of nature.

Jessica Conrad: What caused us to lose sight of the commons?

David Bollier: As the market culture became more and more dominant, especially during the Reagan-Thatcher era of the 1980s, we started to lose the language of the commons. The business world has made a concerted effort to assert market-friendly interpretations of the world, versus ones that help us remember the importance of the commons. This ranges from aggressive propagandizing for free markets to the privatization of government and civil infrastructure to the corporate naming of beloved stadia and public spaces. Businesses often perceive the commons as posing a very serious threat to business investment interests. That’s why we’re seeing an attack on sharing. But business almost always resists changes that might disrupt existing markets and revenue flows, even if the eventual result is more socially benign or economically constructive.

The two major political parties in the US also have little interest in talking about the commons because it might jeopardize their cozy relationships with business interests. And there is a lot of money to be made by enclosing our shared wealth, whether it is the Internet, public lands, federal drug research, or the human genome.

Jessica Conrad: Why is it essential that we begin to see the commons and think like commoners today?

David Bollier: It’s partly about recovering our humanity. Simply put, the market culture—in which we assume the role of selfish, utility-maximizing individuals—is incredibly alienating and makes us unhappy. It also has some profoundly harmful consequences for the planet and our social lives and democracy.

We need to relearn and reeducate ourselves about what it means to be in relationship to one another and to the world. The commons helps us do that—while providing a framework for new policy and technology that will enable those essential social relationships to flourish again.

Jessica Conrad: What do you see as the greatest challenge to helping people see the commons and think like commoners?

David Bollier: That’s a good question because you can’t just write a book and expect a social revolution. Helping people understand the commons will involve a process of engagement and exposure to commons in different types of contexts. During the civil rights movement, people gathered in church basements. In the early days of the women’s movement, “consciousness raising sessions” were an important vehicle for personal engagement. I’m not quite sure what the vehicles will be for the commons movement, but we need to start engaging people in a respectful, collaborative process so that we can better protect the shared wealth that we love. My immodest hope, of course, is that my book will contribute to the process.

Jessica Conrad: What is the greatest opportunity for helping people see the commons and think like commoners?

David Bollier: The most accessible example to my mind is the Internet because digital culture is so hospitable to commoning. This is made evident by the wide diversity of Internet-based commons, including open-source software, Wikipedia, open-access publishing, various social media platforms. The list goes on. The Internet is one promising place where I think commons culture can start to crystallize itself.

However, I also think there are lots of opportunities for learning internationally. The people of Greece and Madrid, for example, or those from the Arab Spring and Occupy, all had or have similar grievances with their governments. They all believe that genuine democracy is missing—that supposedly democratic, representative government is a sham.

The commons is a source of hope because provides a different mode of real, participatory governance as opposed to centralized, hierarchical, corporate-controlled government. The commons also has huge potential for meeting people’s needs more effectively. People around the world are starting to discover this fact, or to associate “the commons” with existing forms of commoning, such as that done by indigenous peoples.

Jessica Conrad: If you could suggest one strategy or tactic for helping people begin to shift to a commons-based worldview, what would it be?

David Bollier: It has to start with your passions and talents. No commons functions well without a certain level of care and engagement. If you happen to love the natural world, perhaps you should put your energy into land trusts or open-space preservation. Or if you’re digitally savvy, there are all sorts of online commons you can participate in. It all starts with the desire to protect a resource that matters to you. The other important piece is to learn the language of the commons, which helps us see that all of our commons projects, no matter how small or seemingly isolated, are related. This can provide the basis for new forms of social solidarity, despite national boundaries and other differences among us.” (http://www.shareable.net/blog/new-book-inspires-us-to-think-like-a-commoner)


Posted in Commons, Featured Book, P2P Theory | 1 Comment »

Book of the Day: The Financialization of Food

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19th August 2014

* Book: Hungry Capital. The Financialization of Food. Luigi Russi. Zero Books, 2013

URL = http://www.zero-books.net/books/hungry-capital


“Over the past thirty years, the ability of global finance to affect aspects of everyday life has been increasing at an unprecedented rate. The world of food bears vivid testimony to this tendency, through the scars opened by the 2008 world food price crisis, the iron fist of retailing giants that occupy the supply chain and the unsustainable ecological footprint left behind by global production networks.

