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Digital innovation or Biourbanism? Both, of course!

photo of Marco Fioretti

Marco Fioretti
30th September 2014


(this is the translation, first published on my own blog, of the final part of an article I published on the italian Pionero Web magazine in April 2014. The translation of the first part is available here)

The official definition of Biourbanism starts with the focus on “the urban organism, considering it as a hypercomplex system, according to its internal and external dynamics and their mutual interactions.”

In practice, as an almost total ignorant when it comes to architecture, urbanism, psychology and the like, I understand this to mean that Biourbanism proposes to make the places we inhabit decent places, that is places worth living in because they are:

  • (self) organized, bottom-up
  • taking their history and unique characteristics into account
  • designed with a process which is biophilic, that is friendly to all the levels and sides of human life (family, personal relationship, emotion, work…)
  • managed with little interventions, cheap and not invasive (biourban acupunture), that match the real needs and features of each place

The International Society of Biourbanism (ISB) has led, and continues to organize and propose with this spirit, several initiatives for the renaissance of italian villages and small towns, in the mountains and elsewhere, starting with Progetto Artena.

I discovered ISB by chance in the summer of 2013. Since then, we have done several things together, including the parts on education on digital matters and open technology of Progetto Leo. This cooperation has also led, among other things, to the reorganization of several courses, which I and others were already proposing, in a new package called Minimi Comuni Digitali, which is both autonomous but perfectly compatible with Biourbanism activities and educational programs. The package name, roughly translatable with “Minimal Digital Commons/Cities” hints to the possibilities, also for small towns, to benefit from knowledge and usage of appropriate, open digital technologies and communities.

Why talk of architecture, psychology and so on, on a website like Pionero (where the original article appeared), whose slogan is “Digital Innovation”? Easy: to suggesto a generic model just for digital innovation.

Italy (and many other countries, if you ask me) needs to be rebuilt from the foundations. ISB, if I got it right, proposes and practice a way to rebuild it based on the principle that, if you want a decent life, you should rebuild common spaces and services from the bottom, putting people in the first place, in the most efficient and sustainable way. They aren’t the only ones to say this, of course, but I like their approach and general vision.

Above all, since we should be talking about Digital Innovation, I like Biourbanism for a very specific reason I believe that, if you start to reboot a city the way Biourbanism does, things like Free Software, Open Data, Open Government, Fablabs, Maker Faires and so on surely enter the picture, eventually. You couldn’t avoid them even if you wanted. BUT, the point is, starting from Biourbanism those things would enter the picture in a way that is much more productive, sustainable and long lasting than all the other ways tried so far by us “digital maniacs”: only, that is, as the last thing, stealthily, in the smallest possible amounts, as an unavoidable consequences of the starting ideas, and actual needs, of local non-geeks. Stay tuned for more, but in the meantime do let me know your thoughts!

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Posted in Free Software, Networks, Open Hardware and Design, P2P Architecture and Urbanism, P2P Development, P2P Governance, P2P Mapping | No Comments »

Occupying the Money System: Enric Duran introduces Fair.Coop

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
18th September 2014


“What was missing for us to start out on this path was a monetary initiative present in these markets which, instead of relying on human competition to retain the greatest value, would be based on human cooperation as equals, creating value for all. With the arrival of Fair.Coop, faircoin has become the cryptocurrency focused on the social cooperation that was missing.

Enric Duran initially approached us during the late spring. He’d read Michel Bauwens’ policy paper for Transitioning to a Common Based Society and said that he was interested in collaborating with the P2P Foundation on a number of projects. When we asked for his impressions on Michel’s policy paper, he replied, “Yeah, we’re already doing half of what you describe in the paper at the CIC (Catalan Integral Cooperative)…now we want to do the other half”.

It is this brash, hands-on attitude that I admire so much about Enric Duran. While others were criticising the banking system and monetary creation as interest-bearing debt, Duran dared to have these same banks lend him money which he then redistributed to social justice collectives. Michel and I feel much the same way about the Fair.Coop initiative, promoted by (among others) Duran, Amir Taaki, the CIC and the P2P Foundation itself.

Monetary and economic theories centered on the fairer distribution and stewardship of the earth’s wealth abound. As invaluable as these theories are, we’re still sorely lacking practical examples to refine and adapt them to local and transnational realities. Something similar has happened in the realm of cryptocurrencies. While people are understandably excited by Bitcoin and its potential, I think that it’s a stretch to believe that a cryptocurrency with a Gini coefficient higher than traditional fiat currencies, combined with the fact that 1% of Bitcoin owners hoard 50% of the wealth, will do much to address global social inequality. Thankfully, alternatives abound, but many of them remain theoretical at best, and at worst, mired in never-ending discussions about whose monetary theory is the best, and why the rest are naive.

Back to Duran and Fair.Coop. The punk rock spirit that underlies the Fair.Coop initiative is admirable. Infused with an attitude transcending punk’s DIY ethos and arriving at a DIWO (Do it with Others) position, Fair.Coop has decided to tackle the big picture, reaching out to people and collectives who want practical action to offset the abundance of rhetoric. Rather than undermining the wealth of theoretical work promoting new models of monetary creation and wealth distribution, initiatives like Fair.Coop can only strengthen the validity of such work (in my opinion), feeding back into it and refining proposed approaches.

Whether the project succeeds or not, the experience and insights gained will prove to be invaluable. It is also worth mentioning that Fair.Coop isn’t merely a stunt designed to engorge a cryptocurrency detached from any social or environmental responsibilities. Instead, it is a working project for a whole financial eco-system as articulated by the P2P Foundation’s proposed guidelines for Open Cooperativism, which underlie the transnational structure of the coop. I won’t describe the project itself here, for that you should read what’s copied below, originally published by Duran on his personal blog, where he offers a personal narrative and perspective on the project. For more technical details and an abundance of supporting material, please visit Fair.Coop’s excellent new website, and if you’re motivated to contribute, join their social network.

