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.