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Archive for 'Featured Content'

Movement of the Day: The Australian Sharing Law Network

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
24th November 2015

The Australian Sharing Law Network is “an informal network of organisations and individuals interested in using the law to support the collaborative economy and the sharing of resources in our community”.

Organisations participating in the network include AELA, UNSW Australia, and Melbourne Law School’s Sustainability Business Clinic.

AELA is interested in building the role of law to support Earth friendly practices such as: sharing resources, reducing material consumption and creating community based and democratically managed enterprises such as co-operatives.”

For more information about the Australian Sharing Law Network, please contact sharinglaw@earthlaws.org.au .


Posted in Featured Movement, P2P Legal Dev., Sharing | No Comments »

Doing more together, together: seeding a Collaborative Technology Alliance

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
24th November 2015

Tarragona Concurs Castells taken by calafellvalo, on Flickr. Used under a Creative Commons license.

Edward West takes us through a new initiative featuring many of our common friends.

Doing more together, together: seeding a Collaborative Technology Alliance

From the beginning. Last month, a group of 35 designers, engineers, and entrepreneurs from all over the world gathered in Oakland, California. Together, we are working on the creation of tools, strategies, and networks to build a new collaborative commons.

Our group consisted of founders and key contributors from Enspiral, Loomio, CoBudget, Chalkle, Robin Hood Cooperative, Identity.com, Hylo, Ethereum, Citizen Code, Metamaps.cc, Bitmind.co, KiwiConnect, Lifehack, Planetwork, Impact Hub, Refugio Resource, Pyxis, Triaxiom9, CivicMakers and more. With us in spirit were our friends from Backfeed, CredEx, Village Lab, Ceptr, and Swarm.

We are united by the vision that people can do more, together, and are stewarding tools, communities, processes, networks and ecosystems to make that vision a reality.

To that end, we are all working on the same project. Because we’re all unique, we bring different gifts, talents, and approaches to this shared intention.

In the gathering, we sensed a possible harmony and collaboration, where each of us working on something that is radically unique to us, for the benefit of the whole. As we began to consciously uncover this harmony amongst our intention-aligned and disparate initiatives, we recognized that we can do more together, together.

A handful of the attendees, from left to right: Ben Knight (Loomio), Silvia Zuur (Chalkle), Connor Turland (Metamaps), Alanna Krause (Loomio), Edward West (Hylo), Mix Irving (Enspiral), Chelsea Robinson (Loomio), David Hofstatter (Refugio Resource), Derek Razo (CoBudget), Chloe Waretini (Enspiral, Hylo)

Why an interoperable ecosystem of collaborative software tools matters.

From the personal power of a charismatic leader, to the threat of job loss, censure, or punishment, coordinating the actions of many toward a goal or purpose has often involved external rewards, hierarchy, force, and coercion: all different forms extrinsic motivations.

As human consciousness grows more complex, individuals tend to be drawn toward more intrinsic and collaborative motivations, and the unique expression of the gifts that each individual has to bring. In this emerging environment, organizations and networks become more porous, initiatives are often lighter-weight, and more energy is put into finding synergies, stacked-benefits, best practices, and the harmonization of complex ecosystems of individuals and initiatives.

When we recognize our shared purpose throughout the diversity of our initiatives, it becomes helpful to use software tools to coordinate and sensemake in the large, values aligned collectives that we’re beginning to see in our increasingly connected and collaborative world.

The emerging of the collaborative social web

All around us we are watching the power of software to transform communities. Any-to-many communication via the web is now within reach of nearly half of the world’s population, and growing.

Currently, our largest social media platforms are closed source, privately funded, and generally designed to maximize screen time for viewing ads and data collection for selling to third-parties. While on balance they provide tremendous benefit to many, I know that we can do better. We must.

We envision the future of the social web as an ecosystem of collaborative tools designed to enable communities, guilds, and loosely affiliated groups everywhere to collaborate, share resources, sensemake and create at a scale. These tools will rise as a way to stabilize and rejuvenate the commons, and more efficiently distribute resources to the parts of the network that need them most, rather than concentrating the resources in the hands of a few.

As collaboration and resource-sharing between individuals, organizations, and silos becomes easier, the boundaries between our communities will become more porous, and the transaction costs and friction that gave rise to the era of the large corporations and bureaucracies will begin to dissipate. We can begin to consciously experience ourselves as participating in a single project.

The challenges of building software for groups

A key challenge that communities face when its members want to adopt a collaborative software tool is that often Metcalfe’s Law (that the value of a network increases with the square of the number of participants) doesn’t apply. In community software tools if only a small subset of the community joins, the tool is not valuable, and may even be a hindrance to productivity. However, if a critical mass of community members join, then the collaborative software tool can become extremely valuable. Steve Hardt calls this “Group Atomic Network Effects.”

There is a particular challenge with communities that grow to have more complex needs than a single tool can provide. Community managers sometimes speak of “tool fatigue,” which arises when a community is asked to adopt multiple software tools. If any one of these tools does not reach a critical mass they quickly become useless, and that function, however critical it might be, is lost.