Faircoop _

An open cooperative as a revolutionary tool for building a new global economy

By Enric Duran

Today I have not expropriated any banks, nor am I presenting anything which anyone can call illegal. I am not presenting a strategy directly related to my return to public freedom (perhaps contrary to what many may expect), although that does not mean I am not still defining that plan.

What I am presenting here is a revolutionary project on a global scale, a fruit of the immersion and learning afforded to me by 19 months of intense activity in seclusion and hiding.

The moment this project was born during my nights of creative solitude, it became clear to me that I had to make this both a priority and a reality before taking any risk as an individual. Today, I am pleased to have acted on that determination, and I hereby submit the project so that it may become everyone’s.

It is the open, global cooperative Fair.Coop, one more step in the extension of the integral revolution worldwide, along with P2P society values, open cooperation, and hacker ethics, among others.

Now I will explain some of the thoughts which inspired me to do this:

esquemaFairCoopThe blockchain and Bitcoin brought the world one of the few missing pieces to allow us to become independent from the old economic system. Old centralized and new decentralized systems have begun an open competition for domination of the future world. And, for the first time in thousands of years, decentralized systems now have another chance.

However, for those of us who understand the world in terms of cooperation, decentralization is not enough. We believe this new world needs self-organization and mutual support; cooperation needs to penetrate all the corners where domination has fallen behind.

Cooperative, self-managed, collective, community-based projects are extending and multiplying everywhere.

The practices that model the everyday ways this other world could be are very much alive. Although these practices are starting to interconnect at a bio-regional scale, they are still too isolated; there is mutual ignorance among initiatives separated by thousands of kilometers, on different continents, based on different languages.

Large amounts of commons are being built in parallel at the local scale, but any one project’s evolution has so far been insufficiently shared with the others. We need more powerful tools to help us share our knowledge, and we must be able to finance their development.

We don’t want to remain spectators in the confrontation between the old oligarchical and the new netarchical capitalism. We also want a cooperative system on a global scale, just as we already practice it at local scale – and if we want to see it happen, we have to build it.

Therefore, we felt it was necessary to develop a project that puts social cooperation back on the stage where these dominance struggles between economic systems are playing out, and to show that the path toward putting human beings back at the center is possible, it exists, and it’s ready for us to expand.

This project has arrived, and is called Fair.Coop, The Earth Cooperative for a fair economy.

The initial push to boost this initiative is what we call, “hacking money markets to introduce the virus of cooperation”.

This means:

A cryptocurrency, negotiable outside the control of decentralized markets around the world, can be understood as social capital, in which the number of shares is equal to the total number of coins created .

If we choose it as our founding capital for a cooperative, it means that this capital, rather than being accounted in the dominant currency (euro, dollar), would be in a currency the system can not control. Additionally, as our cooperative project grows and provides resources and services of proven usefulness, the value of this capital and the entire cryptocurrency will grow accordingly.

This is an important point, and I will explain what this means in a different way to be sure it is fully understood:

Consider traditional capitalism. Company owners extract value primarily through:

  • Income from capital
  • Labour exploitation

In some transnational corporations, netarchical capitalism adds a third way to extract value: free collaboration between humans. For example, Facebook and Google ads generate a lot of money because we use their “free” services, while we in fact we are working for them, for free.

What if we were to create technological tools for cooperation between equals, and then use them to generate free knowledge, a global commons?

Well, then we could do the things which we like and consider helpful, such as cooperating, sharing, and learning, while letting the economic value of our work remain in cooperative projects, and even revert to ourselves.

Therefore, it became necessary to find a coin that was not controlled by old capitalism (euros / dollars…), nor exploited by the most innovative capitalism (Bitcoin), one in which we could incorporate our values and cooperative practices. With all this in mind, Faircoin was chosen.

After months of networking and creation, Fair.Coop is born today

The space is open to start cooperation among us all, and we have supplied the cooperative 10,000,000 faircoins, which represents 20% of total existing coins.

This social capital was injected into Fair.Coop with the following distribution:

And the following conditions:

Except for the Pooled fund which can be used to cover operating expenses at the discretion of the Ecosystem Council and the whole Fair.Coop, contributions to the other three funds can not be touched during a period of one year.

With the Global South fund, we call for a redistribution that can reach as many local projects as possible, prioritizing the empowerment of the areas and environments most under attack by the current system, generating a peer-to-peer cooperation environment to restore global economic justice.

As for the Commons and Technology Infrastructure funds, the call is to qualitatively prioritize projects that can most benefit the global common good.

This period may well serve to build a participatory, creative and mutually supportive process leading to decisions in relation to the right priorities, defined collectively and efficiently. Also, as collaboration between equals multiplies under all Fair.Coop and especially the FairNetwork, the value of Fair.Coop’s social capital is expected to respond by appreciating relative to fiat currencies – not forgetting, as a symbol of our independence, that 1 faircoin will always equal 1 faircoin.

tierraThis way, just for starters, 20% of the existing monetary resources remains in the hands of a participatory and open political process. Meanwhile, Fair.Coop will work to continue recovering resources for the common good which may be redistributed through the same funds.

So this time, if our collaborative and freely shared vocation is to benefit someone financially, it will be the same ones who are building it before anyone else, that is all cooperatives, and through the funded projects, all of humanity.

In other words, we have finally found a way to cooperatively organize, share, learn, and help; one that can self-manage without the need, at least in the most delicate initial phase, to depend on others, or to prioritize selling our production in the market, not even keeping up with regular member fees. All we need in this first phase is to create free knowledge, share and become interwoven the way we know best, extend the intangible, and build the material commons; build social currency networks based on faircoin, such as the Faircredit project already presented.

We can innovate to create value together in many areas of the commons.

We can each contribute our bit of knowledge, political participation, time, donations, products, services, investment, network-building, each based on their capabilities and priorities.