Hungry Capital offers a rigorous analysis of the influence that financial imperatives exert on the food economy at different levels: from the direct use of edible commodities as an object of speculation to the complex food chains set up by manufacturers and supermarkets. It argues that the circular compulsion to build profits upon profits that global finance injects into the world of food restructures the basic nurturing relationship between man and nature into a streamlined process from which value has to be mined. The end result is a monstrous Leviathan that holds together while – at every step – risks to crumble.” (http://www.zero-books.net/books/hungry-capital)


For more information:

Video: Luigi Russi on Hungry Capital and the Financialization of Food


Posted in Featured Book, Food and Agriculture | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Peer-to-Peer Leadership

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18th August 2014

* Book: Peer-to-Peer Leadership: Why the Network Is the Leader. By Mila Baker. Berrett-Koehler, 2013

URL = http://www.bkconnection.com/static/Peer_To_Peer_Leadership_EXCERPT.pdf

From the publisher:

“Mila Baker believes that most of today’s leadership theories are old wines in new skins and still rely on the leader-follower hierarchy. Yet hierarchy is breaking down everywhere in society, from politics to religion to social relationships — and most particularly in computers and networking.

Baker’s inspiration is the peer-to-peer model of computing, which is also mirrored in social networking technologies where a network with “equipotent” nodes of power — think peer leaders — is infinitely more powerful than a “client-server” (i.e., leader-follower) network. By creating organizations with leaders at all levels, architects of peer-to-peer organizations can build flexibility, resiliency, and accountability.”


“* Shows that a radically decentralized approach can revolutionize leadership just as it has revolutionized computer networking

  • Turns leadership on its head—the job of the leader is not to tell followers what to do but to create, enable, and facilitate a network of peer leaders
  • Features examples of what some organizations are doing and what all organizations can do to implement and benefit from this new approach

Our leadership models are still stuck in a top-down, command-and-control, Industrial Age mentality. But our globalized, data-drenched, 24/7 world is just too complex, with too much information coming from too many different directions, for any single person or group of people to stay on top of it. The idea of hierarchy is breaking down everywhere, from politics to religion to social relationships—why should leadership be any different?

Mila Baker’s inspiration for a new way to lead is the peer-to-peer model of computing, which is also mirrored in social networking and crowdsource technologies. She shows that a network with “equipotent” nodes of power—think peer leaders—is infinitely more powerful than a “client-server” (leader-follower) network.

In organizations of equipotent nodes, leadership isn’t fixed or siloed — it shifts based on the particular strengths of individuals and the particular needs of a situation. Rather than being guided into narrow predetermined channels, information flows freely so those who need it can find it easily and are empowered to act on it immediately. Constant change is built into the very structure of these organizations, and giving feedback is no longer a separate (and often dreaded and ineffective) process but becomes an organic part of the workflow, enabling rapid course corrections.

Baker still advocates the need for top-level executives and senior leaders, but their job is to optimize the health of the network rather than issue commands. Companies such as Gore and Herman Miller practice these principles and have achieved long-term success—Baker provides a structure for this approach that any organization can adapt to build flexibility, resiliency, and accountability.” ([1])


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Essay of the Day: Reinvention of Social Capital for Socio-Technical Systems

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Michel Bauwens
17th August 2014

* Article: The Reinvention of Social Capital for Socio-Technical Systems. By Jeremy Pitt and AndrzeJ Nowak. IEEE TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY MAGAZINE | SprING 2014.

From the Abstract:

“Social capital has been defined by Ostrom and Ahn as “an attribute of individuals that enhances their ability to solve collective action problems.” They observed that social capital has multiple forms, including a notion of “trustworthiness,” social networks including weak and strong ties, and institutions, i.e., those collections of conventional rules by which people mutually agree to regulate their behavior. They also suggested that trust was the “glue” that enabled these various forms of social capital to be leveraged for solving collective action problems, for example, the sustainability of a common-pool resource. However, we are concerned that trust is being undermined to the detriment of social capital, thereby adversely affecting our ability to address collective action problems. In developing socio-technical systems for successful collective action, for example in SmartGrids, we need to “reinvent” social capital, and discover a new “glue.””


Posted in Featured Essay, P2P Collaboration, P2P Infrastructures | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Copyright Masquerade

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14th August 2014

A Copyright Masquerade by Monica Horten

URL = http://www.amazon.com/dp/1780326408/electronicfro-20

Review by Parker Higgins (EFF):

“Veteran journalist Dr. Monica Horten goes deep into the details of how the entertainment industries gain political sway, and how policymakers respond to the industry’s advances.”