The current state of affairs

There are currently a number of easy-to-use, user-experience first, collaborative software tools that are open-source, peer-to-peer licensed, and designed to benefit the commons.

Some are created by social enterprises, some are non-profits, some are informal projects. While their forms are different, what unites them is their intention to benefit the commons. However they are currently not well linked together.

A solution to the “tool fatigue” challenge lies in creating interoperability amongst these tools, and protocols for allowing the creation and integration of more tools. This way we can begin to knit together into a flexible, collaborative open social web?—?facilitating the creation of a culture of creativity, collaboration, and mutual support, for the rejuvenation of the commons?—?at the scale required for a connected and collaborative humanity.

Universal Construction Kit? —?a 3D printable set of hybrid pieces that allows you to connect Legos with Tinkertoys, Lincoln Logs and more. Each toy “system” is a fixed set of possibilities or paradigms, but with these hybrid connectors, you can create anything you can imagine using pieces from half a dozen different systems.

An ecosystem of tools that interoperate will allow communities to choose the tools that are right for them, and leave aside those that aren’t. It will allow experimentation and uncommon use cases, and will enable individual tools to specialize?—?focusing on building the best user experience for specific user actions.

The Key to Interoperability?—?User Experience

At the gathering we agreed that the core challenge is to create a coherent user experience that crosses between the various functions of the ecosystem of interoperable tools. We began exploring a number of approaches to solving some of these challenges.

As Jef Raskin and others have noted, “As far as the customer is concerned, the interface is the product.” While stacking a series of complex tools and functions on each other and requiring users to learn these systems might work in an enterprise context, where people are compelled by their job responsibilities to use all the required tools, in an environment of loose alliances, distributed networks, guilds, and movements, we have to work with intrinsic motivations, dramatically varying commitment levels and time availability. In this context, any boundaries to productive contribution become exclusionary, which is counter to creating a movement of inclusion and participation.

For our vision of sophisticated technological interoperability to be real, where tools are passing data to other tools, group authentication is managed by one tool for an other, data is exportable, people are managing budgets in one tool, and making important decisions in another; for it to work, it has to feel easy, fun, simple, obvious; it has to feel like play.

The seed of an alliance

By the end of our gathering, we had coalesced around a number of the problems, the needs, and the specifics of our vision, and the Collaborative Technology Alliance was seeded. This group will create (and adopt when already available) standards, schemas, and protocols to enable interoperability amongst collaborative software tools. This group will also promote user-centered design amongst our member tools, and help to generate a common UI/design language for the ecosystem towards this end.

Key functions of an ecosystem of collaborative software tools:

Here are a number of areas that we have decided are critical to this collaborative ecosystem.

  • Notifications Dashboard: aggregated notifications of activity that is sourced from activity from tools in the ecosystem
  • Chat and Direct Messaging: one-to-one and one-to-many messaging, with tunable privacy as appropriate to communication goals
  • Representation of Group Membership and Group Auth: a tool that stores who is a member of which group, who can see the data that the group contains, and can invoke single-purpose tools through “group authentication”
  • Representation of which groups are using which tools: this enables the community to understand which tools are part of the set of tools in use in a given environment
  • Intent-casting + Collaborative discovery: discovery of aligned intentions + matching of available requests and offers. Can include bounties/price tags in a variety of currencies.
  • Collaborative ideation & brainstorming: allows decentralized groups to ideate and brainstorm together
  • Collaborative decision making: allows decentralized groups to come to decisions together
  • Collaborative budgeting: allows decentralized groups to allocate common-pool resources
  • Network visualization: allows users to interact with different types of visual representations of shared data and membership
  • Reputation: allows users to assess the past actions of network participants based on user tunable, context aware preferences
  • Identity: allows users to be aware of the identity of other users over time tied to reputation
  • Mutual Credit: allows users to create and track mutual credit exchanges
  • Task management: allows users to assign and track completion of tasks
  • Dues collection: allows users to pool resources
  • Common Resource Pool Management: allows users to pool resources that can be invested collectively
  • Crowdfunding: allows users to gather small contributions from large numbers of people
  • Cryptoequity: allows users to share equity in each other’s projects and work with outside financing
  • Smart Contracts: allows users to create contracts with each other that are machine-executable
  • Personal data management and export tools: allow users to manage access to and export their private data

Next Steps

If this vision inspires you, please join us. We are building a network of allies all over the world who are implementing this vision together. Whether you’re interested in contributing your technology, your expertise, helping to build out the standards, being a pilot community for the first integrated toolset, or contributing financial resources, we’d love to hear from you.

To the many others who have put energy toward these goals, both currently, and in the past, we offer our gratitude, and ask for your support. We give special thanks to pioneering initiatives like Planetwork’s “Augmented Social Network” some of whose authors attended our gathering.

Let us know what we are seeing that’s right, and what we’re missing and where we can use your help. Please join us in the discussion in our community on Hylo.

Together, we can create a more connected, creative, collaborative, resource-sharing humanity. Together, we can create whatever we can imagine.

Thank you to Chloe Waretini, Mikyö Clark, Connor Turland, Ishan Shapiro, Alanna Krause, Silvia Zuur, Derek Razo, Arthur Brock, Josh Vial and Greg Cassel for inspiration, suggestions and edits, and all other attendees for their collaboration and inspiration.


Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, Cooperatives, Ethical Economy, Featured Project, Free Software, Guest Post, Open Innovation, Open Models, Open Standards, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Development, P2P Education, P2P Infrastructures, Peer Property, Sharing | No Comments »

TPP and TTIP-Free Zones are being created by communities across the US and EU

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
23rd November 2015


Reposted from Citizen Action Monitor, TPP-Free Zones are being created by communities across the US and EU.

Why aren’t Canada’s political, social, labour and environmental NGOs jumping all over this initiative?

Margaret Flowers“You can join communities that are rejecting these rigged corporate ‘trade’ deals that are being negotiated in secret and will undermine our ability to pass laws that protect public health and safety and the planet by organizing to create a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone. Details below.”Margaret Flowers

On a related note, The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based NGO has, since 1995, been doing magnificent work with communities to establish Community Rights – such that communities are empowered to protect the health, safety, and welfare of their residents and the natural environment, and establish environmental and economic sustainability. They have worked at the local municipal level to establish Community Rights. Communities that have established Community Rights ordinances have faced legal challenges from corporate and states. In response, CELDF has recently begun building on grassroots organizing to drive change to the state level, bringing together communities from across states to build State Community Rights Networks. For more information, visit the CELDF website by clicking on the about linked name.

Returning to TPP-Free Zones, so far no Canadian communities appear on the world map of TPP-Free Zones. To access this map, click on the following linked title. The repost below includes a link to this map as well as all the other details and links to affiliated information sources.


Communities Reject Rigged Trade, Create TPP/TTIP-Free Zones by Margaret Flowers, Popular Resistance, October 4, 2015

Note: You can join communities that are rejecting these rigged corporate ‘trade’ deals that are being negotiated in secret and will undermine our ability to pass laws that protect public health and safety and the planet by organizing to create a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone. Details below.

As negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) inch toward completion, resistance to it and the other rigged corporate international treaties, the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and Trade-in-Services Agreement (TiSA), is escalating.

  • A transAtlantic week of protests against the TPP and TTIP are planned from October 10 to 17. Visit Trade4People.org to learn more. Actions will be posted on Flush the TPP.
  • There will be protests in Miami at the end of October during the next round of TTIP negotiations. Details are not yet confirmed, but they will be posted on the Flush the TPP “Actions” page.
  • And during the APEC meetings in the Philippines in November, there will be protests in Manila and Washington, DC. Click here for information about the DC mobilization.

A powerful form of resistance is underway in communities across the United States and the European Union – people are passing resolutions opposing these ‘trade agreements,’ which are actually international treaties that should not be allowed to fast track through Congress, to create TPP and TTIP-free zones.

In the European Union, activists are working to pass 10,000 such resolutions. In collaboration with the public service union, Unison, Global Justice Now, is providing helpful materials. Global Justice Now reports:

“It’s not just the UK. In Austria, Germany, France and Belgium there are significant numbers of TTIP Free Zones being declared by local authorities. When EU and US negotiators in Brussels leave their meetings they immediately walk out into the Brussels municipality which is itself a TTIP Free Zone.

There are 39 ‘no TTIP’ councils in Spain and a good covering in Northern Italy. This is a Europe-wide movement of local resistance to the corporate power grab that TTIP represents.”

During the fight to stop Congress from passing Fast Track legislation that will be used to rush these agreements through Congress, cities from Seattle, WA to Madison, WI to New York, NY passed resolutions against Fast Track. Labor played a big part in making these successful. Now, new resolutions are underway in more cities with the goal of 100.

On October 8, a resolution will be voted upon in Miami, FL, potentially making it a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone before the next round of TTIP negotiations there. Click here for details.

Organizing a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone is a great way to raise awareness of the ways that these secret rigged corporate deals will directly impact our communities. From the prohibition of “Buy America” practices to the new powers for corporations to sue over public health and safety laws that interfere with their profits to the outsourcing of jobs, lowering of wages, reduction of food safety and raising the costs of health care, the TPP and TTIP place corporate profits over protection of people and the planet.

Here is more information on how to create a TPP/TTIP-Free Zone from the Alliance for Democracy:

“If you, our un-elected representatives, create this corporate-driven monstrosity and then go to Congress for a rubber stamp, WE WILL NOT OBEY.”

Which cities have gone TPP/TTIP/TiSA Free?

This map shows which US cities and counties have passed TPP Free Zone ordinances or resolutions against Fast Track, TPP or other pending trade pacts like the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

It is time to make our municipalities “TPP Free Zones,” following in the footsteps of the successful resistance to an earlier trade agreement, the Multilateral Agreement on Investment, which was defeated in 1998 thanks to a global grassroots campaign.

  • Click here to download a .pdf of our TPP Free Zone pamphlet. Print it on legal-size paper, or read the text online here.
  • Click here for a model municipal law to make your community a TPP Free Zone.
  • Click here for some pointers in getting a TPP Free Zone law passed.

What is a TPP-Free Zone?

