Hacker News Comments: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=10383132
October 13, 2015
Lady Ada King, Countess of Lovelace, was a 19th-century English mathematician who many consider the first programmer, because she published the most complete and in-depth description of the Analytical Engine, an early computer conceived of -- but never built -- by Charles Babbage. This year, to honor Ada Lovelace's legacy, we want to tell you more about Marina Zhurakhinskaya and Outreachy.
Marina is an engineer -- she has worked at Red Hat for nearly a decade, and her work currently focuses on community diversity and inclusion. She also works with Outreachy, an internship program that aims to bring underrepresented groups into the free software community, which received the Free Software Foundation's Award for Free Software Projects of Social Benefit in 2014, under its previous name, the Outreach Program for Women.
Outreachy offers mentored, remote internships in free software. Participating projects include GNOME, Wikimedia, and Mozilla. Since 2010, the program has had nearly 250 participants, many of whom have moved on to jobs in tech, conference presentations, and giving back to the program by becoming mentors. We conducted an email interview with Marina to tell us a bit more.
Talk about your new role as senior outreach specialist of community diversity and inclusion at Red Hat. How did your own experience in the tech industry influence your career track at Red Hat? And how did you become involved with Outreachy (formerly the Outreach Program for Women)?
Working as a senior software engineer at Red Hat on the GNOME Project, I was very impressed by the talent of the project contributors, by how rewarding it is to work on free software, and by the feeling of connectedness one gets when collaborating with people all over the world. Yet, at GUADEC 2009, of approximately 170 attendees, I believe I was one of only eight women. Of the software developers working on the entire GNOME project at the time, I was one of only three.
Shortly after that GUADEC, the GNOME Foundation board of directors asked if I would be willing to lead an outreach effort for GNOME aimed at bringing women into the community and mentoring participants. I also got an invitation to participate in the Free Software Foundation's Women's Caucus and later attended the Women in Free Software track at LibrePlanet 2010. These events allowed me to learn about the efforts that already had taken place in free software to increase participation by women and allowed me to make connections with other people passionate about this topic. I created the Outreach Program for Women with the help and support of Stormy Peters – then GNOME Foundation executive director. Later, the next GNOME Foundation executive director, Karen Sandler, helped expand the program beyond GNOME to include many free software communities.
As the Outreach Program for Women grew, I switched to a role of community engagement lead at Red Hat, combining GNOME community management and coordination of the program. At the same time, I was gaining more experience in diversity by following the resources created by the Ada Initiative and others who wrote about diversity issues, attending AdaCamps, and later joining the board of advisors and board of directors for the Ada Initiative. In 2015, as coordinators of Outreach Program for Women, Karen Sandler and I have led the work to rename it to Outreachy, move it to Software Freedom Conservancy as its new organizational home, and, with the help of four new coordinators, expand it to be open to people of color underrepresented in tech in the U.S., while continuing to be open to cis and trans women, trans men, and genderqueer people worldwide.
The vast potential to empower more people from diverse backgrounds through participation in free software and to make our community stronger with more contributors motivated me to seek a full-time position focused on free software community diversity and inclusion. My senior outreach specialist role at Red Hat involves co-organizing Outreachy and providing support for Red Hatters who are looking to make their communities and teams more diverse and inclusive. At the core of this role is a recognition that while we need participation from all engineers as mentors and allies for diversity efforts, we should not primarily rely on minority engineers to take on the work of organizing these efforts or developing expertise on the issue, as this is an excessive burden. A major component of the role is organizing structured and meaningful opportunities to be mentors for all engineers, that draw on people's specialized skills, help them grow professionally, and only require a manageable time commitment from them.
How has winning a Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit in 2014 impacted Outreachy?
Winning a Free Software Award for Projects of Social Benefit was a very proud moment for Outreachy. It showed that the free software community valued and supported the effort to bring in more people from diverse backgrounds. It shone a light on the program and increased its recognition. Since then, such important communities as the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team and X.Org have joined Outreachy.
I am also thankful to the Free Software Foundation for being a long-time sponsor of Outreachy.
Outreachy's scope has continued to expand: what's the latest?
