This is a blog post in reply to http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/marcin-jakubowski-on-a-policy-to-expand-material-peer-production-through-land/2008/06/25, and the quote therein from James Edwards:
“I feel that if the movement doesn’t free itself from its dependence on corporate support it can’t legitimately claim to be a viable and credible alternative to the current system.”
Problem is not that p2p production is or is not a viable or credible alternative.
The problem is whether enough people *see* it as a viable alternative. I am not ready to write it off quite yet, as the conditions for change have only just begun to emerge.
I think land is important. But, I already have land. I already own land. And, I am beginning to build ways to produce on that land. It’s not enough to own land. You have to find people who are willing to work with you to change the way you live on that land (which is exactly what Marcin Jakubowski is doing trying very hard to do with http://openfarmtech.org). I fully support what Marcin is exploring, but I am focused on applying work with Marcin to helping people find better ways to live in Urban/Suburban systems, because that is where I am physically located, and it is also where most of the people are.
I think even more than land, property, means of production, etc, while they are all very important, it is the way that people see and regard land, property, etc that will be the fundamental, deep core pattern from which everything else will unfold. That being said, I think part of what will help people see will be to experience hands-on the democratization of design and production of physical technologies, and the immediate/local production of foods.
For instance, the only way for a group of people to take advantage of p2p network dynamics around physical resources like land, is for them to *see* and use the resource, and co-govern the resource, as a commons. This is the *infrastructure* that is needed to replace existing. Not everyone is willing to do this right now.
Therefore, it is my theory that, if you desire to co-govern property, knowledge, land, etc as a commons, that you collaborate directly with those who agree with you. But, you also make room in your plans for those that don’t. Figure out how you will make your alternative systems survive and grow within existing systems.
Also, the people who agree with you, in this day and age, are not going to fall in line lock-step and all do the same thing. The people who are immediately ready to see a change are actually a “Long tail” of people with many different interests. How can you work with all of them? If collaboration really does require social negotiation, then give people space and time to negotiate socially. Don’t sit them all in chairs and make them listen to what you have to say. Turn control over to them, and become an enabler. Remove obstacles and get out of the way. I have seen this work enough, to be thoroughly convinced that bringing people together who resonate with the idea of treating common pool resources as an ongoing “commons”, and letting them hash out how they will create an ecology, will be the route to plausible alternative “peer to peer” infrastructures.
It won’t come from academics, other than some on the fringe of academia, who are already working to change academia. It won’t come from business, other than from people now on the fringe of business who are bypassing traditional business notions and systems.
But wait a minute, let’s rewind back through everything I just wrote here for a minute, because if I am right, and the people who are most ready to change and explore alternative infrastructure systems are part of a “long tail”, that means there are more of us in total than people who want to keep things the same. I think that I could actually find some convincing proof that what I am asserting here is correct, in existing work of different types. At this point, I am just taking it for granted that people like me, who do not like things the way they are, and have insight and desire for change that is workable, outnumber those that want to keep everything the same. If someone reading this would like to challenge me on this assertion, I will do the work of proving it and then we can move on.
The important point is that, if you buy what I am saying (and I do buy what I am saying), the majority who want and are ready for change are fractured by way of their scope and area of interest.
In my opinion, the next thing to do is to start bringing together diverse groups of these people. But don’t try to force them into doing specific tasks. Instead, give them ready and free, unfettered space, time, tools, infrastructure, and they will start to realize the possibilities beyond their current narrow scope of interest. They will start to realize that the building blocks for alternative infrastructure already exist. This “magic, pie in the sky” emergence of realization will happen just as soon as all of the people reading this, all of the people concerned with seeing this type of change, clear paths and get out of the way enough for it to happen. So long as we are foisting our narrow focus upon the great, diverse masses of people who are hungry and excited for change, we’ll just confuse and muddle their genuine progress further.