The market will value this by buying our cryptocurrency and pushing up the value of our social capital, in relation to other currencies. So, we can finally “squat” or “occupy” the forex markets, responsible for so much inequality, and recover from some part – large or small, only time will tell – of these injustices.

I can imagine that this all might seem contradictory to some anticapitalists – me, articulating the role of money markets in this project.

Anyone trying to quit using money,  who has already done a lot of work involving community economy and direct exchange, can certainly go beyond Fair.Coop’s monetary initiatives. This does not prevent them from getting involved as one more in collective creation and political participation.

But most of us who often do use currency, whether fiat or social, for trading or saving, are dependent on a reference framework for prices and store-of-value function (which is imposed by central banks), so we are in some ways passive partners of the system we want to overcome.

Moreover, I would like to remind you that the foreign exchange market is an indisputible historical reality, over 100 years old, with a trend toward being less and less regulated. In recent years, only authoritarian states (such as the case of China, where value is set by government decision) have explored a second path in relation to how to deal politically with the market. Meanwhile, as far as I know (from sectors with related ideas, shared in the context of the integral revolution), despite having tried various pathways toward using social currencies as exchange tools, up until now there have been no previous approaches created regarding how to confront the forex market to build global economic empowerment.

In recent years, new cryptocurrency exchange markets have appeared, outside the control of governments. Therefore, it is no longer necessary to have a country and a central bank in order to have a currency that can be exchanged across the world. The banking system is outdated, and more and more of us are realizing it. The path we’re taking now is toward building something that will someday consolidate a global alternative.

What was missing for us to start out on this path was a monetary initiative present in these markets which, instead of relying on human competition to retain the greatest value, would be based on human cooperation as equals, to create value for all. With the arrival of Fair.Coop, faircoin has become the cryptocurrency focused on the social cooperation that was missing.

We will see over time whether the way we’re choosing is the best or not, but at least with this initiative we now have a path to explore, as far as addressing this global issue of how to create a more just economic system, with the level of social cooperation that this planet needs and the current technology allows.

Fair Coop is born! Let’s get interconnected – let’s share, discuss, build!

Everything is waiting to be done and everything is possible. Now it’s up to us!

Let’s be the change we want to see in the world!

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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Economy and Business, Ethical Economy, Guest Post, Media, Networks, Open Innovation, Open Models, Original Content, P2P Business Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Foundation, P2P Money, Videos | 5 Comments »

Theses on P2P Politics, published in “The Square”

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
16th September 2014


The latest issue of “The Square” newspaper, edited by Ivor Stodolsky, features articles by Michel Bauwens, Nika Dubrovsky/ Feminist Pencil, Grey Violet (aka Maria Shtern), Núria Güell, G.U.L.F., Noah Fischer/Occupy Museums, Teivo Teivainen & Ivor Stodolsky, Telekommunisten and Nadya Tolokno (Tolokonnikova) of Zona Prava/Pussy Riot. Michel’s piece is entitled “Thesis in P2P Politics”

 

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Posted in Activism, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Networks, Open Government, P2P Collaboration, Politics | No Comments »

Project of the Day: Geeks Without Bounds

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
12th September 2014


 Geeks Without Bounds (GWOB) supports humanitarian open source projects through a combination of hackathons and an accelerator program which takes promising projects through six months of mentorship towards sustainability. GWOB also engages in a range of educational programs aimed at increasing diversity in the technology workforce, helping technologists better understand humanitarian issues, and helping those who work in humanitarian fields learn more about technology.

The organization has a strong focus on appropriate technologies and codesign principles. Many of the technologies which GWOB works with are intended to be deployed in low-resource situations, whether during a disaster or in less developed countries, and therefore need to work within the restrictions of those environments. Other tools may be intended for use in developed countries, but by those with various disadvantages within those countries, and so the technology must take into account considerations such as language barriers, reading ability, and lack of internet access. The issues of environmentalism, fuel use, and potential side effects of any new technology are also concerns, and every effort is made to ensure that projects that GWOB works on will improve upon the environmental impacts of any previous solution that may be replaced.

Hackathons

Hackathons are events, usually held over a weekend, that bring programmers, designers, engineers, and subject matter experts together to work on a set of themed challenges. GWOB has organized hackathons in the Random Hacks of Kindness series, the Everyone Hacks model, and as part of the International Space Apps Challenge. GWOB has also been contracted by various organizations including Partnership for A Healthier America, HP, and Netsuite to run hackathons on their behalf.

GWOB has developed a system for running hackathons which encourages greater diversity among participants, engages non-technologists in more of the workflow of the weekend, and rewards cross-team cooperation over direct competition. These events include educational talks at the beginning of the weekend, and sometimes during breaks. The intent of the talks is to improve the quality of outcomes during the weekend, but many attendees cite the learning aspect of the weekend as one of the top reasons to participate in a GWOB-run hackathon. The GWOB hackathon model has also been successfully used in school and university settings as a learning and assessment tool for science, general ICT and cyber security courses.

As of August 2014, GWOB has run more than 50 separate hackathon events around the world.

The Accelerator Program

Since GWOB has no fixed location, and operates on a small budget, the accelerator model that has evolved over several rounds revolves around bi-weekly meetings with each team over Google Hangouts. Most meetings include one or more volunteer mentors who can help the team with one area of concern. Examples of mentorship areas include legal containers for open source projects, IP law for open source projects, fundraising, technical help for engineering challenges, security concerns, and codesign principles. Whenever possible, the mentor meetings are recorded and posted to YouTube for the benefit of others.

History

Geeks Without Bounds was founded in 2010 by Johnny Diggz and Willow Brugh as a fiscally sponsored[1] project of The School Factory. Immediately, hackathons became the major focus of the organization as a method to find new solutions to ongoing problems in disaster response and humanitarian aid. Some of the solutions created at GWOB-organized hackathons were tested at an assortment of disaster response drills to varying degrees of success.