AfD Co-Chair Ruth Caplan explains how local organizing for “TPP-Free Zone” laws can help defeat this so-called “free trade” agreement while supporting global civil society movements for economic and environmental justice and local democracy.

Educate for action: Our Fall 2012 issue of Justice Rising focused on international resistance to corporate global trade agreements, including the TPP. To read it online, click here. If you’d like to a copy, contact us at afd, The Alliance for Democracy or call 781-894-1179.

There’s more information, videos and resources on our TPP page.

Questions? Ideas? Resources? We’d like to hear from you. Contact the Alliance for Democracy office at afd (at) thealliancefordemocracy (dot) org, or 781-894-1179.

Lead image by Backbone Campaign


Posted in Activism, Anti-P2P, Cognitive Capitalism, Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Empire, Featured Movement, P2P Rights, Politics | No Comments »

Project of the Day: The Mutual Aid Networks in Madison, Wisconsin and beyond

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
20th November 2015

I often cite this project, along with Encommuns.org, as exemplifying attempts to go beyond the fragmentation of the alternatives, in order to create true economic value streams across and beyond a given territory. In this context, the work of Stephanie Rearick and team is exemplary.

Stephanie Rearick explains:

“A Mutual Aid Network (MAN) is a new type of cooperative that pools and stewards value and rewards good work with cooperative economic tools such as timebanking, business-to-business mutual credit, and cooperative saving, lending and investment models.

The goal is to create an infrastructure that empowers people to come together for common purpose and generate, share and steward the resources needed to realize their common goal. This infrastructure will support networks that overlap, connect and share with other networks operating under common principles and using similar yet varying tools and approaches.

We have incorporated a cooperative registered in the state of Wisconsin, which has excellent cooperative law and history. This establishes the framework for future MANs.

The Mutual Aid Network (MAN) framework can be adapted to any size, for any group of people choosing to join together for common purpose that fits agreed-upon streamlined core principles and standards. So you could make a Wisconsin MAN, a neighborhood MAN, a MAN for artists who wish to support each other, a global MAN to develop and steward the infrastructure needed by local MANs… more detail and examples here.

We aim to help establish at least six pilot sites in different locations around and outside the US. The team that has developed the MAN concept to date, Time For the World, and the initial MAN pilot sites will create the legal infrastructure to enable additional MANs to form easily, providing templates of needed agreements and documents for easy localization. Each MAN site will be expected to assist new sites, smoothing the way for more rapid spread, improvement and replication.

The mission of Mutual Aid Networks is to create means for everyone to discover and succeed in work they want to do, with the support of their community.

The community uses timebanking, mutual credit, shared resources (like tool libraries, shared equipment and supplies) and cooperative saving, lending and investment models (like the Mission Asset Fund in San Francisco, JAK bank in Sweden, and New Zealand timebanks’ Savings Pools) to generate, steward and allocate resources toward the group’s agreed-upon goals. All of these models and tools are currently in use around the world, all with success to varying degrees.

This project is an effort to connect them in a comprehensive system capable of:

* Identifying need for, generating, and compensating all kinds of work, not just that which is routinely valued in the market economy

* Facilitating leadership, resources, and skill development within a community to meet its own self-identified needs in a manner that generates and sustains healthy, human-scaled community and economic development.

* Essentially, providing groups of people with the skills and resources to come together to develop and implement projects and share the wealth they generate.

* Using trans-local learning and sharing to rapidly improve, replicate and scale. This means that all MANs will actively share their processes, tools, outcomes and improvements, and support each other in their efforts. It also means that each local MAN has access to a much broader array of expertise and resources than it would were it only local.

* Create ways to harness the value inherent in communities in ways that generate more collective wealth and rebuild the commons – indigenous community economic development.”


Posted in Commons Transition, Ethical Economy, Featured Project, Open Innovation, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration | No Comments »

Bitmind and OVN space

photo of vasilis niaros

vasilis niaros
19th November 2015


Bitmind is an open project with the aim to help open enterprises, cooperatives and communities to distribute value between their members. It attempts to integrate knowledge production tools and team contributions tracking: mapping workflows, ideas, donations and incomes in a common graph of value. Moreover, Bitmind is co-operating with other initiatives interested in Open Value Networks and blockchain technologies and have created a shared hub for an evolving and growing ecosystem.



Posted in Commons, Commons Transition, Economy and Business, Featured Project, Networks, P2P Collaboration | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Who are the Agents of Alternatives ?

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
19th November 2015

* Book: Agents of Alternatives – Re-designing Our Realities. Ed. by Alastair Fuad-Luke, Anja-Lisa Hirscher and Katharina Moebus. Agents of Alternatives e.V., 2015

This is “an independently published open book exploring the visions, actions, tools and impacts of change agents, thinkers and ‘happeners’.

From the description:

“An independently published open book exploring the visions, actions, tools and impacts of change agents, thinkers and ‘happeners’ (those who make things happen!). It shows the creative processes and tools for designing positive societal transitions. These transitions are revealed by showing the new hybrid relationships being forged between alternative approaches to learning, living, making, socialising, thinking and working.

