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Video of the Day: Noam Chomsky on Adam Smith’s Critique of the Invisible Hand

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
22nd December 2014


Chomsky argues that the conventional notion of “invisible hand” is mistaken and that though worshipped by conservatives, Adam Smith is very rarely read.

Watch the video here:

(link correct even if video is not loading)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaZORYaygo0

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Posted in Economy and Business, Featured Video, Videos | No Comments »

Manifesto for a Media Revolution

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
22nd December 2014


In this article Nafeez Ahmed explain how and why mainstream media is broken and calls for your support for a revolution in independent investigative journalism.

The mainstream media is broken

Dominated by special interests?—?whether corporate lobbies, financial power, ideological bias, chauvinistic institutional racism, the entrenched problems are well-documented.

My experience at The Guardian?—?the highly-regarded liberal newspaper that broke the Edward Snowden whistleblowing stories?—?though particularly flagrant, illustrates just how entrenched and structural the problems are.

The skewed coverage of the Gaza crisis is merely the tip of the iceberg. One of the best studies of the British media’s servile attitude to warmongers was published by Manchester University Press in 2010. The book, Pockets of Resistance: British news media, war and theory in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is based on a research project funded by the Economic Social and Research Council (ESRC). Studying coverage of Iraq War 2003 by the BBC, Channel 4, Sky News and seven national newspapers, the study’s findings were damning.

At a conference in Liverpool to launch the book, lead author Dr Piers Robinson, a respected media scholar, said:

“Although we found examples of media independence, journalists need to think more critically about the extent to which they allow the national perspective of ‘our boys’ to influence their war reporting. We also urge them to be more discerning when accepting official versions such as the humanitarian intervention line promoted by Tony Blair during the 2003 invasion of Iraq.”

Funnily enough, though press was invited, the book received no mainstream coverage at all.

The Glasgow University Media Group, a leading group of media scholars, has for decades conducted in-depth academic studies exposing the extent of the British media’s biased reporting on a wide range of issues, from war to the economy to politics, race and culture. Despite being ridiculed and marginalized by mainstream journalists, the group’s stellar research remains vindicated.

In the US, the situation is much the same. The media watchdog, FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting), has just released a study that found that US broadcasters offered no debate at all in the run-up to Obama’s proposed airstrikes in Iraq and Syria?—?instead invariably opting in favour of war.

Last year, a landmark study of US and UK media coverage of Iran’s nuclear program from 2009 to 2012 by University of Maryland’s Center for International and Security Studies found direct parallels with distorted media reporting in the run-up to the 2003 Iraq War. Reporting was largely dishonest, inaccurate, confused and contradictory, and served to reinforce “negative sentiments about Iran” while emphasizing “policy prescriptions and narratives put forth by government officials” and “deemphasizing other voices and alternative policy approaches that could be used to resolve the dispute, such as that of international organizations like the IAEA.”

The mainstream media can’t be fixed

The primary reason the mass media functions in this way is due to its corporate ownership structure. There is a rich literature on this, but I’ll highlight one brilliant study that is less well-known: The Suppression of Dissent: How the State and Media Squelch USAmerican Social Movements, is a book published by Routledge in 2012, authored by Prof Jules Boykoff of Pacific University in Oregon.

Boykoff’s pioneering study draws on this extensive literature to argue that mass media is “embedded in larger political, social, cultural, and economic arenas.” He highlights the work of Robert McChesney, Ben Bagdikian, Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, and many other renowned media scholars, who have charted the rampant concentration and conglomeration of the “corporate media cartel,” and unearthed “systematic evidence” of how the financial interests of media owners influences “newspaper editorials” and “straight news reporting.” Within this framework, the dependence on advertising revenues acts as a further constraint, as well as the cultural and class milieu in which media executives and journalists operate. Further, media reporting is ideologically constrained by financial and corporate interests through a range of other “micro-processes” including reliance on certain information sources (often ‘officialdom’ and government/corporate ‘press releases’), story-selection, information biases, self-censorship, and of course, the all-encompassing pressure of the ‘news cycle’ and entrenched perceptions of what should and should not make news.

The upshot of all this, as Boykoff shows, is that social movements, political dissent, political protest?—?all manner of popular mobilizations that challenge or question the prevailing order in a fundamental way?—?are over the long-run ignored, suppressed, demonized, and caricatured by mainstream media.

The problem is that media is our window to the world. It’s our mechanism of self-understanding as a society. It’s our means of discovering and uncovering the way the world works, and the way we fit into it. The media is supposed to be a force that illuminates and informs, which empowers and educates. Instead, it does so selectively, and functions largely in the interests of sustaining the existing system, even when that system is hell-bent on eating the planet alive.

But it’s not our media.

We need a new model: NOW

I don’t really fancy working for a billionaire with vague messianic fantasies. And ultimately, for the reasons described above, I don’t believe media owned by or affiliated in some manner with large corporate financial interests will ever be able to get to the heart of the issues that matter?—?it will forever be ideologically and structurally constrained.

Developments in information technology over the last years have, however, opened up amazing new avenues to challenge the hegemony of what McChesney calls the “corporate media cartel.”

You may have heard of De Correspondent, a new Dutch-language digital journalism start-up that managed to crowdfund over a million dollars on the promise of doing independent ad-free journalism that would not be beholden to the arbitrary whims of the news cycle. That’s just one example.

De Correspondent received a lot of attention in the Dutch press, including its fair share of obligatory mainstream media ridicule. That’s not surprising, because if the business model takes-off and proliferates, it could fatally undermine the profitability of mainstream media.

The world is changing. The corporate media giants, like the fossil fuel industry behemoths and defense company conglomerates with which they are institutionally embedded, are figments of the old extractivist, top-down, industrial paradigm of centralized violence against nature and people in the name of profit that is currently in its death throes.