By early 2012 it became clear that hackathons alone were not going to create the solutions that were needed in the field. Two main problems existed:

  1. Projects created at hackathons often lose momentum quickly after the event and
  2. Technologies created in a weekend often lack deeper insight into the needs of the end users of those tools.

At this point, the accelerator was created to take a few of the best projects from hackathons and give them the support to grow beyond the hackathon weekend’s experiments.

Organization

Geeks Without Bounds currently has three full time employees who function as peers in a leadership team. The titles on their business cards are just to help outsiders to know which issues to direct towards which individual, based on each person’s skill set and prefered duties.

Willow Brugh is responsible for connecting people together, herding hackers, and making sure that everyone in the organization does what they say that they were going to do.

Lindsay Oliver is the go-to person for organizing events. She is also the master writer of the team, and in general, if it’s published by GWOB in some way, she most likely either wrote it or edited it.

Lisha Sterling is responsible for ongoing organizational development and fundraising. She’s also the code-and-server-fixer-upper.

GWOB also has an advisory board that meets semi-regularly to discuss the general direction of the organization and give advice to the leadership team. The advisory board also votes on prospective accelerator teams.

Note

  1. ? In the United States, fiscal sponsorship is a formal arrangement in which a federal 501(c)(3) public charity functions as an umbrella organization for a related organization that may lack tax exempt status. This allows a small group to seek grants and solicit tax-deductible donations under the sponsor’s exempt status with a lower overall administrative cost.
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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Project, Free Software, Networks, Open Hardware and Design, Open Innovation, Open Models, P2P Action Items, P2P Collaboration, P2P Lifestyles, Sharing | No Comments »

Project of the Day: Infrastructures.cc

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
11th September 2014


We are very happy to share with you the following project description, culled from Infrastructures.cc‘s webpage. We’re specially glad to see them choose the Peer Production License for their work. Is the PPL perfect or will it work? My answer to that is that a) No it isn’t but it’s the best option currently out there and b) There’s only one way to find out! So full props to Infrastructures for taking the leap.


Government infrastructure management is all too commonly perceived as inadequate, compared to that of the private sector. Decisions in the public sector are based on a need for collective profitability and often over the long term; they also may be driven by a collective desire to attribute non-monetary values to a project. Thus, it is reasonable to expect that effective infrastructure management may differ between the public and private sectors. And at the same time, it might be absurdly easy to say that because a hospital, or a road, that is managed by the public will have to be less well managed than it would be as a private project.

What if, equipped with semantic tools, the actors of the culture of Commoning could become leaders into achieving and demonstrating operational excellence in managing various collective infrastructures, in a never experienced quality level?

The proposed strategy of infrastructures.cc involves creating and providing access to a collective and documented directory of semantic models adaptations for the management of infrastructures and the activities they support. It offers the container of an integrated operations management and documentation tool, as much as operation manuals contents: « how to » efficiently manage different aspects of various infrastructure types.

Our active sharing projects are :

  • Collective permaculture farm conception
  • Hospital Management
  • Video production and its sequences characterization, for remixing purpose (in relation with Remix the Commons
  • Quebec Fiddle’s dynamic and living Encyclopedia

smw.infrastructures.ccWe invite to discover and experiment the many ways this management manual may be reused and collaboratively enhanced to benefit services and goods production, adaptable in a wide variety of contexts. Being initially developped in French, but with great multilingual possibilities, we also invite you to invest in this collective project by supporting us, either by proposing semantic models in English, by participating to it’s English development, or even in a financial contribution.

You are welcome to contact Guillaume Coulombe at gcoulombe (a) procedurable.com for any comments or requests about infrastructures.cc.

infrastructures.cc is shared under the Peer Production Licence.

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Posted in Collective Intelligence, Cooperatives, Culture & Ideas, Ethical Economy, Featured Content, Featured Project, Networks, Open Models, P2P Collaboration, Peer Property | No Comments »

Podcast of the Day/C-Realm: tante and Lisha Sterling on The Limits of Privacy

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
6th September 2014


KMO of the C-Realm podcast, interviews  network-commonist tante and P2P Foundation friends Lisha Sterling, from Geeks Without Bounds. Here’s the original post on the C-Realm website.


Worried Monkey learns to solder at Hope X.

Worried Monkey learns to solder at Hope X

KMO attended Hope X in NYC this past weekend (July 18 – 20, 2014) where he recorded an interview with tante (AKA Jürgen Geuter) about the unrealistic expectations we heap upon on idea of privacy. Specifically, he argues that our efforts are misdirected if we campaign against the invasion of our privacy when what we really want to prevent is discrimination and victimization. Lisha Sterling responds to this by admitting the limited benefit to be derived from beefed-up privacy laws, but she argues that  privacy is a biological and psychological need. tante gets the last word with a discussion of the incompatibility of liberal democracies and unaccountable and secretive intelligence agencies.

 

Music by Lindsay Katt.

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Posted in Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Project, Media, Networks, P2P Education, P2P Public Policy, P2P Rights, Podcasts, Politics, Technology | No Comments »

Book of the Day: The Social Lives of Networked Teens

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hartsellml
30th August 2014


It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens by Danah Boyd

Description

‘What is new about how teenagers communicate through services such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram? Do social media affect the quality of teens’ lives? In this eye-opening book, youth culture and technology expert danah boyd uncovers some of the major myths regarding teens’ use of social media. She explores tropes about identity, privacy, safety, danger, and bullying. Ultimately, boyd argues that society fails young people when paternalism and protectionism hinder teenagers’ ability to become informed, thoughtful, and engaged citizens through their online interactions. Yet despite an environment of rampant fear-mongering, boyd finds that teens often find ways to engage and to develop a sense of identity.

