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The New French P2P Book: Sauver Le Monde – Vers Une Economie Post-Capitaliste Avec Le Peer to Peer

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
2nd March 2015


Dear friends, in anticipation of its publication on March 4, here is the new cover of our mass audience book on the P2P revolution:

(see french summary below the cover)

sans-titre

Présentation de l’éditeur

“Pour la plupart des gens, le peer-to-peer évoque des réseaux où les utilisateurs peuvent échanger des documents. Michel Bauwens présente ici une vision bien plus large de ce concept qui est amené à s étendre à tous les aspects de la vie. En effet, pour la première fois dans l histoire, le peer-to-peer permet aux gens du monde entier de créer des choses ensemble une encyclopédie (Wikipédia), tout type d objet (avec les imprimantes 3D) ou bien de financer des projets (avec le crowdfunding).

Le modèle émergent du pair à pair veut contourner la logique de fausse abondance matérielle et de rareté artificielle de l immatériel. L auteur perçoit dans l enchevêtrement apparent de phénomènes nouveaux tels que l économie collaborative, l open source, le crowdsourcing, les Fablabs, les micro-usines, le mouvement des makers, l agriculture urbaine etc. , un modèle qui nous mène vers une société post-capitaliste, où le marché doit se soumettre à la logique des communs. L auteur dessine donc ici les énormes possibilités du nouveau système de pair à pair qui, loin de n être qu un nouveau mode de production, annonce en fait une révolution de la productivité qui va changer la société sur tous les plans …

Car c est bien le germe d un nouveau paradigme qui est en train de voir le jour au sein du capitalisme. Pour sauver le monde, une relocalisation de la production et un développement de la collaboration mondiale sur le plan des connaissances vont révolutionner notre façon de produire, de penser et de vivre ensemble.”

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Guerrilla Translation: Welcome Back, and Looking Forward

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
26th February 2015


Reposted from GuerrillaTranslation.org, my partner Ann Marie Utratel describes Guerrilla Translation’s journey in the last year and gives an overview of our new websites and our plans for 2015.

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Images from some of our articles

We know it may have seemed as if we’ve been inactive, or even as if we’d given up. Nothing could be further from the truth, so let me tell you a bit about our feverish year. Stacco attended the 2014 OuiShare Fest in Paris, France, and we were voted one among five winners. Together, we attended the subsequent OuiShare Acceleration Week in Paris. The two of us with Guy James helped represent the P2P Foundation at the OpenEverything Convergence held in Dublin and Cloughjordan, Ireland in September. With Arianne Sved and Susa Oñate, we developed our member screening and testing processes, and open governance model. The latter is directly inspired by the work of Enspiral (the group that developed Loomio); we had the chance to meet Ben Knight and Hannah Salmon of Loomio when they visited Madrid in the autumn. Stacco, with help from the team, built our GT wiki full of information for both public view and internal reference. Stacco also appeared on national Spanish television to talk about the project. We’ve subtitled the interview in the video below.

Arianne headed up a conference in Barcelona centered on a universal basic income proposal for Spain, participated in her local Guanyem and Podemos circles, and was even a local Podemos citizens’ council candidate. Carmen Lozano Bright came on board near the end of the year, and helped greatly with strategic planning for the relaunch. Carmen also received an ECF research grant for a project called P2P Plazas; Guy and I helped her during the proposal stage. Carmen will also lead one of our upcoming special projects centered on David Bollier’s book “Think like a Commoner”. Again with Guy, we got involved in some other related synergistic initiatives including FairCoop. I had an article published in STIR magazine. To finish off the year, the three of us hackathoned our way through building and launching the Commons Transition platform, wiki and e-book! And the entire team (including Lara, Rocío, Cristopher, and Georgina) prepared all of the new translations.

It was a truly action-packed year full of surprises, lessons and connections. Individually and as a team, we intensified our participation in the fields we’re passionate about, and developed new relationships with like-minded people. We aren’t a very large team, though, so between these events, we actively engaged some new collaborating members. Being a collective means that we always need to work on our collaborative relationships, and sometimes things don’t work out as hoped. In the end, we’re grateful for the experience and the work. Finally, in the autumn of 2014, we began working in earnest to re-launch the site with a number of objectives in mind. Allow me to take you through our recent changes and near-future plans.

We hope you like our redesigned web magazine; we’ve made a lot of changes with our readers in mind. Our original site presented a generous selection of translations, transcriptions, and other texts – roughly 100 pieces in total, ranging from 500 to 9,000 words, plus an abundance of subtitled videos. But with the constraints of our WordPress theme and other limitations, we had both target languages (Spanish and English) lumped together. Also, the menus and other factors made navigation less than ideal. We simply outgrew our original site. To address these obvious flaws, we spent several months creating two new, separate sites: guerrillatranslation.org for target English content, and guerrillatranslation.es for target Spanish (tell all your friends!)

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Guerrilla Translation, FairCoop and P2P Foundation superhero, Guy James

We’ve preserved the large, “widescreen” image effect in the featured content section, which includes long-form narrative texts with a healthy shelf life. The revamped menus now make the site more navigable and logically organized. We’ve also created a dedicated space for our subtitled videos. We’ve updated and enlarged our static content pages, including our Founding Principles and FAQ, author pages and our regular team bios.

Since launching in 2013, we’ve never had a means to receive any donations for our pro-bono work; we now have a donations page. You can also learn about the services we offer as a complement to our pro-bono work here on this page.

We’re especially proud to share this series of generous testimonials from some of the authors we’ve worked with.

We worked very hard this year on our mission to share information with our peers worldwide, and to help change the overall narrative of our times by incorporating new stories that carry human and environmentally-grounded values.