Agents of Alternatives enables professionals, amateurs and citizens to understand the rich possibilities of creating and designing together in open, participatory and imaginative ways. It provides an integrated and systemic collection of case studies, essays and interviews from well-known international contributors and local activists, collated by an international team of editors.”

Excerpted from the introduction:

“You hold in your hands a book which is really a manifestation of an evolving vision to link designing with everyday ‘active-ism’ which helps materialise plausible ‘alternatives’ to the global economy and neo-liberal capitalist practices. This was driven by an underlying belief that we need to ‘re-design our realities’ to better reflect and respond to our pressing contingent challenges about our social, ecological and financial condition.

Exploring ‘agents of alternatives’ demands a multidisciplinary dialogue within and between citizens, practitioners and academics who make things happen. So, you will find contributors from diverse fields: design, the arts, architecture, education, politics, economics, urban planning and city administration, social enterprise and the informal sector, including non-governmental organisations (NGOs), experts on the commons, and others. We encouraged activists, researchers, educationalists, strategists and facilitators to share their views. In this book we mix the voices of well-known contributors alongside lesser-known active local agents. We look for emergent ways of learning-by-doing, of designing, of manifesting things differently and catalysing positive change, and we present these ways of thinking and practicing so that others might fruitfully experiment with, explore and generate alternatives for themselves.

* On Agency:

Our position is that everyone and everything has agency, that is, the capacity to change what happens next. A position reinforced by certain philosophers – for example, Bruno Latour’s human and non-human ‘actants’, Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari’s ‘social material assemblages’, and Jane Bennett’s ‘vibrant matter’.

We, and our contributors, also adopt more accepted sociological and anthropological views of agency involving the social structures, systems and rules which bind or break them. Those with agency are actors, stakeholders, shareholders, institutions, organisations, diverse communities and other social groups. We would also invoke ‘political agency’ as a healthy form of disagreement and discourse as part of our civic and human condition, not confined within formalised institutionalised practices of ‘politics’. In this sense we see the political agency of this book and its contributors as a means to re-examine and explore our social relations and our relations with the wider world so that we might, individually and collectively posit or construct alternatives.

* Who are the agents ?

Who are these agents of alternatives? They exhibit some common features: they are independently minded, but share a critical awareness of our social, ecological and economic condition; they have a vision but it is adaptive to changing circumstances; they are open and transparent, showing their processes and sharing their expertise; they start their journey with the (often meagre) resources at their disposal and show perseverance; they believe their voice counts and encourage others to add their voices too; they turn rhetoric into action; and they reveal opportunities and possibilities. Most importantly, all our contributors here are ‘making things happen’, they are active not passive, caring not distant, and different not conformist. Read their voices in the essays, interviews and case studies.

* What are the Alternatives ?

Anyone, or anything, contesting the status quo, societal ‘norms’ or contemporary paradigmatic forces, is, potentially, an ‘alternativ-ist’. To be an alternativ-ist is not a new position but has an illustrious history which embraces daring individuals, collective movements, specialised groups and minorities.

Here we define our alternatives through a series of imagined worlds –Thinking, Learning, Sharing, Making, Intervening, Working, and Living – worlds which evolved as the content for the book grew (see p.18-19). We see these worlds intertwined, joined by a series of emergent practices (p.462) and expressed through an evolving lexicon (p.22-37). These alternatives are still young, yet they are potentially catalytic and, if scaled-up, can encourage a transition towards more sustainable, equable and adaptable futures. We found professionally organised alternatives that try to bridge policy-making and grassroots activism as well as small initiatives that have spread all around the world, because their underlying ideas are so simple, accessible and welcoming to a wide range of people. There are different ways of changing society, and this book tries to have a closer look at the potential of the informal and formal worlds of change makers.

* On Re-designing:

Our shared vision for this book was also underpinned with a belief that the field of design is diffusing out into wider society and is no longer just the primary concern of professionally trained designers, but is actually being practiced by other professionals, professional amateurs and citizen designers. We share and update Victor Papanek’s view that ‘all people are designers’, and Joseph Beuys’ political position making all citizens ‘artists’ that shape the ‘social sculpture’ of our society. And, we believe that a sustainable way of designing is to work with what is existent in a ‘locale’ – a diverse array of human, social, public, commercial and natural capitals. In this sense ‘re-designing’ makes more sense than ‘designing’, because it involves re-configuring the potential of what already exists. This might, of course, involve bringing in new ingredients and smartly combining them to create fresh potentialities. The initiatives, projects and ideas collated in this book are representative for a growing global ‘zeitgeist’ (spirit of the time) around openness and sharing. This means making ideas accessible to everyone so that they can be adapted to diverse local conditions. Most of them are open source so individual authorship becomes less important and the positive impacts and potentialities of sharing are emphasised. They bring different communities and places around the world together in a dynamic self-organised and, often, surprising way.