Climate change, energy volatility, food crisis, recession, militarism, terrorism, the police-state, all these crises are escalating symptoms of a global system that has failed, and is failing, and which cannot survive the 21st century in its current form according to our best scientific minds.

In its place, the seeds of a new way of doing things is emerging, based on clean energy, participatory political networks, distributed finance, shared values, community-controlled currencies, celebration of diversity, and decentralization of production and power, to name just a few features of the people-powered paradigm that could conquer the 1%.

During this pivotal transition period, we have an opportunity to ride the wave to create a new English-language global media platform that is truly accountable to people and the planet, rather than special interests. Central to this, of course, is the mechanism of funding?—?which must be dependent on the public, not on special interests?—?but it’s not just about funding. It’s also, critically, about methodology and vision.

The Insurge manifesto

This is why I’m asking for your help to launch INSURGE INTELLIGENCE, a digital multimedia investigative journalism collective for the global commons. The ‘commons’ refers to the natural resources, fundamental services, public spaces, and ultimately public goods, that are held in trust by all people, and which should not be monopolized by any state, corporation or other entity.

I want INSURGE to be the first English-language platform to do investigative journalism for the explicit purpose of reclaiming the commons. This means doing the kind of journalism that very few are doing?—?joined-up investigations into the global system highlighting not just the surface of what’s happening in terms of mass surveillance, foreign policy militarism, and police-state violence, but to excavate root causes, why the shit’s hitting the fan, and to empower citizens with the information and tools to conceive and explore meaningful alternatives here and now.

I’d like to co-create the platform with you not just through crowdfunding to create a sustainable financial infrastructure to maintain true independence, but to develop its direction, and to draw on your input to make the platform the best it can be.

I want to do journalism that is accountable to we, the people?—?that is so powerful in its independence, rigorous in its approach, and fearless in its questioning, that in time it can break the co-opted business models of the mainstream media. Those business models are already in terminal decline. That’s partly why I think this venture is possible. Hell, I think it’s the future

So this is my manifesto for a new media, and for what I intend INSURGE to be, with your support:

1. People-powered independence

By putting people at the heart of the financing of the media platform as patrons, we guarantee its total independence from dubious external financial or ideological pressures. If patrons don’t like our coverage, they can communicate with us their criticisms, and if they’re not satisfied, they can unsubscribe. Special interests won’t pull our strings. You will.

2. Adversarial, interdisciplinary investigations

Our job is not to relay ‘the news’: it’s to investigate power, to empower the public. That means embarking on original in-depth investigations that dig deep and which others aren’t covering; going between the headlines, providing critical context, conducting the kind of unique analysis of events informed by genuine expertise (which is why we’ll have an academic/scientific advisory board), not phony punditry. It also means joining the dots across multiple issues and stories.

3. Visionary advocacy

We will campaign for justice and we will advocate for the marginalized, to help create social change and to empower you with the information you need to become change-makers in your own contexts. That means, we’re not just covering ‘the bad news’?—?you’ll find us on the frontlines of the revolution, covering real-world solutions to our global challenges proposed and enacted by practitioners, activists and communities everywhere.

4. Participatory story-making

If we can raise enough to invest in the right sort of website, our stories won’t just be static, isolated fixed ‘news items.’ Just as the real-world is full of change and complexity, we will be open and responsive to critique, and will create overlapping and evolving stories that chart the interconnections between global and local challenges, between planetary meltdown and state-corporate militarism, and which will build on your feedback whenever possible.

5. A community for change

Our citizen-patrons won’t just be our donors. You’ll be our backbone, and therefore our first port of call in the development of the platform, story ideas, as well as the best ways to make the platform work, and improve what we do. We’ll keep connected through a social network just for us.

Join me

If this sounds good to you, you can sign up via the crowdfunder here and pledge as little as $1 a month.

Imagine what we could do as we grow and formalize a viable financial structure, if our subscription base expands sufficiently: we could potentially move to an ideal model in which patrons pay just a $1 a year to sustain us. It might take us a while to get there. But that’s the goal.

Here’s to the media revolution, one we create together.

Yours,

Nafeez

Dr Nafeez Ahmed is an investigative journalist, bestselling author and international security scholar. Formerly of The Guardian, he writes the ‘System Shift’ column for VICE’s Motherboard, and is the winner of a 2015 Project Censored Award for Outstanding Investigative Journalism for his Guardian work.

Nafeez has also written for The Independent, Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, The Scotsman, Foreign Policy, The Atlantic, Quartz, Prospect, New Statesman, Le Monde diplomatique, New Internationalist, Counterpunch, Truthout, among others. He is the author of A User’s Guide to the Crisis of Civilization: And How to Save It (2010), and the scifi thriller novel ZERO POINT, among other books. His work on the root causes and covert operations linked to international terrorism officially contributed to the 9/11 Commission and the 7/7 Coroner’s Inquest.

