Top Ten P2P Trends of 2014

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draft version, please add comments and suggestions on the talk page

for comparison purposes, see last year's list: Most Important P2P-Related Projects and Trends of 2013


Listing

1. Reaching of the tipping point for (distributed) renewable energy

This is probably the most important trend in 2014, the breakthrough of the solar economy, and part of which is clearly being done on 'peer to peer' lines, i.e. distributed renewable energy, as in Germany where there are now two million energy providers, many of them citizen cooperatives.

Just before the end of the year, E.ON, the major utility in Germany, took stock of that situation and is re-organizing itself for the distributed energy revolution. When such a major player acts, it means the emergence is no longer marginal. Find out more here.


2. The rise of open cooperatives and ethical enterpreneurial coalitions

Earlier this year, I made an intervention calling for Open Cooperativism, i.e. a new type of social goal oriented, multi-stakeholder governed cooperatives that also directly produce commons. A first example, which embraces the concept, is working towards it (see Fair.Coop), is the Catalan Integral Cooperative, which is rapidly growing in Catalonia.

2014 also saw the coming of age of ethical coalitions, very p2p oriented in their practice, such as the very innovative Enspiral, born in New Zealand.

Read John Restakis' excellent book, Humanizing the Economy, especially chapter 4 and 5 on the Emilian Model (on the multistakeholder Solidarity Cooperatives for social care in Emilia-Romagna and Quebec), for a good understanding of this evolution.


3. The emergence of cryptoledger applications and a crypto-currency for the commons

Readers of our blog know that we are critical of Bitcoin, which exhibits some of the worst features of a wild hyper-capitalism, creating greater concentrations of wealth than sovereign currencies and based on a rent-extraction mechanism that favours oligarchic early entrants. See here for a summary of that critique.

Apart from the currency, the ledger of bitcoin (the technology) is an important development, and hopes for Distributed Autonomous Corporations or organizations, where p2p governance could be enabled through smart contracts, directly encoded in the software, as proposed by Ethereum and others. We should be sceptical for two reasons, one is that this is still largely vapourware, i.e. proposals, dreams and prototypes; the other is that it may be like Bitcoin, another way to code hyper-capitalist value systems in digitally-mediated social practice. But, as Primavera de Filippi and others have argued, there is a priori no reason that emancipatory projects and forces could use such platforms to encode more egalitarian values.

Of particular importance for us at the P2P Foundation, was a related development to use an equally distributed cryptocurrency, Faircoin [1], to develop a global coalition for fair trade by open cooperatives. This is a project of the Catalan Integral Cooperative, supported by the P2P Foundation.


4. Cities and Countries of the Commons

The highlight for the P2P Foundation in 2014, was the invitation by three Ecuadorian institutions, i.e. the FLOKSociety.org project, to create transition policies and proposals to create a social knowledge economy in that country. It resulted in a Commons Transition Plan and more than 18 separate legislative proposals. The transition plan is the first ever transition plan to be focused around the commons, and historically important even though the project itself seems stalled at the nation-state level. But more local pilot projects, like the plan for open agricultural machinery in the poor district of Sigchos, under the leadership of mayor Mario Andino, is progressing, with the help for example of Kate Swade of Shared Assets.

But if nation-state transitions seems premature, there is a lot happening at the city level.

A breakthrough is undoubtedly the framework, co-developed by Christian Iaione, called the Bologna Regulation for the Care and Regeneration of Urban Commons, which has reportedly been copied by 40 other Italian cities. Co-Mantua is one of the examples of such projects. Italy is generally a very mature country for commons initiatives, and Michel Briand, of the pioneering collaborative city of Brest in France, has calculated there may be more than 100,000 urban commons projects in France alone.

Of great interest as well are the innovative territorial strategies for distributed fabrication such as the Barcelona Fab City project, see the Barcelona 5.0 Plan.

For more information about commons-oriented transitions, see commonstransitions.org .

