The New Year’s Message of the P2P Foundation: What Digital Commoners Need To Do

The following is a meditation on the strategic phases in the construction of a peer to peer world

What have we been doing in the last few years, and what should we be doing next? Here is a list of major undertakings, some well under way, some barely begun. All need to be done, are interdependent on each other, but need to be done ‘at the same time’, though there is a certain maturation effect which may need to take place to move from one phase or priority to another. Finding out these interdepencies and choosing amongst those priorities is a matter of debate, strategising, and practical experience.

* use the existing infrastructures for immaterial exchange for personal and social autonomy

We started by creating an infrastructure that allowed for peer to peer communication. Out of this striving came the internet and its end to end principle, web 2.0 and its possibilities for participation, and social media allowing for intense relational interaction, and tools such as wikis which allow for the collaborative construction of knowledge.

The creation of this infrastructure was a combination of efforts of civil society forces, governments and public funding, and private R&D and commercial deployments. It’s an imperfect world full of governmental control, corporate platforms, but also many capabilities for p2p interaction that did not exist before.

My assessment is that this struggle can experience setbacks but can no longer be undone. They have become civilisational achievements that are just as necessary for p2p-commoners than for the powers that be, even if they can impose a ‘dissent tax’

* change those infrastructures itself away from centralized and corporate control

But precisely because phase 1 is an imperfect one and partially if not largely in control of forces which have their own agenda of (political) control and (commercial) exploitation, as lately exemplified so well in the corporate decisions around Wikileaks, we are increasingly realizing the need to control these very infrastructures and insure that they can continue to allow and even expand the possibilities for p2p communication and value creation.

Hence the movements for free software, open standards, independent p2p infrastructures. There are many efforts underway in this area, some successful, some fledlging, some of which will go nowhere and be defeated.

Success on this front also depends on what the ‘enemy’ is doing. To the degree they want to go too far in controlling the platforms, to that degree they will mobilize the counterforces building the counter-infrastructures, and convince more and more users to use them.

* use the existing infrastructrures, and the new p2p-transformed ones, to change the very infrastructure of production of material goods, making it more sustainable in the process

As we get habituated to p2p communication and value creation, and move from open software to open knowledge to open design, p2p communities get involved in redesigning the means of production and making, i.e. open design necessarily needs to a reconfiguration of production processes towards ‘distributrion’. Open design communities moreover have no perverse incentives for planned obsolence or for hindering the sharing of innovation, so the new infrastructures have a bias towards sustainability, but also to relocalized production and a rationalisation of wasteful and unsustainable material globalization.

* change the property structures of the infrastructure and means of production in the process

As the new modalities of open design and distributed manufacturing are deployed, peers discover and experience the many constraints imposed by the old order of production, such as modes of property, the lact of benefit or revenue sharing, compound-interest based capital which is not easily available for them etc … They start building their own platforms, governance foundations, etc …This creates a need to extend p2p practices and modalities to the rest of the economy, with efforts towards forms of peer funding, open money, a revival of cooperatives and mutualism, and many other. Commoners also discover their affinities with other counter-economies such as the solidarity economy, fair trade, and other forms of commons-friendly enterprise and start developing practical and political alliances

* raising of political awareness and expression as a means of overcoming opposition

As all the above processes are undertaken, digital commoners learn about and experience the political and economic forces that are arraigned against them, and become more politically aware, discovering the need for their own modalities of political action and expression. They may also discover affinities with the enemies of their enemies, other social movements, commons-friendly enterpreneurs, etc

* transform the infrastructures so that the abundance of immaterial sharing can co-exist with the sustainability of the planet, and the demands for equity and social justice

Immaterial cooperation rests on a physical infrastructure which is currently part and parcel of an unsustainable mode of production. Commoners learn the importance of recognizing the natural scarcities of the physical world and how knowledge sharing and open design are themselves vital factors to redesign the unsustainable infrastructure, and to transform it into resilient modalities that insure the perenity of the new social practices. Digital commoners ally with those forces that combine an interest in the abundant sharing of immaterial resources, in the context of preserving natural resources, and according to the principles of social equity.