The diversity data for the U.S. released by many tech companies shows that many of them only have 1-3% Black and 2-4% Hispanic employees in technical roles. The population of the U.S. is 13% Black and 17% Hispanic. We don't have any data like this for free software participation, but we can tell there is a lack of racial and ethnic diversity at conferences we attend.
For the upcoming December round, the program has expanded to be open to residents and nationals of the U.S. of any gender who are Black/African American, Hispanic/Latina, American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, or Pacific Islander. It continues to be open to cis and trans women, trans men, and genderqueer people worldwide.
Cindy Pallares, Tony Sebro, and Bryan Smith joined Karen Sandler, Sarah Sharp, and me as Outreachy coordinators. With their experience as African American and Latina free software professionals and with the disparity shown by the diversity data, we knew that the targeted expansion to people of color underrepresented in U.S. tech was an appropriate next step for Outreachy. We know there are many other groups of people and parts of the world underrepresented in free software. While we expect it to take several rounds for us to manage the growth that will come with this expansion, we welcome input on what populations we should consider reaching out to next.
People in free software work really hard to make their projects successful and recognizing them for their work shows the appreciation we have for it. Nominating a person or a project for a Free Software Award can help bring more attention to their mission and share with the world an inspiring free software success story. Finally, the recipients will enjoy attending LibrePlanet – a fantastic conference – and receiving their award from Richard Stallman as hundreds of free software enthusiasts cheer.
What are your hopes for the free software community in the next thirty years?
I hope that more developers and other technology contributors seek out opportunities to work on free software as their job. I would like to see more business, entrepreneurial, non-profit, academic, and government organizational infrastructure for free software development. In particular, all software developed or purchased with public funds should be free software. I would like to see free software in mainstream critical devices, such as medical and automotive, and in modern consumer products, such as mobile phones. Free software solutions need to offer a compelling user experience, so that people opt for them without having to compromise convenience. These compelling solutions will also help spread the message of software freedom. I hope that moving to free software as a default from the developer and consumer perspective, will incentivize existing companies to open the code of their core services and to allow verification and decentralization of them. Finally, I hope that free software contributors and enthusiasts will come from a variety of diverse backgrounds, and we will either no longer need Outreachy or will dramatically change who it's targeted toward.
To get us there, it's vital that free software supporters donate to organizations like the Free Software Foundation, Software Freedom Conservancy, the GNOME Foundation, and others that are advocating for free software and providing organizational structure to free software projects we all know and love.
The application deadline for the upcoming round of Outreachy internships is November 2, and the internship dates will be from December 7 to March 7. Now is a great time to learn about the participating communities, work on the required contribution with the help of a mentor, and apply. You can encourage others to apply by using the prepared e-mail message, social network updates, and the flyer. You can get your company to sponsor Outreachy or make an individual donation to help it grow and fund more internships.
Thanks to Marina Zhurakhinskaya for this in-depth conversation. Please help us recognize standouts in the free software community: To nominate an individual for the Award for the Advancement of Free Software or a project for the Award for Projects of Social Benefit, send your nomination along with a description of the project or individual to firstname.lastname@example.org by November 1st, 2015. Apply here to present a session at the next LibrePlanet, which will take place March 19-20, 2016, in the Boston area -- submissions are due November 16, 2015, at 15:00 UTC. To read more about more women in free software, check out our previous Ada Lovelace Day posts from 2014, 2013, 2012, and 2011.
Georgia Young Program Manager
All images courtesy of Marina Zhurakhinskaya/CC BY-SA. You can view this post on the Web at https://www.fsf.org/blogs/community/ada-lovelace-day-2015.
For announcements of most new GNU releases, subscribe to the info-gnu mailing list: https://lists.gnu.org/mailman/listinfo/info-gnu.
To download: nearly all GNU software is available from https://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/, or preferably one of its mirrors from https://www.gnu.org/prep/ftp.html. You can use the url https://ftpmirror.gnu.org/ to be automatically redirected to a (hopefully) nearby and up-to-date mirror.
This month, we welcome Brigham Keys as the new maintainer of GNU Gleem.
A number of GNU packages, as well as the GNU operating system as a whole, are looking for maintainers and other assistance: please see https://www.gnu.org/server/takeaction.html#unmaint if you'd like to help. The general page on how to help GNU is at http://www.gnu.org/help/help.html.
