Rough Meeting Notes from the Infrastructure Stream
Miguel Said Vieira:
Rought collective note taking in a titanpad by the Infrastructure stream attendees
Breakout session 1
from yesterday’s afternoon:
all commons have a knowledge component there is no commons without commoning How to establish social relations necessary to build and maintain infrastructure? Easy to forget about this issue. We learn about the importance of the knowledge-aspect of infrastructure when it is lost, and things dont work any longer. knowledge commons can be protected by open licenses dinstinction between tools and infrastructure – software is both, to fulfill individual objectives and for society on law vs code: if copyright becomes more opressive, knowledge will be harmed if net neutrality is not maintained, publishing info in the commons will become more expensive Knowledge commoning as a method of protecting the infrastructure, of creating an environment where infrastructure will have more resilience.
Talking about Fab Labs Malmoe, Sweden
Twitter: @FBRKN How designers can interact with people outside of the university. Coworking, kitchen, workshop for fixing bikes and FabLab Infrastructure – a matter of WHAT, WHEN + Social practices Not generating commons, but stuff for personal use. One example of collective design systematisation : openstructures
Complement info about Fab Labs :
Fab Labs international association : www.fablabinternational.org/
Fab Labs Charter : www.fablabinternational.org/fab-lab/the-fab-charter
Fab Lab Game (in French) : meditmoiunfablab.wordpress.com/category/4-jeu-cree-ton-fablab/
Wiki of the Fab Labs : wiki.fablab.is
WHERE ARE THEY?
The map… maps.google.com/maps/ms?ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&msid=217507381704291487812.00044fdbd79d493ad9600
Quasi-commons; participants take care of the machines and the physical aspects of the place The output isn’t always commons, but output can be (and often is!) shared intellectual property, like designs of machine operable files Economies of scope; relationship with local context. “This above (economies of scope) is linked to the need for reward system for participants as mentioned by Anna and could lead into the linking of these spaces for the providence of translocal nomadic activities that allow engagement by cultural and commons workers via entering a local system that accomodates their needs while in the area…this opens the access of service providers to wider range of activities and skills and also it founds the basis for transmigrational glocal workers in the commons, the creative, the academic and generally distributed supracultural communities. For this Digital infrastructure is necessary…the cartography of people , place, faciltity, function, and value… a commons directory that is ‘social’ in that it can be updated by its community of usership (keeping it current and relevant) Locally associated scope assumes tranlocalism…see Unomnastey project www.unmonastery.eu” Local design, without standartization Problem: Passivity of the participants. Misunderstanding: people think it’s a public space where everything would be taken care of without them needing to participate in the organisation”Creating psycho-social attractors in the built environment and ‘leading’ by adhering to the value system promoted in everyway, ‘be the living lesson’” Need more recognition steps (rewards) for participants taking care of machines and offering help and organizing courses/workshops. “Commons accredation mechanism? Who contributes, what is the proportion, is it observed? Material and status based resource or ‘power’ (control) distribution” Financing is linked to amount of use/participation.”Hosting and promoting educative and edutainment based model that facilitates a developing transmigrational culture…substantiating this culture with currencies, sustenance, resource sharing..the commons needs connectivity and mutual recognition to found the reciprocity and exchange system.Re:the Economy App and OS developer Matthias Ansorg” Need of sanctions has been identified to avoid problems.
3or 4 ideas. All commons have a knowledge component. There is no commons without commoning. All commoners have to be knowledge commoners. Giving and taking must be balanced in one’s relation to the commons. infrastructure requires knowledge to build and maintain it. What does being a knowledge commoner mean? Using methods to protect knowledge from enclosure. Just use free software. Just publish. 2) Distinction between tools and infrastructure. “On the nature of infrastructure, the tool is not the infrastructure but an aspect of it in the same way that neither the road, the traffic lights, nor the roundabout are the infrastructure itself. Infrastructure relates to energy flow of any kind, in nature we have air currents, river systems and such, in the human body we have veins, alveoli, the musculature, neuronic firing sequences, in society we have roads, flight patterns telecommunication, fibre optic cables, programs, and the space of attention between the user and the software or hardware used. Digital infrastrucutre involves seeing the interoperabilty of what we place in the infrastructure of the commons, be that digital, organizational, legal, social or otherwise.” Infrastructure needs to be protected to support knowledge sharing. Knowledge commoning is a way of giving more resiiance to commons infrastructure. It’s an offensive mechanism that commoners have to protect other commons. Values and motivations become things. Not ‘upward and downward’ (vertical scale falt earth model) but both Horizontal, Vertical and Z lived … “Onward and Outward” Silke: notion of sustainability when it comes to infrastructures of knowledge and how to maintain them should not only refer to the top of the iceberg; the question how things/project can be financed/sustained but how a commons project/infrastructure really replenishes the natural resources and the care-work, that are at the basis of every commons produce commons not opposed to individual use. Ostrom’s design priniciples also to Tina from Occupy London “How can these infrastructural technologies be applied to realworld (not knowledge centric) development of the Commons? - -Prabir- What about the telecommunicative infrastructure we already have ? Reverse Leapfrogging? (mobile payment in developing world systems)” In those cases, the issues are not so much related to knowledge, but to maintaining their public character — a battle which is already being lost in many cases. - convert the public utilities into commons”Yes like fairphone,and in general this idea that Commons licensing applied to OS Crowd production of commodities sold at differing levels inside and outside of the commons based on accredation of people contribution to the commons. What Michel said basically, and with the aim of Commonizing our native accomodatory infrastructures. Imagint the same as the Tibetan Chamber of Commerce conception of C(ommunity)Social Responsibility, and the development of C(rowdfunded)SR in this context. Ask the Wikispeed guy someone!!! “ Done…oops, it wasnt a question. The smaller to the larger as the larger to the whole may translate to: The common to the fragmented as the fragmented to the whole. This being the proportion of selfinterest to self-inter-esse…neither of which exist in themselves in the lived reality. The commons cooperative nature must hybridize with the capital in the proper proportionate relationship.