Horten focuses on three recent policy initiatives, and painstakingly pulls together facts from publicly available sources about how those proposals came together. By comparing the development of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), the Spanish “Ley Sinde,” and the UK’s Digital Economy Act, she draws a clear picture of the mechanisms that play into each of the debates, and who is behind them.

A major part of that story is the export of U.S. intellectual property policy abroad. To that end, Horten looks at the history and the development of the U.S. Trade Representative’s annual “Special 301″ report, a document mandated by law which must list countries that do not provide “adequate and protective” protection of intellectual property rights. Horten makes a solid case that the U.S. entertainment industry lobbying played a direct and deliberate role in establishing the Special 301. With the background on Special 301, its role in shaping ACTA and Ley Sinde becomes that much more apparent.

Legislators are asked to approach many problems as experts, but are rarely given the time or information to do so. The standard corporate exploitation of that mismatch is to present those legislators with information favorable to industry position.

Horten tracks how the copyright industries have taken this bargain a step further, pushing for the creation of whole new structures like the Special 301 report that funnel industry-friendly information to legislators with the imprimatur of government legitimacy.

Moreover, that system itself has been refined over the years to create a default condition that advances the copyright lobby’s goals. At the behest of the copyright industries, the U.S. Trade Representative must critique laws all over the world to a maximalist IP standard; as a result of its findings, countries around the globe are put under great pressure to change those laws.

While documenting this process, Horten provides meticulous footnotes that point to public documents and legislative proceedings. Beyond providing sources, these footnotes reveal a history of otherwise uncaptured expertise: many cite live web streams of policy debates dating back years, watched by Horten at the time.

The landscape Horten describes may be bleak for those who would like to see evidence-based copyright policy, but it’s not hopeless. After all, each of the major case studies she documents have been diminished, delayed, or defeated by popular opposition. Money and connections play a major role in politics, but few politicians can afford to ignore real and widespread dissatisfaction. A Copyright Masquerade is no handbook for activism, but it does describe effectively what political pressure points activists have been able to successfully press.

In presenting the stories of activism that have slowed or stopped proposals that had the full backing of the copyright industries, Horten raises an important question. What is so compelling about copyright policy that it gets Internet users up in arms, draws resignations from EU officials, and leads to street protests in actual freezing temperatures?

Again, Horten’s got an answer. It’s a familiar one to those versed in copyright debates. Whether the copyright industries are seeking measures that filter content (like blacklisting sites from Domain Name Servers, search engines, or payment providers) or measures that restrict user access (like graduated response programs that result in a slow-down or suspension of Internet connections), the effect is the same. When the Internet as a communications medium is the target, users’ essential freedoms and civil liberties are all too often collateral damage.” (https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2013/09/copyright-masquerade-corporate-lobbying-takes-spotlight)


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Essay of the Day: Engineering Self-Organising Electronic Institutions

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Michel Bauwens
13th August 2014

* Article: Axiomatization of Socio-Economic Principles for Self-Organizing Institutions: Concepts, Experiments and Challenges. Jeremy Pitt, Julia Schaumeier and Alexander Artikis. ACM Transactions on Autonomous and Adaptive Systems, December 2012.

From the Abstract:

“We address the problem of engineering self-organising electronic institutions for resource allocation in open, embedded and resource-constrained systems. In such systems, there is decentralised control, competition for resources and an expectation of both intentional and unintentional errors. The ‘optimal’ distribution of resources is then less important than the sustainability of the distribution mechanism, in terms of endurance and fairness, based on collective decision-making and tolerance of unintentional errors. In these circumstances, we propose to model resource allocation as a common-pool resource management problem, and develop a formal characterization of Elinor Ostrom’s socio-economic principles for enduring institutions. ”

Excerpted from a discussion by David Bollier:

“Our knowledge about what makes digital commons work is terribly under-theorized. Yes, there are famous works by Lawrence Lessig and Yochai Benkler, and there are lots of projects and websites that are based on commoning such as like Wikipedia, free software, Arduino, open access journals, among countless others. But can we identify core principles for organizing digital commons? Can we use that knowledge to engineer the evolution of new commons? Identifying such principles just might let us move beyond “openness” as the ultimate goal of online life, to a more sustainable goal, the self-governed commons.

It has been a pleasure to discover that some computer scientists are actively exploring how Elinor Ostrom’s principles for successful commons might be applied to the design of software.