Looking forward to what we intend to do in 2015, it’s hard to imagine our plates being much fuller, but an abundance of choices is not something to complain about. Here are some of our plans and intentions:

  • Developing a project in collaboration with the author David Bollier, using his book “Think Like a Commoner” in a Spanish translation as a pilot self-publishing and co- or crowd-financed project.
  • Some of us will continue working with the P2P Foundation on a regular basis, including maintaining the Commons Transition site, developing the commons-based reciprocity license (“Copyfair”) project, and collaborating with general management and fundraising strategizing, among other activities.
  • We’ll keep expanding our collaboration with our friends in the Catalan Integral Cooperative, FairCoop, las Indias, DIWOland, Shareable, MediaLab-Prado, la Plataforma por la Libertad de Prensa, Platoniq/Goteo, and many others. As different as these groups may seem, we’ve had the benefit of direct relationships with them all, and have learned a lot about their common ground, collaborative spirit and rich diversity.
  • Ongoing participation in the customized development of specialized value-tracking software for our unique economic redistribution model, in conjunction with Mikorizal Software, Sensorica and other players.
  • Team-building and -strengthening, striking a balance between being selective (regarding skills, independence/teamwork flexibility, commitment, reliability and time management) contrasted with the level of inclusion and cohesive, familiar dynamics we prefer.
  • Finally, I will be joining the Platoniq and Goteo teams for a six-month international project.

Thank you for being part of our growing circle of readers, authors and translators. We hope you enjoy our work and feel moved to share it widely, and we welcome your feedback.

Ann Marie Utratel

Co-founder, Guerrilla Translation

Ann Marie presents GT at the Ouishare Acceleration week

Ann Marie presents GT at the Ouishare Acceleration week

PPLicense mockup small
Produced by Guerrilla Translation
under a Peer Production License.


Backgound image to “Welcome Back and Looking Forward” side widget by Sami Farin


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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons Transition, Copyright/IP, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Project, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Company Watch, P2P Development, P2P Labor, Sharing | No Comments »

André Gorz on the Exit from Capitalism

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
23rd February 2015


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In an amazingly prescient essay, “The Exit From Capitalism Has Already Begun,”journalist and social philosopher André Gorz in 2007 explained how computerization and networks are causing a profound crisis in capitalism by making knowledge more shareable. He argues that shareable knowledge and culture undercuts capitalist control over the global market system as the exclusive apparatus for production and consumption (and thus our “necessary” roles as wage-earners and consumers).

The essay, translated by Chris Turner, originally appeared in the journal EcoRev in Autumn 2007 and was reprinted in Gorz’s 2008 book Ecologica. It’s worth revisiting this essay because it so succinctly develops a theme that is now playing out, one that Jeremy Rifkin reprises and elaborates upon in his 2014 book The Zero Marginal Cost Society. 

Let’s start with the conundrum that capital faces as computerization makes it possible to produce more with less labor.  Gorz writes:

The cost of labor per unit of output is constantly diminishing and the price of products is also tending to fall. The more the quantity of labor for a given output decreases, the more the value produced per worker – productivity – has to increase if the amount of achievable profit is not to fall. We have, then, this apparent paradox: the more productivity rises, the more it has to go on rising, in order to prevent the volume of profit from diminishing. Hence the pursuit of productivity gains moves ever faster, manpower levels tend to reduce, while pressure on workers intensifies and wage levels fall, as does the overall payroll. The system is approaching an internal limit at which production and investment in production cease to be sufficiently profitable.

Over time, Gorz explains, this leads investors to turn away from the “real economy” of production, where productivity gains and profits are harder to achieve, and instead seek profit through financial speculation in “fictitious” forms of value such as debt and new types of financial instruments. The value is ficititious in the sense that loans, return on investment,  future economic growth, trust and goodwill are social intangibles that are quite unlike physical capital. They depend upon collective belief and social trust, and can evaporate overnight.

Still, it is generally easier and more profitable to invest in these (fictitious, speculative) forms of financial value than in actually producing goods and services at a time when productivity gains and profit are declining.  No wonder speculative bubbles are so attractive:  There is just too much capital is sloshing around looking for profitable investment which the real economy is less capable of delivering.  No wonder companies have so much cash on hand (from profits) that they are declining to invest. No wonder the amount of available finance capital dwarfs the real economy. Gorz noted that financial assets in 2007 stood at $160 trillion, which was three to four times global GDP – a ratio that has surely gotten more extreme in the past eight years.

Meanwhile, climate change adds yet another layer of difficulty because it virtually requires an abrupt retreat from capitalism, as Naomi Klein argues in her recent book This Changes Everything.  Gorz made this point quite clear:

“It is impossible to avoid climate catastrophe without a radical break with the economic logic and methods that have been taking us in that direction for 150 years. On current trend projections, global GDP will increase by a factor of three or four by 2050. But, according to a report by the UN Climate Council, CO2 emissions will have to fall by 85% by that date to limit global warming to a maximum of 2° C. Beyond 2° C, the consequences will be irreversible and uncontrollable.

“Negative growth is, therefore, imperative for our survival. But it presupposes a different economy, a different lifestyle, a different civilization, and different social relations. In the absence of these, collapse could be avoided only through restrictions, rationing, and the kind of authoritarian resource-allocation typical of a war economy. The exit from capitalism will happen, then, one way or another, either in a civilized or barbarous fashion. The question is simply what form it will take and how quickly it will occur.

“To envisage a different economy, different social relations, different modes and means of production, and different ways of life is regarded as “unrealistic,” as though the society based on commodities, wages, and money could not be surpassed. In reality, a whole host of convergent indices suggest that the surpassing of that society is already under way, and that the chances of a civilized exit from capitalism depend primarily on our capacity to discern the trends and practices that herald its possibility.”