If you have a working or partly working program that you'd like to offer to the GNU project as a GNU package, see http://www.gnu.org/help/evaluation.html.
As always, please feel free to write to us at email@example.com with any GNUish questions or suggestions for future installments.
Ayotzinapa, Paradigm of the War on Drugs in Mexico: New Afterword to Drug War Capitalism
GNUzilla is the GNU version of the Mozilla suite, and GNU IceCat is the GNU version of the Firefox browser. Its main advantage is an ethical one: it is entirely free software. While the Firefox source code from the Mozilla project is free software, they distribute and recommend non-free software as plug-ins and addons. Also their trademark license restricts distribution in several ways incompatible with freedom 0.
The user manual pages are at http://libreplanet.org/wiki/Group:IceCat/
You can contribute by joining the wiki and editing the manuals.
Source tarballs, binaries for generic GNU/Linux systems and translations are available at http://ftp.gnu.org/gnu/gnuzilla/38.3.0/
GPG key ID:D7E04784 GNU IceCat releases
Fingerprint: A573 69A8 BABC 2542 B5A0 368C 3C76 EED7 D7E0 4784
This is a major release upgrade following the Extended Support Release upstream cycle, moving from v31.x-ESR to v38.x-ESR. All the features in previous releases have been preserved, along with extra polish and improvements in privacy.
Changes since v31.8.0-gnu2
- Rebased to v38.x
- Updated to v38.3.0ESR
- LibreJS updated to 184.108.40.20650620
- HTTPS-Everywhere updated to 5.1.1
- HTML5 Video Everywhere updated to 0.3.3
- Added more privacy settings and crypto hardening
- Disabled battery handling in dom
- Disabled sensor handling in dom
- Disable face detection and autofocus controls
- Disabled DNS prefetch
- Disabled ssl/tls protocols that are useless or too weak
October 12, 2015
A short history of U.S. bombing of civilian facilities ~ The Intercept
Paco Ignacio Taibo II transmite en #Telesur documental sobre Ernesto Che Guevara
- el documental es la segunda parte de la serie Los Nuestros
- “Es el primer gran revolucionario latinoamericano que no teoriza a partir de libros, sino de lo que ve, mira, observa y descubre. ‘América Latina la tengo bien cunada’, decía de repente el Che, y era verdad, la tenía bien caminada y apreciada”, señaló el escritor durante la presentación del documental.
Festival Internazionale di Documentari su Arte e Architettura 19 > 23 ottobre |Casa dell’Architettura | Roma
Issues digitally signing and/or verifying GNUHealth documents, using GNUPG version 2.x should be solved by upgrading to the latest python-gnupg library, version 0.3.8 . You can check the changelog for the details.
The GNU Health Tryton crypto plugin will be a separate package from version 3.0. That will allow to get the latest version of the plugin.
The October issue of the ERCIM News publishes an article about the D-CENT Project, written by Harry Halpin of the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). The article, titled Decentralized Social Software for Political Autonomy, describes our efforts to build applications for the common good. W3C is one of the D-CENT project partners.
D-CENT is a Europe-wide project creating privacy-aware tools and applications for direct democracy and economic empowerment. It develops decentralised social networking tools for large-scale collaboration and decision-making.
“As an alternative to closed and centralised internet platforms whose business models crucially rely on monetising the identity and social lives of their users, D-CENT aims to create a uniquely European open and decentralised approach aimed at empowering ordinary citizens to take action for the common good”, W3C fellow Harry Halpin explains in his article.
D-CENT builds on open standards for a distributed identity management system. This gives people control over their own social data.
“Using a decentralized architecture in D-CENT, proposals will be able to start from the bottom-up and then be modified and applied across different contexts, ranging from neighborhood assemblies to cities to nations, even at the European level”, writes Halpin.
Harry Halpin is a W3C Fellow funded by Eduserv. Guiding his work at the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) is his commitment to keeping the Web an universal space of information for the development of collective intelligence. W3C is one of the partners of the D-CENT project.
October 11, 2015
Thinking out loud here... this isn't a new idea but maybe here's a solid workflow...
"Distributed" as in the project's existing DVCS.
- Check a TODO.org orgmode file right into your project's git repo
- Accept additions/adjustments to TODO.org via patches on your mailing list
- As soon as a bug is "accepted", it's committed to the project.
