The Peer Production License: A case in point from the Circus and Flow Arts

Ronan poi
An anecdotal account on the usefulness of the peer production license from an experience in the circus/flow/spinning arts.

My friend Ronan McLoughlin was member 951 of home of poi back in 2003, a website dedicated to the global renaissance of the traditionally Maori art of swinging poi . Back then the ‘jedi’ move, the most difficult move that existed, was the ‘behind the back weave’. Today there are over 150,000 members of this website today, and in true networked learning tradition the art has complexified becoming a complex physico-structural kinetic artform of geometric shapes, translations, and spacio-temporal pattern. As the artform and community developed together a global supracultural community of practice emerged with festivals, learning events, shops, tour routes and key seasonal places around the world, as well as spin offs in jewelery, fashion, and so on.

I was a jedi back in 2003, these days, not so much. Ronan on the other hand has maintained his ‘jedi’ status, and ten years later is one of the ‘grandfathers’ of this collaborative and emergent supraculture.

Around 2007 Ronan invented ‘contact poi’, it was a simple innovation of the poi playing style based on the ball and strinng structure of the object, using rope, a 100mm contact juggling ball and a juggling club handle, that opened the range of possibility as to what could be done with the object. ‘Contact Poi’ refers to the influence from Michael Moschen’s innovation in ‘contact juggling that we now recognize as David Bowie’s hands in the Labyrynth. Because of Ronan’s position within the practice, his unique innovative skill with this object, and the influence he generates in that community by virtue of his creative process and general character, ‘Contact Poi’ became a thing.

The owner of one prominent European juggling prop manufacturing and distribution company, a maker and online seller of juggling props, was contacted by Ronan to talk about production of the object, and in a subsequent communication breakdown, this company continued to mass produce and sell the model with no benefit accrueing to Ronan whatsoever. Ronan is lovely, and this doesn’t bother him much, but it bothers me.

We started together in the practice of object manipulation back in university in Galway in 2003. We have been brethren since, most people confuse us for being brothers though we are not directly related at all. In this last 11 years I have watched him develop this artform, along with the community, a collaborative community, that built up around this process. I find it unfair and unjust that a specialised distributor should absorb the value created by this process and by this man, my friend, and artist, for something that he has created, and popularized by his influence, effort, and creativity.

Had I known about the peer production license in 2007 I would have suggested it to him, but even though I was familiar with the P2P movement, and with OS licenses such as the Creative Commons license, I did not fully understand the global context of production, value, and the workings of capital. Now that I understand this somewhat, the application in this case is clear.

Ronan lives in West Cork, at the moment he is renovating the ‘top-cottage’ and making nut butters, kombucha, and kefir, while attending a course on food production and getting to market in a nearby town and works two days a week at the family speciality food and wine shop The Lettercolm Kitchen Project in Clon. I wish for Ronan that he had had his efforts honoured by the application of the Peer Production License, as it fits the kind and heartful person that he is. Instead, others profit by his efforts, and he continues creating regardless. Making that which others eat and sustain themselves by. Hopefully he will have more luck with the nut butters and holy well water kombucha and kefir!

By writing this I intend to show a few things. First of all, this is a clear example of a case for the application of the Peer Production License among the global circus and flow arts community, and I would like folk to know that these tools are available to communities that self-organize. Secondly, I want to show the need to educate and disseminate materials in a way that makes the tools we are developing here in the networks of the P2P Foundation and through the collaborative economic communities – accessible to other supracultures those who could benefit from them.

For people in the Circus and Flow Arts Community wondering what the PPL is and how this relates here is a link to find out:

For circus and flow artists wondering what the PPL is and how to use it , follow this link :

Watch Ronan at play in the video below and please make comment and conversation…

1 Comment The Peer Production License: A case in point from the Circus and Flow Arts

  1. AvatarJosef

    I really don’t see how the Peer Production license is at all relevant to this story.

    If Ronan could prove he invented contact poi he could’ve used existing copyright law (no need for any type of license, PPL or otherwise) to stop the company making his design without his permission – *if* he had both the money and time needed to take it through the courts (something he’d also need to try to enforce a PPL or any other type of license).

    Moreover, let’s say he did that – how much money would end up going to the Maori’s whose culture upon which is invention was based? None, right? And how much would’ve gone to Michael Moschen too? None again?

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