This is where the many initiatives and movements that revolve around the commons, peer production, the solidarity economy, co-operatives, Transition Towns, degrowth, the sharing and collaborative economy, and much else, come in. These are all harbingers of a different way of meeting everyday needs without becoming ensnared in utopian capitalist imperatives (constant growth, ever-increasing productivity gains, profits from the real economy). Pursuing this path ultimately destroys a society, as we can see from years of austerity politics in Greece.

In other words, the most promising way to resolve the capitalist crisis of our time is to start to decommodify production and consumption – i.e., extend and invent non-market ways to meet our needs.  Indeed, we need to reconceptualize “production” and “consumption” themselves as separate categories, and begin to re-integrate them — and our role as actors in them — through commons-based peer production.

Fortunately, the Internet and digital technologies are enormously helpful in this process.  They are already converting proprietary knowledge, know-how, and branded products into freely shareable public knowledge, via commons. This is the basis for a different kind of economy, one that can transcend the anti-social, anti-ecological imperatives that prevail today.

Gorz reminds us that innovation is less about meeting real needs than about creating monopoly rents:  “The proportion of the price of a commodity that is rent may be ten, twenty or fifty times larger than its production cost. And this is true not only of luxury items; it applies also to everyday articles like trainers, T-shirts, mobile phones, CDs, jeans, etc.”  That is why so much innovation is focused not on utility or even profits per se, but on inventing new forms of rent:

“Everything in [the proprietary market] system stands opposed to the autonomy of individuals, to their capacity to reflect together on their common ends and shared needs, to agree on the best way of eliminating waste, to conserve resources, and to develop together, as producers and consumers, a common norm of “the sufficient” – or of what Jacques Delors has called a “frugal abundance.” Quite clearly, breaking with the ‘produce more, consume more’ trend and redefining a model of life aimed at doing more and better with less presupposes breaking with a civilization in which we produce nothing of what we consume and consume nothing of what we produce; in which producers and consumers are separated, and in which everyone is opposed to herself in as much as she is always both producer and consumer at the same time; in which all needs and all desires lead back to the need to earn money and the desire to earn more; in which the possibility of producing for one’s own consumption seems – wrongly – out of reach and ridiculously archaic.

“And yet ‘the dictatorship over needs’ is losing its power. Despite the explosion of expenditure on marketing and advertising, the hold that corporations have over consumers is becoming more fragile. The trend towards self-providing is gaining ground again as a result of the increasing proportion of immaterial contents in the nature of commodities. The monopoly on supply is gradually slipping away from capital.”

Read the whole essay. Gorz’s impressive, big-picture analysis helps explain why we need to extend or create non-market alternatives such as commons-based peer production: It’s the only sustainable way to build a more humane, ecologically benign order.


Originally published in Bollier.org

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Featured Essay, Original Content, Politics | 1 Comment »

100 Women who are Co-creating the P2P Society: Interview with Gabriella Coleman

photo of Rachel O'Dwyer

Rachel O'Dwyer
23rd February 2015


Gabriella Coleman, Feb 2012

Revealing Anonymous, an Interview with Gabriella Coleman.

By Carola Frediani originally published on http://techpresident.com/news/25346/revealing-anonymous-interview-gabriella-coleman

Gabriella Coleman, a cultural anthropologist and professor at McGill University, spent years observing Anonymous, witnessing the group’s rise from within the trolling subculture to its current pursuit of cyber activism. Her new book, Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous, is the most comprehensive research to date about the hacktivist collective.

Professor Coleman travels through the complex and mysterious underground universe of online activism with the help of a necessary sense of humor, referring to it as “ultracoordinated motherfuckery.” Her book is certainly an anthropological feat, revealing the inner culture and functioning of Anonymous, as well as its complexities, with details that even the best journalistic accounts struggle to capture.

The book  covers all the activities of Anonymous: from the pranks and lulz of image board 4chan to the campaign against the Church of Scientology, from the attacks on PayPal to the rise of splinter group LulzSec, from the chat channels like AnonOps to the streets of Occupy. The author is also refereshingly open about her account of the hacktivist group and does not seek to hide her personal fears and troubles. TechPresident’s Carola Frediani reached out to Coleman by phone. Below is a condensed and edited version of the Interview.

How successful was the last Million Mask March in your opinion? Was it a vital movement? Is Anonymous becoming even more entangled with street and offline activism?

It was not as big as the year before but it was still impressive, especially in London, where austerity measures run deep. I was impressed (and not all that surprised) that in Dublin, where I happened to be at the time, the mask and iconography were used by the water meter fairies who are disabling the meters that will be used to charge people for water. Anonymous has provided a ready made template for expressing dissent–whether it is during a large yearly march like Guy Fawkes Day or protesting a more local affair as is the case with water rights in Dublin.

In your book, you recount Anonymous’ roots within 4chan and troll subcultures, a beginning that makes Anonymous and its many activist operations – from the Arab Spring campaign to the Avenge Assange operation to the Ferguson campaign – even more surprising. The WikiLeaks financial blockade – which started in December 2010 and targeted MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and other banking institutions in response to the publication of US diplomatic cables – was one of the moments that led to such a transformation.
Within days, around seven to eight thousand people at a time were flocking to some of the Anonymous IRC channels, downloading specific software and using it to launch a DDoS attack on PayPal. You wrote in your book that Anonymous “really provided a platform through which people who were quite angry at the banking blockade, could express their discontent.”

Do you think that those days are gone? We haven’t seen IRCs (chat channels) flooded with those numbers any more.