IAD frameworks; what works and what doesnt. Im not sure what kinds of knowledge commons were talking about now, and there are groups working on many of the existing areas, such as preservation. Proprietary clouds, community clouds. Charlotte Hess signals a group in Madison working on adapting the design principles to knowledge commons About digital preservation, no system large enough, whether private, corporate, public for the large datasets Not yet
Fisheries: when the fish is on the sea, common resource; when fished and lands on the boat, it becomes private property of the crew, or the boat owner etc. And then it is sold. Similar situation with Fablabs?
Hervé Le Crosnier
We should not confuse infrastructure and means of production. ex : education as infrastructure – How do we garentee freedom of education with the 2 meanings of “free” ?Learning is reflexive, see the content aggregator, by transcribing you are educating yourself while serving the commons…proper commons based relations…like learning in the garden by helping.
Content Aggregator: Continuing the conversation after the event: Think Zooniverse…Audio Recordings to Community Curation to Content Aggregation to Translation and continued conversation. -We make audio recordings of talks and conversations, breakoutsessions, they are uploaded to a central resource for communal curation. -Commons community collators and curators listen to and transcribe these knowledge artifacts.(must be without any obligation whatsoever, 100% self-selected) -Collator-Translators translate the conversations -Curation is aggregated and social (upvote or down vote of content) -Content can be created from these many voices, the path will evidence itself as the impersonal or transpersonal is approximated through practice. -Engaging in this process should have some accredational value in terms of contributing to the commons. This creates the ability to do for publishing (CC of course) something similar to what the printing press did to the notion of identity. Journals and publications after the printing press consolidated the egoic self, the individual author, the specialist mentality, the scientific method (individual experience of deomstrable truth) and thus the industrial revolution and the dawn of the information age via evolution of telecommunication. What can be done via this kind of community collation and collaborative publication of ’tissues of quotations’? Fully collaborative texts, composed through crowdsourcing material of the highest knowledge value among peers of the Commons. This changes the notion of identity, thus the values, and thus the creations of human organization.
The issue of performance of the infrastructure’s performance : governance (public, private, cooperative models…) on one side, and management on the other (example of public health: care, life and death issues related to process management performance) Management : making a work place safe, either o Hospital or a Fab Lab, is COMPLEX and it requires knowledge on HOW TO skills which has to be shared by the culture of users (either workers but also patients and Fab Lab participants) and applied in instances of infrastructures which are different from each other.
“‘Social Capital’…See Vinay Gupta’s work with the Edgeryder network, (www.edgeryders.eu) Social Capital for Social Ventures (SC4SV) (think skill sharing, time banking, and the reflexive internal collaboration with selling of service outside of the phyle or knowledge commons…what leaves the commons is sold as a commodity to those who do not contribute…how do you evalute this?…trust, reputation, common-communal curation)”
Social learning infrastructure Experience from Indonesia. In 30 years, collapse of water infrastructures. social-ecological criteria of living well - human safety - reproduction (water, energy) - life space infrastructure (link between islands) crossed with production and consumption and governance - use different conversational tools in commoning two verbs: resisting and healing enourage everyone to develop own knowledge infrasture/own narrative of a crisis School of democratic commoning need to understand processes of destruction of the commons
Not one single kind of infrastructure, but many layers of it. Infrastructure has been destructed in post-soviet countries; whos going to rebuild it? From above or below? Complex struggle. Cultural remembrance and wishes (which go beyond the memory of collectivist soviet union) about what we want and how we can cooperate to live together. We should look at this gap (remembrances and current structures).
Independant practitioner network How to get to provide accountability independently from the government. Principles and procedures; reached reasonable “recipes” for commoning…
Access rules impose a big difference with different kinds of infrastructures. In public infrastructures, the closed aspect of commons really doesnt fit historically. Public infrastructure doesnt need to be run by the state, but rather to be universal / open access.