Boyd’s conclusions are essential reading not only for parents, teachers, and others who work with teens but also for anyone interested in the impact of emerging technologies on society, culture, and commerce in years to come. Offering insights gleaned from more than a decade of original fieldwork interviewing teenagers across the United States, boyd concludes reassuringly that the kids are all right. At the same time, she acknowledges that coming to terms with life in a networked era is not easy or obvious. In a technologically mediated world, life is bound to be complicated.’ (http://www.amazon.com/dp/0300166311/?tag=slatmaga-20)

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Posted in Featured Book, Networks | No Comments »

How Tech-Savvy Podemos Became One of Spain’s Most Popular Parties in 100 Days

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
25th August 2014


The Podemos banner asks, “When is the last time you voted with hope?” (Podemos Uvieu/flickr)

Originally published in Techpresident, this recent report by Carola Friedani details the unstoppable rise of Podemos and the participatory tools that have enabled it. We’re especially happy to see our friends at Loomio mentioned as one of Podemos’ go-to tools.


It has been called “a radical left sensation”; a “fledgling party” born out of the ashes of the Indignados (“the outraged”) or 15-M movement; and “the new-kid-on-the-block” whose success is yet another example of modern technopolitics or, as some experts have put it, “the power of the connected multitudes.”

Podemos (“We Can”), a new Spanish party established in March 2014, disrupted their nation’s political scene when it swept up five seats out of 54 and 1.2 million votes (8% of the total) in the European elections in May even though it was only 100-days-old. With 704,585 likes on Facebookand 321,000 followers on Twitter, it has more online fans than any other Spanish political party.

Founded by left-wing academics, and led by a 35-year-old political science lecturer, Pablo Iglesias, Podemos’ platform strongly advocates for anti-corruption and transparency measures, is supportive of participatory democracy and critical of the two main parties – the PP (the center-right People’s Party) and the PSOE (the Socialist Party) – as well as the government’s austerity measures. As Iglesias told the Guardian, Podemos is about “citizens doing politics.”

Iñigo Errejón, a researcher at the Complutense University of Madrid, and the coordinator of Podemos’ electoral campaign, tells techPresident, “The rise of Podemos is about their new way of reading and articulating widespread citizen discontent, which had previously surfaced within the 15-M movement.”

Podemos is considered an offshoot of 15-M, a tech-savvy group that from 2011 to 2012 protested against the country’s political inefficacy, high unemployment and other political and economic woes.According to Cristina Flesher Fominay, founder and co-chair of the Council for European Studies Social Movement and a professor at the University of Aberdeen, Podemos’ popularity was made possible in part by its roots in 15-M as well as the charismatic and media-savvy leadership of Iglesias and the party’s ability to mobilize the youth, unemployed and voters that tend to abstain.

The party’s success also came from deep changes to the way politics has been done, says Errejón, a combination of bold reforms and use of technology to make the decision-making process as inclusive and transparent as possible.

Crowdfunding

Compared to a standard campaign, which in Spain can cost more than 2 million euros per party, Podemos succeeded with hardly any money, initially raising 100,000 euros (US$133,650) through crowdfunding.

Podemos’ charismatic leader Pablo Iglesias speaks at a rally (credit: CyberFrancis/flickr)

“Since the beginning, we believed that we needed to be financially independent from banks and corporations, and for this reason we asked for citizen funding,” Eric Labuske, 26, and Miguel Ardanuy, 23, who are members of Podemos, wrote in a joint e-mail to techPresident. “We have used crowdfunding for specific projects, such as building servers for our web platforms and materials for our political campaigns. We also use a monthly donation system to cover all our expenses.” Labuske coordinates citizen participation activities within the party and Ardanuy is part of a working group that is organizing Podemos’ Constituent Assembly (Asamblea Ciudadana) in October 2014 when members will debate and vote on proposals for an agenda, as well as the future trajectory of the party.

Not only is crowdfunding important in distancing themselves from the sway of corporate funding, according to Labuske and Ardanuy, it also enables citizens to get involved politically and, as a result, forces the party to be as transparent as possible. “As our funding depends on small donations from citizens, we have the obligation of being accountable and transparent, by publishing our accounts and balances online,” they explain. Podemos also documents its crowdsourcing process online.

Even now, crowdfunding is Podemos’ main source of funding, making up more than half of all its resources with the rest coming from regular donations. The party has collected more than 150,000 euros (US$200,450) since March 2014 through more than 10,000 funders.

Some of the money is used for specific projects; for example, when the PP accused Iglesias of associations with the Basque terrorist group, ETA, Podemos raised more than 16,000 euros(US$21,380) in three hours to defend themselves against libelous attacks.

Podemos also met their 23,000 euros (US$30,735) goal for organizing its Constituent Assembly. Any member can participate and anyone can become a member by filling out an online form.

Podemos’ lean crowdfunding model is also reflected in their bold reforms for public spending. It aims to set MEP salaries at 1,930 euros (US$2,580), or triple the national minimum wage, as opposed to the standard 8,000 euros (US$10,690) a month, and use the extra income towards building the party or towards a particular cause. Podemos also hopes to set a minimum guaranteed income and reform financial regulation.

Online voting and decision making

A large part of Podemos’ digital strategy is turning decision-making into an inclusive, citizen-driven process. It used an online platform, Agora Voting, to select their Euro-MPs during the primaries, attracting 33,000 voters who were verified through SMS. While those votes only account for 3 percent of their actual voter base, Podemos was the only party aside from Partido X, a 15-M spin-off founded over a year before them, that used open primaries, which allowed any voter regardless of party affiliation to throw in their support. Podemos also used Agora to select their executive coordination team, a group of 26 in charge of organizing the Constituent Party Assembly.

So far the platform has been used to vote directly for candidates, but in the long run Podemos may use some of the other voting models supported by the platform, such as liquid delegation. This form of voting allows a participant to delegate his or her vote to someone else they feel has more expertise, but the delegation can also be revoked. Agora also supports single transferable voting, a system that seeks to create proportional representation through the ranking of candidates in order of preference on a ballot.

