Commons/P2P Next Steps: Creating Sustainable Commons Based Institutions

A major theme that came up throughout our first School of Commoning workshop with Michel Bauwens concerned the need to co-create sustainable commons based institutions. The overriding sentiment was to create institutions that are commons and are therefore inherently sustainable by their nature. In the transition to these commons based institutions Michel spoke of the kinds of actions we will need to take. The rest of this post highlights what was discussed by Michel and our workshop on this important next step we must take.

Virtual Commons: The Need for a Shift in Priority

Following on from the Furtherfield event in which Michel spoke ofthe three key peer to peer developments that have unfolded starting with open sharing, open code and more recently open design, Michel built on this the following day, in our workshop:

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The 99% Solution

May 16, 2012 — Poor Richard

Sidney Paget: Sherlock Holmes(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Sign of the Four opens with an alarming scene:

“Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantel-piece and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case.   With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle, and rolled back his left shirt-cuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks.  Finally he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined arm-chair with a long sigh of satisfaction.”

A little later in the story Holmes states,

“It is cocaine,” he said, “a seven-per-cent solution.  Would you care to try it?”

Limitation of classical social movements

Classical social movements have often been limited by tunnel vision, cooptation,  astroturfing, diversion, attrition, intimidation, repression, legal injunction, corruption, constraints of philanthropy, etc. Meanwhile, today, the 1% (the looter elite), are attacking the 99% on every side,  capturing every institution of society, and privatizing every resource on the planet.

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Organizing P2P organizations

April 7, 2011 — Poor Richard

overlay network
Image via Wikipedia

I probably should have titled this “Hacking the Organization”.

What follows is not a primer of organizational design but simply a back-of-the-envelope sketch of how a number of organizational design and management ideas might be applied to peer-to-peer (P2P) organizations. My intention is for these ideas to be adapted or “hacked” for P2P applications without getting hung up on ideology or terminology, much of which has historical baggage. The idea is to ignore the baggage, take what you can use, and leave the rest. However, if this gets picked apart and criticized from top to bottom it may still have served some purpose.

I recognize that many p2p activities may be amorphous, fluid, informally organized, or conducted by completely autonomous  and independent individuals. My own preferred lifestyle is agrarian and communitarian. I’m not a particularly good team player. But I would like to think of a world where p2p organizations can launch satellites, build solar-powered factories, and make trains run on time.

In The Political Economy of Peer ProductionMichel Bauwens describes peerism as “cooperative individualism”. I think that is an important perspective and I think it can be extended to groups as well. Whether cooperation is one to one, one to many, many to one, or many to many, all cooperators are peers. If they are not peers, the enterprise should not be called cooperation.

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The P2P sector an opportunity for low-cost local reindustrialization

Grupo Cooperativo de las Indias ~ ~

History of the industrial P2P sector

The explosion in the social use of the Internet in the ’90s generated notable changes in the whole productive process. One of the most striking effects was the apperance in the area of the dissemination of information of what economist Juan Urrutia then called a “logic of abundance.”

The logic of abundance appears when the structure of production and costs becomes unnecessary to collectively settle on what is produced and what not. Urrutia departs from the topics of the information economy to imagine markets that are evolving towards a situation of Pareto sub-optimality in an undefined way, as a product of the extension of the network effect. At its limits, the consequence would be the equivalent of what would be produced by a market with perfect competition in neoclassical models. Which is to say, the price would be equivalent to the marginal cost… but the marginal cost of spreading one more unit of information on the network is zero.

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Five Elements (and a coda) for the Counter-Hegemonic Project

Five basic elements, with linked explanatory text, to develop a comprehensible narrative of the transition to the P2P production method as the only substantive alternative to systemic crisis… with a confederalist coda that has a Prodhounian aftertaste.

P2P production cycle

  1. Since the ’90s, we have been living through the first steps of the transition towards a P2P production method
  2. While the forefront of this transition over the last couple of decades was in the immaterial realm (content, free software, etc.), today, it’s laying the foundations of a new Industrial Revolution.
  3. The ultimate origin of the crisis is the reduction of the optimal scale of production, which the financial system has not adapted to, making it the “bubble-making machine” whose consequences we’re all paying for today. If large scale is still sought after today, it’s not because it generates greater efficiency, but because the rents derived from power (and irresponsibility it gives them) compensate managers for the inefficiencies of size and let them play in a market captured by financialization. Continue reading