Originally Published – https://medium.com/@NafeezAhmed/manifesto-for-a-media-revolution-abf42a16c870

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Posted in Culture & Ideas, Featured Project | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: Anti-Leaders in Social Movements

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
21st December 2014


* Article: Anti-leaders(hip) in Social Movement Organizations: The case of autonomous grassroots groups. By Neil Sutherland, Christopher Land et al. Organization June 5, 2013

(please note embedded link above may only work after ‘searching’)

From the Abstract:

“Through the Arab Spring and the Occupy movement, the idea of horizontal, leaderless organization has come to the attention of the mass media. In this article we explore radical, participative-democratic alternatives to leadership through an empirical study of four Social Movement Organizations (SMOs). Whilst there has been some writing on leadership within SMOs, it has mirrored the ‘mainstream’ assumption that leadership is the product of individual leaders possessing certain traits, styles and/or behaviours. In contrast, critical leadership studies (CLS) recognize that leadership is a relational, socially constructed phenomenon rather than the result of a stable set of leadership attributes that inhere in ‘the leaders’. We utilize this framing to analyse how leadership is understood and performed in anarchist SMOs by examining how actors manage meaning and define reality without compromising the ideological commitments of their organizations. Furthermore, we also pay attention to the organizational practices and processes developed to: (a) prohibit individuals from permanently assuming a leadership role; (b) distribute leadership skills and roles; and (c) encourage other actors to participate and take-up these roles in the future. We conclude by suggesting that just because an organization is leaderless, it does not necessarily mean that it is also leadershipless.”

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Posted in Featured Essay, P2P Governance, P2P Hierarchy Theory, P2P Movements, P2P Subjectivity | No Comments »

Movement of the Day: The Green Web Foundation

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
20th December 2014


“One day the Internet will run entirely on renewable energy. The Green Web Foundation believes that day should be within reach, and develops tools to speed up the transition towards a green Internet”.

Towards a green web:

“The Green Web Foundation wants to facilitate the transition towards the Internet being powered by sustainable “green” energy. Why do we need that? How much electricity is the Internet using? What is the power used for? What is the difference between green and gray hosting? Does efficient equal ‘green’ as well? Find answers to these questions below.

* How much electricity is the Internet using?

Around 5-10% of the world’s available electricity is now consumed by the combination of datacentres, networks and Internet-connected-devices (PC’s, laptops, smartphones, iPads etc) and this percentage will continue to grow in the coming decade.

* What is grey hosting?

“Grey hosting” means that the servers of the web or datacentre hosting company are running on energy which is generated using fossil fuels and/or nuclear energy. The problem with this, apart from the negative impact on the climate and world, is simply that these resources are rapidly running out. If it is not a suitable strategy for the future, why put our money into it today?

* What is green hosting?

“Green hosting” means that the servers on which the web or datacentre hosting company are running on energy which is generated from sustainable sources such as wind, solar, thermal or hydro-power.

* We use a very energy efficient data-centre, does that make us green?

Efficiency is a great step in the right direction! Many companies worldwide are trying to lower their energy bills, and that is a good step to take. But if the remaining electricity is still being generated by the burning of coal or gas, for instance, the environment will keep deteriorating. The only way forward towards the green web that makes sense in the long run, is for all Internet services to become powered by renewable energy.

* What is renewable energy?

Renewable energy is energy that is generated by sources that do not run out in the foreseeable future: the wind will keep blowing, the sun will shine for quite a while more, and the rain will keep falling, accumulating in lakes and rivers that in turn feed the hydro-power stations.

Nuclear energy will run out (apart from its linkage to many other issues). Gas and oil are available only with limits, and burning them increases carbon levels and consumes our precious oxygen, impacting on the quality of the air we breathe and the cycles of our worldwide climate. Use of biomass also requires burning, with the same impact on air and climate, let alone on our precious forests.

* Is it possible to run the Internet entirely on renewable energy?

Yes, it is. Internet hosting companies and data centres are the new ”heavy industries” of our time. Data centres have a very stable and predictable electricity demand – they are perfect clients for use of renewable energy, and some very large data centres are already fully powered by solar power and wind power.

Currently, many data centres and other industrial clients are supplied by utility companies whose electricity comes from coal and oil generation. However, large factories are disappearing in the Western world, and the utility companies that formerly supplied them are facing lower demands and redundant capacity. When data centres and their clients start demanding renewable energy, utility companies will have to make changes in what they offer the market.

* What is a Renewable Energy Certificate (REC) or Carbon Offset Certificate?

In a number of locations, the only power available is ‘green’ power (generated from hydro power, solar and/or wind power) mixed in with ‘grey’ power (generated from fossil and/or nuclear energy). We call this ‘grey-green’ power. Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) are a way for consumers to offset the carbon burned by the grey power, through purchase of RECs to an equivalent value of the carbon burned in the grey power, and to demonstrate a commitment to 100% renewable power becoming available. These certificates are sold by agencies that do not produce power, and may result in investment in renewable energy production.

Unfortunately, offsetting carbon produced by electricity generation through purchase of such certificates may not be an effective way to increase the generation of renewable energy. Certificates offer “grey” fossil burning power plants a way to stay in business: by simply buying carbon offset certificates equivalent to the carbon produced by their grey electricity, their carbon generation is “offset” and grey is said to be “greened”. But in the end, we need the world to be powered on actual green energy – fully renewable energy.

There is a special class of RECs called ‘gold credits‘, that has been developed by the WWF. When used wisely, such as for offsetting in situations where there are no renewable alternatives yet (such as the aviation industry), gold credits and especially credits generated by mangrove forests, can be quite a good idea in this transitional period. In the long run, however, only actual 100% renewable energy will do.

* My company is offsetting gray energy with carbon-offset certificates, can we become a partner of The Green Web Foundation?

Only 100% renewably powered companies can become a Silver, Gold or Dev Partner of The Green Web Foundation. However, there are a small number of green hosting organisations in The Green Web Foundation database who are unable to purchase green power for their local operations, and who have for the time being purchased carbon offset certificates to show their commitment to green power.”

