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Essay of the Day: In Search of Democratic Academic Publishing Strategies

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
5th July 2015


* Essay: The Power of Free: In search of democratic academic publishing strategies. Jan Blommaert.

Summary of the thesis:

“In this polemical essay, I intend to engage with the current system of academic publishing, in light of the debates about possible Open Access publishing strategies. I write my remarks from my own position in the field: as an Arts scholar (a linguistic anthropologist to be precise), tenured at a European University (Tilburg University, to be precise), with a degree of seniority in my field and with a reasonably full publishing track record. It is my view that the debate on Open Access, which currently opposed in a rather random way a “Gold” versus a “Green” strategy, should consider some fundamental issues related to the economic dimension of academic publishing, of the motives and rationale for publishing as an academic, and on available alternatives. Lacking such reflections, the debate risks becoming a reiteration of stereotypes and “inevitabilities” and may lead not to improvement but to a “race to the bottom”.”

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Posted in Featured Essay, Media, P2P Research | No Comments »

A Introduction to the Basic P2P Ideas; Part 4: CopyFair Licenses

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Stacco Troncoso
2nd July 2015


Over the last ten years, the P2P Foundation has produced a sizeable body of material, both original and curated, but none of it is specifically designed as an introduction for newcomers and people who are not so familiar with the P2P approach. Hence Irma Wilson‘s proposal, during a trip which FutureSharp helped organize in South Africa in the two first weeks of June 2015, to produce a number of short videos. With Irma’s assistance, and the help of filmmaker Michel Taljaard, we produced four videos which are being serialised here in the P2P Foundation Blog and which will be compiled in a forthcoming Commons Transition Article.

This fourth highlights the legal and policy suggestions with some emphasis on the CopyFair license

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Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Copyright/IP, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Featured Video, Open Content, Original Content, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, P2P Foundation, P2P Governance, P2P Movements, P2P Theory, Videos | No Comments »

Here’s What a Commons-Based Economy Looks Like

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
2nd July 2015


David Bollier writes:

So what might a commons-based economy actually look like in its broadest dimensions, and how might we achieve it?  My colleague Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation offers a remarkably thoughtful and detailed explanation in a just-released YouTube talk, produced by FutureSharp. It’s not really a video – just Michel’s voiceover and a simple schematic chart – but the 20-minute talk does a great job of sketching the big-picture strategies that must be pursued if we are going to invent a new type of post-capitalist economy.

Michel focuses on the importance of three specific realms that are crucial to this new vision – ecological sustainability, open knowledge and social solidarity. Each is critical as a field of action for overturning the existing logic of market capitalism.

Fortunately, there are many promising developments in each of these realms. Many parts of the environmental movement seek to go beyond the standard “market-oriented solutions.” There is a growing body of open source-inspired projects for software code, information, design and physical production, which is now spawning new types of global sharing of information with distributed local production. And there are many advocates and initiatives for social justice and fairness in the economy, such as cooperatives and the solidarity economy movement.

The problem, says Bauwens, is that these movements do not generally connect with each other or coordinate internationally. He therefore sees the need for “meta-economic networks” to bridge these fields of action. So, for example, we need “open cooperativism” enterprises to bridge open knowledge systems and cooperatives, so that open-licensed systems are not simply dominated by large corporations in the way that Google, Uber and Airbnb have done. We also need to develop an “open source circular economy” to bridge the worlds of eco-sustainability and open knowledge.  We will never address major environmental problems if the technological and product solutions are based on proprietary knowledge; open circulation of knowledge can change that.

Bauwens also sketches a compelling scenario by which commons-based projects can begin to develop a new politics through such vehicles as a new “ethical entrepreneurial coalition,” a “Chamber of Commons,” and “Commons Assemblies.”  He calls for new types of cooperative finance that can support sustainable production (based on the idea of sufficiency shared by all) as well as the mutualizing of knowledge (vs. its privatization via patents and copyright) and social solidarity (to ensure just and fair distribution of any surplus value created).

While the overall vision may strike skeptics as utopian, the truth is that many of the ideas in Bauwen’s scenario are already underway, if not well-developed.  What’s mostly missing is a wider orientation and commitment to a coherent, shared vision such as this one.  There is also a need for new bridges of social practice and coordination among the three key fields of action.

