Near Future Education Lab

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This article refers to the facts described here:

Reference links:


Salvatore Iaconesi et al. :

"The students at ISIA Design Florence, a famous italian Design University which faced closure due to financial cuts, have decided to experiment on the Near Future Design of their own education system, to abandon the state of crisis through the design of a commons-based, peer-to-peer, emergent, permeable model.

This model will be started by founding a Foundation operating under wirearchical organizational models, through a crowd-funding campaign, by forming a wide network of international cooperants and by establishing a network of partnerships to access the funds for its implementation."


The initiative is based:

  • on the creation of a Future Map of the possible evolutive scenarios in the transformations of the education system;
  • the implementation of a Near Future Design concept for the education system;
  • on the creation of a Foundation participated by students to enact the concept; the Foundation uses the wirearchy organizational model, and is focused on commons-based production models, peer-to-peer oganization and operation schemes, and on a vision of an ubiquitous, permeable, mutualistic, cooperative learning model;
  • on the creation of an alternative currency based on the concept of positive participation to the ecosystem described by the Foundation and on a p2p ecosystemic reputation system; the currency will express the economies represented in the Foundation, and its set of core values and ethical approaches;
  • on the creation of a generative identity which expresses the well-being of the ecosystem defined by the Foundation;
  • on the creation of a network of individuals, communities, partners, professionals, companies, institutions, organizations, administrations, at international level, who are willing to cooperate with the Foundation in the definition of the Near Future scenarios and to participate as peers with the Foundation to grants, funding opportunities, projects and other opportunities to implement these scenarios;
  • on the creation of a crowd-funding initiative dedicated to the initial start-up of the Foundation;
  • on the continuous, cooperative, agile research, development and actuation of organizational models, tools, technologies, platforms for the Foundation's operations.


The Currency

The Currency (name still to be defined) is a measure of participation and reputation in the education ecosystem.

It is acquired, initially, through the crowd-funding campaign (as a measure of the participation to the start-up phase of the Foundation) and, then, in the later phases, it is generated and operated through the relations in the ecosystem, according to the principles of mutuality and reciprocity.

The initial founders of the Foundation each have an initial amount of currency in this system, as a measure of the participation which they dedicated to its creation. The participation is open and shared across all students across universities, schools, institutes etc.

Initial conversion schemes from the Currency to other ones is initially established through the crowd-funding campaign, where each contributor will be assigned a certain amount of Currency, depending on the corresponding level of participation.

All subjects, be them internal or external to the Foundation, who have participated to the creation of the ecosystems are initially assigned a certain amount of Currency, as well.

The Currency has 4 modalities, obtained through combinations of two axes:

  • knowledge and products/services;
  • internal and external.

In the ecosystem, Knowledge is a common.

All activities in the ecosystem (teaching, learning, projects, designs, artworks, processes...) potentially produce knowledge and a series of products/services.

For example, a project may produce the fact that a series of participants learn something from some of the other ones or as a result of the activity, and a series of products/services which may result as an outcome of the project itself. All knowledge generated becomes a common, and is shared through the chosen platform and frameworks available in the ecosystem. The products/services may be offered inside the ecosystem or outside of it.

Currency elements (coins?) are generated according to the principles of mutuality and reciprocity, in a peer-to-peer scheme. The concept of “proof-of-work” applies in this case, and is established in the network according to reciprocal schemes which, at the time of writing, need further investigation. Teachers assign coins to students according to their positive participation, and to promote their reputation; students assign coins to teachers to evaluate their positive impact to the ecosystem and to raise/lower their reputation; project participants evaluate each other according to the same schemes, and thus also determining the “value” of the knowledge and of the products/services created in the projects.

The system is permeable: for example, in a project, external entities (individuals or groups) can assign positive/negative amounts of Currency to contribute to the evaluation of what is produced in the teaching/learning/project processes.

As stated, roles are not exclusive, but, rather, inclusive: in each case, one individual can, potentially, be a student, a teacher and a project participant, all at the same time. The roles can also be evaluated in emergent ways, according, for example, to the life of the project.

Coins can be assigned in positive and negative values (thus indicating a decrease in participation, negative participation, or diminished reputation of the individual or group).

In the ecosystems there also are “curators”, working to produce knowledge under the form of “advice”. For example, in the educational offering, curators will propose education schemes and progressions (e.g.: “according to my point of view, a Communications Designer should at least follow course A offered by Mr.X, course B offered by Mrs.Y...”). The same applies to projects, research and so on (they produce “recipes”).