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Posted in Featured Movement, P2P Ecology, P2P Energy, P2P Infrastructures | No Comments »

Video: Neal Gorenflo on Why No One Will Buy Tourism in the Future

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
20th December 2014


From a keynote by Neal Gorenflo at the Buy Tourism Online conference in Florence, Italy about the sharing economy and travel:

““The gist of the talk is that the rise of net culture, with it’s emphasis on collaboration, peer relationships, and social good, is changing the habits of the next generation of travellers. A large and growing cohort, mostly from developed countries, don’t want pre-packaged, mass-produced travel experiences. In fact, that’s the opposite of what they want. It’s counter to their value system. They want to hack travel, i.e. make their own travel experiences. Better yet if the hacking is done with locals and creates lasting benefits for travelers (like new skills) and their destination communities.

Aside from the digital professionals present, the audience was mainly Italian and European boutique hoteliers. I think they have a much better chance of adapting to this new reality than chain hotels. I shared a few ideas with them like turning their hotel’s business centers into coworking spaces, teaching skills that are regional specialties (beer making, glass blowing, fashion design), and connecting travelers to the local community through local causes. In general, the idea is to view a hotel as a community center that links travelers directly with locals for learning, community contribution, and cultural exchange.

I gave a bunch of examples where aspects of this new travel paradigm are unfolding like Destination Coworking, The Digital Detox, Seats2Meet, and The Embassy Network. On the latter, I explained how The Embassy Network, as a collection of social innovation communes (i.e. coliving spaces), blurs the lines between travel and everyday life by making a network of houses available to residents allowing them to live like a local in a variety of destinations. In other words, networks collapse the difference between home and destination, everyday life and holiday. Admittedly, The Embassy Network is similar to time-share condominimums, but with one big difference — you get access not only to many places, but many communities where learning, social innovation, and self-development are priorities. This is particularly appealing to young adults who want this lifestyle, but often can’t afford housing, travel, and learning as separate offerings.

I closed with the idea that travel may be returning to its historical roots in The Grand Tour and pilgrimages, where learning and spiritual renewal are the focus, and that this offers the travel entrepreneurs a chance to do well by doing good.”

Watch the video here:

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Posted in Economy and Business, Featured Video, P2P Lifestyles, Sharing, Videos | No Comments »

Project of the Day: Defining the Commons

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Michel Bauwens
19th December 2014


Project by the Remix the Commons video collective, wherebyt one-sentence definitions of the commons were given in their own language by attendees of the Economics and the Commons Conference which took place in Berlin in May 2013.

For example,

Define the commons #5, is the fifth serie of short videos of definitions of the commons, produced by Communautique and Gazibo for Define The Commons. It contains 12 capsules presented below. This serie has been gathered at the Internationale conference ECONOMICS AND THE COMMON(S): FROM SEED FORM TO CORE PARADIGM , co-organized by Commons Strategies Group, the Heinrich Böll and Charles Leopold Mayer Pour le Progrès de l’Homme Foundations and Remix The Commons, in Berlin, May 24 and 25, 2013.

Define The Commons is a multilingual project sharing definitions of commons. It is a process of collecting spontaneous and very brief definitions of the commons, made ??over several years and in different places around the world.

The project started in the first by interviewing people during the first International Commons Conference, co-organized by the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the Commons Strategies Group, in Berlin November 1 and 2, 2010. The conference organizers and participants were invited to define the commons with just one sentence in their own langage. Since 2010, many other definitions have been collected during other meetings.

Collection of the definitions of the commons continues. It is open to individuals and organizations contributions to define the paradigm of the commons. Publications and uses of the collection of definitions are in preparation, such as a mapping of the definitions of the commons. This project will also contribute to the creation of a glossary of commons through the identification of the terms used in the definitions.

If you want to participate, please sent an email to Alain Ambrosi (ambrosia/at/web.ca) or Frédéric Sultan (fredericsultan/at/gmail.com).

This initiative is an idea of Alain Ambrosi.”

Find the videos here at http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLiO9RvnsUfkYA3AHFtDOUCQCcCvEzkn-S

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Posted in Commons, Featured Project, Videos | No Comments »

Video Explains the Importance of Subsistence Land Commons

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
18th December 2014


Commons conversation

Participants in a workshop hosted by the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) and the German Institute for Human Rights are featured in a nicely done five-minute video, “A Commons Conversation.” (Tip of the hat to Silke Helfrich.)  It’s a thoughtful introduction to subsistence and traditional commons, especially in Africa. The focus is on secure land tenure and food security.King-David Amoah, Ecumenical Association for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development

The July 2014 workshop is in the midst of producing a “Technical Guide on Tenure Rights to Commons” (or “TG Commons,” for short) at the request of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).  The guide seeks to support the adoption of “Voluntary Guidelines for the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the Context of National Food Security (VGGT).”

According to the workshop, the TG Commons will:

provide strategies to overcome the challenges inherent in the recognition and protection of tenure rights to commons. The overall objective of the guide is to contribute to national food security, to secure access to natural resources (especially for marginalized and vulnerable groups), to support human well-being and livelihood, sustainable resource use, and ecosystem functioning. This is particularly timely, since today about three billion rural families’ livelihoods depend on common lands, forests and fisheries.

The TG commons guidebook is focused on “providing concrete strategies to achieve the recognition and protection of tenure rights to commons.”

The video is refreshing in addressing, in direct, personal terms, why the commons matters for traditional communities and subsistence commoners. It asks people questions such as, “What are important keywords for you personally relating to the commons?” and “Why is the question of the commons relevant to you?”

The answers came from people like Alphajoh Cham of the Ministry of Lands, Country Planning and the Environment, Sierra Leone; Theo Rauch of the Centre for Development Studies in Berlin; Carolin Callenius of Bread for the World; and Million Belay of the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa; and Myrna K. C. Kain, the former Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous People. An informative short video well-worth watching

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Video, Food and Agriculture, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Lifestyles, Sharing, Videos | No Comments »

Project of the Day: Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
18th December 2014


The Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative defines itself a counter investment cooperative of the precariat: “Our business is minor asset management”

They explain:

“How is it done? Very simply. By understanding that knowledge (immaterial and affective elements, the ability to learn, think, create and relate to the presence of others) has became a means of production. By understanding how these elements are producing value. By understanding how it is organized. By understanding the functioning of the new mechanisms of valorization at work in semiocapitalism. By understanding the mimetic logic of financial economy. By understanding the formation of market sentiment and how it organizes the multitude of transactions at the financial market. By knowing how the public opinion “runs” the formation of value.

