Extreme Sharing Networks

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Trebor Scholz:

"What this essay is interested in are ways in which the Internet supports social networks through listservs, message boards, friend-of-a-friend networks, mobile phones, short message service/text messaging (sms), peer-to-peer networks, and social software such as blogs. We focus our attention on such technically enabled social networks. And within that realm we are looking at self-organised, autonomous networks that support the development of sustainable relationships that empower us to lead fulfilled and engaged lives. We call these particular social networks extreme sharing networks. This term evolved out of the notion of extreme programming. The concept is seen as sustainable mechanism for social change based on intensive collaborative work. Personal collaboration burnout is circumvented. Extreme sharing networks are conscious, loosely knit groups based on commonalities, bootstrap economies, and shared ethics. They offer alternative platforms of production and distribution of cultural practices.16 However, they are not completely outside of institutions. A network can be just as brick and mortar as an institution. Over the last decade there has been the realisation that the traditional setup of many institutions based on competition instead of cooperation is largely inadequate. In competitive situations energy that could have been channeled into one concentrated collaborative effort is lost. Networks can respond faster to discursive currents. For extreme sharing networks political sensitivities of an institution are not an issue. Jobs are not on the line. Such social networks escape the bureaucracies of large institutions by making productive use of unconventional formats of debate such as networked luncheons, skype meetings, and evenings in the living room or bar. If people identify with a network then they have the potential to circumvent local struggles for recognition (Linz/Vienna, Sao Paolo/Rio de Janeiro, New York/Los Angeles). They can reach across cities and national borders and form a social network identity that is not tied to a locale. Research can be experimental and playful, as results do not immediately need to be measured in financial terms. Networks can make use of publications in hybrid forms. They employ open access publishing and collaborative online editing (i.e. Sarai Readers). This is frequently not in accord with standards of recognition in larger institutions.

Extreme sharing networks allow people to freely meet in the commons, mobilise and share talents, context and resources (in-kind and financial). They create visibility for discourses and artworks that would otherwise be overlooked. Everybody is an expert at something and can contribute to the mix in meaningful ways. These gift communities,17 or extreme sharing networks, have the potential to inscribe discourses in collective memory, inspire and to some degree shape people lives."


"A list of the main potentials of extreme sharing networks follows:

  • Go beyond local identities through network identity
  • Resources/access to distributed talent pool
  • Create visibility for discourses and artworks that would otherwise be overlooked
  • Inspire also younger generations by exposing them to ideas and media
  • Respond to issues in a fast, and flexible way
  • Create open access resource archives for the public
  • Shape expectations
  • Provide intellectual community among new media practitioners
  • Share expertise over wide geographically distributed areas
  • Publish in hybrid formats/online open access initiatives
  • Open to experimental, informal formats of research"


Organisation and Domination in Sharing Networks

Trebor Scholz:

"What marks our participations in social networks? Networks shape expectations. If we can get a certain piece of information for free through our network - then we will be reluctant to use a fee-based service. Throughout New York City there are free wireless networks that do create the expectation for wireless, high speed Internet to be free. If an open archive of a network offers lots of material that we can re-use without unreasonable copyright restrictions then we will come to expect that. A set of common goals that participants can identify with is beneficial in order to bring individuals together. The extreme sharing network needs to be meaningful in order to attract contributors. Also an interpretative flexibility is needed for networks to create their own trajectory. As much as the idea of ‘collaborative ruins in reverse’18 - one network grows into another based on urgencies. Networks creatively adapt to ever changing environments and gain ability to reproduce themselves. The con nected nodes are often in central control, which determines much of the success or downfall of networks. Who speaks on a mailing list? How far does central facilitation reach? A rotating set of facilitators is a good leadership model. An extreme sharing network will only succeed if networkers understand themselves as free agents and not as followers. Small work groups that address a specific issue work better than larger conglomerates. Participants align themselves with a network by publishing in its context. These networks offer an umbrella for work in a particular area. It is a node, a platform on which researchers, educators and activists can share their work and produce together. Its physical presence is not so crucial for the vitality of its output. The actuality of such a network is measured by its research production, its dynamic, and its ability to mobilise advanced discourse. Creation and socialisation of research do not depend on brick and mortar institutions. The actuality of a network is determined by the extent to which it is able to inspire. Rarely can traditional cultural institutions afford to work about one topic for an entire year. This is possible in an extreme sharing network. Very little of the success of a network has to do with the newest piece of technology. Limitations of free software for managing electronic mail discussion such as Mailman are in the way of more successful online debate. But they are not the central issue. Unlike in the early days of the Internet, today it is unlikely that anybody will be attracted to an initiative merely because of its use of a wiki or some type of peer-2-peer software. Cooperation-enhancing tools like blogs or wikis are important but without a true need of a social group these tools will not go far. A social network needs to be able to connect. It needs to allow for co-ownership of others in its activities. An insistence on exclusive ownership in an inter-communal collaboration kills the motivation of co-participants. It destroys a sense of cooperation and trust. The creation of informal and formal relationships among individuals within the network is essential. Social networks allow for symbiotic production of events, texts, publications, and cultural projects. Extreme sharing networks are sometimes diagnosed with the Major Tom Syndrome (i.e. cutting off all contact to earth, suspended in the utopian galaxy of collaboration). On the other hand the following examples show that such networks are very real and that their output has to be reckoned with!" (http://www.collectivate.net/the-participatory-challenge/)