Housing crises in UK. Pat who? S.E.L.F-OP (Social, Environmental, Legal, Financial) A Community placemaking methodology for the creation and sustenance of Common Land Trusts. The name of their highly well recieved report will be published as: “Cooperative Placemaking , Democratic Building of CommonWealth” Will be published in a couple of months. Land in commons (even though not buildings themselves) would slash prices in half, and undo the earlier pricing out of most people. Most successful: Cornwall; developed a partnership with government. Significant percentage of land is still in the hands of the state; could be a solution for advancing?
Fruitfulness of PCP (public-commons partnerships). Look to the space in between the polarity commons / state, and not to its extremes; hybrid experiences. “Diametric opposition would create conflict, the hybrids have to exist in adaptive relation to local socio-political-and ecological conditions. Between the extremes the scale exists as a mix of two non-existent ends. The conception of ends to scales is a fallacy, everything is a mixture of nonexistent dual ends. There will be no pure commons, nor can there ever be a pure capitalism, no pure selfishness and no pure ‘self inter esse’…at least not from the experiential perspective. In the gut we have proportionate relation between aerobic and anaerobic bacteria…health is proper proportion, we can test this in society as we test it in the body. Lets figure this stuff out…by doing…”
Invisibility of the commons (until they appear through public policies). Situation in Brazil: commons is not in the public discussion, even though they are there on the ground (indigenous peoples, quilombos and other slave-descendent communities). Open Government Partnership: one possible to discuss this issues and try to reach public policies. Also necessary to reach and communicate better to / within civil society
Creative Commons not being creative for commons (for instance in reaching civil society). Serious language issue: “social capital”. (terms like “Social capital” don’t facilitate thinking in different categories than „how do I market myself best in order to succeed in the market“)”So same for Knowledge capital or any other form of capital, capital is capital in terms of commodification…therefore it is a neccesary condition that commons production also has a commodified rate for sale outside of the commons to hybrid ventures…we have to speak both languages. Vocab proposal: “social capital” goes “social commonal”? “But it is not here…there is no space for it…we are ignored, or perhaps we have ignored! Creative culture in every instance I met with it in conversation was treated with the commodified cheapified approach, like some kind of side show, if you treat creativity like this and dont seek it out and promote it then it is very presumptious of anyone to make that kind of assertion. Think about it…you talk about the knowledge commons and the ecological commons…not the creative commons…the creative commons IS a commons, but it has not been accredited and supported as such.Culture is the connect between generations and disciplines, it always has been.”
Public funds to lend for poor people at non-usurious rates.
Felix proposed understanding of the commons that was opposite to Rodota’s (regarding their relation to fundamental rights). Both are probably partially right. Risks of the advance of automated processes. Design of protocols determines part of the outcomes as well.
Main sense in commoning: learn to live together, survive (in many senses, not only material). We have the remembrance of how to do it and its importance, but we lost the means, the infrasctructure — taken over by the state. It can happen again (cooptation).
Very hard to descale certain kinds of IS (say, electricity). Importance distinction when we’re dealing with public utilities: commercial usage, citizens usage (which should be privileged).
Some IS cannot be descaled — isn’t it an overstatement? Electricity, for instance. [Prabir: production, ok; not the grid!] Do Fablabbers wonder where their energy come from, would they try to produce it as well? Shiva: Each commons is someone else’s commons. Disconnect from the grid, perhaps?
Subsidiarity. Appropriate scales for each layer of the sector (distribution, production and its sublevels). Offers “checks and balances” against big actors.
Involved with a specific FabLab.
I’m doing a PhD in Medea, I’m part of the Malmont living labs, free labs established in 2007. The idea is how designers can interact with actors outside university on long-term basis for exploring diverse kind of issues. It’s called Fabriken, means a factory, 2000 m2 venue owned by city of Malmont. Space has a co-working facility, venue for concerts and exhibitions, kitchen and lab with different kinds of equipment, also bike workshop. I’m been running this space for 3 years and reflecting what kind of production could happen there. What happens with governance inside this space, what happens when you move from information
What is infrastructure. In the participatory design community we build often we define infrastructure not so much as what as when. It’s a matter of having both technology matters but also social practices. There are different kinds of uses and activities, e.g. people using the space for small start-ups.
The ongoing productions is not generating commons. People are doing things for their own use. When you go towards sharing materials you enter into issues what happens when you share things, it’s not like code that’s always available. In terms of management, there is interaction between the NGO and us and the people coming into the space.
The means of production become a kind of quasi-commons, meaning that the participants in this space are taking care of the machines and physical aspects of the space, even though the outputs are not commons. I’m working with this idea of economies of scope. We have a 3D printer, it’s used in different ways, workshops, models etc. We think of the sustainability of these spaces by opening them up to different kinds of use. Different kinds of scope means thinking of ways of supporting different local practices. It’s really important to work with and understand the needs of local communities.