It was an exceptional moment, the equivalent of a large street demonstration. There were at least seven thousand people; it was the biggest political protest on IRC in history. At the time the Anonops IRC network was like the local bazaar: everyone went there, there were many rooms where people exchanged ideas. But because of the crackdown, many activists don’t trust IRCs any more, since they realized that authorities can infiltrate them very quickly. So anons became more scattered and the level of activities have never reached that one. At the same time, operation PayPal set such a high bar, in terms of participation, it was difficult to repeat it. Any way, activities never stopped, they tended to move to regional areas and to act in a sort of “guerrilla architecture.” During operation Ferguson we have seen again that kind of “open platform architecture” we witnessed at the beginning.

Anonymous, you write in your book, is “composed of multiple competing groups, short-term power is achievable for brief durations, while long-term dominance by any single group or person is virtually impossible.” Can you explain how leadership works in Anonymous and to what extent it is different from the traditional ideas of leadership and hierarchy? And why is this concept so confusing for many people outside that movement to understand?

Because it is difficult to understand. Anonymous is not the hive anons claim it to be, neither is it about finding the leaders, as media often try to do. It is something in between. At any one moment a technical team can be very important and tend to command power and authority just because it can make certain things happen, and within the team itself you might find a classical team working with different roles and strengths. But there’s a way in which the infighting on one network prevents the complete pulling of power by a specific group. Of course people who are in secret channels tend to have more power but during many operations the public facing IRC channels could exert much influence on the secret channels. So we have team work, multiple factions, people who don’t hack and just organize protests, people on the ground who are independent from the hackers. We should talk of multiple nodes of leadership.

You call operation PayPal the largest DDoS civil disobedience campaign the world has ever witnessed. Later on you say that Anonymous actions are similar to direct political actions. But, as you note in the book, governments, prosecutors and judges would rather cast anons as mere criminals, if not cyberterrorists. So could you further explain this concept of civil disobedience?

Civil disobedience requires law breaking and law breaking alone do not constitute criminality. Most people participating in Anonymous operations were not always aware of the consequences of law breaking, even if they knew that they were breaking the law. In order to do a DDoS on PayPal they were also using botnets, which is ethically controversial. There’s a paradox here: if you want to take down a big website like PayPal you need a botnet, and that controversial use provokes the media attention which makes the operation successful. But from the perspective of people participating in that action, it was clear to them that they were engaging in some sort of direct action of civil disobedience.

Of course a lot of people understand anons as vigilantes, and there are still many negative associations to them, but overall anons managed to escape the terrorism frame, which is an amazing fact since there has been an effort to depict them as terrorists. At a certain point General Keith Alexander [the former NSA director] claimed Anonymous had the capability of taking down the power grid. It was just propaganda, and of course it never happened. And the propaganda didn’t work. It was too late to frame them as terrorists. Of course any real attack to critical infrastructures made under the name of Anonymous, and looking to come out of an existing group of anons, would be game over for them as activists.

Even if Anonymous’s actions are driven by an activist calling, they have been swiftly criminalized. Thanks to Snowden’s leaks, we even realized that intelligence agencies engaged in controversial tactics against cyberactivists: smearing campaigns, DDOS attacks to anon IRCs, spreading malware. Why did they target anons so heavily? Why has US hacktivist Jeremy Hammond – now sentenced to ten years – been one of the FBI’s most wanted cybercriminal? Why is the United States so afraid of them?

The fear depends on the fact that geek/hackers are a group of people that hold a lot of power. Think of LulzSec, where a small hacking team was able to break into corporations and governments. These people can access data that others can’t access, causing total havoc. So they are a threat. People from the energy, financial and security sector just hated Anonymous.

Hammond was threatening to them because they were afraid he could provide an example to others, and the fact that he was politically motivated was even more threatening. One of the things that amazed me is that they let him hack for a long time; they probably could have arrested him earlier. It seems there was a strategy to nail him and set an example: “If you dare to to this, you’ll be nailed by the State.”
At the end of your book, you talk about the way Anonymous is also about hope, solidarity, rejection of the cynicism and the anxiety of our society. From trolling to solidarity, that’s really quite a quick evolution. What kind of future developments should we expect from Anonymous?

It is always surprising when people decide to cross the line of cynicism and apathy in order to do something for others, and it was amazing how a full-fledged political movement arose from trolling, which is a very cynical culture. On the other side, it is really hard to gain attention today in the media, since we live in a spectacle culture, and Anonymous was not different: it needed spectacle to circulate widely. The problem is how not to be caught in spectacle for the sake of it, how not to to gain attention for itself. Anonymous has been able to combine the art and the visual imagery with the politics. It has been able to embody Internet politics – which usually feels disembodied – through the videos, the music, the masks.

Since it came from an extreme culture of trolling, it transferred some of those extreme tactics to politics as much as it transferred 4chan dedication to extreme free speech outside 4chan and the Internet, stretching forward to social movements.

Today hackers have become more politicized because of Anonymous, WikiLeaks, Snowden, and the Pirate Party. Maybe there will be more quiet forms of action and “sabotage,” like the recent hack of FinFisher. But I think we’ll keep seeing forms of hacktivism, whether they take the shape of Guy Fawkes masks or not.

Carola Frediani is an Italian journalist and co-founder of the media agency, Effecinque.org. She writes on new technology, digital culture and hacking for a variety of Italian publications, including L’Espresso, Wired.it, Corriere della Sera, Sky.it. She is the author of Inside Anonymous: A Journey into the World of Cyberactivism.