To summarise, it is our hope that this book will stimulate you, the reader, to become an agent of alternatives too…”


Posted in Commons Transition, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Book, P2P Books | No Comments »

Video of the Day: Copyright Is Brain Damage

photo of Guy James

Guy James
18th November 2015

The provocative title of her TEDxMaastricht talk gives some indication of where graphic artist Nina Paley is coming from. She says she has decided to remove herself from the “permission culture” of copyright altogether and simply uses any art she feels suits the current piece she is working on. This seems to me to be extremely empowering and liberating on a personal and artistic level, however I don’t see the concept of simply not recognising copyright standing up in court, which is presumably where she is going to end up having to defend her actions, if she hasn’t already. I think her point is that the more people that ignore copyright altogether, the less power it is going to ultimately have over us. However those most interested in copyright are usually not artists, but lawyers and businesspeople for whom it is a way of making money, and they are not likely to stop respecting it any time soon.

She makes the very good point that those most defensive of their own copyright are those who most insistently force their symbols into the public consciousness (reminding me of the great Sean Tejaratchi rant popularised by Banksy, “Advertising Shits In Your Head“).


Posted in Commons, Copyright/IP, Featured Video, Videos | No Comments »

Essay of the Day: The Dictatorship of the Proletariat of Consumption

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
18th November 2015


From the abstract:

“We challenge the prevalent opinion that consumption does not seem to matter as much as production and defy the fetishism of industrial work. We explore the implications of the premise that under conditions of cognitive capitalism consumption dictates what production does, when and how. We explain that in a post-industrial global society and economy fashion, branding, instant gratification of desires, and ephemeral consumer tastes govern production and consumption. The London (commodity) riots of August 2011 send us a warning that consumption and cognitive capitalism are asphyxiating in the structures and norms of industrial capitalism that are still in place.”


Posted in Cognitive Capitalism, Featured Essay | No Comments »

Book of the Day: Disenclosing the Crises of Imagination and Power

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
17th November 2015

* Book: Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power. By Max Haiven. Zed Books, 2015

Excerpted from the introduction by Max Haiven:

“In Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power (Zed Books, forthcoming), I argue that this sense of futility is the residual effect of the way capitalism ‘encloses’ not only our time, our communities and our environment; but also our imaginations. Enclosure here is a metaphor borrowed from the process by which medieval peasants were dispossessed of their common lands and forced to rely on wage labor for survival. Throughout the book, I argue in various ways that this enclosure of the imagination is something that occurs not simply at the level of the individual mind, but at the level of social and material relationships.

Overcoming fatalism, futility and cynicism, then, is not simply a matter of ‘thinking differently’ — although education remains a key part of the transformative process. Instead, the radical imagination and the ability to dream of and build towards different social horizons beyond the fog of capitalist unreason, depends on doing differently; on creating alternatives spaces, times and modes of reproducing ourselves, our communities and our world. This is a process of ‘commoning,’ of building living alternatives not in the sense of future utopias, but in the sense of radical models and zones to reproduce our relationships and our lives based on shared values.

In the first chapter of the book, I argue that in order to do this we need to re-imagine the idea of value and pay attention to the way capitalism isn’t just a system for stealing economic value from workers, from the environment and from communities. It is also a system that drives and depends on the transformation of how we imagine social, cultural and moral values (as individuals and as communities). The system’s reproduction, in turn, corrupts and undermines the reproduction of our own lives as we become increasingly overworked, privatized, alienated and enclosed in debt. In this way, capitalism’s inherent and recurrent crises are externalized onto individuals and communities.

In order to overcome this vicious cycle, we need to reclaim value. This doesn’t just mean redistributing social wealth in its already materialized form. It also means taking back our collective creative cooperative capacity, no longer lending it to the reproduction of capitalism but instead directing it towards the constant rebuilding of a society based on the values of solidarity, equality, individuality, empowerment and peace. In the second chapter, ‘Publics, Commons, Occupations’, I suggest that to do so we blend a concept of the commons with a concept of the public. In addition to more socialist strategies, which promise a public system based on state-managed social reproduction, and anarchistic strategies, which advocate a radical horizontalism where social reproduction is held in common, I suggest that we need to imagine ways to make the commons public and the public common.

We can imagine the struggles against austerity today, characterized by the strategy of occupations, as having two simultaneous dimensions. The first is an attempt to create new commons of social reproduction outside the command and control of capital, including new and rekindled forms of community care, horizontal and grassroots democratic decision-making and local production. The second is a double attempt to (a) defend and reclaim public institutions (schools, hospitals, public works) from the market by reclaiming them in the name of the public; and (b) increasingly democratize and render these institutions common, so as to avoid the enclosure of ostensibly public bodies by bureaucracy and crypto-capitalist models of ‘efficiency.’

* The Enclosure of the Imagination

In chapters 3 and 4, I seek to show how the capitalist crisis of the imagination played out in two influential spheres. In ‘The Crisis of the Financialized Imagination’, I argue that financialization is a unique means by which capitalism’s economic, political, social and cultural power is synchronized; plunging us into a world of greater inequality, ramped-up neoliberal austerity, precarious labor and ubiquitous debt. I try to show that finance reveals a fundamental dimension and contradiction of capitalism: capital, money and financial assets are all, essentially, figments of our collective imaginations, yet they have terrifyingly real power. This is one way in which capitalism, as well as the struggle against it, relies on the imagination. Financialization, which preys on everyday debt and credit as never before and drives an economy based on otherworldly abstractions of value, transforms our imaginations of who and what is valuable and, in turn, relies on that very transformation.