Working towards standardisation, relation to local context. Communicating how the space works has been really, really difficult. People look at it either as a public space (free space, others taking care of it), or then looking at it as our corner, putting up fences etc. How do you communicate the rules and sanction mis-behaviour. Free riders coming in etc.
Another aspect has become problematic. Social recognition, possibility to enter the space and decide about the budget of the machines. But the most people arrive, the more we realise we don’t have enough rewards to give people. The more workshops we do, the more people come, the more workshops need to be done. It needs to be thought through, how to create a system where you have enough nuances for rewarding, gradation etc.
The NGO is basically the one that got from the municipality the space, so they are officially in charge of the space. It’s interesting to see the way they interact with the participants who are basically running the space. The NGO becomes I call it a partner-producer building on the idea of partner state, they’re looking after the space, making sure the rules are respected, it’s financed by the city according to the amount of activities that are taking place. So the participants have power in that they control the number of activities and therefore funding of this space.
Could you give an example of how you ended up communicating rules, one of the methods you tried that did or didn’t work well to incent positive behaviour or sanction negative behaviour?
When it comes to communication, we have posters everywhere telling people e.g. take care of your dishes in the kitchen. But it needs some kind of feedback. In the workshop it works very well. They fix the laser cutter and then they see immediate result, so ok, what do we do next. From Swedish context, it’s not the way they expect the place to be. They expect it to be more passive because it’s a public space.
It takes time, they have to enter the mindset that it requires some kind of engagement. If you do something, you can see the reward, it works better. The head of the place comes to you and recognises what you do for the space, like a social recognition.
We didn’t have sanctions and that I think is a problem, we are starting now. Sanctions are needed.
What are you trying?
For entering the space, you get a tag and then you use the tag for opening doors. If you don’t do what you’re supposed to, the tag is taken away. If you do an event and then you left a mess, we will write e-mails, come a little bit after you, discuss it with other people.
You have 3 levels, real user, participant (key).
George Estes, team leader of wikispeed, open source manufacture company in over 20 countries, we produce road-legal cars. We run into much of the same stuff you hear about here.
Wolfgang, CAN, how do you finance your thing, if that is too big a topic we can leave it for later, to buy all the things you have in the lab.
As a question, who is a little aware or involved in Fab Labs right now, I think we are a few already.
Michael Sweden, is also coordinating the knowledge stream
The idea behind me saying something here, there’s a huge amount of overlap between knowledge and infrastructure stream.
Digital infrastructure has a dominant knowledge component.
Three ideas. First, stated abundantly last night, that all commons have a knowledge component. Second, there’s no commons without commoning. What this means in an infrastructure context. All commoners have to be knowledge commoners in a sense otherwise they’re not defending the knowledge component of their commons. This becomes very visible in the infrastructure context. Example last night, infrastructure requires knowledge but also social relations to build and maintain it. It’s easy to forget the social relations component. Knowledge needs commoning, protection, active protection, this is demonstrated when that knowledge is lost.
What does being a knowledge commoner actually mean? Actively protecting the knowledge that protects it from enclosure.
Second idea, distinction between tools and infrastructure. I’ve said many times in my life that software for example is infrastructure, have a tinge of embarrassment, I mean tool but I want a bigger, more-important sounding word.
Third thought, knowledge commoning as a method of protecting the commons of infrastructure. Usually this means the law or the physical infrastructure of the internet. If copyright becomes more oppressive, it’s going to be hard to share knowledge. In the case of internet’s physical infrastructure, if we don’t maintain that neutrality, publishing information in the commons will become more expensive because the contents industry will pay the internet companies to only watch their propaganda fast.
Knowledge commoning is a method of creating environment in which infrastructure as a commons will have more resilience. If you look at attacks on infrastructure of the law and physical infrastructure of the internet, they largely come from copyright holders and other monopolies who want to expand their extraction. By moving knowledge into the commons we essentially take away their resources. I think of knowledge commoning as an offensive mechanism of protecting the commons.
Silke, possibly a more general observation/suggestion, I always get a bit nervous when the word sustainability is not used in the sense I’m used to (forest management), top of the iceberg, where do we get the money to maintain the infrastructure,
connect this commons to the other ones
we tried to translate Ostrom’s principles into another language, last comment, the products are not commons, difference between a commodity and the commons, commons that are not School of Commons in Barcelona, I just want to add that infrastructure I think is a relative term.
Infrastructure is not neutral and needs to be integrated into the analysis of the process.
expand knowledge commons into other parts of infrastructure; reinvest
existing infrastructure that is there, telecommunications, energy, water
there’s a huge battle going on over there with privatisation, sometimes we lose the battle, it’s really knowledge commons but I don’t think that’s the crux of the issue, I think it’s about maintaining public character.