Their work will be evaluated in the same manner, with individual and groups evaluating their “value” (in terms of reputation and positive participation to the ecosystem, for example in the orientation of students who have just entered the system, or as producers of useful “recipes” for projects, research and other processes) using the Currency.

As for the other axis (internal/external), the system is permeable. This means that to participate in the Currency, one does not need to be “inside” the ecosystem, but, rather, participate to it (thus, also acquiring reputation). This process is a delicate one, and is still being refined as it shapes, for example, a great part of the oscillations to the conversion value of currency units, the “price” at which products/services can be “sold” to subjects that are external to the ecosystem, and the level of desirability to take active part in the ecosystem (for example by teaching, studying or doing projects in the ecosystem).

Several mechanisms are being developed to engaging individuals and groups to establish their economies within the ecosystem once they started, to achieve a growing pattern of shifting to the commons-based economy which is actively promoted within the ecosystem itself.

[The initial details of the currency are still being defined, and will soon be disclosed and shared for public participation]

[to be added: code, diagrams, documentation]


The Foundation and its organizational model

The Foundation is formed by individuals and groups wishing to enter the ecosystem. It operates according to the models defined as Wirearchy ( ).

From a legal point of view, the Foundation's statute, which declares the organizational model which according to which it operates, functions as a map between the foundation's organisms and roles as required by law to the ones provided by the wirearchical model.

In this model, two broad levels are highlighted: the organizational level and the operational one.


“Wirearchy is an emergent organizing principle that informs the ways that purposeful human activities and the structures in which they are contained is evolving from top-down direction and supervision (hierarchy’s command-and-control) to champion-and-channel … championing ideas and innovation, and channeling time, energy, authority and resources to testing those ideas and the possibilities for innovation carried in those ideas.” The working definition of Wirearchy is “a dynamic two-way flow of power and authority, based on knowledge, trust, credibility and a focus on results, enabled by interconnected people and technology”.

This two-way flow, is based on the simultaneous presence of various modalities, operating at different levels of hierarchy/openness, collaboration/cooperation, structure/informality, goal-oriented/opportunity-driven. It is a diversity-based approach in which single subjects can simultaneously be in different spots along the space defined by all the axes.

In this scheme, Work Teams emerge which can be at varying degrees of hierarchical and structured architectures, and which are very goal-oriented, whose focus is to share complex knowledge to solve problems, perform research, establish learning processes etc.

At their edges, communities emerge, when larger or common issues are recognized. They become more informal and entangled, and they broaden their scope, taking into consideration larger issues and themes. These eventually become Communities of Practice, which are oriented to the opportunity to solve problems and to test new ideas, usually originated within the Work Teams.

Communities form social networks, which are progressively informal and opportunity driven. They live as networks increasing innovation through diversity of ideas. They live by remixing and recombining ideas, concepts and designs, to catch unforeseen opportunities and radical innovations.

This upward stream is matched by a downward one, in which Communities of Practice and Work Teams may emerge from all of the previous one, living as cellular, rhizomatic, emergent patterns which remix and recombine themselves as desires, opportunities, needs and visions form and are recognized within the ecosystem. [to be added: as soon as they emerge, the statute, the legal details]

The Identity

The identity of the Foundation will come under the form of a set of generative graphics whose parameters are proportional to the “well-being” of the ecosystem. Here, the concept of “well-being” is a measure of the “abundance” which is present in the ecosystem (which is proportional to knowledge), and of the “participation” and “activation” of the members of the ecosystem to the ecosystem itself. Both are, as we have seen, proportional to the number of Currency units, scaled according to linear and non-linear equations which use this proportionality to describe the well-being of the ecosystem in relation to the number of “coins” which are present in the ecosystem itself.

The identity will undergo through two main stages.

During the crowd-funding process, the seed will turn into the final aesthetical look'n feel of the logo, denoting the fact that the Foundation is forming, as the seed grows into the plant.

In the second main phase, the oscillations in the well-being of the Foundation will be reflected and represented info-aesthetically in the shape and colors of the logo, through an algorithmic approach. On the Foundation's website, an interactive info-aesthetic visualization will show this oscillation, as a set of curves and the changing patterns of the logo, also highlighting them along a timeline together with the news coming from the foundation (from blog posts, articles, media, social networks...), thus showing how the various phases of the life of the Foundation have affected its well-being. It will be possible to play-back entire sections of the history of the Foundation in this way, to observe its evolution.