Available at: http://techpresident.com/news/25346/revealing-anonymous-interview-gabriella-coleman

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Kicking off a year of ‘P2P Plazas’ research and cartography

photo of Carmen Lozano Bright

Carmen Lozano Bright
17th February 2015


2014 ended on a good note. Last October, I had the opportunity to participate, together with 49 other project initiators, in the Idea Camp event in Marseille. The European Cultural Foundation promoted this event, geared towards shaking up our views on public space. After the three-day gathering, all fifty participants were invited to present a Research and Development project to be funded during 2015. The ECF announced a set of 25 R&D grants last December, and ‘P2P Plazas: a Southern European network’ is in.

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Today, Europe struggles through a volatile reality. Severe economic blight and the industrial dissolution suffered over several decades have devastated the social and economic outlook of our cities and rural areas. Consequently, many industrial buildings and factories are left empty, inactive; the public sector also has abandoned buildings and lots. Basic services like education, health and culture are cut as the Welfare State is contested. Paradoxically, this atmosphere has empowered citizens to reclaim their own environments and heritage, shaping innovative roles in their production and consumption of culture and public space.

Considering what Henri Lefebvre calls the “rhythmic character of the city”, we should heed the noises and voices of public space as unique expressions of Southern European spirit, through disruptive movements including Spain’s 15M, Greek and Italian street protests in 2011 and the Taksim Square and Gezi Park occupations in Istanbul. Movements which emerged rapidly and seemed ephemeral from outside reveal themselves to be widespread over local contexts. What once was underground has become commonplace, accepted: urban gardens, self-managed social centers, open schools, fablabs, squats, active urban squares, hacklabs, medialabs, makerspaces, connected by scores of networks.

We’re calling this Southern European phenomenon “P2P Plazas”: places where bottom-up initiatives connect actions among peers (citizens). Peers decide for themselves what to do to invent and participate in new forms of cultural production and consumption, far from the established so-called “Cultural Industries”.

Frontiers which were strictly demarcated, today merge and interact. Each local area contains its own unique context for its open spaces; community relationships to that context determine the eventual re-use and re-invigoration of those places. Abandoned factories become new types of work spaces (fablabs, makerspaces, worker cooperatives), open lots may become community commercial spaces (artisan and local food markets). The neighborhood’s cultural associations with the original space guide its rebirth, not only its original use or legal zoning. These places host practices steeped in site-specific knowledge and learning, giving a deeply expanded, personal significance to commons-managed public space.

Although these practices surround us, there is no “big picture” to explain the deep significance of these transformations on our societies.

Each space finds its way through different legal (and illegal) formats, agreements and contracts with private and public owners. If we could effect a clearer view by mapping these experiences throughout Southern Europe, including the management and legal aspects of how they’re (re)signifying their environments, we would provide a catalog of prototypes to be replicated.

Mapping these p2p practices also reveals their Achilles’ heel: sustainability. It is crucial that local governments understand these transformations, provide support and tools for citizens to promote their own initiatives. Future developments out of this research could prototype p2p practices to establish a Southern European network with the common ground of sharing tools, knowledge and legal frames.

Through this year-long investigation, we will listen to those noises and rhythms which sustain our cities, and shape a ‘least common legal frame’ serving institutions and citizens to establish dialogues and understandings. The communities reshaping their local environments are central to this research. We must feel the active beating heart of our cities, and to join hands across borders. This is a way to build Europe together.

This research requires the support of foundations and institutions that believe in investigation for social change. The peer-to-peer experiences we learn from are mostly based in community volunteer work. Archiving and researching are not prioritized as are other, more tangible and immediate tasks. Works which create a big picture do exist, but without time, effort and communication devoted to research, creating the overall map isn’t possible. Isolating the tools adapted in local contexts can provide a bellwether for paradigm changes, and help us identify innovations in social, political and economic opportunities.

This proposal emerges from a local perspective of engagement with the routine at El Campo de Cebada, a commons-oriented plaza in Madrid. It will expand to other territories through the digital sphere. The context of this research will include a central cluster based in Madrid collaborating with several feeder nodes (starting elsewhere in Spain, Greece and Italy, then throughout Southern Europe). The network extension will operate in the digital context through an internal/external communication toolkit.

Coincidentally, Spain is holding local elections in May 2015, especially noteworthy for the emergence of new political actors. The research will include meetings with political parties and citizen candidates to assess their position on these questions, and evaluate their willingness to implement a ‘least common frame’.

This research does not emerge out of the blue. It’s inspired by many – many! – existing initiatives that have helped build a common cartography. For example (and these are all in Spain, for the moment): La Aventura de Aprender (The Learning Adventure), Arquitecturas Colectivas (Collective Architectures network), cartographies by Vivero de Iniciativas Ciudadanas (VIC), among others.

Throughout 2015, we’ll be working hand in hand with other closely related research groups, like Straddle3’s guide for activating public space (Barcelona), Adelita Husni-Bey’s investigation on housing and squatting (The Netherlands and Italy), Radarq’s open source urban furnitures (Barcelona), the intense activity at Pollinaria (Abruzzo, Italy), and also the research by Catherine Lenoble –a little detached because of its field, but sharing a huge common ground and perspective– on digital toy libraries. The research and communication will also be supported by the Guerrilla Translation team.

We’ll also be watching other necessary projects with great impact potential, like Zemos98 (Seville, Spain), Sarantaporo.net (Athens) and 1+1eleven (Puglia, Italy).

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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Featured Project, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development | No Comments »

The Newly Launched Commons Transition Plan

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
15th February 2015


Commons Transition

The P2P Foundation recently launched a new website, the Commons Transition Platform,  as a central repository for policy ideas that help promote a wide variety of commons and peer-to-peer dynamics.  The site represents a new, more coordinated stage of activism in this area – collecting practical policy proposals for legally authorizing and encouraging the creation of new commons.