Yes, we talk about building a parallel infrastructure. Below the internet is the telecom infrastructure. How do we extend, protect their public character? How do you make them accountable to the people? These are the issues we really have to address.
Charlotte Hess, just two things. I was a little late to this, so if these were addressed, excuse me. In terms of the design principles, there are people working on adaptation for institutional use(?) knowledge commons, a number of us are working to design an instrument to do case studies, we hope to have that online so that different people who have organised knowledge commons can simply fill this out, so we can see what works in terms of rules and sanctions. That’s in the works.
Second thing. I’m really concerned about no matter what kind of knowledge commons we’re talking about the issue of digital preservation. Private, government, corporate, academic, there’s no system large enough to preserve the knowledge on internet. Already, it’s a huge challenge. There are different groups around the world building commons to create preservation systems, these commons are hybrid systems, I’m thinking in academia for instance, even they, it’ll have to be very selective in preservation.
David Weinberger is one of the people who have been working on just the cost, it hasn’t been built into a lot of budgets. Of course you can talk about preservation on the cloud. There are a few community clouds but that’s another issue. I hope that part of the discussion about infrastructure includes digital preservation and the true dilemmas and complexity that are built around there.
On the theme of individual appropriation of themes made in the commons, the Fab Lab thing made me think about fisheries. If there’s a coastal fishery where a community of fishermen have commonly agreed rules about who fishes when where, the fish are treated as a common resource. But as soon as they’re in the boat they become the property of the boat owner, the crew, or a combination of the two, that depends on local circumstances. Then they’re typically sold and become the property of whoever bought them. We still call it the fishery commons even if it is appropriated after that. The equipment is a commons even if the things are later appropriated by individuals.
France, I feel that for now, infrastructure and means of production are not the same. Infrastructure is only a limited part of what we have to care about, water, electricity, energy, road, education. Education is the real infrastructure of the knowledge commons. For education, how do people, community users of education, pupils, students, are able to intervene on the content, context and methods of education? How do we guarantee freedom of education with the double sense, everybody to have the right to education? For now, I feel if we have everything becoming an infrastructure, if we meld infrastructure and means of production, we won’t be able to answer the real question.
Evan, I’m a teacher and I respect the reflexivity of that, a teacher is a learner, I wanted to propose the possibility of a content aggregator that works on the same basis as zooniverse works (astronomy, pictures) and crowdsource the interpretation of those pictures. We have a learning community who are learning and growing, these audio recordings are data.
Gyom, I invest in commons for 12 years, professional planning of opening of a hospital in Montreal which from my point of view is an infrastructure. Doing this planning preparation we need to organise the transition, transport of patients, April 2016, we need this infrastructure to be performance, if we bring those patients from one place to another, that are in a risky, dangerous state, the performance has to deliver what we want in terms of caring, feeding the people, I do come to the realisation in my practice, there are management issues of these infrastructures, especially when they’re public, they use resources that cost money, labour, I feel that knowledge is put on a CD, how do we address the management performance of our infrastructures of the commons, that’s the question I’d like to have a dialogue with.
When it comes to sustainability I don’t just mean moneywise, if you look what’s being produced is both human capital, social capital, skills, relations, news value. Until December we didn’t have the problem shall we allow commercial use of the facility or not. But now the issue is how to allow commercial use, adding companies and charging for companies using, e.g. the laser cutter, but at the same time keeping the other time of production, burnout or sick leave, this is helping them in different ways. I think the issues there is how to integrate different kinds of production, comes back to a problem of management. NGO runs the space and responds to the municipality, so they have to respond socialwise. Role of participants, I forgot to say, it’s really few of the people participating in this space that believe in the commons. Most come because they see the space as a possibility, get a little bit familiar with another way of running things. How can we make visible other forms of value production. It’s hard to argue ah, but we produce skills, you can’t show them in the same way as money.
Indonesia, I’d like to share some questions from long-time work in trying to understand the core issues in commoning. Setup, experience, we setup infrastructures that could be grabbed by the communities, social networks, that need to reclaim or occupy the islands or live space that is endangered. School set up in 2007, since then we try to understand the complexity of commoning in 32 overlapping historical social ecological entities in the maritime park of southeast Asia. Also set up a chapter in East Timor in 2008. The way I understand the idea of infrastructure is probably more fluid, not defined by hardware, software. There’s a dependency that’s so complex for most of the islands. First, we try to set up something like a professional taxonomy for all the live spaces. We came up with 10 topometrical categories of islands. Bali is #4. We don’t know how to deal with a place like that. For the past 30 years, the water in Bali, the key to all things, civilisation, almost collapsed. The whole idea for water systems. Not because of water grab, land grab but because there is a decaying of knowledge infrastructures. Social Ecological Assessment Map, simple metrics, the idea is to start thinking about what kind of problems, crises, social ecological criteria of living well. Human safety is one. Reproducibility, reproduction. Third is life space infrastructure, can link between islands or network between urban centres. We’re looking for an alternative narrative from within the community. Their own language, their own ideas. On the ecological side we have 3 criteria for developing this infrastructure: holistic integrity(?),
Cross the metrics with 2 issues, production and consumption. Second part is the governing part. We’re moving beyond the idea of physical systems there. The governance systems now, we start asking ourselves about the energetics of government. In reality, there’s very little the government can do about the crisis, social and ecological. They’ve opened all the doors for hydrocarbon mining from China, all sorts of entropy-increasing economic activities. In the commoning process, we use many different tools: we want to check the idea of resisting and self-healing. Resisting and healing. The whole source of social representation issues and all that. We will encourage everyone to develop a kind of knowledge infrastructure, their own narratives of the crisis. We’re thinking of teaming up with people in Asia. We should work more closely to understand the real mechanisms of destruction, expropriation of the commons.