- When a bug is finished, it's closed and archived.
- Contributors are encouraged to submit closing tasks in the orgmode tree as part of their patch.
- Bug commentary happens on-list, but if users have useful information to contribute to someone working on a bug, they can submit that as a patch.
I think this would be a reasonably complete but very emacs user oriented bugtracker solution, so maybe in addition:
- A script can be provided which renders a static html copy for browsing open/closed bugs.
- A "form" can be provided on that page to email the list about new discovered bugs, and formats the submission as an orgmode TODO subsection. This way maintainers can easily file the bug into the tracker file if they deem appropriate.
I think this would work. Lately I've been hacking on a project that's mostly just me so far, so I just have an orgmode file bundled with the repo, but I must say that it's rather nice to just hack an orgmode file and have your mini-bugtracker distributed with your project. I've done this a few times but as soon as the project grows to multiple contributors, I move everything over to some web based bugtracker UI. But why not distribute all bugs with the project itself? My main thinking is that there's a tool-oriented barrier to entry, but maybe the web page render can help with that.
I've been spending more time working on more oldschool projects that just take bugs submitted on mailing lists as a contribution project. They seem to do just fine. So I guess it entirely depends on the type of project, but this may work well for some.
And yes, there are a lot of obvious downsides to this too; paultag points out a few :)
October 10, 2015
Automatic Face Recognition and Surveillance
- Those who have access to databases of identified photos will have the power to identify us. Yes, it'll enable some amazing personalized services; but it'll also enable whole new levels of surveillance. The underlying technologies are being developed today, and there are currently no rules limiting their use.
The potential for discrimination is enormous, especially in low-income communities where people are routinely harassed for things like unpaid parking tickets and other minor violations. And in a country where people are arrested for their political views, the use of this technology quickly turns into a nightmare scenario.
- effective and pervasive surveillance is just as much about analysis
_Schneier on Security _
The October 2015 Nairobi LUG (Linux User Group) meetup was hosted at Tunapanda’s training facility in Kibera. Our team had a great time connecting with members of the LUG, many of whom are natural teachers – setting a great example freely sharing knowledge and discussing ideas. Thanks to everyone who showed up, looking forward to more collaborations down the line!
Read the LUG’s blog post here.
This is the text of my Riga lecture. It has a philosophical introduction, then touches on the notion of Post-Art and finally analyses the Fields exhibition. Drawing on my own curatorial work, conducted in cooperation with RIXC, in the exhibitions Waves and Fields, I hope to arrive at criteria of what makes good art today.
Foreground – Background
NOTE: This is the text that was the basis of my speech in Riga on 8th of October 2015. It does not have the usual academic annotations and would benefit from editing. That would probably mean that it would not get published any time soon. I hope this gets accepted nevertheless as a contribution to a discussion on postmedia and contemporary art.
Let me begin with an Image. Imagine you are at the seaside and you have these goggles with which you can see under water. When you are above water you can see the sky, the sun, some clouds, maybe some people at the beach, sunbathing, children playing. Everything looks quite solid and clear, the things behave accordingly, they obey Newtonian physics. Now you dive and you enter the under water world. There, everything is quite different. There are strange fish in strange colours, and other animals, there are corals and underwater grasses. Everything is in constant motion, following the waves and the water currents. It is difficult to identify things clearly as the water and the sun play optical tricks, and there might be hidden dangers, such as poisonous fish or sea-snakes hiding between rocks; or, the other way round, you might be a danger to this beautiful but strange underwater world, as your feet could touch and break corals.
Now, which of those two worlds is the truer one, the one above or the one under water? With your goggles you can swim in such a way that your eyes are exactly at the surface level of the water, you can see both the world above and the world below the surface. What separates the worlds is the surface, a thin layer of water molecules on the top. The surface of the water is different from the rest of it, acting like a membrane. It breaks and diverts the light beams, acting like a mirror and a prism. It also regulates the exchange of molecules between air and water, its capacity to absorb CO2, its osmotic qualities, the evaporation of water under the influence of heat.
