The P2P Foundation as a neo-nomad structure

My encounter with Franz Nahrada’s work on Global Villages, with quintessential nomad Dante, and the reading of this most interesting review of the neonomad meme by Thomas Jankowski (which I recommend reading in full), is leading me to the conclusion that the P2P Foundation itself is actually an instantiation of a neonomad structure.

Neonomadism refers to the ability to work ‘on the move’, without direct linkage to a fixed office. There is many partial neonomadism around, but full neonomadism, while temporarily possible on the individual level, would seem impossible for any collective structure.

But please think again.

The P2P Foundation undoubtedly produces use value, in the value of documentation that has been visited by more than 150,000 people, who downloaded more than one and a half million pages in about a year. And that’s just the wiki, which contains at least 3,000 pages of documentation, representing the collective intelligence of a large number of people.

All this is produced without a fixed office or headquarters, though I suppose that most people in our collective have their home office. Nevertheless, there is no ‘there’ in terms of headquarters. Our volunteers are located in at least four continents.

While most are living from their own arrangements and projects, I am myself an example of a business model which has been created through the creation of a commons. I am (almost, we are very close) living from global lectures, based on invitations from people which have never seen me face to face, but trust the global brand and quality material we have collated, which they see as a sign of expertise. Most of the time it works like this: an institution sends a fairly well-paid invitation, which funds the speaking fee, the travel, and the lodging. The network is them mobilized with the message, “hi guys, I’m coming to your neigborhood’. Usually within ten days, this results in an additional half a dozen invitations, which makes the trip sustainable, and a means of living. In just one academic year, I will have undertaken 6 trips of about 20 days, one every other month. Even when I’m on the move, as I’m now, writing from Sydney, there is actually hardly a dip in our production on the blog and wiki, partially because the collective takes over, partly because with a laptop, and wireless connections, it is increasingly possible to produce at any time, from anywhere.

Note that all of this has been achieved in just over one year of online presence, through virtual branding through networks, with zero advertizing and marketing budgets, just consistent efforts to create quality content. Even in such a short time, a ‘brand’ has been created, which results in real life physical effects and some kind of (minor, but real) global influence.

We are of course not making any physical products, but nevertheless, it proves that it can be done. What do you think?

2 Comments The P2P Foundation as a neo-nomad structure

  1. AvatarThomas Jankowski

    Merci pour la recommandation Michel 😉 I agree with you to an extent that it’s difficult to achieve neonomadism on a greater scale. But, and this is a major but, I don’t think the trend is to build it up to a certain scale. Let’s consider who neo-nomads are, for most part: IT experts, consultants, professional bloggers, graphic designers, teleworkers, freelancer journalists… While all of these professions are on a rise and while more and more tools exist to make working ‘anywhere/anyware’ plausible, it’s definitely a niche sector. Besides, the reason neo-nomads are called just that is their nomadic root – and what follows, a resistance towards collectivization. I meet other neo-nomads on the road and there’s only one thing I’ve decided we all have in common – a decent laptop, customized to do exactly what we need it to do; a decent understanding of things IT (one single-mom-turned-pro-blogger I met a few months ago was talking to me about PHP-tuning WordPress for two hours and only five months before her IT knowledge was limited to using Outlook and Word); and solid expertise in whatever it is we specialize in.
    While on that subject, one other example comes to my mind. A while ago I was on a mission to find some of the crazier neo-nomads out there and I run across a programmer who specializes in Open Source development. His entire team of about 17 programmers is globally based, and he himself lives in Australia, with no internet access. Once every two weeks or so he gets to a nearby mountaintop, gets a quick satlink to the net, commits his coding changes to an SVN repository and downloads new code to work on. He also syncs all his e-mails to/from his team, grabs thousands of feeds to his offline RSS reader, and he goes offline. Oh, I could go on about such examples.
    Back to your conclusion, I think you got it just right. It’s all about brand creation, and well, quality vs. cost of production is one ratio where we beat most enterprises any time.

  2. AvatarMichel Bauwens

    thanks for those illuminating examples, that programmer without internet access will certainly stick in my mind

    I do believe that full neonomads as a lifestyle is for a niche, after all, the original nomads had their roots, i.e. they had their house with them …

    But, the global scaling of small groups is definitely a mainstream trend, and this is what drives peer production,


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