You can also check out several short short videos introducing the basic concepts of peer production here.

Anyone who is especially interested in this topic should know that the P2P Foundation plans to host a three-day summer school on “The Art of Commoning,” from August 25-27, in Cloughjordan ecovillage in Tipperary, Ireland.  Details here and here.


Originally published at Bollier.org

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Featured Video, Original Content, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Foundation, P2P Theory, Peer Property, Politics, Videos | No Comments »

A Introduction to the Basic P2P Ideas; Part 3: P2P Economics.

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
30th June 2015


Over the last ten years, the P2P Foundation has produced a sizeable body of material, both original and curated, but none of it is specifically designed as an introduction for newcomers and people who are not so familiar with the P2P approach. Hence Irma Wilson‘s proposal, during a trip which FutureSharp helped organize in South Africa in the two first weeks of June 2015, to produce a number of short videos. With Irma’s assistance, and the help of filmmaker Michel Taljaard, we produced four videos which are being serialised here in the P2P Foundation Blog and which will be compiled in a forthcoming Commons Transition Article.

This third video answers the question, what are peer to peer economics?

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Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Featured Video, Open Content, Original Content, P2P Business Models, P2P Foundation, P2P Governance, P2P Theory, Videos | 1 Comment »

Common Libraries’ National Library Science Experiment Concludes

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
30th June 2015


An update from our good friend Annemarie Naylor on Common Libraries recent activities working with library authorities around the country. Originally published at the Common Libraries Website


The Common Libraries initiative was established to ‘prototype the library of the future – today’ – to explore, develop and test new ways of working with library users, to support innovation and the evolution of library services, and expand our knowledge or information commons. Accordingly, we conducted a ‘National Library Science Experiment’ and supported x5 ‘Hack the Library’ days to better understand the potential for Common Libraries to enhance the appeal, resilience and sustainability of libraries in future, before presenting our work at two national events for further discussion, with funding from Arts Council England. Today, we’re delighted to publish the findings from our recent activities working with library authorities around the country.

NatLibScienceExp

Our ‘National Library Science Experiment’ successfully demonstrated the resonance of the Common Libraries message with a cohort of public library personnel – with 20% of library authorities in England expressing initial interest and 10% actively participating. Maker Instruction Set loans proved of interest in places as diverse as Newcastle, Northamptonshire and the City of London. And, we were particularly pleased to learn that, in the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham, staff opted to use the Baking Macaroons Instruction Set in a group setting and, as a result, a library user stepped forward and now runs a fortnightly ‘We Can Make Club’; so far, those involved have made lava lamps, planted seeds and, even, made a bird house!

We’d hoped to see better sales figures for those Maker Kits that were ‘Made in the Waiting Room’. But, we were heartened to learn that staff in South Tyneside prototyped 7 Maker Kits of their own (Keith Dickenson’s Sand Garden, Susan Inskip’s Greetings Card, Angela Boyack’s Beading, Cheryl Bradley’s Salt Dough -‘Singing Hinnies’, and Tracey Watson’s Bath Bomb), sold x5 at their South Tyneside – Hack the Library Day, and plan to work with Tyneside & Northumberland MIND to develop more to improve mental health outcomes for library users in future.

hack the library poster - Mersea LibraryIn supporting x5 programme participants to organise a ‘Hack the Library’ day, we sought to test interest in each locale in establishing Common Libraries, as well as the effectiveness of different approaches to brokering relationships between libraries, hackers, makers and creative communities. We worked with them to deploy Resources developed during Phase I and, in particular, to adapt the Maker Thursday event format successfully deployed at the Waiting Room in Colchester. The events underlined the significant scope for libraries to anchor ‘skills sharing’ opportunities in future. They also pointed toward the potential for staff and user-generated content to flow from programmes of structured events and group activities over time, which when cross-referenced with the findings of our ‘National Library Science Experiment’, would appear to indicate that Common Libraries could be established and grow around the country in future.

However, we believe a greater emphasis upon engaging a core group of people with whom to co-produce makerspace facilities and Common Libraries is needed in future, as per the work of Cultural Community Solutions to support the establishment of Creative Workspaces in London, if libraries are to move beyond event management for existing library users towards an approach which truly integrates hacking and making, knowledge/skills sharing and community publishing.