The worlds above and below the surface of the water are not as categorically separated as it initially may have seemed. The exchanges between water and air, land and sea are discernible for those who have the gift of observation. You have to see beyond the surface appearance to understand the inner principles that govern the behaviour on the outside.
I have chosen this image as an entry point into a reflection on art and technopolitics. For technopolitics, for the moment, think historical background. Art is the foreground, technopolitics the historical background. My thesis is that thinking about art always implies thinking about a foreground and a background. Art actually establishes that separation. If you have a blank sheet of paper and you draw a line, you demarcate something against something else, a foreground, the line, against the background, the white surface of the sheet. Art rises from a historical background, it does not exist in a vacuum. Art is grounded in its time, but this ground is unclear, it is like the under water world, it is shaped by tendencies that we do not necessarily understand. In order for something to become visible, the artist needs to create an artwork. Taking the creative act seriously, then it means that art does not just depict something that already exists, it essentially creates its object. By creating its object it lifts it from the ground, makes it stand out. The background recedes, it becomes background through the creative act. Most of art history has focused on the object only. The history of art becomes a history of objects, of things that have become separated from their background. This may suit artists who also try to cover their tracks. The process of creation is messy and fraught with difficulties. For artists, it may seem preferable that only the artwork as thing remains, which then can get collected by museums and thereby enter a canon of important works who inscribe themselves into a timeline – the history of art as it is conventionally understood.
But this history of art is a history of repressed historical backgrounds, it is a history that tells only half the story. It folds the social conditions of the making and thereby creates a repressed – I would like to be this understood as a holding remark to be explained later – something that becomes repressed, an un- or subconscious, which, because it gets repressed, does not go away but only gets more potent.
Art as seen from the artist's side
The process of the making of art can and should also be seen from the other side, not from the object, but from the subject, from the side of the artist. The artist is someone who exists in concrete social, historical conditions. This actual social, historical being in the world is characterised by suffering caused by lack of something. The German language knows one word for the lack of something “der Mangel.” In English you have a whole arsenal of terms, from lack of via absence to shortage, deficit, defect, want and many more. The artist, driven by those deficits, suffers and develops, out of this suffering, a desire to overcome those deficiencies. This desire drives the artist to create. It is a desire driven by need to address the blemishes of life in this world, but it is also a desire to be recognized. The artwork created by the artist contains a proposition for a state of being in which the suffering is temporarily overcome; art solves the contradictions of the time by lifting them to another terrain where it can be resolved symbolically. The desire of the artist has created an object which desires to be recognized as a work of art by others. The reflection of the artists about her or his existential condition of being has led to a specific proposition or solution which now stands out in this world as an object.
This object, as it becomes perceived by other human beings, gets reflected in their minds. They may just perceive it, look at it, try it out, if it offers ways of interaction and participation, or they contemplate it, reflect and analyse it also with their intellectual capacities. The reception of the artwork – not just by one individual, but by a whole apparatus and system of other artists, curators, critics, institutions – establishes the truth of the artwork. By truth I mean the intersubjective quality of its being (not its objective truth which does not exist). It had some truth for the artist, some relevancy, meaning, and now, through its process of social reception, it also has acquired this meaning on a wider social level. The artist has realized something that was inside her or himself, a lack, a need, a desire, and this has become objectified, a thing that stands out from a background. This thing, through the process of reception, becomes objective now in a fuller sense of the meaning of this term, an object that has a truth value for a larger number of people. The objectified desire of the artist becomes a discursive entity. The artwork contains the highly subjective and particular position of the artist but also stands in relation to something that is much more general – in the past I would have written universal. The artwork links the particular condition of its existence with a shared and thereby objectified condition of being of a larger social group.
Art is always about this relation between subject and object, between the particular and the universal. Those relationships are not fixed and static but always fluid, always dialectical, always in a state of becoming. It is a sign of contemporary regressions when the duality in motion is reduced to one side only. Those relationships become frozen, static, bipolar opposites that do not communicate. This is the art history that knows only things and the history that knows no art (or no theory, no philosophy). The dual opposites are broken up, and only one side remains, either the world above water, or the world underneath the surface, the base or the superstructure. From this one-sided viewpoint the question regarding the socio-historical background of an artwork raises a huge problem. How can this artwork be understood in its historical background. Conventional art history denies that it can be. It has decided to accept only one side of the coin, the superstructural side. Artworks are objects which have inscribed themselves into a timeline of other objects with whom alone it can be compared. The social context is just that, a context which can be severed from the artwork without any damage being done to its meaning.