In ‘Within and Beyond the Edu-Factory’, I take the fate of the neoliberal university as a case study: a space where the imagination is disciplined and shaped in the interests of capitalism’s reproduction. In turn, the university’s transformed imagination enables and applauds the neoliberal disciplining of the university itself. The transformation of the university from an elitist ivory tower into an institution primarily tasked with chaining young people to insurmountable debt is not simply about government cuts to higher education in the age of austerity; it is about the constriction of social reproduction and the relentless reproduction of capitalism more broadly. Yet, because of this, the university is also a space of possibility, experimentation and resistance. While its overarching paradigm is one of the enclosure of knowledge and the foreclosure of the future, it can also be a laboratory or nursery for the radical imagination and for experiments in reproducing life otherwise.

* Remembering the Commons

It is with this idea in mind that chapter 5 focuses on ‘The Enclosure of History, the Debt of the Past, the Commons of Memory.’ Here, I expand on some of the more conceptual and theoretical themes in Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power; notably the tension between our collective, cooperative, creative powers and the way they solidify into durable commodities, things, institutions and social conventions. For me, this is the most important question of the politics of the imagination: the way it forms into patterns and processes which, in turn, shape the flows of the imagination; and the way this process can lead both to the rigidities of hierarchy, exploitation and oppression and to the radical possibility of change and revolution.

In chapter 1, this theme arises in terms of the way values are transformed into economic ‘value’; the way the processes of social cooperation are conscripted into the reproduction of oppression and exploitation. In chapter 2, the theme emerges in the tension between the idea of a horizontal, democratic ‘commons’ and the need for more durable, structured ‘public’ institutions. In chapter 3, I explore this in terms of the power of largely ‘imaginary wealth’ and the way financialization’s economic and political power relies on and helps to feed its social and cultural authority. In chapter 4, I explore the way the university — as an idea and as an institution — is a material site of struggle over what is imaginable and over the politics of the imagination writ large.

In chapter 5, I turn to memory and its importance. Not only does memory reveal the past; it is also an intimate and important part of the way we reproduce our lives and our society in the present, and the way we, together, forge our futures. Rekindling the hopes, dreams and passions of past generations of radical struggle is critical both because it can lead to better strategies for change now, and because it answers to the ‘debt of history’: the way that past events haunt the present and the way the hoped-for utopias of past revolts animate our dreams today.

I explore how mainstream history erases these radical legacies or conscripts them into the service of rationalizing today’s status quo as inevitable, contributing to the sense of universal fatalism and futility that reproduces capitalism in the imagination and in material reality. I also try to suggest that the ‘commoning’ of memory is not about creating a different authoritative version of history, nor about abandoning all hope for historical accuracy. Instead, it is about creating intentional spaces and times to bring memories together as a way to reproduce our lives, our relationships and our social order based on common values; to bring the past to bear on the present in order to create different futures.

* The Radical Imagination

At issue here is the politics of the imagination and the power of creativity, not as we are accustomed to imagining them, as personal possessions, but as shared or common capacities. In chapter 6, I try to show that the very idea of creativity itself has been enclosed, made to serve the reproduction of capital and to conscript the imagination to the services of privatization, profit, consumerist individualism and gentrification. Today, we’ve seen the promise of creativity used as a carrot to entice us to invest our hopes, skills, passions and energies in a capitalist system that does not reflect our values or meet our needs, and which in fact undermines creativity in any meaningful sense. I conclude by re-imagining creativity in a way that doesn’t valorize individual genius but, instead, makes us aware of how all creativity — even when it is expressed in individual pursuits — is both the product and the producer of our shared lives; a fragment of our collective, cooperative, and common labors.

Likewise, in chapter 7, I approach the question of the radical imagination. Tracing the idea and the ideal of the imagination from ancient times through European colonial modernity and into the present, I suggest that the value of the radical imagination is not simply its capacity to make us think differently; but the way it feeds and is fed by forms of cooperation. As with the process of ‘commoning’ memory, I want to frame the radical imagination not as a thing some people possess, but as something we do together. The radical imagination emerges from our experience of non-capitalist values in the fabric of our lives, and in turn can inspire and shape the struggle to render those values common and militant.

The politics of the imagination are paramount today; but these politics are not simply about dreaming up future utopias or developing sophisticated critiques of the status quo. We need to develop a dialectics of the imagination. In Crises of Imagination, Crises of Power, I aim to show how, in a very specific way — and in the context of today’s struggles within, against and beyond austerity — the imagination is a process of collective doing. More generally, I also aim to demonstrate how the imagination creates reality and how reality in turn shapes the imagination. I want to make plain that, because of this dialectic relationship, the crisis of capitalism (or, really, capitalism’s multiple, overlapping crises) is also a suite of crises on the level of the imagination itself. And I set out to illustrate the fact that overcoming both sets of crises (those of capital and those of the imagination) demands the intertwined work of rekindling common values; imagining social relations and the future otherwise; and, in a militant and radical way, building powerful alternatives and social movements.