We organised two national events to introduce Common Libraries to library leaders around the country. Here’s what Kate Smyth (Library Development Officer, Oldham Libraries) had to say about our Newcastle event, shortly before the launch of Hack Oldham: “The Maker Space event in Newcastle was really useful for Oldham Library Service. We are establishing a maker space within our Central Library and are partners with Hack Oldham, the local hack space. Visiting the Newcastle MakerSpace and finding out more about The Waiting Room was great and has certainly informed our plans. Oldham has embraced the Common Libraries project and are building our own instruction sets provided by the local community. The Common Libraries project, coupled with our maker space plans, will see Oldham Libraries adapt and evolve. The ideas have proved popular with our community and fit in with our corporate values of working with a resident focus.”

Hack Oldham Launch - June 2015

In total, 50 people registered to attend our national events, and a series of vox pops captures participants’ learning from the day, together with their thoughts about possible next steps – as per this short film featuring Joanne Moulton (Library Service Development Manager, LB Lewisham):

 

You can also watch an overview of the ideas that were discussed at the events which highlights understanding of as well as interest in the scope for libraries to encourage contributions of knowledge and know-how from library users going forward:

 

So, what’s next? We’ve summarised the key findings from our recent work with library authorities in the Common Libraries: Phase II – Project Report, and made recommendations based upon the lessons learned and feedback received (for which – thank you – everyone!).

***

PostScript

We are eager to extend our prototyping activities. In particular, we are proactively seeking to explore, develop and/or test new services underpinned by emergent technologies with library services across the UK. As such, we hope interested parties will contact us to discuss how they might become one of our trailblazers. We also want libraries to become more self-sustaining so that they are capable of adapting and innovating in the face of declining revenue budgets. Accordingly, any project library service providers opt to pursue with us will build upon the work, to date, of the Common Libraries initiative, and seek to evolve library services through greater involvement of library users in service provision, as well as modernising the way in which local people interact with their local libraries. Crucially, we believe these changes will help mitigate against projected budget reductions by growing appeal amongst new audiences. Ultimately, our aim is to establish Common Libraries as an independent social enterprise in which local authorities and other relevant bodies have a formal governance stake. That way, all concerned will benefit from closer working to nurture innovation, replication and agile iteration, and be well-placed to attract funds and social investment to further support the evolution of public libraries in future.

Download the Common Libraries: Phase II – Project Report:

Common Libraries: Phase II – Project Report (low res)

Common Libraries: Phase II – Project Report (hi res)

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Featured Movement, Free Software, Open Content, Open Models, P2P Art and Culture, P2P Books, P2P Collaboration, P2P Education, P2P Movements, P2P Public Policy, Sharing | No Comments »

Project of the Day: Open Oil

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
26th June 2015


Open Oil is a public domain reference source in textual terms for extractive industries

Johnny West writes that:

“We are working on putting contracts from the world’s oil and mining industries into the commons with the necessary analysis to make them accessible for public debate … We are co-developing a model to factor the effects of carbon pricing on revenue flows in oil producing countries as a way to alert them to the need to diversify their public finances and economic development away from hydrocarbons. OpenOil was founded in late 2011 by Johnny West, and has since evolved into a consultancy, publishing house, training provider, transparency advocate and more. We began with a focus on the Middle East, but have since carried out projects and workshops in Colombia, Uganda, South Sudan and more, with (hopefully) Nigeria and Azerbaijan soon to come.”

Zara Rahman adds that:

“Since our official beginning in September 2011, our way of fulfilling our mandate here at OpenOil has evolved considerably. The main principle is the same; we work on resource curse issues, trying to ensure that citizens of resource rich countries can see the benefits from their natural resources.

However, despite beginning as a purely research based organisation, we appear to have evolved into somewhat of a publishing house, training course provider, and research organisation, with a mixture of projects in these three areas. Crucially, all of the intellectual property that we produce has remained true to our ‘open’ name, and is released freely on the web under the Creative Commons License.

However, telling people I work for an organisation called OpenOil always provokes some interesting, and varied, reactions.

Including:

* “Has an oil company paid you to come here?”

* “But it’s time to move away from hydrocarbons, oil has terrible effects on the environment!”