[to be added: images, code]


The Future Map

The Future Map describes the possible changes to the education system that are being identified through the Foundation.

It is the resulting outcome of two components: the research on the state of the arts and technologies, and the ethnographical (also digital ethnographical) analysis of the “Strange Now”.

In Superflux's words the Strange Now are “the disruptive forces that are hidden behind comforting metaphors”: recurring behavioral patterns that are progressively growing in frequency and that are not yet fully comprehended by societies: a shared social/political/economical/psychological meaning has not yet been assigned to them. They are the emergent behaviors, as they emerge, methodologically observed to understand hidden potentials.

The unison of the research on the State of the Arts and Technologies and of the Strange Now generates the Future Map, a map of possible futures at varying degrees of likelihood, interconnected to form a network of interdependent possibilities which are scenario-based.

The Future Map is an Agile ( referring to ) object: it is constantly re-discussed, forked, led through various paths of parallel, alternative developments, submitted for appraisal to wider communities (constant beta version), merged when positive outcomes become widely recognized.

The Future Map describes the tendential direction for change to the education system, in the ecosystem. Anyone can contribute to it, using the wirearchy methodology and the emergent dynamics established through the Currency. Currently a Working Team has formed and is actively designing the first instance of the Future Map.

11 axes for transformation have been identified:

  • architecture: the conformation of space, both physical, digital and across;
  • space: the definition of space, its possibility to change and be recontextualized;
  • time: the flow of time, and its modalities, across learning, teaching, production, private, social,
  • collaboration, and the possibility for multi-modality (a project is also an opportunity to teach, learn, dedicate resources to personal interests, to collaborate with the ecosystem, etc.);
  • methodology and tools: Agile methodologies; social learning; peer-to-peer learning and production; platforms; ecosystems;
  • technology: ubiquitous technologies; mobile, nomadic technologies; critical technologies (such as cryptography, for example); meshed networks; open hardware and software;
  • commons and intellectual property: knowledge as a common;
  • privacy: both in physical and digital spaces;
  • permeability, boundaries: blurred conceptualization of boundaries; everyone is part of the ecosystem, through active participation; the ecosystem is open to the city, to other researchers, to businesses, administrations, other universities; the university as a “protocol” which is ethical and technical, in which anyone can participate and make;
  • identity and sense of belonging: rhizomatic identity, meaning that everyone involved in some process of the ecosystem (active participation) is part of the ecosystem itself, and everything reflects it (starting from the Currency);
  • participation: everything is designed for active participation;
  • infrastructures: networks, social media, peer-to-peer infrastructures for interconnection, collaboration, participation, accessibility, sharing.

[to be added: as soon as they emerge, images, diagrams and texts]

The Crowd-funding initiative

The crowd-funding initiative will contribute to the start-up of the Foundation and, thus, of the ecosystem.

People and organizations joining in will be provided an amount of Currency which is proportional to their level of engagement, thus expressing their active participation to the ecosystem, and also being able to instantly start participating to the activities (such as courses, studentships, research, projects, grants, etc.).

The design of crowd-funding initiative went through the following steps:

  • movement design: how do you design and communicate a “movement”?
  • getting to know communities (online, offline, territorial...) which are interested in the same issues, or contiguous ones, to establish contact and relation;
  • design of the communication strategy;
  • crowd-funding design: definition of the participant profiles; multimedia, cross-media and trans-media implementation of the campaign elements (videos, texts, interventions...);

Each step is performed ecosystemically, recombining the Working Teams dynamically, as needed, (eventually passing through Communities of Practice and through Social Networks), to confront with the various issues.

[to be added: next steps and results]

The Network

As a result of this initiative, a large network is being formed, composed by citizens, activists, designers, social innovators, companies, organizations, institutions, news and information outlets.

As of now the organizations which are supporting the initiative are:

  • ISIA Design Florence
  • Nòva24 (Il Sole24Ore)
  • Istituto Etnografia Digitale
  • P2P Foundation
  • AHREF Foundation
  • Pearson Education Italia

Each partner has one or more of many possible roles: participating to the communication, taking part in grant writing to programmatically enact the various parts of the Future Map, political support, technical support, methodological support, etc.

[to be added and maintained: list of partners and roles]


[to be added: currently in preparation is the digital and physical toolkit used in the ecosystem; all software and documents will be placed on for participation]