Reactions from Participants to the Economics and the Commons Conference

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Silke Helfrich:

"What a conference! It is still flooding my inbox. I guess, it was my first conference (and I’ve co-organized pretty many) where the idea of having a pre-conference process, the conference itself and a post-conference debate really worked out. We had “eruptions” of intense debates before we met in Berlin and we have plenty of post-conference reactions, especially on the question of how to move forward? All this will be documented on the Conference Communication Platform. Reports from participants, blogposts, summaries of side events (there were 8 of them!) and further debates will be collected there and elsewhere as in the Commons Abundance Network to be used by commoners and commoneers (a notion that was new to me) for ongoing debate and planning of next steps or joint action. Plus: there is the conference wiki, actually a beyond-conference thematic wiki on the issues we dealt with at ECC.

What I want to do here is simply collect a few post-conference reactions from participants, with their insights or ideas I’d love to keep in mind. So it’s like my personal ECC2013 pinboard." (


(with commentary from Silke Helfrich)

Anna Seravalli

From Anna Seravalli; Medea Malmö University Sweden:

On the connection between Commons and Participatory Design:

- both are “a matter of giving voice” and based on the idea that “who is influenced should have a say”. From a Participatory Design perspective commons can be understood as “a way of regulating and ensuring [...] that the right to participation and over decision-making is kept.”

Anna identified two commons-related issues (i.e. challenges) for designers:

- If commons are also infrastructures empowering their participants, (e.g. the shared space and equipment at Fabriken in Gothenburg), “what infrastructures could be commonified, and in which ways?”

- How to design infrastructures and institutions in such a way that they “establish new relationships between top-down institutional stakeholders and bottom-up grass-roots initiatives in an on-going process of renegotiation of roles, and consequently also issues of ownership and access.”

One of the ideas a cannot emphazise strongly enough: Commons beyond open access means, that ” Commons … become a way to ensure that things will stay open, that access will remain open.” Open in principle – which does not mean, open at any time for any person and any purpose.

- “Participation and collective ownership is not a matter of openness but rather needs to be constructed and supported through design.” Yeap!

Denis Postle

Denis Postle from psyCommons, who contributed two post-conference posts…

…and encourages us to further explore the “Independent Practitioners Network (IPN), a long-standing commons infrastructure”. He regrets that there were “no followup questions, no further interest” … @Denis: there is a post conference process. We need to deal with complexity and ECC was highly complex. So, it’s not necessarily a matter of interest, but of awareness, time etc.

About the need to move from transaction to relationship: “Human relationship is based on a commonality of presence, of gaze, of body language, where feeling and emotion, sustained through rapport precede and shape discrimination and action.”

I also like Denis’ interpretation of the ‘exchange value’ to ‘use value’ principle:

- “it means letting go of money as a yardstick of value and moving toward utility – towards liking, or love as an indicator of validity in a service, object or relationship.”

And this one:

- “Establish commoning principles but have the humility to know they are only provisional” they are a proposal subject to permanent (self-critical) revision, update and contribution!.

- “The belief in the inevitability of capitalism is a form of trance induction. Historically, courageous people risked (and sometimes lost) their lives to extricate themselves from the cradle-to-grave grip of medieval Roman Catholic trance induction. [...] trance inductions reinforce beliefs through disallowing discrimination, [...] capital [is] a particularly archaic but virulent heritage religion, we need to step off critique and make up a new story that breaks capital’s self-serving trance. [...] Can the commons provide that story? I suspect the commons is the story.“

Me too!

Neal Gorenflo

Neal Gorenflo reported on Shareable from a conference with

- “a nearly bewildering diversity of participants” :-)

He points to “the six principles that all commons share under a framework called Commons Creating Peer Economy (CCPE)”, I suggested in our keynote. I think it’s not “the six principles” … it is just a first kick-off to start thinking (and researching) about what the principles and patterns of CCPE really look like. There may be 10 at the end, or only 4. Who knows.

Neal’s summary:

- “The commons is so promising, already so real and widely experienced in the world, yet its re-emergence as a political movement has only just begun.”

Stefan Meretz

Stefan Meretz summarized one of his many contributions(to the Doing away with Labor stream) on Keimform

about »Direct reciprocity versus indirect reciprocity and stigmergic polycentrism as new phenomena of socialized, needs oriented production processes«. As Stefan says: Wow.


- “Indirect reciprocity: addresses the aspect of societal mediation (this is meant, when we are talking about the division of labor or tasks) and increases the opportunities of the people enormously, precisely: exponentially, due to the network effect

- human history is the history of unfolding the power of indirect reciprocity

I guess he means also the division of “the whole of work” (Biesecker), not only of labor.

- Stigmergic polycentrism (a combination of Vincent Ostrom’s notion of polycentrism and stigmergy: is hint-based task-sharing : is a commons way of unleashing the power of indirect reciprocity (thesis)

- stigmergy is a kind of self-attributed doing the things I really want to and scales best in huge diverse systems,

- the stigmergic law is: “given enough people you will find a nerd for every task which has to be done”

Summing up:

- “Commons polycentrically organized and stigmergically mediated release the power of indirect reciprocity which has never been seen in history before – this is the right way of scaling up”.

- “Getting rid of money and thus of exchange does not mean diminishing reciprocity — on the contrary!” (