Base and Superstructure
The problem between subject and object replicates itself on the level of the society. Societies create mirror images of themselves and their worlds in the products of their culture, of which fine arts are a special case. The metaphor of base and superstructure is interpreted here in the footsteps of Raymond Williams as a dialectic wellspring of conflict and thus creation. The movement of base and superstructure through time, that's history. Technopolitics is a concept of history which tries to consider the historic totality, the dialectical dance of base and superstructure. According to this approach, the economy does not occupy a privileged place because we believe in the economy as an elevated sphere of importance but because the economy has become so all-encompassing and pervasive. The same counts true for technology. Technopolitics does not mean that we are ruled by the technology. We think that technology and the economy are abstractions and realities at the same time. The economy does not happen elsewhere but right in our lives. There are relationships between technologies, value systems, ways of doing things and the economy which together form a social whole. It is art's task to present such a wholeness and not just abstractions. With abstractions I do not mean abstract art but abstract thought, thought that stands isolated from life. Art's task is to show the connections, the relationships between the universal and the particular, the theoretic and the concrete.
Any base, means a specific socioeconomic life form, creates itself a superstructure adequate to itself. It is an articulation of the conflicts and contradictions of that society. It is the world reflected in the reflective interiority of the collective artist who created an artistic product. Society creates an image of itself in which it presents itself as it wants to be seen. But this image also creates its own double negation. Societies are in a mode of denial about that which is least tolerable about them. This repressed social content creates the political unconscious of the mirror image.
The world of reflection, the interiority of a person and of the collective, is the world of freedom, of self-discovery, of image making. There is another dialectic here, between determination and freedom, between necessity and possibility. Self-conscious being is always a projection of an open horizon, of the potential of limitless becoming. This is the idea of freedom which we have since the French Revolution. Freedom is the self-realization of man by applying work to forces of nature. But this is self-realisation under the unfree conditions of current society. The artwork contains human potential realized but realized under conditions of falseness. It is human potential realized under the given conditions, existing technologies, the level of consciousness, the state of the art in sciences. It is not absolute potential realised.
Base and superstructure are not like fixed entities that form somehow containers, they are much more like background – foreground, the one conditions the other, in a process of permanent becoming. There is no doubt that the superstructure also “determines” the development of the base as it creates desirable future images. But what is much more important is that those dialectical pairs are less to be seen as entities and more like a force, a potential for becoming. The dialectical philosophy I have laid out here which contains more than a few traces of Hegel is a philosophy of process. The surfaces do not tell us what happens, we need to look behind the surface to engage with processes which together form a historical tendency.
Consciously acting in the world as artist or curator means to try to understand the historical tendency and think and do accordingly. The world is a socioeconomic technological and political system, which includes also an art world. Art gets studied as a social phenomenon and practice. We thus need to turn very briefly to art's history.
Historical Forces since 1800
The most important fact to start with is the autonomy of art as it developed from the late 18th century on. Autonomy of art meant that it remained outside the utilitarian capitalist system that was developing. In the sheltered sphere of autonomous art, the ideas of the French Revolution were kept alive. The category of autonomy contains the seed forms of what characterizes modern art, and also its internal opposition, like reactionary modernists such as Nietzsche and Baudelaire.
A Critique of Alienation and of the commodity.
The 19th century was characterized by the rise of the machine system in production. First the political, then the revolution in production. Marx's critique of the machine ”as the intellectual power of another realized in machine form that confronts the worker as a power outside of him that rules over him.”
The basic elliptic thought by Marx, that the worker the more he works the more he helps capital to become more powerful. That the process of technological innovation is systematically directed against the workforce, that there are historic tendencies which are driven by the contradictions of industrial modernity. The machine, as the objectified intellectual potential of another continues in Weberian rationalisation and in processes designed - as described by Braverman and Noble - to divest knowledge of the working process from workers and implement it in machine form. The information society is when this is applied to information.
Capital is creative, it revolutionizes the forces of production in struggles over competition, political hegemony, and retaining the class structure. By revolutionizing the forces of production capital creates the conditions for its own overcoming but constantly has to deny and stop that dynamic.