2 Comments The New Year’s Message of the P2P Foundation: What Digital Commoners Need To Do

  1. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    via [email protected]:

    ” * YaCy is a search engine where many nodes share information to
    build a distributed index.
    * Status.Net is a microblogging system that allows users to run
    their own Twitter-like site and federate selected streams with other
    * Tahoe-LAFS is a high-redundancy file system that allows many
    systems to contribute to an encrypted and distributed storage system
    which nonetheless remains readable only to the owner of the files and
    not to the owner of the storage
    * Diaspora will hopefully be a social networking community where
    users can run their own federated “pods”, thus owning their personal
    data and directly controlling what is shared with who.
    * OpenPGP encryption is based on self-issued certificates which
    gain authority as a result of a web of trust expressed via user-
    maintained keyrings rather than a hierarchical certificate authority
    system that can be centrally compromised.
    * There is discussion and prototyping of a P2P DNS in progress,
    without a root authority but rather with federated authority…

    … * Various federated identity approaches already exist for
    different use-cases, using mechanisms like OAuth and SAML.
    * Various experiments in using P2PTV video streaming technology
    exist, where the video stream is sourced from nearby users rather than
    always from a central provider.
    * And of course there are many P2P file distribution systems, as
    well as the GNUNet framework project..”

  2. AvatarDavid von Geyer

    The Internet is ideal for DIY self-government ie everyone could Vote For Yourself. Last year I ran a V4Y campaign in the UK during the elections. I met the Prime Minister at the time, Gordon Brown, and asked him what he thought about using the Internet to V4Y and doing away with politics. He allowed that it could happen in 10-20 years. We need it now. V4Y version 2011 is on its way…

    There are government departments concerned with maintaining the power of the state bureaucracy using any type of scare tactics to obtain public consent for their Fascistic policies. At the lowest level these are the people who X-ray you at airports, confiscate your toothpaste and strip search you, but of course it’s okay as it’s all in the name of security. At a higher level these are the people who will extraordinary rendition you and run Guantanamo Bay – and constantly monitor all the world’s communications – and switch off the Internet.

    Eventually it will be impossible to manage or fund this level of intrusion, but in a V4Y world where politicians are in short supply, there won’t be the same tension that currently exists so the security problems will be massively reduced.

    Wherever you go, people are people all over the planet and have far more in common with each other than differences. It’s the politicians who use the media to highlight these few differences in order to achieve their cynical agendas. Of course, they do this as the lackeys of the elite (by which I mean the global oil industry, plutocrats like Murdoch, Soros, etc… why list them all?) and the activities in Washington or any other capital are just parliamentary pantomimes, smoke and mirrors and spin to give the veneer of democracy to policies that have already been decided on that harm the majority and preserve the elite.

    Most people now recognise that the “manipulation” ie professional lying that is standard in politics is no longer credible – we’ve reached that level where you can’t fool all of the people all of the time. Sadly there are still some trusting souls who have had such a good brainwashing that they’ll only recover when V4Y removes the motes from their eyes.

    Really it’s quite simple to move this forward, we don’t have to risk our lives on the streets as the brave people in Tunisia, Egypt and other countries are doing. Everyone who wants electoral reform or is a concerned environmentalist (or is just aghast at the scale of deceit that politicians globally are using in order to explain away the massive theft by the elite) is basically singing from the same hymn sheet. We might be on different verses, but we all like the same song. It’s like being into football (soccer) – we love the game, we support different teams, but ultimately everyone is agreed on one thing, football’s brilliant.

    Same with Vote For Yourself. We can debate about issues all day long, but when a whole nation gets to vote on all the important things like health, education etc there can be no arguing afterwards as we will have achieved consensus across society. We probably wouldn’t need to debate on these subjects again for years. Meanwhile all the redundant politicians could be investigated for their crimes which should shut (or lock) them up for many years. As for the elite, they must be quaking because they are not stupid people and must recognise that they are coming to the end of, in some cases, centuries of influence.

    Unless we have a cohesive system in place that is undeniably fair and just, we do run the risk of seeing a messy transition. In order to start the negotiations with the incumbent governments, globally, as switched-on techies we need to start affiliating. There has to be one single point of focus. I suggest that V4Y would be ideal – it’s an apolitical rallying point for people who can already see that we will, inevitably, triumph and wrest control from those who know little about reality, but lots about power.

    To put it simply, we have already won – there’s no way that any government can resist the public. In order to get them to go away, all V4Y needs is a million Facebook friends, doesn’t matter which country you live in.

    I can hear you say: Only a million? In December 2009 (ie 14 months ago) a Facebook campaign was set up in the UK which saw, in less than a week, 500,000 people pay about £1 each to download a particular Rage Against The Machine song. This was done in order to stop the X Factor record from becoming Xmas No 1 – effectively 500,000 people got together and used the Internet to give Simon Cowell a bloody nose!

    Everyone who does it should print out or use a marker and put up an A4 sheet in their car with V4Y on it. As people who do not use the Internet keep seeing this, they’d obviously ask what it means and someone would explain: It’s Vote For Yourself, init!

    The precedent is there, the V4Y Facebook page is there, the requisite number of pissed off people is there – let’s focus on affiliating with V4Y.

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.