Extraordinary fourth Oekonux conference marks milestone for P2P movement

The 4th Oekonux Conference is over and it was not just a terribly interesting one (not a single lecture I attended was wasted time, and people were raving about the one’s I missed), but also, I believe, a historical milestone of sorts.

First of all for the Oekonux community itself (really an interlocking of several inter-related networks, one of them being the P2P Foundation). I attended the second one in Berlin some years ago, but missed the third in Vienna. An extraordinary maturation has occurred. The speakers, the participants, the organizers, are no longer just discussing theory or possibilities, but all are now practicioners, constructing the very world and the very alternatives they are discussing. We are realizing how much we already know about successful patterns of practice. Oekonux has also definitely outgrown its historical basis in the free software community, and has now fully embraced the full gamut of peer production, including the recent but very clear move towards peer production in the physical sphere, under the form of open design and open hardware. What is extraordinary is also the diversity: people of all age groups, a sizeable condition of the gender that is usually not very well represented in the FOSS community, people from all kind of career backgrounds and domains of practice, including a new breed of academics. It is altogether rare to find such a natural ‘interdisciplinary’ mix. Though the ‘emancipatory’ strand dominates, it also united people from very diverse political backgrounds.
For the P2P Foundation itself, which was co-organizing, the meeting will have been instrumental in turning the Association of Peer to Peer Researchers, hitherto a virtual association working through a mailing list, into a real institution, which will be based in Hull, and should be of great help in generating funding for peer to peer research.

We also have a much clearer idea about our underlying philosophy for social change: to identify the various successful patterns of peer to peer practice, including work on distributed infrastructures, into a coherent whole. With the deep slump that marks the end of neoliberalism, and the social rage that will grow in the coming years, the peer to peer movement, uniting the three paradigms of open and free, participation, and commons-orientation, will need to be able to point out to such successful patterns, now that the’official’ left has become a mostly conservative force hanging on to the previous achievements of the welfare state, and that many alternative popular mobilizations, such as the recent ones in Greece, lack the ability to propose alternatives. One of the conclusions of different debates was about the need to find connection with progressive social movements, showing them the how the possibilities of peer to peer practices, hyperproductive as they are (also in generating liberty and equality), to form the core of post-capitalist alternatives.

In conclusion, we have to thank the gargantuan task undertaken by Stefan Merten, so instrumental in bringing this about, and the indispensable help of the local Manchester helpers, such as Yuwei Lin, who made the meeting ‘physically’ possible. Stefan’s technique of using a set of specialized and temporary mailing lists for attendees, speakers, helpers, etc… with the wiki as cement, was very effective in ironing out the many problems that can befall self-organized and under-funded events.

It would be unfair to point to any highlights, especially as I could not possible attend all tracks (three per session!!), but here are a few of my picks (most of them available here):

– A very coherent examination of the logic of the commons, by Christian Siefkes
– A very inspiring insight into the progress of personal fabrication efforts, by Smari McCarthy
– A very clear examination of the inter-relation between money and peer to peer, by Raoul Victor
– A moving presentation by Marcin Jakubowski, on the open source ecology project

But the highlight for me was the contribution by Franz Nahrada, because of its insights in the dynamics of contemporary social change, centered around the pattern identification approach.
Mathieu O’Neill (who himself gave an excellent analysis of online tribal chiefdoms) chided the male contigent for not having attended a moving presentation about gender roles in free software/peer production, by Christina Haralanova, which I also failed to attend.

As expected, Vinay Gupta gave a stimulating, if provocative, presentation, which I could not attend.

I had very convincing and enthusing talks on peer to peer policy with Philippe Aigrain, but could not attend his presentation. Sorry that I missed Athina Karatzogianni, Charles Collis, Diego Saravia, George Dafermos, Jacco Lammers, Johan Soderbergh and others I would have liked to attend.

You will find the full list of presentations with audio recordings of most of them, thanks to the local Indymedia people, here, including the presentations I’m failing to mention.

4 Comments Extraordinary fourth Oekonux conference marks milestone for P2P movement

  1. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    Another review by Christian Siefkes is here:

    Via http://www.keimform.de/2009/04/01/notes-from-the-fourth-oekonux-conference-i/

    “Here are some quick notes which I wrote down during the conference sessions and polished and extended a bit afterwards.

    During the first day, I didn’t took many notes, since I was busy as session helper (moderating the discussions and so on). Stefan Merten talked about Current limitations of peer production, and ideas on how to overcome them. Since Stefan doesn’t like idea of social agreements between producers which might involve a coupling between giving and taking (as I discuss in my book), he is stuck with having to hope for technical solutions. Computers are machines for making perfect copies of digital goods, and Stefan hopes for machines can take make perfect copies of physical goods—the old Replicator dream.