Commodity Fetishism: The industrial system also implements the commodity as central component. The commodity form allows everything to be exchanged against everything. The labour that has gone into the commodity has become invisible because of the exchange value. In a world governed by commodity relationships, the thinking becomes obscured, fetishized, because what are social relations become perceived as relations between things.
Those tendencies were addressed in one single gesture by Marcel Duchamp in 1917, with Fountain. The signing of an artwork has wiped out the relationship with craft. Art becomes the decision making power to say what is art. Duchamp defined art in the beginning Fordist age, at about the same time as Henry Ford switched on the first production line. Art becomes a signature on an industrial object. The magic of commodity fetishism and of art comes together. The power of the signature has now been adopted widely.
Art as Metalanguage critique of art
In the tradition of the autonomy of art and of Duchamp's signature object a critical branch in modern art and contemporary art has grown since the early 20th century. After the historic avant-gardes and after the Second World War, neo-avant-gardes formed in the industrialized countries. Here we have the legacy of Surrealism and Dada on one hand, and of Constructivist and Concrete Art on the other hand. This has been shaken up by the explosion of art movements in the 1960s. In the 1960s conceptual art formed as a meta-language critique of art. Art making became identical with creating a theory of art. We can conclude with Peter Osborne that all contemporary art is post-conceptual art.
After conceptual art in the narrow sense, the 1970s saw a revolution of post-conceptual art practices, which maintained the main thrust of conceptual art, the question “what is art?” but became more directly involved in politics, or rather those forms of politics where the private becomes political. In movements such as land art, arte povera, body art, performance, feminist photography and video art and community art practices. We, as postmedia art community, owe a lot to these practices, because without them, our practice would not be recognized as art. Those practices, however, were holding on to the autonomy of art, and positioned themselves outside production relations. A common characteristic of those practices was that they formulated a critique of industrial society and its managerial, bureaucratic apparatus, and the forms of identity that it offered people. The avant-gardes of the 1970s formulated many micro-political critiques of Fordism, thereby preparing the ground for a new paradigm, information society.
Critical contemporary art is a child of those post-conceptual art practices. This type of art, under the banner of institutional critique, has left no stone unturned investigating the support structures of art.
This institutional critique, with its focus on the artworld, produced important insights which point beyond the artworld and can be extrapolated into a critique of the present. I can find a lot of interesting things in this domain, especially with regard to recognizing that we live in a new world order of capitalist globalisation, a world which has become culturally less Eurocentric and more diverse in every aspect, while on the other hand new monopolies are created with regard to money and information. At the same time, this type of art is linked to the art market which seems to be going from strength to strength.
Since the 1980s, but more widely since the 1990s, contemporary art and finance have become friends. Speculative capital has found speculative conceptual art to its liking. Art adds that special touch, even when it keeps being critical, because that asserts its autonomy. The value arises because of the fact, that it cannot have any objective value. This is the mystery of art, the mystery of the success of contemporary art. Art has arrived in the center of society, one “goes art.” The question arises if this type of art can still form a meaningful oppositional force. The weapons of this art are skilled construction of images.
If we follow the artist, art historian and theorist Terry Smith, the artist's task is to make an image of the world. “Worlding” as he calls it. The image does not have to be a painting or photograph, but also a mental image, an idea, in visual form. It should give us a meaningful image of the current world. This image created by the artist is a reflection of the world he lives in, by necessity. The collection of artworks at a time would be a reflection of the contemporary world. Because each of those artworks would necessarily also contain an aspect of critique of the world, of the suffering of the artist it also contains the world's context as implicitly known. As I have argued in my keynote speech last year, the mirror of art is broken. Art is now in competition with a stream of commercial image worlds, trying to stem the flood. But the problem is that meaning, images, information are inflationary. The image has become something that is socially constructed and distributed.