“Wow, you must have a lot of work to do, surely improving the way the oil industry is run is a lost battle already”
In answer to the first – no, all of our funding is from the public sector, including the UNDP, the German Agency for International Cooperation, and NGOs like Revenue Watch Institute and Internews, amongst others.

Secondly – yes, we know. We take the pragmatic approach that even by best estimates, we won’t be in a post-hydrocarbon economy for another 30 years or so, and until then (as much as we would all like to move away from it) oil will be generating huge amounts of money. This money could, and should, be used for the benefit of the citizens of resource rich countries; not to fuel wars, or keep dictators in power, but to improve citizens’ quality of life, and ensure a smoother transition to greener energy. It’s a good point to say that we should be focusing on renewables now, but in many oil producing countries, it’s the money from oil that will be funding the development of other sources of energy. If this money is being wasted or lost in corruption and anti-transparent practices, it only reduces the amount of money that can be invested into better, more long term solutions to providing energy access.

And thirdly – yes, we do have a lot of work to do, but it’s most definitely not a waste of time. Recently, we have been working on oil industry contracts (more about this later) – and somebody asked me last week what the aim of that project all was, or what our ideal outcome would be. We calculated that if African governments were able, on average, to increase their take of market value by just one percent, that would be the same as increasing development funds by 20 percent.

The gargantuan size of the oil industry means that even the tiniest increase in transparency and improvement in management could have huge effects on the lives of millions ; we, and other NGOs and initiatives, such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, think that this is definitely worth a try.

How else do we address issues of transparency? As I said earlier, we have, it seems, become somewhat of a publishing house. This happened almost organically ; in 2009, I worked with the founder of OpenOil, Johnny West, on a UNDP project creating a wiki on the Iraqi oil industry. It was written using Media Wiki software, following Wikipedia editing guidelines – no original research, more of ‘digital curation’, pulling together information that is out there but is somewhat inaccessible. When OpenOil started in 2011, the idea of creating oil wikis came up again, and together with it, the concept of self publishing – pulling out pages from the wiki to create hard copy books, or Oil Almanacs, as we have called them. We developed a larger project based on the wikis, based on the idea of using the wiki to create a wider knowledge community around the extractive industries on a country by country basis. As the current working plan goes, we create the structure and a few articles, then we run workshops in country for journalists or civil society on how to add to and edit the wiki, as well as a few of the more complex issues in the oil industry. At the end of the project, we hand over ownership of the local language wiki to their institute or organisation, based on the premise that it is easier to maintain if it is housed within a stable organisation than with a group of individuals.

Our other main project of late has been on understanding oil contracts. As contract transparency is emerging as a norm of best practice, we wanted to provide people with a key tool to help understand complex contracts. The book was produced using the booksprint method, facilitated by Adam Hyde, founder of Booksprints.net, which involved bringing together a group of 10 experts on the topic of oil contracts, and writing the book from start to finish in just one week. It has now been released under Creative Commons, and, as you can see is free for download from our site.

We are now looking for ways to take this generic book forward, including running low cost training courses, partnering with local organisations to produce country specific versions, and expanding the scope of the book to include mining contracts. Next week, it will be distributed in Beirut to members of the Yemeni and Iraqi Publish What You Pay coalitions, as part of a workshop session on understanding contracts. Other publishing ventures include a guide on publicly available oil data, entitled Exploring Oil Data – A Reporter’s Handbook which includes summaries of good blogs, Twitter feeds, consultancies and think tanks producing free materials, and a glossary of oil terms, also available now for download. Ongoing projects include looking into the use of the flat rate dividend as a way of distributing oil wealth to citizens and getting rid of anti-poor fuel subsidies, as well as research papers on the Libyan oil industry.

Through all of these efforts, we hope that combining an ‘open’ way of thinking to the secretive oil industry can have a positive effect on management of the industry, with positive benefits to citizens of resource rich countries.”