The website is a database of “practical experiences and policy proposals aimed toward achieving a more humane and environmentally grounded mode of societal organization.”  The idea is to begin to outline how policies could bring about and support a commons-based civil society, with a special focus on how collaborative stewardship of shared resources can be achieved.

The P2P Foundation has stated its aspirations for the new initiative this way:

With the Commons Transition Plan as a comparative document, we intend to organize workshops and dialogues to see how other commons locales, countries, language-communities but also cities and regions, can translate their experiences, needs and demands into policy proposals. The Plan is not an imposition nor is it a prescription, but something that is intended as a stimulus for discussion and independent crafting of more specific commons-oriented policy proposals that respond to the realities and exigencies of different contexts and locales. This project therefore, is itself a commons, open to all contributions, and intended for the benefit of all who need it.

The Commons Transition Platform currently features three main policy documents, each originally created for Ecuador’s groundbreaking FLOK Society Project.  The FLOK Project (Free Libre Open Knowledge) produced a comprehensive set of policy proposals for encouraging knowledge commons and peer production.  These documents – written by Michel Bauwens, John Restakis and George Dafermos – have been newly revised and updated in non-region-specific versions.

In announcing the new website, Michel Bauwens said, “We share [these proposals] in order to provide an overview of the many precedents and possibilities pointing toward a fairer societal order, and to inspire civil society collectives at the local, regional, national and global levels to adapt them to their particular contexts.”

The original FLOK Society proposals are already being adapted by the Catalan Integral Cooperative (CIC) in Catalunya.  The FLOK project differed in that it was a state-sponsored study while CIC pursuing its proposals as a completely pre-figurative, stateless initiative.  The Commons Transition Plan website plans to track the ongoing developments of both projects.

The Commons Transition Plan will also highlight useful projects by other transnational, commons-oriented collectives such as Share the World’s Resources, the Post Growth Institute, and the Sustainable Economies Law Center – all showcased in the Related Projects section of the website.

Other highlights include a FAQ on Commons Transition, a News and Articles section with exclusive interviews, and a Wiki entirely dedicated to commons-oriented policy proposals and transition-oriented projects.

What Is a “Commons Transition”?

Bauwens often makes the case for a commons transition from what he calls “netarchical capitalism,” which is based on capitalist exploitation of social cooperation, to a system that lets creators themselves capture the value that they create.

Netarchical capitalism, writes Bauwens, is “an evolution from a type of capitalism that was based on the extraction of rent through the privatization of knowledge and the control of intellectual property and supply networks (cognitive capitalism), to a new form of ‘netarchical capitalism’ in which proprietary platforms both enable human co-operation but also exploit it for the benefit of private capital.”  Nowadays, he writes, “the whole of society is being transformed into a ‘social factory’ producing commons-generated goods and services. The cases of uncompensated user-generated value for Facebook and Google are obvious examples.

In an explanation for the need for a Commons Transition Plan, Bauwens and his colleague John Restakis write:

The failure of netarchical capitalism to return fair value to its creators has transposed the traditional exploitation of labor in the production of material goods to that of immaterial goods such as knowledge, branding, and ideas that are now the driving force of capital accumulation. This has greatly increased the precariousness of both workers and commoners the world over. Hence, any transition must also solve and restore the feedback loop between value creation and distribution, and create an ethical and civic economy around the commons, moving from extractive forms of exploitative capital, to generative forms of co-operative capital. In other words, capital that returns value to those that contribute to the commons.

This process requires the re-conception and re-alignment both of traditional commons and co-operative thinking, and practice, into new institutional forms that prefigure a new political economy of co-operative commonwealth. This in turn, is based on a simultaneous transition of civil society, the market, and the organization and role of the state and forms a foundation principle of the Commons Transition Plan.

For most of the history of industrial and post-industrial capitalism, the primary political conflict has been one between state and market – whether to use the state power for redistribution of wealth and regulation of the excesses of the market, or to allow market players to privatize the value of public and social goods and services for the benefit of capital. This is the classic conflict between social versus private benefit and has been called by some the lib (for liberal) vs. lab (for labor and its derivative social movements) pendulum. In our current political economy, except for a few researchers who operated outside of the mainstream, such as Elinor Ostrom and her research on the commons, the focus on social value and the common good has been discarded as a historical legacy without future. Indeed, the remaining physical commons that exist globally, mostly in the South, are everywhere under threat while under austerity, what remains of public goods in Europe and North America are also being privatized at breakneck speeds.

But the emergence of digital knowledge, software and design, as new forms of commons not only recreate commons-oriented modes of production and market activities, they also show that value is now increasingly created through contributions, not traditional labor, to create commons, not commodities. Through its contributions and the ubiquity of digital technology, it can be said that civil society has now become productive in its own right, and we can make a leap from contributor communities of software developers to a vision of civil society that consists of civil commons contributed to by citizens.

The entrepreneurial activities that are created around the commons induce the vision of an ethical economy, a non-capitalist marketplace that re-introduces reciprocity and co-operation in the market’s functioning, while co-creating commons and creating livelihoods for the commoners. This type of economy and market in which co-operation, mutuality, and the common good define the characteristics of a new kind of political economy, point the way to a new state form, which we have called the Partner State.

Thus, the commons not only introduces a third term next to the state and the market, i.e. the generative, commons-producing civil society, but also a new market and a new state. A foundation principle of a Commons Transition Plan is that the changes must happen concurrently in all three aspects of our social and economic life.