Some basics about the financial market: The information deficit (or, call it ‘information overload’) is structural for the functioning of the stock market.

Nobody, including the big investment institutions, knows exactly what to do.

That is why making money at the stock market is not about being “right”, about having the “right” opinion, but about the art of knowing the common sentiment, the public opinion, and of anticipating, and even manipulating its movements. This is what Robin Hood does.

We are operating a massive dynamic virtual agent – we call it “the parasite” – that is able to analyze transactions from all major US Stock Exchanges including NYSE, NASDAQ, AMEX, etc. It operates a little bit like an internet search engine (like Google): it examines all information for a particular financial market segment and identifies critical patterns and relations in this information. What is the relationship between this transaction and this transaction, that transaction and that transaction, what is the regularity of their connection…

To put it very simply:

We know everything what and when people are buying and selling.

And then we rank them, these buyers and sellers, all of them, revealing the consistent winners and losers for a given instrument. The statistics are quite surprising. They are not just any statistics, but a dynamic technique which is able to transform bare beliefs and desires (to buy/sell) and their intensities and tendencies into anticipatory timelines: by piecing together the regularities of innumerable singular events which are conscious and unconscious, in continuous movement, productive and non-productive, individual and collective and totally uncontrollable by any traditional means, we are able to see an emergence of a form.

In short: we identify who is able to make money consistently with a particular instrument. We then follow when the majority of the best players of each particular instrument start buying or selling. On these basis, we then rank each instrument according to a prediction of its future behavior: it is good and prospective when the majority of the best operators (who have consistently been right about its movements) start going for it, it is bad when they start rejecting it. We identify the most competent actors for each instrument and manage our portfolio according to their movements. In other words, we operate in the pure space of imitation, pure space of mimesis. We let the bankers play the contents, we play the position.

Because, as Michel Serres writes:

– “The one who plays the position will always beat the one who plays the contents. The latter is simple and naive; the former is complex and mediatized… To play the position… is to dominate the relation. It is to have a relation only with the relation itself… that is the meaning of the prefix para- in the word parasite: it is on the side, next to, shifted; it is not on the thing, but on its relation. It has relations, as they say, and makes a system of them.”

Like Serres’ parasites we hook to the brains of the financial elite at Wall Street, the community of these men who are making millions… we know exactly what they do and when… and they don’t even know it. We expropriate the knowledge and capabilities of financial capital and its representatives and put them to work for us – just like capital normally puts to work our abilities and knowledge for its own increase. This is minor asset management. Another way to occupy Wall Street.

We have run massive tests 2003-2009 and 2009-2011 and now the operation is running. Our operating costs are ridiculously minimal compared to traditional asset management with high end locations and leather sofas. Now, we would like to build a channel to socialize or out-onomize this information, to use it, to play with it, to study it, to exploit it… but also to build on its basis a possibility of micro investing for basic income, for radical project funding, of cheap loans for financing one’s studies or life, in a form of an investment cooperative. We call it minor asset management, a possibility of political operation of building from our minor assets financial out-onomy in cooperation.”

In a letter from the Chairman of the Board, Akseli Virtanen explains their ethics, values and mission:

“Even if looking like a purely financial operation, Robin Hood is about organization. About emergence of a new form. It is about experimenting and inventing a becoming, when it seems impossible. For this the financial-tactical level of Robin Hood, no matter how well we have elaborated it, is maybe not enough. Robin Hood must also become sensible.

What does this mean?

It means that when you look at Robin Hood a little bit closer, it certainly looks like a financial operation, but somehow in a strange way. It seems to create a foreign language inside the techno-linguistic automatism of financial market, it is explicitly a parasite which hollows production of value from the inside. It escapes and exceeds the established meanings and identities of financial economy, makes them stutter and mutate. It releases minor finance from major finance, it turns major assets into minor assets. It is minor asset management. Which corresponds to our subjectivity.

Robin Hood is a project taking place in the midst of the marvels of financial economy and crises of Europe, when the precariousness of immaterial labour defines our every day, semiocapitalism exercises its arbitrary power and forces us to continuously exploit ourselves and our friends while cynicism, depression and detachment form others have become important means of our survival. There is no heroism in the exhaustion and disillusionment we are experiencing. We have difficulties in believing what is happening to us, because nothing seems to happen. We are tired of being ourselves because the self-evidendies of our lives don’t work anymore. We know they don’t, even if we still try to pretend that they do. We need a reinvention of ourselves, but have no strength or appeal for it. That is why we all sound like déjà vu. The realm of possible at our disposal is exhausted.

This is the starting point of Robin Hood. The closed reality of European crisis and semiocapitalism, the predisposed framing of the field of possible: the exhaustion of possible at our disposal, social life becoming swarm, the consequent morphostatis, loss of our singular ways of becoming. It seems that there is no way out.

How do you invent a way out, when there is no way out? How does something new begin when nothing new can begin? Robin Hood is a real experiment in this.

Robin Hood is an attempt of reactivating the body of general intellect. Not in the old political way of the last century, but in a strange way. In an insolvent way. In a monstrous or paradoxical way (but are you not taking part in the same system?!). In a disgusting way (what are the ethics of this?!). In a rebel way, maybe, but in any case in a way that is not reducible to present frameworks of knowledge and predictability (this is politics? art? is this research? or business?).