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Posted in Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Featured Project, Open Content, P2P Energy | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Self-Organizing Processes, Neoliberal Fantasies, and Democratic Activism

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
25th June 2015


* Book: William E. Connolly, The Fragility of Things: Self-Organizing Processes, Neoliberal Fantasies, and Democratic Activism (Duke University Press, 2013)

Excerpted from a review by Zachary Loeb:

“Connolly argues for an “ethic of cultivation” that can show “both how fragile the ethical life is and how important it is to cultivate it” . “Cultivation,” as developed in The Fragility of Things, stands in opposition to withdrawal. Instead it entails serious, ethically guided, activist engagement with the world – for us to recognize the fragility of natural, and human-made, systems (Connolly uses the term “force-fields”) and to act to protect this “fragility” instead of celebrating neoliberal risks that render the already precarious all the more tenuous.

Connolly argues that when natural disasters strike, and often in their wake set off rippling cascades of additional catastrophes, they exemplify the “spontaneous order” so beloved by neoliberal economics. Under neoliberalism, the market is treated as though it embodies a uniquely omniscient, self-organizing and self-guiding principle. Yet the economic system is not the only one that can be described this way: “open systems periodically interact in ways that support, amplify, or destabilize one another”. Even in the so-called Anthropocene era the ecosystem, much to humanity’s chagrin, can still demonstrate creative and unpredictable potentialities. Nevertheless, the ideological core of neoliberalism relies upon celebrating the market’s self-organizing capabilities whilst ignoring the similar capabilities of governments, the public sphere, or the natural world. The ascendancy of neoliberalism runs parallel with an increase in fragility as economic inequality widens and as neoliberalism treats the ecosystem as just another profit source. Fragility is everywhere today, and though the cracks are becoming increasingly visible, it is still given – in Connolly’s estimation – less attention than is its due, even in “radical theory.” On this issue Connolly wonders if perhaps “radical theorists,” and conceivably radical activists, “fear that coming to terms with fragility would undercut the political militancy needed to respond to it?”. Yet Connolly sees no choice but to “respond,” envisioning a revitalized Left that can take action with a mixture of advocacy for immediate reforms while simultaneously building towards systemic solutions.

Critically engaging with the thought of core neoliberal thinker and “spontaneous order” advocate Friedrich Hayek, Connolly demonstrates the way in which neoliberal ideology has been inculcated throughout society, even and especially amongst those whose lives have been made more fragile by neoliberalism: “a neoliberal economy cannot sustain itself unless it is supported by a self-conscious ideology internalized by most participants that celebrates the virtues of market individualism, market autonomy and a minimal state”. An army of Panglossian commentators must be deployed to remind the wary watchers that everything is for the best. That a high level of state intervention may be required to bolster and disseminate this ideology, and prop up neoliberalism, is wholly justified in a system that recognizes only neoliberalism as a source for creative self-organizing processes, indeed “sometimes you get the impression that ‘entrepreneurs’ are the sole paradigms of creativity in the Hayekian world”.

Resisting neoliberalism, for Connolly, requires remembering the sources of creativity that occur outside of a market context and seeing how these other systems demonstrate self-organizing capacities.

Within neoliberalism the market is treated as the ethical good, but Connolly works to counter this with “an ethic of cultivation” which works not only against neoliberalism but against certain elements of Kant’s philosophy. In Connolly’s estimation Kantian ethics provide some of the ideological shoring up for neoliberalism, as at times “Kant both prefigures some existential demands unconsciously folded into contemporary neoliberalism and reveals how precarious they in fact are. For he makes them postulates”. Connolly sees a certain similarity between the social conditioning that Kant saw as necessary for preparing the young to “obey moral law” and the ideological conditioning that trains people for life under neoliberalism – what is shared is a process by which a self-organizing system must counter people’s own self-organizing potential by organizing their reactions. Furthermore “the intensity of cultural desires to invest hopes in the images of self-regulating interest within markets and/or divine providence wards off acknowledgment of the fragility of things” (118). Connolly’s “ethic of cultivation” appears as a corrective to this ethic of inculcation – it features “an element of tragic possibility within it” which is the essential confrontation with the “fragility” that may act as a catalyst for a new radical activism.