There are lots of technical formalisms in the paper that I don’t understand, and to my mind the paper does not actually identify the “secrets” to engineering digital commons. But that’s okay. What is more important to me, for now, is that there are computer scientists deliberately trying to figure out how to engineer “planned emergence,” as Pitt et al. put it. The scientists envision “a new type of intrinsically adaptive institution” that can adapt to rapid changes in the social, technological and physical environment (unlike contemporary government). They also seek to combine “top-down control and coordination [with] bottom-up emergence and adaptation” in order to create hybrid institutions.

Pitt also has a very interesting article in Computer magazine (annoyingly behind a paywall also), about which he elaborates in a (free) YouTube audio interview. I found the title intriguing: “Transforming Big Data into Collective Awareness.” Pitt discusses with an editor of Computer “how integrating social and sensor information can transform big data, if it’s treated as a knowledge commons, into a higher form of collective awareness that can motivate users to self-organize and create innovative solutions to various socioeconomic problems.”
As much as we need new theoretical insights, one of the best ways to advance these lines of inquiry is to get out into the field and start developing a suitable taxonomy of digital commons.

One of the most significant changes in software design is the growing recognition that it must take account of the open, emergent properties of the platform. It’s not just code; it’s a socio-technical system. As Pitt et al. put it: “Traditionally, the role of a software engineer has been to apply some methodology to implement a ‘closed’ system which satisfies a set of functional and non-functional requirements. Our problem is to engineer ‘open’ systems where the primary non-functional requirement, that the system should endure, is an emergent property, and is a side-effect of the interaction of components rather than being the goal of any of those components.”

Designing a system so that it can adapt and evolve, and deal effectively with both errors and malevolent behaviors, is very difficult. But one might say that this is the essence of designing a commons. The code can’t solve all contingencies, but it must design as if human beings actually have some creative agency….because they do! Why turn users into automatons when they can become collaborative geniuses?

What I find exciting is the self-conscious attempt to devise “morphogenetic engineering” methods that use biological systems as a template for designing digital systems. This is not entirely new, of course, but the rise of electronic networks has made it both more attractive and feasible to pursue this line of software design. Just as ants or insects exhibit remarkable degrees of “undirected coordination and stigmergic collaboration,” as Pitt and his colleagues put it, so individual agents on open networks show remarkable capacities for such coordination and collaboration. (“Stigmergic,” as Wikipedia describes it, is the principle by which “the trace left in the environment by an action stimulates the performance of a next action, by the same or a different agent. In that way, subsequent actions tend to reinforce and build on each other, leading to the spontaneous emergence of coherent, apparently systematic activity.”)

For more on biologically inspired digital ecologies, I recommend the work of Mihaela Ulieru, an expert in “digital intelligent systems” who alerted me to Pitt’s work as well as to her own work on “holonics” at the Impact Institute. (Thank you, Mihaela!) Holonics, as Wikipedia explains, is the study of self-reliant units of organization that are autonomous “wholes” nested interdependently within larger systems. One might say that the commons is implicitly about the study of holons because any commons is necessarily be nested within larger systems upon which it is dependent, and may itself contain holons as sub-systems.

Once you venture into the world of complex adaptive systems, you enter a world where the 20th Century ontologies no longer work. The focus is more on flows rather than stocks, and on processes and relationships rather than discrete things. This shift in orientation is needed because once you acknowledge that everything is interconnected and dynamic, it no longer makes sense to view an organism in isolation. The boundaries between an organism and its ecosystem become rather indeterminate. We start to realize that everything is embedded in everything else. Biologists are discovering, for example, that we human beings are not really discrete “individuals” so much as “super-organisms” comprised of vast numbers of sub-organisms and -systems such as “biomes” – vast collections of bacteria with whom we share a vital symbiotic relationship. Our very identities as a species and as individuals are not so obvious, but rather blur into the ecological context.

In light of this ontological shift, I find it fascinating that our perspectives may need to change from the third person to the first person, and from the (supposedly) “objective” to the subjective. For example, at the first German SommerSchool on the Commons last year, participants were concerned that Elinor Ostrom’s eight design principles are not very accessible to the general public; nor do they reflect the direct experiences and first-person voices of commoners. So they “re-wrote” them as a kind of re-interpretation or remix. ”


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Book of the Day: Collaborative Design, Open Innovation and Public Policy

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12th August 2014

Public and Collaborative. Exploring the Intersection of Design, Social Innovation and Public Policy. edited by Ezio Manzini and Eduardo Staszowski. DESIS, 2013