Robin Hood sounds like a ponzi scheme, a fake, or it could be a private group of aggressive entrepreneurs ready to take advantage of anybody. To become a member demands certainly something we don’t have, like belief in the possible, or imagination. This could all be a hoax or an “art project”. Robin Hood makes us uneasy, it breaks the “natural” and “easy” flow of independent action and ready environments. It is something unallowable and unimaginable, almost impossible… a monster… with its specters of mistrusts, weaknesses, confusions, fears, impossibilities, non-commitments and insolvencies… something which is closer to poetics than exchange of information and rational communication.

This poetical-financial monster, which is not reducible to present frameworks of knowledge and predictability and breaks the “natural” and “easy” flow of independent action and ready environments, with its specter of mistrust, disbelief, weakness, fear, impossibility and insolvency, is something around which we appeared also in Kassel Documenta in September 2012. On the one hand it was a straight forward cold blooded “pitch event” to raise more capital and exploit the Documenta structure – like the meanest motherfuckers of precariat would absolutely do. On the other hand, the “pitch” played in a way that was insolvent, included presence of a risk of excess and deception, a semiotic insolvency, a paradoxical, poetic, non-sensical ambiguity of the project, which has not yet become communication, for which you don’t yet have the words… but which makes you “feel it”, which makes it “touch you”, and forces the demonstrative gesture: “here”.

Could the depressing present, lack of hope, lack of possible, dead end of autonomy, be also a breeding ground for a new kind of monster, a parasite, that is self-aware, self ironical and has only its precarious present to share, and to lose.

We think it can.”

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New Film Documents Commons-Based Peer Production in Greece

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
17th December 2014


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As one of the countries hardest hit by austerity politics, Greece is also in the vanguard of experimentation to find ways beyond the crisis.  Now there is a documentary film about the growth of commons-based peer production in Greece, directed by Ilias Marmaras. “Knowledge as a common good: communities of production and sharing in Greece” is a low-budget, high-insight survey of innovative projects such as FabLab Athens, Greek hackerspaces, Frown, an organization that hosts all sorts of maker workshops and presentations, and other projects.

A beta-version website Common Knowledge, devoted to “communities of production and sharing in Greece,” explains the motivation behind the film:

“Greece is going through the sixth year of recession. Austerity policies imposed by IMF, ECB and the Greek political pro-memorandum regimes, foster an unprecedented crisis in economy, social life, politics and culture. In the previous two decades the enforcement of the neoliberal politics to the country resulted in the disintegration of the existed social networks, leaving society unprepared to face the upcoming situation.

During the last years, while large parts of the social fabric have been expelled from the state and private economy, through the social movements which emerge in the middle of the crisis, formations of physical and digital networks have appeared not only in official political and finance circles, but also as grassroots forms of coexistence, solidarity and innovation. People have come together, experimenting in unconventional ways of collaboration and bundling their activities in different physical and digital networks. They seek answers to problems caused by the crisis, but they are also concerned about issues due the new technical composition of the world. In doing so they produce and share knowledge.”

George Papanikolaou of the P2P Foundation in Greece describes how peer production is fundamentally altering labor practices and offering hope:  “For the first time, we are witnessing groups of producers having the chance to meet up outside the traditional frameworks – like that of a corporation, or state organization.  People are taking initiatives to form groups in order to produce goods that belong in the commons sphere.”

The film features a wide variety of commons-based experiments that are making a difference in people’s lives — for example, Project Aktina, a solar energy pavilion in a public space that allows people to use free electricity for charging one’s laptop or phone, provide shareable electric bicycles, develop a free wifi network or host neighborhood events.

Vasilis Kostakis of the P2P Lab and Foundation in Greece introduces the film in this way:

“The free/open source software and design communities; the hackerspaces and the do-it-yourself enthusiasts; the movements for an independent Internet; the initiatives for free/communal wifi and open access to knowledge; the resilient/permaculture communities… What do all these have in common? Are they unrelated cases or coincidences? Or could they be seen as seeds of a new civilization full of contradictions and chances for renaissance and change? This documentary — a low-budget yet sublime production — narrates the story of several Greek-based, knowledge-oriented communities that are building the world they want, within the confines of the fragmented world they want to transcend.”

You can watch the trailer for the film here  — and the full film here. The audio is in Greek, but you can activate English subtitles by hitting the “CC” button at the bottom of the YouTube player. The filmmakers would like to produce a version with Spanish subtitles, so if you know of a skilled Greek-to-Spanish translator, get in touch with director Ilias Marmaras at mbholgr(at)gmail.com.

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Featured Video, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, Peer Property, Sharing, Videos | No Comments »

In praise of Russell Brand’s sharing revolution

photo of Adam Parsons

Adam Parsons
17th December 2014


Russell Brand

For all of Brand’s joking and braggadocio, a sagacious theme runs through his new book: that a peaceful revolution must bring about a fairer sharing of the world’s resources, which depends upon a revelation about our true spiritual nature. 


The political conversation on sharing is growing by the day, sometimes from the unlikeliest of quarters. And at the present time, there is perhaps no-one calling louder for a new society to be based on sharing than Russell Brand, the comedian-cum-activist and revolutionary. It is easy to dismiss much of Brand’s polysyllabic and self-referential meanderings, as do most of the establishment media in the USA and Britain, but this only serves to disregard his flashes of wisdom and the justified reasons for his popularity.

His latest book is clearly not meant to be taken entirely seriously as a roadmap to “systemic change on a global scale”, hence the various crude digressions and contradictions. Yet as pointed out by Evan Davies at the beginning of his second BBC Newsnight interview, Brand has probably engaged more young people in thinking about serious political issues than any politician, despite his infamous disavowal of voting in parliamentary elections. On this basis alone, there’s every reason to take seriously Brand’s call for a revolution based on the principles of sharing, cooperation and love. But what does his idea of a caring, sharing revolution actually mean in practice?