Of utmost importance is of course also the experience in the Autonomy Region Rojava, as an impressive example of local and multicultural democracy, recently described as a 'DIY Revolution' in Roar Magazine [2]


5. The rise of anti-austerity forces in Spain (Podemos) and Greece (Syriza)

After two decades of neoliberal destruction in Latin America, and in particular after the Argentinian crisis of 2001, the people of that continent woke up, revolted, and voted for progressive coalitions throughout the continent, allowing for tremendous social progress in a single decade. Europe is now in the thrall of the same destructive ideology and practice, with the EU institutions co-responsible for criminal social destruction in a country like Greece. While this conscious destruction of the solidarity mechanisms of the welfare state is devastating, it also creates counter-reactions. We had the enormous mobilisations of 2011 (Syntagma square, 15M), but their strong anti-political stance created the paradoxical situation of radical pro-austerity parties coming to power in Greece and Spain, and hence, a strong need for re-politicisation, expressed by the rapid emergence of anti-austerity parties such as Podemos and Syriza. It is likely that both will come to power in 2015, and both have links to the p2p-sensitibilies of the social movements that were behind the 2011 mobilizations. One of the personal highlights for me in 2014, was the invitation by the Nikos Poulantzas Institute, the think thank of Syriza, to work around commons policies with elected officials of Syriza, and other grassroots activists. The hope is for a new digital left that will be open to p2p and commons sensibilities. Such potential might also infuse life in coming Commons Transition Plans as discussed above. Please note that while the P2P Foundation is pluralistic, I have a personal preference for working with transformative social forces with clear agendas towards equality, freedom and inclusion.


6. The netarchical capture of the sharing economy

2014 was an extraordinary year for the maturation of the understanding of the contradictions of the so-called sharing economy and its capture by monopolistic commercial platforms such as Uber and AirBnB. However, some of the critiques clearly miss an understanding of the potential of a ethical and p2p-oriented sharing economy,and the importance of mutualising idle resources. Juliet Schor's treatment is probably the most balanced in this regard.

Neal Gorenflo and Janelle Orsi are amongst those who have taken a strong stand against this capture, and pluralistic movements like Ouishare have shown a maturing critical consciousness around the issues involved through this capture. They and others are calling for a "true sharing economy" where value, ownership and governance is shared among users and stakeholders.


7. The emergence of Collaborative Places as strong vectors of p2p-driven cultural change

One of my personal highlights was visting associative and cooperative co-working spaces, particularly in Lille, where Simon Sarazin introduced me to the Coroutine and Mutualab communities, very clear examples of a deep cultural transformation that is taking place in the world of work. In France, they have a clear concept for this, to distinguish it from the purely commercial space-sharing initiatives: Tiers Lieux Open Source, open source 'third spaces'. Another great example is the Omni Commons in Oakland.

Check out these two videos to have a sense of the scale of the new makerspaces:


8. Cultural markers of the shift to a collaborative economy: Piketty, Rifkin and the Pope

Piketty's book showing how the current format of capitalism is structurally leading to more and more inequality, but especially its success, shows a cultural shift, despite the domination of hyperliberal forces in financial and regulatory institutions; that a mainstream author like Jeremy Rifkin can be invited in prime time to talk about the end of capitalism on a business channel is another, and so is the election of a pope which takes a clear stance against the inequality produced by the current political economy. They show an underlying cultural change that is reaching the mainstream, and will in time be shown by the regeneration of emancipatory social forces.


9. The maturation of open value accounting and insurrectionary finance

Enterpreneurial coalitions like Enspiral is routinely using a co-budget application, and Guerilla Translation is also using a simple application of open value accounting, aimed at fairly rewarding all contributors. The Sensorica is continuing to develop its own more complex application. These are now no longer ideas, but real p2p practices. Find out more here.

Very significant is the creation of the Robin Hood Asset Management Cooperative‎, which uses a parasitic algorithm to funnel Wall Street funds to irrigate the commons, it is the Piketty thesis as a reverse practice. This interview with one of the founders on the Democratization of Finance is a mustread for the year 2014.


10. The rise of p2p solidarity practices and Commonfare

P2P movements and initiatives are now really thinking hard about renewing networked solidarity, such as the Broodfonds in the Netherlands. See here for more information about the emergence of Commonfare. And read Felix Stadler's excellent little pamphlet, Digital Solidarity. If Italy has become the country of excellence for the commons, then Greece is the prime example on solidarity initiatives, as for example through Solidarity for All.

We are keeping our eyes open for Cryptoequity initiatives, such as the Swarm initiative of Joel Dietz, as well. We don't understand Foundups well enough yet to have a judgment on it.

Reddit's announcement to create some kind of crypto-currency as a shared benefit with its contributor community is of interest as a first form of 'netarchical' benefit-sharing, a sign that capital starts to understand the 'value crisis' induced by peer production as well.