One of the key ways to promote peer to peer social dynamics is simply the ‘distribution of everything’, i.e. slicing up the resources needed for human life and production so that they are under the control of the individual, who can then freely act and engage with others.
Today, despite the emergence and spreading of p2p-inspired technologies, this is at most partially the case, and many aspects of our technical infrastructure, have centralized or decentralized elements that can be potentially controlled by private interests. In each case, we have to judge if these elements of centralization are actually an aid to participation, neutral to it, or hindering it.
This is what I mean with the task of defining the technical characteristics of human emancipation. We would need some kind of dashboard, showing the steps made towards distribution, the obstacles to it, and suggestions as how to overcome it.
For example, many of the larger collaborative platforms, need, because of their success, a large technical resource base, which, despite the so-called marginal reproduction cost of immaterial resources, actually cost a lot of money. This is why we have proprietary Web 2.0 platforms, or why Wikipedia has to rely on donations to survive its success. Donations which make it in turn dependent on those willing to provide the money, which can be governments, corporations, foundations, etc… all with their own agenda.
One possible solution would be to distribute the resource base as well.
Here is a proposal that was sent to us by Gwendal Simon, which aims to study such requirements in detail.
CDÂ² for Collaborative Distributed Content
Development, deals with large-scale digital libraries. Today, digital repositories capable of storing large amounts of contents, providing users continuous access to them and letting users interact with them, are facing a major challenge : the cost of their centralized architecture become tremendous.
The centralized model fails when we talk about scalability and continuous availability, because of the daunting costs of the infrastructure needed for implementing digital library services for millions of users. For the time being, this growing cost is financed by regular calls for donation, but it is probably not sustainable, or at least it may conduct to a growing control of Wikipedia by other main for-profit actors. For these reasons, a new combination of software and hardware infrastructure is needed to build sustainable massively collaborative digital libraries.
The main objective of the CD2 research project is to develop a new model of ICT infrastructure, conceived to support Collaborative Distributed Content Development systems, studying and improving the Wikipedia model and architecture to foster the collaborative creation of quality content by everybody. In this context, collaborative means CD2 will provide tools for building up contents on top of the contributions made by other users, and also for reaching consensus among users about those contents. On the other hand, distributed
reflects the idea of creating a decentralized digital library building upon peer-to-peer (P2P) protocols, without any central repository of contents, letting every peer of the network contribute to expand storage capacity and processing power, archiving some of the contents
and processing content and service access requests.
Besides the technical issues, a key point is to understand what is the social return that
people who participate in Wikipedia receive, and whether they would agree or not to share a part of their computer resources to help the system, instead of (or in addition to) giving time to provide/review contents and donating money. Collateral aspects of this project are related with this renewing non-monetary notion of donation.
This project involves Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (URJC – Spain), Maastricht Economic and Social Research and Training Centre on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT, Netherland), Groupement des Ecoles en Telecommunications (GET/[email protected], France),
Connecta (Italy), XPertNet (XWIKI – France) and Wikimedia-CH (Switzerland). The project is leaded by the Universidad Rey Juan Carlos.
Background about the EU research programme here.