In the face of impending doom neoliberalism will once more have an opportunity to demonstrate its creativity even as this very creativity will have reverberations that will potentially unleash further disasters. Facing the possible catastrophe means that “we may need to recraft the long debate between secular, linear, and deterministic images of the world on the one hand and divinely touched, voluntarist, providential, and/or punitive images on the other”. Creativity, and the potential for creativity, is once more essential – as it is the creativity in multiple self-organizing systems that has created the world, for better or worse, around us today. Bringing his earlier discussions of Kant into conversation with the thought of Whitehead and Nietzsche, Connolly further considers the place of creative processes in shaping and reshaping the world. Nietzsche, in particular, provides Connolly with a way to emphasize the dispersion of creativity by removing the province of creativity from the control of God to treat it as something naturally recurring across various “force-fields.” A different demand thus takes shape wherein “we need to slow down and divert human intrusions into various planetary force fields, even as we speed up efforts to reconstitute the identities, spiritualities, consumption practices, market faiths, and state policies entangled with them” though neoliberalism knows but one speed: faster.

An odd dissonance occurs at present wherein people are confronted with the seeming triumph of neoliberal capitalism (one can hear the echoes of “there is no alternative”) and the warnings pointing to the fragility of things. In this context, for Connolly, withdrawal is irresponsible, it would be to “cultivate a garden” when what is needed is an “ethic of cultivation.” Neoliberal capitalism has trained people to accept the strictures of its ideology, but now is a time when different roles are needed; it is a time to become “role experimentalists”. Such experiments may take a variety of forms that run the gamut from “reformist” to “revolutionary” and back again, but the process of such experimentation can break the training of neoliberalism and demonstrate other ways of living, interacting, being and having. Connolly does not put forth a simple solution for the challenges facing humanity, instead he emphasizes how recognizing the “fragility of things” allows for people to come to terms with these challenges. After all, it may be that neoliberalism only appears so solid because we have forgotten that it is not actually a naturally occurring mountain but a human built pyramid – and our backs are its foundation.

William Connolly’s The Fragility of Things is both ethically and intellectually rigorous, demanding readers perceive the “fragility” of the world around them even as it lays out the ways in which the world around them derives its stability from making that very fragility invisible. Though it may seem that there are relatively simple concerns at the core of The Fragility of Things Connolly never succumbs to simplistic argumentation – preferring the fine-toothed complexity that allows moments of fragility to be fully understood. The tone and style of The Fragility of Things feels as though it assumes its readership will consist primarily of academics, activists, and those who see themselves as both. It is a book that wastes no time trying to convince its reader that “climate change is real” or “neoliberalism is making things worse,” and the book is more easily understood if a reader begins with at least a basic acquaintance with the thought of Hayek, Kant, Whitehead, and Nietzsche. Even if not every reader of The Fragility of Things has dwelled for hours upon the question of “How do you prepare for the end of the world?” the book seems to expect that this question lurks somewhere in the subconscious of the reader.

Amidst Connolly’s discussions of ethics, fragility and neoliberalism, he devotes much of the book to arguing for the need for a revitalized, active, and committed Left – one that would conceivably do more than hold large marches and then disappear. While Connolly cautions against “giving up” on electoral politics he does evince a distrust for US party politics; to the extent that Connolly appears to be a democrat it is a democrat with a lowercase d. Drawing inspiration from the wave of protests in and around 2011 Connolly expresses the need for a multi-issue, broadly supported, international (and internationalist) Left that can organize effectively to win small-scale local reforms while building the power to truly challenge the grip of neoliberalism. The goal, as Connolly envisions it, is to eventually “mobilize enough collective energy to launch a general strike simultaneously in several countries in the near future” even as Connolly remains cognizant of threats that “the emergence of a neofascist or mafia-type capitalism” can pose (39). Connolly’s focus on the, often slow, “traditional” activist strategies of organizing should not be overlooked, as his focus on mobilizing large numbers of people acts as a retort to a utopian belief that “technology will fix everything.” The “general strike” as the democratic response once electoral democracy has gone awry is a theme that Connolly concludes with as he calls for his readership to take part in helping to bring together “a set of interacting minorities in several countries for the time when we coalesce around a general strike launched in several states simultaneously” (195). Connolly emphasizes the types of localized activism and action that are also necessary, but “the general strike” is iconic as the way to challenge neoliberalism. In emphasizing the “the general strike” Connolly stakes out a position in which people have an obligation to actively challenge existing neoliberalism, waiting for capitalism to collapse due to its own contradictions (and trying to accelerate these contradictions) does not appear as a viable tactic.

