What kind of movement is the open movement?

Interesting contribution by David Eaves:

He starts his argument by stressing that the Open Web is not just a desirable physical infrastructure but a social value:

The open web is a social value. It’s not a fact, it’s not necessity, and it’s not a requirement. It’s a value – one that a growing community of people believe in and are willing to fight for. Indeed an emergent community in support of this value, initially composed of coders and technophiles, has steadily grown in size and scope. Today, there are hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of people who believe in the open web. They want the internet to be an open platform, indeed, they know the internet must be an open platform.”

He then asks, what kind of social movement is it, and his answer is akin to Christopher Kelty’s notion of Recursive Publics:

Embracing the notion that the open web is a social movement does not mean that we must start lobbying politicians or chaining ourselves to Microsoft servers (although some people may already be doing these things). I will be the first to admit that this social movement is very unlike those of the past. We do not need to employ the industrial and hierarchical model of influence and power that underlies the Bill Moyes document that, in part, inspired this post. It is for another era, or at least, for other movements.

This social movement is different in that, so far, it has been able to derive its power from a narrow set of people – mostly coders – who by volunteering their labour, have given the movement neither political power, nor economic power, but hard consumer power. This power has enabled projects like Mozilla to out-create, out-innovate, and out-perform the largest, best financed, and most successful software and IT companies in the world. As such, it does not need to rely on persuading government to create structural changes the way past social movements have. It has simply been able to force change through its market position.”

However, the provisional success of the movement, David acknowledges, does not mean it has nothing to learn from the past:

Possibly the most important of these past lessons is that social movements may emerge organically but often do not succeed until at least some primitive form of organization or basic structure takes form around which resources, supporters, and eventually the general public, can coalesce.

This structure does not need to be hierarchical, but it does need to at least anchor or provide a platform around which the movement can build identity and direction. I sense a number of people look to Mozilla to be that rallying point.

There is a lot that could be said about the still techno-centric vision underlying this vision of a social movement, but I see this as a very clear sign of the maturation of the movement, that such discussions are taking place.

Perhaps then, this is as good a time as any to recall what inspires the P2P Foundation, which is precisely the vision of such a broad social movement, which we do not of course claim to represent, but aim to be one of the informational building blocks that it could use. The following was written in November 2005, when we launched the wiki:

“* that peer-to-peer based technology reflects a change of consciousness towards participation, and in turn strengthens it

* that the “distributed network” format, expressed in the specific manner of peer to peer relations, is a new form of political organizing and subjectivity, and an alternative for the current political/economic order, which though it does not offer solutions per se, points the way to a variety of dialogical and self-organizing formats, i.e. it represents different processes for arriving at such solutions; it ushers in a era of ‘nonrepresentational democracy’, where an increasing number of people are able to manage their social and productive life through the use of a variety of autonomous and interdependent networks and peer circles; that global governance, and the global market will be, and will have to be, more influenced by modes of governance involving multistakeholdership

* that it creates a new public domain, an information commons, which should be protected and extended, especially in the domain of common knowledge creation; and that this domain, where the cost of reproducing knowledge is near zero, requires fundamental changes in the intellectual property regime, as reflected by new forms such as the free software movement; that universal common property regimes, i.e. modes of peer property, such as the General Public Licese and the Creative Commons licenses should be promoted and extended

* that the principles developed by the free software movement, in particular the General Public License, and the general principles behind the open source and open access movements, provides for models that could be used in other areas of social and productive life

* that it reconnects with the older traditions and attempts for a more cooperative social order, but this time obviates the need for authoritarianism and centralization; it has the potential of showing that the new more egalitarian digital culture, is connected to the older traditions of cooperation of the workers and peasants, and to the search for an engaged and meaningful life as expressed in one’s work, which becomes an expression of individual and collective creativity, rather than as a salaried means of survival

* that it offers youth a vision of renewal and hope, to create a world that is more in tune with their values; that it creates a new language and discourse in tune with the new historical phase of ‘cognitive capitalism’; P2P is a language which every ‘digital youngster’ can understand. However, ‘peer to peer theory’ addresses itself not just to the network-enabled and to knowledge workers, but to the whole of civil society (the ‘multitudes’), and to whoever agrees that the core of decision-making should be located in civil society, and not in the market or in the state, and that the latters should be the servants of civil society

* that it combines subjectivity (new values), intersubjectivity (new relations), objectivity (an enabling technology) and interobjectivity (new forms of organization) that mutually strengthen each other in a positive feedback loop, and it is clearly on the offensive and growing, but lacking ‘political self-consciousness’. It is this form of awareness that the P2P Foundation wants to promote.

The Foundation for P2P Alternatives would address the following issues:

* P2P currently exists in discrete separate movements and projects but these different movements are often unaware of the common P2P ethos that binds them

* thus, there is a need for a common initiative, which

1. brings information together;

2. connects people and mutually informs them

3. strives for integrative insights coming from the many subfields;

4. can organize events for reflection and action;

5. can educate people about critical and creative tools for world-making

* the Foundation would be a matrix or womb which would inspire the creation and linking of other nodes active in the P2P field, organized around topics and common interests, locality, and any form of identity and organization which makes sense for the people involved

* the zero node website, i.e. the site of the P2P Foundation, would have a website with directories, an electronic newsletter and blog, and a magazine. It aims to be one of the places where people can interconnect and strengthen each other, and discuss topics of common interest.

In conclusion, we have made some progress in our aims, but still need a long way to go, but at the same time, it seems clear that humanity is indeed organizing itself in the sense we are indicating above.

(If you want to support our own role in this, please consider participating in our fundraising drive, via the Tip It button at the right of this blog!!)

1 Comment What kind of movement is the open movement?

  1. Pingback: Value Transformation « Chief Outhouse Correspondent

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