Currently, Podemos is working on an even more ambitious project. LaboDemo (Laboratorio Democrático), a techno-political consulting and researching organization that is focused on how to use Internet tools to optimize democratic processes, began to collaborate with Podemos in June on testing new apps that would allow for instant mass polling.

“We started to test a number of tools after a national meeting of all the ‘Circulos’ on 14th June,” Yago Bermejo Abati, the coordinator of LaboDemo, tells techPresident. The ‘Circulos’ or Circles are local, offline places for citizen participation that are open to all, launched by Podemos in order to fulfil its ambition of being a real citizens’ party. The Circulos have been one of the key factors of Podemos’ success. Today there are around 800 Circles scattered throughout the country. During meetings, members discuss policy issues, such as debating the proposals that will be brought to Podemos’ National Party Assembly. They often use Titanpad, a tool that allows many people to edit one document. “That means that everyone can take part in the building of Podemos. This is democracy,”says a post on one of the local Circulos’ Facebook page.

A screenshot of Podemos’ Circulos map

Podemos also uses the Circulos as a place to test new apps. “Appgree was first tested at the national meeting,” says Bermejo Abati. Appgree is a mobile app that filters proposals by type and can quickly poll thousands of people simultaneously. More than 9,000 participated during the national Circulos meeting in June and more than 5,000 were on the app simultaneously. A number of questions were proposed, for example, like suggesting a collective tweet to the president of Spain.

“We think Appgree will be useful in the future to allow very fast feedback regarding proposals or polls,” explains Bermejo Abati.

Another online platform Podemos just began to use in order to maximise participation is Reddit. “We believe that everyone needs to be part of the construction of Podemos,” say Labuske and Ardanay. “And unlike the other political parties in Spain, we want to use [Reddit] to enforce democracy in our country. We think that transparency and direct contact between politicians and citizens are vital to reach the level of democracy we want.” After LaboDemo suggested it, Podemos decided to use Reddit’s “ask me anything” feature to enable the party’s political candidates to debate with citizens.

“We wanted to create a massive national debate. We have chosen Reddit as our platform and we call it Plaza Podemos,” adds Bermejo Abati.

Plaza Podemos received more than 80,000 unique visits and more than 400,000 page visits since its launch about one month ago. During this time the party also hosted four Reddit interviews with Podemos Euro-MPs Pablo Echenique, Lola SànchezCarlos Jiménez and Teresa Rodrìguez, each of them answering hundreds of questions posed by users.

“We conceive Plaza Podemos as a virtual square to deliberate, discuss and visualize all the issues that concern Podemos’ followers,” says Bermejo Abati. “Since these interviews are done directly by the people, they produce truly interesting questions. It is also a great way for the MPs to explain some of their actions in the European Parliament.” Plaza Podemos is also enabling the offline Circulos to connect to each other virtually.

Podemos intends to utilize Reddit to debate the ethical, political and organizational principles that are going to be voted on at their National Citizen Assembly in October. The Reddit debates provide a new way of interacting with a political party and Bermejo Abati believes it will develop into a “new kind of politics.”

Another participatory platform that Podemos is currently experimenting with is Loomio, a collaborative and open source decision-making platform that allows groups of people to discuss issues, propose actions, gauge group opinion and are given a set deadline to vote. It aims to encourage consensus-making rather than the polarization of an issue.

“After Podemos adopted our platform, several thousand Podemos folk have now started 396 groups within the last month,” Ben Knight, co-founder of Loomio, tells techPresident. Some of them are local groups, like Podemos Toledo. Others are thematic, like Podemos Economistas, which as its name suggests, debates the party’s economic policy. “[Loomio’s] user-base and total activity have almost doubled as a result,” adds Knight.

A screenshot of Plaza Podemos on Reddit.

The problem with “e-democracy”

Despite Podemos’ success, it is not without its critics, especially those who pursue similar goals of using online participation to create a more inclusive democratic process.

“[The party] has been very efficient on social networks,” Simona Levi, a prominent former 15-M activist and a co-founder of Partido X, says to techPresident. “However it still hasn’t addressed some problems, such as the risk of clicktivism, of implementing a fallacious idea of participation.” She wonders how Podemos will prevent decisions being made primarily by those with the time to participate or whether people who vote online are really informed before they cast their ballot, especially when it comes to complicated policy issues like political or economic reform.

Levi explains that Partido X tried to address these problems with their own version of online political participation based on the idea that online participation by itself is not enough and that people don’t need to express an opinion on everything, especially if they are not informed enough.

“Our methodology seeks to go beyond clicktivism, introducing the idea of responsibility, competence and scalability in the participatory decision-making process,” she says. For instance, Partido X tried to implement a decision-making process based less on majority voting and more on consensus, less on opinion and more on expertise.

However noble Partido X’s attempt at creating a more meaningful platform for political engagement, it was less effective at communicating its vision to the public. While Partido X was often considered the main heir to 15-M, it was unable to win any seats in the last election while Podemos has become the fourth largest national political force and the third largest in many regions, including Madrid.

Podemos’ founders do realize its methods are far from perfect. “We are always looking to improve our participation systems and looking to find new ones,” say Labuske and Ardanuy. “Improving democracy is one of our main objectives, and we believe that technology is very important in reaching that goal.” And despite its flaws, Podemos is leading the way in online politics in Spain.

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.

Personal Democracy Media is grateful to the Omidyar Network for its generous support of techPresident’s WeGov section.

