Announcement: The Networked Politics seminar

A summary of the announcement, but with a focus on explaining the important four lines of inquiry.

In broad terms, the Networked Politics initiative is an inquiry into the shift from centralized and hierarchical forms of organization towards decentralized and horizontal forms from the perspective of new ways of organising for social change.

The goals of organizing a Networked Politics seminar on Techno Politics at the San Francisco Bay Area are

i) to enlarge the exchanges and the cooperation in between Europe and the United States;

ii) to connect and learn from the experiences of social forums and social movements in both continents;

iii) to profit by the uniqueness of the technological innovations and experiences based at the Bay Area and build connexions between the social forum process and the technological innovation.

The dates of the seminar are the 5-6-7 of December 2008 (Friday afternoon, Saturday and Sunday).
The seminar (Saturday and Sunday) will be hosted by the School of Information of UC of Berkeley.

For more info, contact lilaroja(at) ; event page at

The four lines of Inquiry:

1. First line of discussion: Platforms for participation: The goal of this section is to analyze and compare the organizational structure of the Social Forums and of online communities experiences, in order to understanding something more of the organisational logic voluntary and decentralized forms of coming together. We thought it would be useful to investigate parallels, metaphors and lessons and make a comparison, analyzing similarities and differences, between the two cases of the Social forums and of the platforms of social networking or of collaborative and distributed production online (e.g. Wikipedia).

The idea would be to explore:

i. the different layers and logics of the space: core group/providers, design of rules/protocols opened to the participation, active participants/producers, users/consumers;

ii. the tense combination of common principles and strategic goals from one side and openness, diversity, self-organization and horizontality from the other;

iii. the logic of inclusion and exclusion and of the different cultural/social backgrounds in a networking logic.

iv. the forms of conflicts and of their resolution.

v. what happens when networks go wrong?

vi. how are networks sustained and reproduced – when sustainability is desirable?

2. Second line of discussion: When do new social media and political activists converge/match?

It seems that social movements are no longer at the forefront innovation in the use of the new media. On the other hand, there is a proliferation of “successful” experiences of online commmunities that appear to share some values and organisational principles (connecting diversities, organizing distributed participation, a spirit and mechanisms of sharing and collaboration, openness …) with social movements, together with many differences. Another focus of inquiry would be the efforts to build intentionally techno-political tools, which have, in general, had limited success. Examples of both of these would be presented and discussed at the seminar. The goal of this session is to analyze different cases of building tools for political participation and democratic organization. These experiences will be also compared with and related to those of the web communities. The scope is to identity among other things: “wrong/false” expectations; possible organizational and cultural limits in appropriating/using the new technologies of information; patterns of online interaction; ways of combining democratic organizing and governing with the constraints implied by the medium; conditions for an online community formation.

3. Third line of discussion: New institutions: the rediscovery of the commons.

From many different contexts and many different social movements there is a growing recovery of the concept of common goods. While in the global South it is based on the defense of a form of property of natural resources, a form of common property that is shared source of livelihood and existence for a huge number of poor people, the concept of the commons has recently emerged – though argued in different terms – also in the FOSS movement, in open knowledge movements, in environmentalist movements, in the debate about the governance of complex infrastructures of communication (included internet), and in many movements against the privatization of fundamental goods or services, etc.

In general, the concept seems to address in a new way – not simply through the state – the issue of the definition and of the governance of public goods and of a public sphere. Moreover, the re-emergence of the concept appears to be connected with the conditions of a networked and globalized society and form of production and culture. In this section, the notion of the commons will be analyzed as an area of research about distributed production, the management of cooperation and as a useful metaphor in the search of new forms of public and democratic institutions.

4. A fourth section of debate: The USA Social Forum experience.

This section is still under definition but it will address the specifics and the wider potential of the experience of the USA Social Forum. The idea is to organize it in an open to the public format, on the Friday before the seminar.”

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