The fatalism and sense of futility that pervade the imagination today and that facilitate the reproduction of capitalism are, existentially, something of a defense mechanism. I believe that on some level, most people know that the capitalist game is rigged, that it is destroying the planet, that it is making us miserable (or soon will), and that it must be stopped. The cynicism, obtuse skepticism, blithe ignorance and individualistic sensibilities that might be bemoaned by activists and militants today are, in actuality, the allergic reaction of a sort of psychic immune system. To the extent that we can ignore or turn away from the systemic implications and ramifications of capitalism (and our own participation in it); to the extent that we can insulate our imaginations from the severity of its crises; we can imagine that our own individual lives (and perhaps those of our loved ones) can be meaningful, fulfilling, painless and happy. To the extent that we recognize and acknowledge the everyday and global-scale tragedy of capital, we must, if we are decent people, dedicate ourselves to a lifelong struggle.

* The Struggles Ahead

Let me hasten here to note that I am not suggesting that capitalism is merely a state of mind. Nor am I arguing that overcoming capitalism is simply a matter of withdrawing our imagination. Capitalism is a material system of wealth and power that perpetuates itself through its co-optation of our labor. But it is also a system driven by a ruling class that controls the major societal tools and infrastructure, and that uses its wealth and power to control governments. Overcoming capitalism will, inevitably, require the reclamation of collective wealth from the ruling class, and that requires material struggles, mass movements and, probably, some level of violence. More accurately, the endemic violence of class struggle — which today is experienced by the working classes largely as the misery of poverty, overwork, debt, imperialism, racism and patriarchy — needs to be redirected towards the authors and beneficiaries of the system.

In my desire to explore the tensions between value and values, I am not seeking to make a moralistic argument against capitalism — such arguments are far from necessary. Rather, I am trying to gesture towards a historic circumstance of struggle today. I seek to show that in contrast to the dynamics of class struggle and capitalist accumulation of a century ago, the system is more invested than ever in preoccupying and enclosing our sense of self and of the future; our hopes, dreams and aspirations; and our capacity to imagine. As such, the possibilities of meaningful solidarity and class struggle depend on the politics of the imagination. The imagination is a material process: it emerges from and informs our capacity to cooperate and labor together, and as such is at the core of the reproduction of value. If we can understand capitalism as a system based on the reproduction of value, the role of the imagination cannot be gainsaid.

As capitalist crises deepen under today’s new regimes of austerity, the desire to reinforce our ignorance, apathy and fatalism becomes stronger. As the contradictions of the system grow ever more pronounced, they put greater and greater strain on the veneer of capitalist ideology. And yet we should never expect that this strain will lead to the emergence of the radical imagination. Indeed, without the hard work of organized and purposeful anti-capitalist agitators, it will more likely see the rise of what we might call the reactionary imagination: the forms of religious fundamentalism, ethnic nationalism, backlash racism and right-wing vindictiveness that, today, mount on the horizon of politics around the world.

As I explore in chapter 1, these movements — animated by a pathological attachment to idealized, punitive and excessive ‘values’ (i.e. family values, Christian values, Western values) — conscript the imagination much more easily and readily than the more complicated but more radical ideas I have tried to summarize in the book; and which can be found in the politics of anti-racism, socialism, feminism, queer liberation movements, ecological justice struggles and anti-capitalist politics.

The years to come will be defined by struggles over the imagination. But these struggles will, themselves, be defined by the ability of various groups and factions to make radical values a reality. A revolution is not made of good ideas, but rather by good ideas materialized in social spaces. Solidarity is not a matter of having the right political ideals and sympathies, but of building real, tangible relationships. This is not to discount the importance of theory and reflection (otherwise, why would I have bothered to write such a book?); but it is to say that the struggles to come — like the struggles throughout history — will succeed to the extent that they preoccupy themselves with the dialectic of imagination; and the way the imagination as a shared capacity grows out of social cooperation, alternative building and the establishment of new commons. And, likewise, it is only in the soil of these cooperative ventures, these lived alternatives, and these new commons that the imagination can find root and withstand the vicious storms to come.”


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Essay of the Day: Digital Labor and the Anthropocene

photo of Michel Bauwens

Michel Bauwens
16th November 2015

* Talk: Digital Labor and the Anthropocene. McKenzie Wark | Digital Labor and the Anthropocene. Ed. by Marvin Jordan.

The following is excerpted from a transcript is taken from a recent talk delivered at the Digital Labor conference presented by The New School.

By McKenzie Wark:

“Viewed from inside the bubble of New York, the paradox of digital labor these days is the way that tech enables the over-development of under-development. Technologies are shaped by the struggle over their form. It was not given from an essence that the digital would end up as control over labor rather than control by labor. But in the current stage of conflict and negotiation, the over-development of under-development seems to me to describe a tendency for labor.

In any case, labor isn’t the only class struggling in and against the digital. I still think there is a difference between being a worker and being a hacker. I think of hacker as a class category: there is a hacker class. Hackers are those whose efforts are commodifed in the form of intellectual property. What they make can be turned into copyrights, patents or trademarks.

The hacker class is distinguished by a few qualities. It usually means working with information, but not in a routine way. It is different from white-collar labor. It is about producing new arrangements of information rather than ‘filling in the forms’.”


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