Sharing is fundamental to a fair society

To elucidate, Brand uses a homespun analogy in his book: if 20 school children were in a playground and a couple of them took all the toys, you would “explain to them that sharing is a basic human value and redistribute the toys”. In a similar way, he says that the minority rich who are hoarding resources are misguided in their belief that it can make them happy, and we have to “be the adults” and help them. Which will require somehow dismantling the machinery of deregulated capitalism, winning over the military, and redistributing their excessive wealth.

Admittedly he’s a bit sketchy on the details of how to achieve this, although he does endorse Thomas Piketty’s proposal for greater transparency around the assets of the super-rich—with a modest tax on their wealth as well as their income (see chapter 19 entitled: “Piketty, Licketty, Rollity, Flicketty”). But many other implicit recommendations are scattered throughout the book for how sharing could be institutionalised on a local or national level. He is keen to point out, for example, that the “corporate world in its entirety is a kind of thief of more wholesome values, such as sharing”. And thus the least they can do, he suggests, is to stop exploiting tax loopholes (which is “a kind of social robbery”) and instead pay their fair share of taxes.

In describing how “Jesus is pretty committed to sharing”, he also makes it clear that any British politician who claims to be a Christian should—like Jesus—try to help the poor and heal the sick, and not implement austerity policies and sell off the National Health Service. By implication, the kind of sharing that Brand upholds clearly needs to be systematised through progressive taxation and the universal provision of public services and social security. And this is best exemplified, in no particularly radical way, in the Western European ideal of the welfare or social state: the collective pooling and redistribution of a nation’s financial resources for the benefit of society as a whole.

Brand’s other line of reasoning is a bit more contentious: “Socialism isn’t a dirty word,” he says, “it just means sharing; really it’s just the bureaucratic arm of Christianity”. But do we have to call ourselves a socialist to espouse the human value of sharing? Or could this simple principle help us to better navigate between the divisive ‘isms’ that still drive much of the debate on how governments should guarantee social and economic rights for all people?

It’s pretty clear what Brand is trying to say, though: that the religious faiths have all expounded the importance of sharing wealth and other resources fairly, and it’s high time that this age-old moral value and ethic underpinned the fabric of our societies. As he expressed it here in an interview with SiriusXM Radio: “They said the problem with socialism is that it placed economics forever at the heart of politics, when what belongs at the heart of politics is spirituality. And socialism in a way is just a Christian principle, just the idea that we’re all the same, we’re all connected; we should share. We can’t be happy if other people are suffering. It’s just a sort of logical thing.”

A fairer society, based on sharing, demands radical democracy

Here’s another of Brand’s sure-fire political insights: that a sharing society is dependent on mass civic engagement and truly representative democracy. Drawing on a fleeting interview in his house with David Graeber, he writes: “Democracy means if enough people want a fairer society, with more sharing, well-supported institutions and less exploitation by organisations that do not contribute, then their elected representatives will ensure that it is enacted.” But this will never happen, Brand suggests, so long as we have leaders who have been “conditioned and groomed to compliantly abide by the system that exploits them”, whose only true agenda is “meeting the needs of big business”. Hence there can be no true form of democracy without “a radical decentralisation of power, whether private or state.”

Brand repeatedly returns to this theme of sharing both political power and economic resources more fairly among the populace, which he sees as an obvious prerequisite to any form of true democracy and the creation of a better world. And who can deny that a solution to gross inequality and ecological breakdown will never come from the likes of Barack Obama and David Cameron, who he describes as “all avatars of the same neoliberal concept, part of the problem, not the solution”?

How Brand proposes that power should be “shared, not concentrated” is perhaps a bit vague or outlandish in places, such as when he advocates for “total self-governance” via “small, self-determined communities that are run voluntarily and democratically” and without any leaders, which may eventually require nation states to be somehow “dissolved”. But in other places he’s entirely lucid and practical, as in his endorsement of direct democracy in Switzerland or participatory budgeting in Brazil. He concludes: “Generally speaking, when empowered as a community, or a common mind, our common spirit, our common sense, reaches conclusions that are beneficial for our community. Our common unity.”

When it comes to the business world, Brand is also quite cogent in his recommendations for how to “structure corporations more fairly” and redistribute power downwards. One proposal is for Employee Investment Funds, in which a significant percentage of the company’s profits are shared with workers, and controlled by democratically accountable worker management boards that have to use the proceeds for social priorities and in the public interest. Another proposal is for jointly-owned and value-driven enterprises in the guise of co-operatives, which Brand argues provide a model that can democratise the workplace and prevent the proceeds of labour from being poured into the pocket of some “thumb-twiddling plutocrat who by happy accident owns the firm”. He adds simply: “The profits should be shared among the people who do the work”.

Humanity must share the world’s wealth and resources

From the outset, Brand makes it clear that his greatest concern is the “galling inequality” of our world, which is sustained by an economic system that continues to “deplete the earth’s resources so rapidly, violently and irresponsibly that our planet’s ability to support human life is being threatened.” In frequently quoting Oxfam’s “fun bus” statistic – that a bus carrying 85 of the world’s richest people would represent more wealth than that owned by half the earth’s population – he also makes it clear that he is “seriously comfortable with society getting extremely equal.” As he puts it: “the practical, fair allocation of resources, the preservation of the planet must naturally be prioritised.”