Researcher on post-perestroika transformation. I find it very difficult to find a way in this discussion. I’ll try to continue your thought. The main thing I see is we have to talk about different infrastructures. We don’t have one, we have many different levels. I think it’s very important to look at the many different levels and analyse what’s going on.
Infrastructure in Russia, Mongolia, China, countries of earlier socialism. You’ll see that infrastructure has been destroyed and has to be built up again – but who’s going to do it? Will it be built up from above or from below? The question is a fight. There will be a fight in Russia for the last collective structures in that area. People have to ask themselves if they are willing and ready and able to fight for their collective rights. Here we have another situation. It’s important to make this distinction.
I want to give one idea that I got yesterday morning talking to some people. People in Russia although infrastructure is destroyed and the fight against it is going on, people remember their collective, their common culture, very old common culture, all of the Soviet collectivism and culture, no it’s Russian, Chinese and so on culture. There is a cultural remembrance and wishes of how we have been living and want to live in the future.
On the other side, in Russia, the structures are not yet prepared. So you have a big, big gap between cultural remembrance of how we can live together and possibility of how to do it. We should look to this gap more than we did it now, in Russia and India. In this country too. Cultural remembrance against structures.
I want to pick up your thought of different ideas of infrastructure, I also find it quite difficult to get into this conversation. Infrastructure for me has a particular lived meaning. Organisation in the UK of therapists, psychotherapists. There was an issue some decades ago, how do people like that do civic accountability. How can I be an ethical practitioner seeing people about human condition issues. Short version of this, about 10 years ago the UK government decided that this should be regulated in a particularly toxic way as it turned out. There were significant numbers of practitioners who saw this as not in the public interest. A proposal was made that we have a different way of structuring ethical responsibility of practitioners that was independent of government. Turned into the Independent Practitioners Network. Seems to me that networking is a key element of infrastructuring the commons, possibly the generic one. At least as I see it. What emerged was a proposal for practitioners to join in groups of 6 or 7 people who would get to know each other well enough to be able to stand by each other’s work. This led to a series of commons groups, some 200 people in these groups. So far as that worked, what we eventually ended up with is a series of autonomous groups each with their own worked out version of how to do civic accountability linked by a national network in the UK. This seems as an alternative of what counts as infrastructure. It’s organised on the basis of face-to-face gatherings 3 times a year. We have various principles and procedures, if anyone’s interested, there are some quite good recipes there, sort of generic.
Yes, there’s another layer. We could get in trouble being too nice to each other.
One of the procedural principles is that each group needs to be linked to two other groups, the rule is to check out our process, you could use the word monitor. Is it good enough, is the issue. It’s only lately, in the last couple of years, that I realised that the group I was in was intrinsically a commons and commoning was what we were doing. Hardly anyone in the network recognises this yet. And we haven’t needed the name. There’s quite a lot of commoning that doesn’t call itself a commoning.
Felix – I get a bit nervous when I hear about water or education being treated as a commons because I think we’re in danger of losing another concept, i.e. public. For me water is a public because everyone has a right to access it. It’s not limited to a group of people for their own use. It would create an extremely unequitable system, some organise a very nice hospital for themselves and others with less means, have a poor one. We should not lose that by saying yes, we do it now as a commons. There are a lot of interesting ways and places where you can do commons at an infrastructural level, but they should not try and replace or come in competition with public infrastructures. By public I don’t mean run by the state although that’s often the case, I mean everyone has a public right.