All of which raises something of prickly question for The Fragility of Things: which element of the book strikes the reader as more outlandish, the question of how to prepare for the end of the world, or the prospect of a renewed Left launching “a general strike…in the near future”? This question is not asked idly or as provocation; and the goal here is in no way to traffic in Leftist apocalyptic romanticism. Yet experience in current activism and organizing does not necessarily imbue one with great confidence in the prospect of a city-wide general strike (in the US) to say nothing of an international one. Activists may be acutely aware of the creative potentials and challenges faced by repressed communities, precarious labor, the ecosystem, and so forth – but these same activists are aware of the solidity of militarized police forces, a reactionary culture industry, and neoliberal dominance. Current, committed, activists’ awareness of the challenges they face makes it seem rather odd that Connolly suggests that radical theorists have ignored “fragility.” Indeed many radical thinkers, or at least some (Grace Lee Boggs and Franco “Bifo” Berardi, to name just two) seem to have warned consistently of “fragility” – even if they do not always use that exact term. Nevertheless, here the challenge may not be the Sisyphean work of activism but the rather cynical answer many, non-activists, give to the question of “How does one prepare for the end of the world?” That answer? Download some new apps, binge watch a few shows, enjoy the sci-fi cool of the latest gadget, and otherwise eat, drink and be merry because we’ll invent something to solve tomorrow’s problems next week. Neoliberalism has trained people well.

That answer, however, is the type that Connolly seems to find untenable, and his apparent hope in The Fragility of Things is that most readers will also find this answer unacceptable. Thus Connolly’s “ethic of cultivation” returns and shows its value again. “Our lives are messages” (185) Connolly writes and thus the actions that an individual takes to defend “fragility” and oppose neoliberalism act as a demonstration to others that different ways of being are possible.

What The Fragility of Things makes clear is that an “ethic of cultivation” is not a one-off event but an ongoing process – cultivating a garden, after all, is something that takes time. Some gardens require years of cultivation before they start to bear fruit.”

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Posted in Activism, Featured Essay, P2P Books, P2P Subjectivity, Politics | No Comments »

A Introduction to the Basic P2P Ideas; Part 1: What is P2P?

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
23rd June 2015


Over the last ten years, the P2P Foundation has produced a sizeable body of material, both original and curated, but none of it is specifically designed as an introduction for newcomers and people who are not so familiar with the P2P approach. Hence Irma Wilson‘s proposal, during a trip which FutureSharp helped organize in South Africa in the two first weeks of June 2015, to produce a number of short videos. With Irma’s assistance, and the help of filmmaker Michel Taljaard, we produced four videos which are being serialised here in the P2P Foundation Blog and which will be compiled in a forthcoming Commons Transition Article.

This first video answers the question, what is peer to peer?

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Posted in Activism, Commons, Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Featured Video, Original Content, P2P Development, P2P Education, P2P Foundation, Politics, Videos | No Comments »

Book of the Day: the Squatters’ Movement in Europe

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
21st June 2015


* Book: The Squatters’ Movement in Europe. Commons and Autonomy as Alternatives to Capitalism. Squatting_Europe_Kollective. Pluto, 2015

Here’s the summary:

“The first definitive guide to squatting as an alternative to capitalism. It offers a unique insider’s view on the movement – its ideals, actions and ways of life. At a time of growing crisis in Europe with high unemployment, dwindling social housing and declining living standards, squatting has become an increasingly popular option.
The book is written by an activist-scholar collective, whose members have direct experience of squatting: many are still squatters today. There are contributions from the Netherlands, Spain, the USA, France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland and the UK.

In an age of austerity and precarity this book shows what has been achieved by this resilient social movement, which holds lessons for policy-makers, activists and academics alike.”

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

Project of the Day: Co-Creative Event Pattern Language

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
20th June 2015


The Co-Creative Event Pattern Language is a tool for group conscious self-organization, developed by Lilian Ricaud:

He writes that:

“As a group of people, it’s easier to join and work together AGAINST something than FOR something.Command and control or consensus work model have limitations for group organization (Marsh, H. 2012).It has to do partly with the difficulty of on agreeing on a common goal and sharing a common intent, particularly in large groups. Interest brings groups together, but intent is what brings teams together to actually get things done (Paquet, S. 2011)As the collaborative economy grows, people invent new ways to live and work together.In the recent years many new events format have been built by various groups and communities to organize themselves around common goals: communicate, think, learn, work, share, have fun, social bonding, direct action, art making, food cooking…Some if this events and meeting formats have been very successful and have since been organized in hundred of places worldwide (barcamps, open space, hackathon, …)Creative event pattern language might be a tool for networked individuals to form ad-hoc groups around common purposes and consciously self organize to achieve those purposes.”