Although Brand does not profess to have all the answers for how we can share the world’s wealth and resources more equally between countries as well as within them, he does at least emphasise that it must happen. And very quickly too, because more “important perhaps than this galling inequality is the fact that we have a limited amount of time to resolve it” (that is, unless we “plan to wait until the earth is a scorched husk then blast off to a moon-base.”) He also professes his belief that “all conflicts… are about resources or territory and the theological rhetoric merely a garnish to make it more palatable.” Which clearly means, in Brand’s commonsensical worldview, that sharing land and resources is a prerequisite for peaceful co-existence – an egalitarian approach that he specifically endorses when discussing the economic alternatives long practised within Cuba.

Decrying the fact that profits and wealth are increasingly consolidated within a mere fraction of the world population, Brand’s simple observation about the need for a new economic paradigm is again difficult to disagree with. He actually says this a few times, in so many words: “There is another way. There is the way. To live in accordance with truth, to accept we are on a planet that has resources and people on it. We have to respect the planet so we can use the resources to nourish the people. Somehow this simple equation has been allowed to become extremely confusing.” What is being demanded is not whimsical, he adds later, but “pragmatism, systems that function.” Yet none of this happens, and “can’t because they [i.e. rich elites, big corporations and those who serve them in governments] have prioritised a bizarre, selfish and destructive idea over common sense.”

Brand’s light-hearted book may be forgiven for omitting to mention ecological limits or the end of economic growth, which is imperative for any serious discussion about how to achieve greater equality on a planet with finite resources. But he does draw upon the ideas of various progressive thinkers for how to “reapportion money and power” and share the world’s wealth more equitably and sustainably. This includes “the peaceful establishment of a fair global alternative” through the cancellation of unjust debt; the rolling back of corrupt global trade agreements; a return to localised and ecological farming; the revocation of corporate charters “for businesses that have behaved criminally” (or handing over their resources to the workers and turning them into cooperatives); and the incorporation of measures other than GNP to judge a nation’s success.

He is also under no illusions about the international politics that renders these broad proposals somewhat utopian. More than one chapter is devoted to the tenets of America’s ‘Manifest Destiny’ and the Monroe Doctrine, which he describes as the ideological pillar of the U.S. government’s imperialist strategies and perpetual war-mongering. And there is of course nothing new about today’s geopolitical reality of global dominance and control by powerful countries, he suggests, as reflected in the erstwhile vagaries of the British Empire which was built by “vicious thugs using violence to get their way, reneging on deals and nicking the resources of whole nations”. The whole thing was a “swizz”, he says, and deceptively based on a Christian mythology which is in truth about “empathy and sharing”, and not a false authority achieved “through coercion and violence.”

Hence his inevitable conclusion that “real change will not be delivered within the machinery of the current system – it’s against their interests”; so “change has to be imposed from the outside”; and “this change will not come without cohesive, unified resistance. We all need to come together and confront our shared enemy.”

The sharing revolution begins within ourselves                                              

Yet for all of Brand’s braggadocio and posturing about chopping off the Queen’s head, killing corporations and overthrowing the establishment to “take our power back”, he is also passionately convinced that the revolution must be peaceful. He says that all “revolutions require a spiritual creed. It doesn’t matter who is doing violence or to what end. Violence is wrong.” Therefore the only way to end conflict and change society for the benefit of everyone is through a new revelation about our purpose on earth, a revolution in our understanding about who we are as human beings.

Spirituality, he says, is “not some florid garnish” but “part of the double-helix DNA of Revolution. There is a need for Revolution on every level – as individuals, as societies, as a planet, as a consciousness. Unless we address the need for absolute change, unless we agree on a shared story of how we want the world to be, we’ll inertly drift back to the materialistic, individualistic magnetism behind our current systems.”

Perhaps this is a major reason why Brand’s silver-tongued musings are so popular, as he is arguably at his best when describing how social change will never happen without inner, personal change. He also has the courage to share candid insights from his past ignominy and his own spiritual journey, even if it sometimes comes close to proselytising: “My love of God elevates the intention of this book beyond the dry and admirable establishment of collectivised communities.”

Brand is often inspiring when he describes the alienating effects of commercialisation and “the impulse we all have for union” that has been misdirected into our worship of shopping malls, material comfort and possessions. Our longing for revolution, he says, is really “our longing for perfect love.” And our true salvation lies in the “acknowledgement of our unity. That we are one human family. One consciousness. One body.” The last chapter of the book reads like a poetic entreaty to that awareness of the Self which lies behind all form and comprises the true spiritual reality we all share. No doubt purposefully, the last word in the book is “love”.

While such ideas can be easily dismissed as New Age truisms, Brand has a deft ability to weave his spiritual convictions into a case for wholesale political and economic transformation. For instance, in contemplating how it is that humanity can endure the needless poverty and suffering of others, he neatly examines how “an extraordinary attitude [of complacency and indifference] has been incrementally inculcated” in our societies.

He asks plaintively: are we really doing all we can to help those less fortunate than ourselves? And why does the old maxim ‘From each according to his means, to each according to his needs’ still linger in our conscience, even after all the “capitalist lies and communist misadventure” of the past century? By retelling a story about a spontaneous act of goodwill in helping a stranger, Brand points to the obvious answer: because empathy, kindness and sharing is hardwired into our human nature. To share with one another is to be who we really are.

The implications of this simple truth are far more radical than any historical revolution based on ideology or violence, which is arguably the overall message of Brand’s book. “The agricultural Revolution took thousands of years,” he writes, “the industrial Revolution took hundreds, the technological tens. The spiritual Revolution, the Revolution we are about to realise, will be fast because the organisms are in place; all that needs to shift is consciousness, and that moves rapidly.”


A shorter version of this article was originally published by Open Democracy atwww.opendemocracy.net/transformation

Photo credit: duncan, flickr creative commons

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