URL = http://desis-dop.org/ download


“This book, edited by Ezio Manzini and Eduardo Staszowski, documents and presents some reflections on efforts of DESIS Labs in Europe, Canada, and the United States, that are participating in the Public and Collaborative Thematic Cluster. It includes 11 articles that present from a critical perspective the labs’ projects and activities during the 2012-2013 period. The book opens with Christian Bason’s paper, Discovering Co-production by Design. In this paper Bason, Director of Denmark’s MindLab, proposes a broad view of how design is entering the public realm and the policymaking processes. His essay offers updated and stimulating context for the entire book.” (http://desis-dop.org/)


Posted in Featured Book, Integral Theory, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Public Policy | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Additive Manufacturing as Global Remanufacturing of Politics

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Michel Bauwens
11th August 2014

In order not to yield to technological messianism, we should however be aware of the obstacles that the diffusion of these technologies is likely to meet, starting with those posed by the various actors who have opposite interests to their development, and those resulting from ecological constraints and the availability of resources.

* Article: Additive manufacturing as global remanufacturing of politics? By Yannick Rumpala. Paper for the Millennium Annual Conference 2012 “Materialism and World Politics”. London School of Economics and Political Science – 20-22 October, 2012

From the Abstract:

“There is a growing interest in 3-D printers because of the technical and economic implications they could have. The objective of this paper is to take the analysis even further by wondering if, as they could interfere in the material practices of production and consumption, they could not also have effects in a more political register. The first part of this contribution consists of re-examining the promises associated with this technology and highlights the implications of this technology as a possible way to restoring individual and collective capabilities (I). Secondly, the ways in which these machines could destabilize the industrial bases of contemporary societies, and therefore the economic order, are examined, along with the political implications of such a shift (II). Finally, the points of friction that these technological developments may encounter and that might affect future trajectories are clarified (III).”

Excerpted from Yannick Rumpala, from a blog summary presentation:

“The register in which 3D printing has developed is not really one of frontal resistance against the dominant terms of the economic system, but the latter could nevertheless find itself destabilized. This type of new technology seems to offer renewed capacities (control and mastery of the techniques used, unlocking of desires of creativity, etc.) for individuals or communities, especially the possibility of putting these capacities in social spaces that appeared to have been dispossessed of them. Could this be seen as a new form of empowerment by technology?

If each person can make, rather than buy, many of the objects he or she needs, then these new tools can bring current ways of life out of a massive industrial model dependent on large production units. They seem to reveal new patterns of production and consumption, and therefore potentially different relationships between individuals and commodities. For individuals, such a technology could thus represent a way of reducing their dependence on the industrial system. In addition, this technology, which is also designed so that some machines can become self-replicating, makes the presence of certain intermediaries almost unnecessary, including commercial intermediaries or logistics services.

If we examine them from Ivan Illich’s inspiration, these additive manufacturing technologies appear to provide autonomization possibilities, or at least they can give margins of autonomy. This method of personalized manufacturing allows the passivity to which the consumer has often been subjected to be circumvented, by reopening or broadening of spaces for creativity. The anarchist theorist Murray Bookchin, who, as part of his project of “social ecology” sought to show that some technologies can have a “liberatory potential”, may have seen there an example of those machines allowing to bring the production away from increasingly imposing industrial apparatuses and to free up individuals to do or complete other tasks than stultifying and binding work[4]. With this decentralized mode of production, which is a priori suited to individual needs, we can also assume that the utility value could tend to prevail over the exchange value, since anyone can make the desired object and that the exchange becomes superfluous (except perhaps when special characteristics must be added).
The potentialities of this type of technology are also linked to the social bases on which it grows. A large part of its development is indeed favoured by collaborations in networks, which allow individuals, again thanks to the Internet, to exchange and share ideas, and compare experiences. It thus has a strong rhizomatic potential, in the way it can spread (thanks to advances in the digital world), but also in the way it can challenge installed hierarchies and subordinations. The change would be possible not by an impetus from economic or political hierarchies, but diffusely, with a technology enabling new practices which, when generalized, could themselves have systemic effects. Thanks to the techniques developed, capacities seem to be given back to communities, like those that have qualified themselves as “makers”.