Pat, UK – I want to share a story about partnership model. Late 1990s the housing crisis became severe in the UK, has continued to get worse. Now, they talk about generation rent. People leaving universities today can’t afford to buy anything. Housing has become dysfunctional because of speculation. Cooperative movement, common land trust. Lots of experimentations in the 19th century that had been forgotten about. In 2004 we wanted to establish 50 community land trusts in rural areas, 50 in urban areas. We were able to develop 22 community land trusts in rural areas. The urban ones took longer. The important thing to understand if you look at any OECD country, there are two parts of cost equation. Half is the building cost, half is the site, land value. So if you’re able to take the land out of the cost equation, so it’s no longer part of the commodity, then you can have half-priced housing. More than pricing people back into affordable areas, people in rural areas were saying, we’re losing our pubs, shops, so began using community land trust model to save their local pubs and shops, then renewable energy, food etc. Generic
Most successful area for community land trusts is Cornwall. Why is this? Because they interestingly built a partnership with the local government, municipality which then created access to low-cost finance, for opening up the planning system so the plans could be fast-tracked. Think of all the public land, in the UK if you look at the situation, half of the land is owned by 1/3 of a percent of the population. That’s massively concentrated. But there’s still lots of public land owned by non-profit organisations, organisations that preserve nature. Extend 8% of all the land and build it out.
We’ve developed a system about
Six steps, to build a renewable energy project, food project, housing project. We said there are 6 steps, SELF-OP
social, environmental, legal and financial.
You start with social engagement, conversation. Then, how are you going to get and preserve the land, environmental question. How will the land be owned and governed (legal question).
Steps of doing it, has to look at operational and physical (SELF-OP)
This works for community waste, could work for recycling, it’s a pedagogy for creating a process model for engaging people, not just local residents but other stakeholders, politicians, investors. Cooperative place-making through SELF-OP to build commonwealth. We took this idea to a conference we had near London last November, these organisations never talked to each other (experts in housing, energy, food).
What is the common denominator of all projects? Access to know-how, access to lands or sites, access to affordable finance (equitable capital question) and of course access to legal structures that are convivial to enable the democracy question to be answered.
Cooperative place-making, success – will be putting this in a report Democratic building of commonwealth
It’s isolation and fragmentation that’s a problem. Who are the sleeping giants? When I talked about the co-op movement, that is power. Add NGO power to that. Add trade-union power to that. Then
Two comments. One to Pat, one to Felix. I’m very impressed to that story. Synergies between public commons partnerships. In many areas are not hospitable to commons-partnership because frankly it’s competition with the market alliance, so I’m curious about how this was overcome in Cornwall. Many land trusts act more widely for the public good but I would question whether they’re restrictive or exclusionary, I think they’re important as a form of intermediary government. I’d like to explore the polarities of the universal public versus the potentially restrictive commons. I think this messy hybrid area between the two is worth exploring if the politics can be worked out.
Sao Paolo university, biggest problem of the commons is its invisibility. It’s very difficult to defend the commons, we need more visibility for the commons. Maybe we can use different channels to discuss commons at a global level. How many people here know open government partnership between 58 countries? Commitments with civil society to promote transparency, better management of public resources.
Silke – Creative Commons, please be creative for the commons. Because they aren’t in my point of view, they are one of the biggest embassies for the commons. That’s quite dissapointing for me. Pat, what’s already been built. I always wonder why it doesn’t really work, I’m sorry for getting back to this language issue, social capital, knowledge capital, just doesn’t resonate with me. It seems like we have to produce or continue producing the same way just kind of internalising in the price-building system some social, moral or environmental issues. I would like really to elaborate a little bit more, looking for examples out there that are sold as commons, been built and constructed and further developed as commons.
Croatia, it is shocking for me, where the whole national transport railway system was built by the people themselves as a commons. I used to say after the wall came down, after the Balkan wars, it hasn’t been cared for as a commons anymore. I really wonder, why don’t we study also those examples in the world that were not only thought as continuing to produce for the market.
It is helpful to care for our language, I can’t consider something as social capital. Consider our trust and relationships as capital for the market. How do we create resonance with other movements?
I found very interesting the point that was made about the practitioners’ network. Two forms of social capital. Bonding social capital and bridging social capital. Bonding, is social groups.
Carlo Pilani – big market (Market), small market (middle ages, guilds, very small network of practitioners, movement hit a peak in the 1st world war when the cooperative movement was its strongest, in the UK was called guild socialism, was trying to build partnership between NGOs, trade unions, guilds, co-ps). It’s very difficult to build cross-sector partnerships because it’s different cultures. The state of housing in Britain is declining, disrepairs is in billions. We started a project about 10 years ago around the poorest people in Birmingham and London and other big cities, how do we repair housing for older people on low income who can’t afford a loan to repair their house, make it more energy-efficient.
We’ll create revolving loan funds in East London, southwest, Manchester. Gandhi says you have to experiment to find the truth. We said ok, you local government have capital. You put the money in these funds and we’ll lend it to these people at non-usurious rates. Loans are 3% to the borrower, revolving cooperative fund is 6%. So far we’ve had not one bad debt. If you’re too poor you maybe pay nothing and when the house is sold we reclaim the capital back.
Bristol – 5 municipalities putting capital in, then 10, now it’s 21, credit of 21 million, they also do the building work, local carpenters. You have a partnership with an NGO revolving fund, 21 municipalities, it’s a really interesting model. We’ve made 100 million.
