Epistemic Commons

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Graph at https://miro.medium.com/max/875/0*EOFI_zpHFzmsSRtD


1. Jose Ramos:

"The following diagram tries to describe the transition we are moving through. The left part of the diagram describes the industrial-capitalist mode, driving this crisis in multiple ways, resource and ecological overshoot and other social externalities. The centre section is the current crisis, where there is a fundamental loss of faith in the prevailing epistemic foundations and erosion / destruction of the public sphere (what Richard Slaughter called a “crisis of meaning” in his T-Cycle).[6] This loss of faith gives rise to both fantasy versions of reality (conspiracy theories, hyper nostalgia) but also emergent visions of the future grounded in social and ecological realities. Finally, there is an imagined space of an epistemic commons, which reflects the desire for a mutual intelligibility of knowledges and practices grounded in shared human survival and flourishing. The remainder of this article attempts to develop what this epistemic commons means, and its operationalisation through a what is termed here a protocol commons.

We are in a sort of chasm, between the older industrial public sphere, and the seemingly distant horizon of something new, imagined idealistically here as an epistemic commons. I see this emergent epistemic commons as one engaged in an effort to rebuild the capacity for shared survival. But this must happen in the face of the centrifugal dynamics of platform capital. It is also a new type of public sphere because it is not based on the industrial, centre-periphery mode. It is based on a decentralized mode in which a multiplicity of affiliations thrive and intermesh. It has its own polarities. On one end is the idea of the commons that asserts collective interest and action. However on the other it asserts the fundamental principle of diversity upon which all dynamism and resilience depends. This is related to the variety of existential struggles, commons of many varieties, implicit and explicit. Thus this new public sphere represents the survival logic of this new space of multifaceted commons, expressing different themes, scales, ontologies, logics. This new hypothetical commons public sphere emerges as ecosystems… they are indicative of a greater complexity of relationship than the older industrial public sphere. It is operationalized through a multitude of commons and commoners reweaving a language of shared survival and wellbeing.

That commons move from implicit to explicit means that they are incredibly diverse. They exist where crises manifest and where people exert a collective expression of shared need and effort. However, as mentioned, this also means a greater scope of complexity. New commons ontologies, the urban commons, digital commons, resource commons, soils, food systems, even “affect” have been identified as commons. The commons is not a singular phenomenon, there are many different types of commons and commoning activity. Bollier and Helfrich’s work makes this abundantly clear.

Thus, in the face of still existent and dominant industrial capitalism, for multifaceted commons to grow, we need to find synergies between many different types of commoning activity and scales of activity. Of course we need cooperative, distributive and regenerative forms at the scale of the enterprise. But we need as well urban commons that support a garden garden bed of commoning to thrive — partner cities that grow the commons intentionally. The work of Christian Iaione is significant in this regard, perhaps the most coherent work so far on articulating a commons based ecosystem.[7] And we need transnational forms of solidarity, such as city to city mutualization and cosmolocal production. Thus, we need a way for one form of commoning activity to talk to the other, to coordinate and find forms of reciprocation. Does this mean they “speak the exact same language”? No! Those working in food systems and those in the urban commons already speak different conceptual languages. However, like HTTP we can imagine a meta-language, a protocol that allows ecologies of commons based activities to grow and mutually support each other. Like the bee and the flower, there can be fundamental ontological difference even while reciprocation and value exchange is realised.

The challenge is both an epistemological one and as well related to our maturity as human beings. Our worldviews come from our sense of place, language, experience and embodiment. It is too often too easy to see what we do in isolation from the multiplicity of other activities in the world, we are so deeply embedded in our own struggles, challenges and activities. And then there is the ego. We want to see our creations, our priorities, as primary."


2. Daniel Schmachtenberger:

"“Democracy cannot function without an epistemically healthy public sphere that makes it possible for democratic self-government to achieve successful outcomes, maintain its legitimacy, and avoid runaway concentrations of power in society. The institutional structures responsible for maintaining our epistemic commons have faltered. Only a new movement for cultural enlightenment can harness the energy needed to reboot and revamp our ailing institutions—or generate new ones entirely—and thereby restore our democracy.”