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Posted in Activism, Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Project, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Development, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

The Tax Dodging Bill: it’s time for big corporations to pay their fair share

photo of Rajesh Makwana

Rajesh Makwana
15th February 2015


Austerity

This week, a coalition of NGOs launched a campaign for a new law in the UK that could make sure that corporations pay their fair share of taxes to public coffers. Dubbed theTax Dodging Bill, the proposed law could generate at least £3.6 billion a year for the UK treasury (equivalent to £600 for every household below the poverty line), and billions more for developing countries.


As a policy brief accompanying the campaign outlines, a just tax system is fundamental to a society that shares its wealth and resources fairly among the population. When those most able to pay can unfairly escape their contributions to society, inequality increases and there is less public money available to benefit the majority of people, including the poorest.

News headlines in recent years have revealed just how little tax big corporations pay, causing public outrage at a time of brutal austerity measures and growing inequality. In the UK, for example, the 7 big digital companies – Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Ebay, Yahoo and Facebook – made combined UK sales of about £9.5 billion in 2012, but only paid £54 million in corporation tax.

Many campaigning organisations highlight what a scandal this is when 8 million people in the UK live on less than is needed to cover a minimum household budget, while the richest 100 people in the country increased their wealth by over £40 billion in the last year. The direct action protest group UK Uncut have long pointed out how government austerity measures are geared towards transferring wealth from poor to rich, benefitting the richest and most powerful in society at the expense of the most marginalised.

As one UK Uncut activist states: “The tax system is one of the ways that wealth is supposed to be transferred from the rich to the poor, redistributing the wealth that our economic system concentrates at the top. When companies dodge tax it undermines this redistribution, and leaves less money to fund the public services or welfare this government is now ideologically intent on cutting beyond all recognition.”

ActionAid write that the news-grabbing controversies of big corporations who dodge paying their fair share of taxes in rich countries are just the tip of the iceberg. Developing countries lose an estimated $160 billion in tax revenues each year as a result of corporate tax dodging and rigged tax rules – more than all rich countries provide in overseas aid. When 1 billion children live in poverty in these countries and 57 million children are missing out on primary school, recovering this money could fund vital public needs like hospitals, schools and social welfare.

The Tax Dodging Bill sets out a pragmatic and balanced package of reforms to the UK system that represent some key steps the UK government can take on its own to tackle corporate tax dodging. These measures – explained in some detail in the policy brief – would make it harder for multinationals to dodge UK taxes, prevent them from getting unjustified tax breaks, make the UK tax regime more transparent, and also ensure that UK tax rules do not encourage British companies to avoid tax in developing countries.

As a set of campaign FAQ’s make clear, the effects of the UK’s biased tax rules are not limited to the UK itself, as they also incentivise overseas tax avoidance by UK-based multinationals – depriving poorer countries of tax revenues that are essential for fighting poverty. And this is clearly at odds with the UK government’s efforts to tackle global poverty and help developing countries to end their aid-dependency.

Campaigners therefore argue that the UK government should take action on tax dodging on its own, while continuing to engage in global processes to fix the international tax system. They write: “By committing to a UK Tax Dodging Bill within the first hundred days of taking office [after the general election in May 2015], UK political parties would demonstrate the UK’s commitment to tackling the problem of corporate tax dodging, showing leadership and setting the bar higher for global reform.”

However, the Tax Dodging Bill campaign recognises that stopping corporate tax avoidance in the UK and developing countries will ultimately require action at an international level. Although some official measures have been taken through the G20 group of countries and the OECD, progress remains slow and efforts don’t go far enough to prevent big companies from shifting profits and dodging tax. Oxfam are therefore proposing a World Tax Summit that would be more far-reaching and give an equal voice to those poorer countries excluded from current negotiations, which is planned to take place alongside the UN Financing for Development conference in Ethiopia in July 2015.

Share The World’s Resources is not a formal member of the Tax Dodging Bill coalition, but supports its aims as well as the essential framing of its message: that corporations must pay their fair share of taxes, as this is a key part of the established and most important system of sharing that we have (yet) created.

Image credit: wheelzwheeler, flickr creative commons

 

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The New Greek Government Endorses Commons-Based, Peer Production Solutions

photo of David Bollier

David Bollier
14th February 2015


All attention in Greece and global financial circles has been understandably focused on the new Greek Government’s fierce confrontation with its implacable European creditors. Less attention has been paid to the Government’s plans to help midwife a new post-capitalist order based on commons and peer production.

A commons colleDeputy Prime Minister Gianni Dragasakisague, John Restakis, wrote about this possibility a week or so before the January 25 elections. Now, speaking to the Greek Parliament last week, the new Deputy Prime Minister Gianni Dragasakis explicitly stated that Greece will develop new sorts of bottom-up, commons-based, peer production models for meeting people’s needs.

Dr. Vasilis Kostakis, who works with the P2P Foundation’s P2P Lab based in Ioannina, Greece, has been following the situation in Greece closely.  Kostakis, a research fellow at the Ragnar Nurkse School of Innovation and Governance in Tallin, Estonia, writes:

Syriza seems to be adopting policies and reforming certain laws in a fashion that resembles the Partner State Approach practices, with regard to education, governance and R&D. To mention a few:

· opening up the public data;

· making openly available the knowledge produced with tax-payers’ money;

· creating a collaborative environment for small-scale entrepreneurs and co-operatives while favoring initiatives based on open source technologies and practices;

· developing certain participatory processes (and strengthening the existing ones)  for citizen-engagement in policy-making;

· adopting open standards and patterns for public administration and education.