KFW bank. Can access capital at 0.5%. Social-scientific experimentation, public-social partnerships. Work was done with the university, linking with the public sector.
I was saying to Felix how his approach is the opposite of the approach of Rodotta, linked with fundamental rights, Felix was opposite understanding of the commons. Both have something true. Rodotta also linked this research on the commons to fundamental rights because he’s reflecting on the crisis of national sovereignty. My point was about highlighting a dimension that still hasn’t come out. A layer increasingly important in our information society. Increased automation of our processes. More and more social relationships are mediated through huge automated processes. That’s a point that we have to reflect about.
Russia dude – Commons movement is only beginning and is fought by global capitalism. It is not only fought but already destroyed in some parts of the world by global capitalism. I think we should be realistic in that way. First, we have to make analysis in what situation we are here, there. What is the capital, main, sense of commoning? It’s to stick together, to work together. If I look at a global level, it would mean to help ourselves to survive in this situation, not only survive in the material sense but also in mental sense. By soul, by heart and by food of course. To remember that we have been responsible for our life, there has been a time when I was responsible for myself and the life of my friend. This remembrance is still here, we’re gathering around this remembrance. We lost the means, the structures, the state took them over.
Infrastructure does lend itself to scaling up. You put one more person in the network, the cost comes down dramatically. I’d also like to say that on the question of water, public goods/utilities and commons, there is an issue of water being regarded as a universal good. Are we saying that Coca Cola can take it for free? I’d argue that it’s for personal consumption but not for commercial use.
If India was not one country, we would have had 3 wars over this issue. India-Pakistan, the issue is water, as it is for India and China. I recognise that at certain economies of scale, small-scale production is not possible. If that’s the case, then you’re looking at very large entities. How do you make billions of dollars today? How do you run it as a public utility?
Importance of distinguishing commercial and citizen usage. I think that’s a very important point. It’s not at all peaceful. You don’t have to go to the knowledge issue to enter this discussion. Water issues in California, there is this issue. There are public users that claim a special right over that over industrial users. This is something we also need to discuss in the academic aspect of commons.
Evan – Michel mentioned yesterday the notion of licensing in terms of something Silke said recently (only contributors to commons can take from the commons).
I was talking to someon from Tibetan chamber of commerce, they don’t talk about corporate social responsibility. Also notion of crowdfunded responsibility. FairForm, buy a form start a movement. Creative intelligence, production, utility, are more efficient, better, tend towards order and beauty, are hands-down better than individualised approaches. In that way, if you can produce better goods and services and make them available within the commons on one basis, outside the commons on the other, demands a bit of further thought.
Silke – I guess there’s a doubt if certain infrastructures can’t be scaled down isn’t overstated. Electricity is an example that comes to mind, and that’s where I observe the opposite. This is where I think WikiSpeed has so much potential.
Not the grid.
Silke – They link the need to switch to another resource space to another (faster, smarter) grid. If the Fab Labbers wonder where their energy comes from and whether they can produce that energy themselves. Produce electricity based on our own resources, then we can disconnect from the grid. That should be the way to go.
Silke – Because then we will be autonomous. Any energy expert will say that’s impossible, our industry needs this and that. Then comes WikiSpeed and says, no, we don’t need a huge corporation to produce a car. Pat – It’s plus and, not either or. The issue of subsidiarity is relative scale. Denmark, over last 30 years for energy. Started with windmills in village areas, they’ve moved over time, built public-social partnership. In Copenhagen the municipal sector takes responsibility for infrastructure, the retail co-ops, district level, 21 of them, take charge of the running. This creates an interesting check-and-balance dynamic. Co-ops focus on energy efficiency and education but also checking on a price side. We can have these different resilient pieces that come together.
Guyaume – As an example in Barcelona they developed a house in the FabLab that produces 3 times more energy than it needs. You can sell it through the grid and bring money into your Fab Lab and co-housing projects. What is this infrastructure for? The utilities market in the US know their business model has come to an end, and the citizens in the US will I know make it happen, different modes of distributing energy.
Silke – Disconnect from their grid, that was the idea.
Guyaume – Then it’s the governance of the grid, then we’re at the point of socially responsible investment has proven more effective than activism. Money invested this way is so much that we see trends that emerge capitalist and commons-friendly. Lots of us here own money in different mutual funds, for this I chose to invest in the commons and be a commons-capitalist COMMONALIST?, develop a commons-investment fund.
Not either or. Some areas you can scale down. Some areas, like the grid, I think is better not to scale down. Do not think that the grid has to be done only for the purpose of capital. It’s a question of how you govern the grid. If we want to use the sun, but please remember you don’t have it 24 hours, so you really need a global grid if you want to use the sun.
Dividing into us and them is not helpful. At all. Bacteria in your gut is a balance, not pure alkaline, not purely acidic, try doing only with aerobic bacteria…you would not live long!