    Among other things, this completely neglects how to get the resources necessary for production, and how to organize tasks that cannot be handled by machines, e.g. health and elder care or education. I don’t think that such an approach could ever be sufficient—both technical solutions and social agreements are necessary and need to be interwoven.

    The second and last session of the first day was given by Jacco Lammers, who talked about the c,mm,n car, which has already been discussed (in German) in the Keimform blog. Cars, of course, are a very individualistic and somehow “capitalistic” way of movement; accordingly, Jacco’s talk was quite business-oriented, too. Still, it’s an interesting project—one of the most ambitious open hardware endeavors which has made some reasonable progress so far.

    After the session, I talked with Jacco about licensing issues—most open hardware projects use licenses designed for software (e.g. the GNU GPL) or content (Creative Commons). These are quite inappropriate for hardware, since the license covers only the designs, not the hardware itself—a manufacturer who produces and sells open source hardware wouldn’t be bound by the copyleft clause of the GPL, for example. Jacco said that they have found a license that seems to solve this issue and are now in the process of evaluating it—I’ll have to check that out.

    The second day started with a joint introduction by Michel Bauwens and Stefan Merten, who explained the goals and philosophy of Oekonux and the P2P Foundation, the two projects organizing the conference. Stefan again expressed his belief that physical production is to become a mere appendix of information production—well, we’ll see. Michel talked about the “distributed production of money,” a toy topic of his I don’t believe in. Still, they’re both doing great jobs in inspiring and leading these organizations and the world would be much worse off without them and their dedicated work. Thanks, Stefan and Michel, for doing what you do and for making this great conference a reality!

    In the next slot, it was my turn to talk about Peer Production Everywhere (cf. my submission). In the first part of my talk, I introduced the core ideas of my book about how a society based on commons and peer production might look like; in the second (and shorter) part, I discussed some ideas and approaches for how to get there. (I prepared my talk slides using the S5 file format; they’re designed for viewing on a 1024×768 display in full-screen mode.) The discussion was quite lively and there where the usual questions about whether and when coupling between giving and taking is necessary, and whether it is compatible with the peer mode of production. The general reception was quite positive, I think.”

  2. Pingback: Extraordinary fourth Oekonux conference marks milestone for P2P movement | Open Source Ecology

  3. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    Summary notes from Stefan Merten, via email:

    Here is some of the feedback from the round during the conference
    plenary session.

    See also: http://en.wiki.oekonux.org/Oekonux/Project/Conferences/Notes

    Conference quality

    * Many interesting talks

    Nearly everybody emphasized that there were many, many interesting
    talks. For instance someone said that there was not a single slot
    where he found no interesting slot.

    * Different areas people are coming from

    Many emphasized that there were people from different areas of
    knowledge which led to very interesting and interdisciplinary
    discussions. On the other hand people came from science as well as
    from activism and many shades in between. This added to the
    discussions. In fact there is probably no place on the planet where
    all these types of people cooperate in such a fruitful way.


    * Too small for three tracks

    Some people said that the conference audience has been too small for
    three tracks.

    Indeed AFAICS two sessions had nearly no audience – which is of
    course a pity.

    * Very short warm-up sessions

    One person suggested to have a common session consisting of very
    short warm-up sessions (5 minutes) from every speaker so everyone
    has a better idea of what a talk is going to be about.

    * Long slots are great

    A lot of people appreciated the long slots of 90 minutes giving room
    for 45 minutes of talk and 30 minutes of discussion.

    * Three tracks make you loose two third

    Some found it a pity that they loose two third of the conference by
    the three tracks. Suggestions were to have only two tracks.

    * Adding more plenary sessions

    Someone suggested to have more plenary sessions for general


    * Too few visitors

    Some said that there would have been much more potential of
    interested people and that it is sad, that this potential could not
    have been made real.

    BTW: I now added all numbers and they add up to ~90 visitors
    including speakers.

    * Oekonux Conference in parallel / close to another conference

    Some suggested to have an Oekonux Conference in parallel or close to
    another conference. One concrete suggestion was the FOSDEM (sp?).

    * More accessible web site

    Some complained about the accessiblity and the look of the web site.

    I’ll also put some of this stuff to the general `conference notes`_
    which is a collective memory for Oekonux Conferences.

    .. _conference notes: http://en.wiki.oekonux.org/Oekonux/Project/Conferences/Notes

  4. Pingback: Quarto convegno di Oekonux a Manchester « creamondi

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