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Posted in Activism, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Featured Essay, Networks, Open Government, Open Models, P2P Collaboration, P2P Public Policy, Politics | No Comments »

Dmytri Kleiner on how to set up a publicly accessible Tor-based forum

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
11th August 2014


My criticism of Facebook and other sites is not they are not useful, it is rather that they are private, centralized, proprietary platforms. Also, simply abstaining from Facebook in the name of my own media purity is not something that I’m interested in, I don’t see capitalism as a consumer choice, I’m more interested in the condition of the masses, than my own consumer correctness. In the end it’s clear that criticizing platforms like Facebook today means using those platforms. Thus, I became a user and set up the Telekommunisten page. Unsurprisingly, it’s been quite successful for us, and reaches a lot more people than our other channels, such as our websites, mailing lists, etc. Hopefully it will also help us promote new decentralized channels as well, as they become viable.

Dmytri Kleiner

Dmytri Kleiner

I couldn’t agree more; using the master’s tools to help bring down a rapidly collapsing house is better than leaving those tools untouched. This certainly doesn’t stop us from finding or creating new tools to repurpose what remains. The shortcomings and profit-driven design imperatives of these platforms should be well understood by their users, and that is what we strive to do at the Foundation: educating users on the full spectrum of ideas related to Social Media.

Personal reflections aside, it’s good to see Kleiner and the gang at ThoughtWorks Werkstatt Berlin still leading the way in combining proprietary access with surveillance-conscious tools. Their latest creation in this burgeoning space is Werkstatt Groups, a web forum running on a Tor hidden service!

How have they achieved this? Kleiner explains it in the article below (originally published in his blog).

werkstatt

 

ThoughtWorks Werkstatt Berlin hosts many different working groups, including several Cryptoparties, The Kids’ Hacker Club, and the Marx-Engels Werkshau group. In order for the groups to plan and stay in touch with each other in between their meetings at Werkstatt, we have implemented Werkstatt Groups, an online discussion forum based on NodeBB.

Creating a discussion channel for Werkstatt is tricky, since working group participants range from Tor project contributors, who are very knowledgable and concerned about technology and privacy issues, to kids, to political activists, who have other interests and areas of focus, and may be still learning about technology and privacy issues. So the Werkstatt Groups platform needs to be something that is usable across the spectrum, to be a place where privacy experts and privacy novices can intereact online.

Looking at the options available, a simple web forum became the most reasonable choice. With the many working groups at Werkstatt, managing dozens of mailing lists seems unworkable. Usenet, alas, has become entombed behind paywalls, and is inaccessable to most people, except through untrusted interfaces like Google Groups. Platforms that offer groups functionality like Facebook obviously have privacy issues, among many others, and old favourites like IRC and Jabber are not particularly suitable for asynchronous group discussion.

So how to set up a web forum that respects privacy? Run it on a Tor hidden service!

Before I explain how this was done, I need to start with a disclaimer: Werkstatt Groups makes no guarantees of privacy or anonymity, Tor is designed to provide anonymity. However, identifying all the possible ways in which the software running the forum may leak information is not easy, so use caution and report any issues or potential issues to us.

There are two ways to access this site, the recommended way is Tor Browser. Downloading and installing Tor Browser Bundle takes seconds and ensures that all your browser traffic goes over Tor and that your browser doesn’t leak any information and is difficult to fingerprint.

Using Tor Browser, you can access Werkstatt Groups using this url: http://vgnx2fk2co55genc.onion. Note HTTPS is not used, this is because the connection is already encrypted by Tor.

The other way of accessing it is by way of the public URL, http://groups.werkstatt.tw, which links to HTTPS when you access the forum. This is a reverse proxy running on a different server than the one that hosts the hidden service, accessing the hidden service over the tor network, thus making the site publicly accessible outside of the Tor network by way of a public url, while at the same time not revealing the location of the hidden service.

The NodeBB platform itself is a very dynamic, responsive platform which makes heavy use of websockets by way of socket.io, this is very advantageous over Tor, as a request to a hidden service needs to traverse 6 different servers, making page loads very expensive. Minimizing page loads by way of websocket requests compensates for this.

However, NodeBB also has some drawbacks, the platform uses Gravatar and Google Fonts, and socket.io includes a Flash fallback option, so a small Flash object is loaded in the site. All these issues are fixable, and are on our isssues list, however the best way to defend against these kinds of issues is to use Tor Browser. This way, even requests to Gravatar and Google Fonts go over Tor, and potentially dangerous plugins like Flash are blocked. However, JavaScript running in the browser is always a security concern, as exploits are possible. Also, NodeBB is beta software in very active development, and we are running the bleeding-edge head-of-branch, so expect glitches and some downtime.

OK, OK, so with all that out of the way, here is how the setup works. If all you want to do is use the forum, just get started here: http://groups.werkstatt.tw, however if you want to know how the setup works, keep reading. This assumes a relatively expert knowledge of server setup, including node, tor, nginx and iptables.

Please visit Dmytri Kleiner’s blog for the full technical details

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The P2P Foundation joins the Post-Growth Alliance

photo of Stacco Troncoso

Stacco Troncoso
2nd August 2014


PGA

Image Credit: Films for Action

The P2P Foundation is glad to announce its participation in the Post Growth Alliance. The Alliance, created by our friends at the Post Growth Institute, has initiated dialogues among a growing number of collectives spanning 14 countries and with a commonly agreed-on set of values. The groups involved work tirelessly on behalf of ecological and social justice, post-growth strategies, stewardship of the Commons and, of course, P2P. The Alliance aims to mutualise our social media reach by cross-posting curated content on subjects that matter.

Given our informed choice to use netarchical platforms to spread our message (and, incidentally, criticise netarchical platforms and their biases) the Alliance’s combined social media reach of over 2 million followers is not a bad thing.  To be precise, as of July 7th there were 2, 269, 659 followers (Facebook: 2,021,404; Twitter: 248, 255). The combined figure is increasing daily by about 4,000. Over time, we would like to see the incorporation of more decentralised social media channels into that equation.