These plans/initiatives could be seen both as seeds of a new model for economic development and as solutions to exiting politico-economic, or “structural” problems:  revealing and controlling corruption, improving lax tax enforcement etc.  It is true that from program to implementation, several steps are required, however the first step seems to have been made: Syriza appears to not only be aware of the advantages of free/open source technologies but also to realize the potential and the new political economy of this emerging proto-mode of production.

Thus, the question is, Will Syriza create (and will be allowed to create) the conditions for a transition towards a full-mode of Commons-based peer production?

Kostakis notes that Andreas Karitzis, member of Syriza’s think tank on digital policies and an unsuccessful candidate MP, wrote an article in the Greek version of the Huffington Post before the electiions. Karitzis mentioned his party’s commitment to free/open source technologies, transparency and participatory democracy.  Syriza also apparently intends to develop the new CopyFair licenses for open hardware and support the creation of networks of distributed micro-factories (fablabs/makerspaces).

Amateur translator Eleftherios Kosmas – a member of a commons based collective like hackerspace.gr and a strong supporter of the commons – provided a translation of Deputy Prime Minister Dragasakis’ speech and considered the following remarks the most interesting:

I would like to, conclude with the permission of the President, with a general thought. Often in everyday life we all live events happening whose importance is only clear in hindsight. We live, then, not only in an historic era characterized by the crisis and the collapse of obsolete models, but we live a crisis that will eventually spawn new models and new social organization models, as was done in the past.

In this sense, then, this is an opportunity to take up the deficits of the past, to close this modernization deficit, but by addressing the contemporary social problem of unemployment, social security and social exclusion.  This could establish a new paradigm in Greece and other countries of southern Europe, combining advanced forms of democracy, social self-motivation, social justice on a strong foundation of common goods, a society-centric model, which would give dignity and confidence in society hope to the people, optimism in the new generation.

Thus Greece, from being the guinea pig of austerity and destruction, could be a ground of pioneering ideas and policies, and the benefit would not be just for us. The world would become a security goal in a region of insecurity, and “aged” Europe could rediscover through the symbiosis of different development models inside.

Let’s not rush some to say that these are utopias because there are utopias that are realistic. There are those whose implementation depends not on supernatural powers, but by the unity and collective action of ordinary people in Europe, in Greece and worldwide. Thank you.

Kosmas helpfully provides a link to Dragasakis’s speech in Greek here.

There are a number of knowledgeable and committed commoners internationally who have been in touch with Syriza officials, including a number of Greek commoners and P2P activists.  Two of the most notable are Vasilis Kostakis and George Papanikolaou, who are the administrators of the P2P Foundation’s Greek branch.  The Greek Government may wish to turn to the many concrete commons/P2P policy approaches on display at the Commons Transition Plan.

As official interest in the commons and peer production grows, many Greeks (and international supporters) are surely looking forward to the third annual CommonFest, which will be held in Athens from May 15-17, 2015.

Source: http://bollier.org/blog/new-greek-government-endorses-commons-based-peer-production-solutions

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Immanuel Wallerstein on the end of Capitalism

photo of Kevin Flanagan

Kevin Flanagan
12th February 2015


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Epicurus and Kinkade

photo of David de Ugarte

David de Ugarte
12th February 2015


Could American egalitarianism discover interesting ideas in Epicurean communitarian traditions?


kat kinkadeAfter reading Kat Kinkade‘s Is it Utopia Yet?probably the least understandable idea, from an Indiano point of view, would be her concept of open community. According to it, a community has a set of rules, and if you accept them, you can theoretically become a member.

As a result, communitarian culture evolves not only through community experience and members’ contributions, but through the changing ideological profile of the different waves of newcomers. Kinkade wonders many times “how could we reach this point,” meaning how could the community absorb so much influence from “New Age” practices and evolve so far from its founding scientific approach to reality.

Indianos take part in an Epicurean communitarian tradition: the community is a “society” of friends. From the Epicurean point of view, friendship (fraternity) and knowledge are the central goals of community itself. So, you will accept and look for people you can become friends with. But you also will put another condition on them: to share basic common contexts, in order to be able to learn together. Consequently, community is something that happens within a cultural and philosophical common ground, not just a set of rules open to everybody.

Why “communities of friends” provide more diversity and freedom

cornucopia de floresAlso related to this Epicurean view, we think community must provide “abundance” in as many fields as possible. [Disclaimer: “abundance” means diversity, not overconsumption or waste.] In the book, there is a creepy Stalinist scene where the community censures the author for installing a microwave oven in Twin Oaks. It is not even an economic issue, the oven was a donation from a friend. Nobody intended to make it mandatory to use it. So, where was the problem? It was, from our point of view, an ideological problem: community took over individual needs, limiting individual action. Assembly artificially produced scarcity and homogenization.

From an Epicurean point of view, community cannot determine what anyone’s needs are, and cannot take sovereignty over individual or personal preferences. Egalitarianism never will work if it assumes everybody’s needs are the same. Each community use to have a characteristic consumption pattern because as we said before, they chose and were chosen within a similar culture, with similar values. But inside a common culture there will be still diversity. In an egalitarian community, there will inevitably be different consumption levels and particular preferences and tastes.

But, as a consequence of shared values and cultural practices, if people have this cultural common ground, everyone’s different needs will fit into the community budget without serious problems, as it happens in income-sharing couples and families all around the world every day. So, the famous “common bank account” can live perfectly well along with personal accounts without questioning the “community of goods,” with only one condition: individuals must commit not to save money in their bank accounts. Something similar happens in other “big” egalitarian communities as, in example, Nieder Kaufungen.

In conclusion

Could American egalitarianism discover interesting ideas in Epicurean communitarian traditions? I would guess so… and we would love to participate in any discussions with materials and thoughts.

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