It is possible to imagine that the scope of these transformations can be global. Indeed, the space of flows (to use the notion of Manuel Castells) and the organization of these flows, both for materials and productions made possible, can be upset by the generalization of such tools, all the more so if they are accompanied by premises like fab labs becoming commonplace in everyday environments. If 3D printing tools bring the productions of objects back on more decentralized bases, it is likely to become difficult to speak of international division of labor. This type of technology, whose cost seems in fact to be decreasing, may make industrial infrastructures obsolete and can help redistribute economic power. It is obviously too early to say whether such tools can bring a halt to economic globalization, but at least we can assume they can contribute to dynamics of relocalization and reduction in the volume of international trade. From this point of view, one could compare this technology to an innovation such as the container, but with almost opposite effects. Additive manufacturing can contribute to further destabilization of hierarchies of scale, but in distinct forms, even adverse to those that could have occurred with globalization.

In order not to yield to technological messianism, we should however be aware of the obstacles that the diffusion of these technologies is likely to meet, starting with those posed by the various actors who have opposite interests to their development, and those resulting from ecological constraints and the availability of resources. Of course, this technology is not yet fully developed, but it would not be judicious to neglect it on the grounds of its uncertain future, for it could have a larger impact than the current experiments and techy craft projects that its designers and users are for the moment producing and trying to make work. These conceivable potentialities are all the more challenging to analyze that they revive questions about interrelationships between what is technical and what is political, including how technical advances can expand political capacities, possibly on a worldwide scale.”


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Book of the Day: The Tragedy of the Private and the Potential of the Public

photo of hartsellml

10th August 2014

* Report: The Tragedy of The Private. The Potential of the Public. by Hilary Wainwright. Published by Public Services International and the Transnational Institute, 2014

From the description

“This booklet is about how public service workers, with their fellow community members, are not only defending public services but also struggling to make them democratic and responsive to people’s needs and desires. It is also about how these alliances are working at different levels – local, national and international.

We are publishing this booklet at a time when the privatisation of public services and utilities has been tried and failed. There is widespread criticism of privatisation. It is now leading to an increasing number of decisions, mainly at a local level, to bring services back under public control.”



Anne Karpf writes:

“It might sound like an oxymoron, but this is a positive article about public services. So effectively has the coalition rebranded an economic crisis caused by private greed as the consequence of public ownership, that nationalisation has come to be seen as a universally discredited hangover from bad old Labour. So while current Labour is considering taking back parts of the rail network into public ownership the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, last weekend was intoning the neoliberal catechism: “I don’t want to go back to the nationalisation of the 1970s.”

But bringing outsourced services into public ownership isn’t about looking back: it’s about moving forward, and is a popular idea (66% of respondents in a poll last year supported the nationalisation of energy and rail companies, including 52% of Tories). For today, in the face of the combined bungles of G4S, Serco and Atos, not even the slickest PR-turned-politician can sustain the myth that private equals efficient.

Yet privatisation is touted as a panacea and cliches are trotted out about the evils of the “nanny state”. We need to develop a new language to talk about public ownership, one that detoxifies it and taps into the wide recognition that natural resources and essential public services should not be treated as commodities.

Instead of talking about the state, Hilary Wainwright, in a powerful new booklet – The Tragedy of the Private, the Potential of the Public – describes water, health and education as “the commons” – an excellent term. What’s remarkable, and hitherto fairly undocumented, is how all over the world a quiet process of remunicipalisation is taking place. Wainwright gives examples from Newcastle to Norway. In the UK, she found over half of 140 local councils bringing services back from the private sector. In Germany, by 2011 the majority of energy distribution networks had returned to public ownership. Even in the US, a fifth of all previously outsourced services have been brought back in-house.

The case of water is a particularly powerful one: to most people the idea of privatising it is alarmingly similar to the privatisation of air. Wainwright tracks struggles to resist the privatisation of water and defend it as a public good in Brazil, Uruguay and Italy.

What makes all this heartening is that new social forms of ownership are emerging in which public utilities are run by coalitions of workers and service users. Theirs isn’t just a defence of public services but an attempt to democratise them so they are not the top-down bureaucracies of old or simply job-saving strategies (important though these may be). They become what Wainwright calls “new forms of collectivity” – unions and public managing common resources together for shared benefit.

There is a palpable momentum to these ideas. Last summer saw the formation of the We Own It campaign, which is lobbying for a public service users’ bill. This would promote public ownership as the default option for public services and give the public a say in whether services are privatised. This week, a New Economics Foundation working paper also set out alternatives to the marketisation of public services.

These constitute a challenge to the fatalistic there-is-no-alternative narrative that has dominated political discussion. In his recent book, Does the Richness of the Few Benefit Us All?, sociologist Zygmunt Bauman argues that the alleged “musts” of political discourse “are nothing other than various aspects of the status quo – of things as they do, but in no way must, stand at the moment”.” (


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