To give an example of its current reach, Share the World’s Resources’ recent FB post on worldwide economic sharing, republished by the Alliance, has received over 20,000 views on the Post Growth Institute’s page alone. If you want to follow all the groups involved in the PGA on Facebook, you can add them quickly through this list. If you want to follow them on Twitter, click here.

Amongst other things, the PGA organized a record-breaking Silent Skype Meeting with representatives from most of the collectives. We’ve benefited in other ways aside from the social media reach the Alliance offers us, including very constructive dialogues with the Sustainable Economies Law Center on the subject of Open Coops and with Share the World’s Resources on strategies for a Partner State. We really want to thank Donnie Maclurcan, Becky Hollender and the rest of the team for organising such a great initiative. Please read more about the Post Growth Alliance in the material below.

Post Growth Alliance

Together let’s shape the more beautiful world our hearts know is possible!

In a groundbreaking development, 50 organizations have come together to form the Post Growth Alliance. These groups will selectively cross-post the very best content that is helping to motivate systemic change and reshape our world(views).

As of July 7th, the PGA’s combined social media reach is a staggering: 2, 269, 659! (Facebook: 2,021,404; Twitter: 248, 255). The combined figure is increasing daily by 3,856.

Post Growth Alliance – Overview

What is it?

A low-key alliance of like-minded groups, using a simple strategy to harness collective reach in order to enhance the individual impacts of each group and grow the broader Post Growth movement.

How does it work?

The group does two, simple things:

1. Updating – at an annual, 1-3hr typed Skype meeting we keep each other updated of each organization’s plans, offers and needs

2. Sharing – via a ‘blind’ group email, we receive a limited amount of high-quality content from alliance group members, which we agree to consider reposting via our social media and other marketing channels.

How does the updating process work?

Once a year we hold a fast-paced, online, silent (typed) meeting, via Skype (for more about how such a process works, read here). Every group has a representative present who will share pre-prepared information with the group (i.e., copy and pasting information into the chat). Groups will be encouraged to submit their content through an existing form in advance of the meeting, in case, for any reason, their representative is unable to make the meeting for technical, scheduling or other reasons. The meeting’s format is as follows:

  1. Welcome by the chair and explanation of process (10 min.)
  2. Groups then present dot point, pre-prepared organizational updates (organizations present in alphabetical order, at the chair’s prompting) (100 min.).

The chair will then open the floor for all groups to comment/ask questions of the presenting group. In order to keep the meeting fast, members are encouraged to follow-up any matching of offers/needs outside the meeting

  1. Nomination of new members (any alliance member may nominate another group. Acceptance will be by group majority, with the Post Growth Institute holding the right to veto) (10 min.)
  2. Reflections on process/appreciations (10 min.)
  3. Any other business (5 min.)
  4. Close

How does the sharing process work?

Each alliance member organization has a representative who agrees to be on the alliance email list. Each member organization may send a maximum of four items per year (links to articles, campaigns, videos or images – they don’t even have to be your own, or original, work) to the group, using a set template (currently under design, possibly a Google Form) for Facebook, Twitter and newsletter messages. Each alliance member is encouraged to repost (either as a copy/paste function or a retweet/share) all content from other members, but the decision to repost is always voluntary, with each group able to use discretion. The Post Growth Institute will moderate/curate the content.

How is the alliance intellectually/philosophically like-minded?

Alliance members have been selected on the expectation of agreement with the Post Growth Institute’s Starting Positions, as well as their anticipated interest in cross-promoting content from other alliance members. These positions are:

1: All people can live one-planet lifestyles in ways that bring increased peace and prosperity from the personal to the global scale

There are a myriad of inspiring and empowering initiatives occurring worldwide that serve as examples of what our world can look like if we move beyond current trends that focus on personal gain, private profit, materialism and economic growth. By highlighting, connecting and supporting these initiatives we can help accelerate our global transition towards sustainable and resilient prosperity.

2. One-planet lifestyles acknowledge physical limits to economic growth on a planet with finite resources

Economies exist within the physical environment. Their existence relies upon the continued use of natural resources like water, forests and agricultural land. These natural resources are either non-renewable (limited in total amount) or are produced at a rate that is limited by the environment’s ability to regenerate them. The other side of this is nature’s ability to absorb the wastes that we produce.  If economies produce waste faster than nature can absorb that waste, we undermine the planet’s ability to sustain human existence.

We are already using natural resources at a rate higher than that at which they are naturally renewed and creating wastes faster than nature can absorb them (known as ecological overshoot).  Continued economic growth will only worsen this predicament. One-planet living acknowledges that we can, and must, mould our economies to fit within the limits imposed by our physical environment.

3. One-planet lifestyles acknowledge the pressures a growing human population, with highly inequitable patterns of production and consumption, place on a planet with finite physical resources.

Every human on Earth must consume natural resources to live.  If we are to survive and thrive into the future, we must together consume within natural boundaries and produce less waste than nature can absorb. Some of us are consuming far more than our fair share of resources and producing excessive waste, while the total population is growing. We need to address inequalities and find ways to maintain a better balance.

4. One-planet lifestyles also acknowledge that advances in technology do not mean we can keep growing indefinitely

Technology cannot create something from nothing. For example, technology can’t change the fact that there is a limited amount of oil; it can only squeeze a little more use from existing reserves. In a world with more people and higher rates of consumption, increases in technological efficiency can, at best, buy us more time before such gains are cancelled out by further growth.

Globally, improvements in the efficiency of technologies, or even leaps to other substitutes, have not been able to offset overall increases in resource consumption and waste.  In fact, these improvements in efficiency have, in many cases, driven more wasteful attitudes and increased overall consumption (see “Jevons Paradox”).  Rather than relying on technology alone, we must challenge the obsession with infinite growth on a finite planet.

 

 

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Posted in Activism, Campaigns, Collective Intelligence, Commons, Crowdsourcing, Culture & Ideas, Featured Content, Networks, Original Content, P2P Collaboration, P2P Foundation, Sharing | No Comments »