Here are some of the characteristics of new co-creative events:

“From barcamp to permablitz, from hackathon to Disco soups, the range and the diversity of new events and meeting formats is wide. However, there seem to be some common characteristics that distinguish this events from traditional meeting formats.

Co creative events are:

* more dynamic and participative than traditional professional meetings
* based on values of openness and sharing
* there is a shift from organizing for to co-organizing with
* based on people’s interest, passion and willingness to participate
* don’t try to eliminate the difference between people but instead feed/strive on individual creativity and diversity
* not very formal – fun is built into the event DNA.
* duplicate themselves spontaneously worldwide by bottom/up action and give birth to global communities”

Lilian Ricaud also discusses the following details:

* Visible and invisible architectures

Visible and invisible architectures structure the spaces in which we evolve individually and collectively and therefore ..

The same architecture is likely to trigger the same collective outcomes no matter what topics, challenges, market places and players are in its center. A different architecture may empower or diminish the capability of a community to deal with these given topics, challenges, market places, players. Architectures not only influence our capabilities, but they create new reality (Noubel, J.F. 2007)

* Events format and expectations shape social interactions

When we go to nightclub or the office there are different expectations about what we are going to do and the way we interact with other.When you go to a nightclub you expect socializing, flirting, but although you can brainstorm it’s probably not the best place to do it.Similarly when you go to a meeting, you probably expect to brainstorm, exchange ideas, make decisions but although you can also flirt there it’s probably not the best place to do it.A night club will have specific architecture visible or invisible to favor the expected outcome: dark rooms, (loud) music, alcohol…a meeting will have white board, seats, table, and so on…In addition, when you go to either of them you have different expectations and you prepare accordingly (you won’t dress or behave in the same way for one or the other).

* Designing co-creative architectures

By thinking about the outcome a group want to reach, it is possible to design the architecture (visible and invisible) of the event to favor this outcome.Although it is possible the outcome won’t work out or something else might come out of it, setting a specific format will enhance the probability of reaching this goal.

* Mapping events architecture patterns

Patterns are generic solutions to problems frequently occurring (Alexander, C. 1977) . A design pattern in architecture and computer science is a formal way of documenting a solution to a design problem in a particular field of expertise.The idea was introduced by the architect Christopher Alexander in the field of architecture and has been adapted for various other disciplines, including computer science.By mapping creative event patterns, it is possible to identify the best event format to reach a desired outcome.Identifying and formalizing creative event patterns and having standard names and formats for patterns would help groups form around a common goal and work in a stigmergic way.

* Using patterns for stigmergic organization

In large groups, consensus decision making can be quite tedious, cooperation wastes a great deal of time and resources in both discussing and discussing the discussions (Marsh, H. 2012). These traditional form of organization are too structured and often forces individuals to lose their individual differences in order to fit in the structure.

Stigmergy is is a mechanism of self-organization that functions through indirect coordination between agents or actions.

Using a set of well described patterns, an individual could choose a pattern for a particular need (think together, act together) and send a call to a large group.

Participants who understand the purpose can then agree to join or not. This self selection allow the group to organize in a stigmergic way.

this can help people to express their individual creativity and differences while working around a common purpose.
[edit]Events pattern language as a tool to hack culture

If you want to influence the structure of your town, you must help to change the underlying languages. It is useless to be innovative in an individual building, or an individual plan, if this innovation does not become part of a living pattern language which everyone can use. And we may conclude, even more strongly, that the central task of “architecture” is the creation of a single, shared, evolving, pattern language, which everyone contributes to, and everyone can use. Christopher Alexander, the Timeless Way of Building A culture is the set of shared attitudes, values, goals, and practices that both describes and shapes a group. Culture hacking modifies culture, instead of modifying software.

An organized collection of design patterns that relate to a particular field is called a pattern language. A creative event patterns language can become a toolbox for group to consciously self-organize to reach common goals.”

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