The resistance against and subversion of commercial image-worlds and ideologemes and memes shows us that the Emperor is still naked. But resistance and subversion have become something like a Sysiphos task. Because critique needs an addressee, and in the current situation there is no addressee, the social contract has been revoked, from above. There is no higher entity to which a critique could appeal. This is even more so the case in what Boltanski and Chiappello have called the projective city. In networks truth does not function as a regulator, there are only the mechanisms of network power. This ultra-hip viewpoint once more reduced people to an object of history. The critical contemporary wing of the art system is found more often on biennales than in the gallery system. It carries on with a critical function by negation, but also by negation of negation. The capacity to carry out such a negation is based on the institutional system, which is now in peril, or rather under a slow and long squeeze of eternal budget cuts.
Resistance and subversion, or disruption have also been a common battle-cry in digital art. Groups such as RTMark, Yes Men, Ubermorgen, and individuals such as Paolo Cirio have used a range of media hacking and attention engineering techniques which form a particular corner in the digital art world. On one hand securing legitimacy through ancestors such as Duchamp and Picabia, Grosz and Heartfield, on the other hand bordering on new mass techniques of image making online, where a certain type of culture jamming has become commons knowledge. Those works have used wit and humour to try get a reaction from a major corporation, as, for instance, in Google Will Eat Itself. Cirio's projects such as Loophole4All successfully establish a critique of the current financial system and the corruption it invites, but this critique offers no way of going beyond the criticized. These works have all their individual merits but they have a problem, they negate but then stop. There is no futurity in the present, no tomorrow today. It is a dialectic at standstill.
The Fields Exhibition
Fields Exhibition, exhibition view, Photograph RIXC
In this situation where contemporary art is loosing its bite between market forces, and where political digital art produces ever more stale signifiers, RIXC and me have organised the exhibition Fields last year. The curators, Rasa Smite, Raitis Smits and me asked “which transdisciplinary combinations of different fields hat the greatest transformative potential.” Our starting point was the financial crisis of 2008 and the ensuing general structural crisis of western societies. Building on work done with the exhibition Waves, the exhibition Fields was designed to give answers to the question what makes good, transformative, political art. We did not ask for political art in the traditional sense but for work that had transformative potential, that asked to do things differently, that invited for action. This proposition was profoundly postmedia, we were postmedia in every known sense, from Rosalind Krauss, to Lev Manovich to Domenico Quaranta. Our approach, however, was not only postmedia but also post-art.
We recognized that change now pressures and pours from many sectors in society, as each discipline is looking for a solution to the crises and dilemmas. Besides art and postmedia art there are large ranges of other practices who try to find hands-on solutions for present challenges. Only some of them are considered contemporary art, others not. This was the subject of a lively curatorial discussion. There are people who just experiment with technology: they go by many names, hackers, makers, designers, critical makers and transformakers. From urban gardening to economics of solidarity, many different initiatives today try to drive change beyond the confines of informational capitalism. Many of those initiatives use tactics and forms that have a semblance with art.
This is because we live in a Post Art Society. This is no cheap thesis about the end of art but the idea that societies have passed through modern art. Central concerns in modern art have become absorbed and internalized. Art is only a special case of a much larger set of different forms of visual meaning production, or image cultures. Today, people take selfies and look after their images on social media. But it is not just the fact that people invest time and energy into their self-images. From modern art what we take is maybe not so much a specific style but the idea that art is connected to central values of western liberalism. Modern art is about freedom and the creative genius, and people are living that now, they integrate artistic strategies into their everyday life.
Modern art came also with a specific time-structure, of dreamtime, of dreaming in the present a future to be collectively attained. The break with modernism occured through speech acts by subjects who had been previously excluded from speaking, such as women, ethnic and other minorities. The structures of modern art were exposed as another way how white males formulate their particulars as universals. The break with modern art has resulted in contemporary art. And contemporary art has also been partially absorbed by Post-Art. In network society creative labour has taken on a new meaning. It has become an imperative, dictated from above to partake in creative labour. Sharing is not just caring but a demand Now, every one acts like Andy Warhol when they take selfies, the attitude of being an artist has become generalized, but not as a freedom but as a duty in an economy which has become “artified”. As Suhail Malik recently said, we don't have the aestheticisation of politics, as Walter Benjamin complained but the aestheticisation of business and consumption. It is not enough any more to carry on with a critique of industrial society because we have left this society already behind. At present, the notion of critique as such is questionable.
Hayley Newman, Histoire Economique, exhibition view, 2014
In her work shown in the Fields exhibition, Hayley Newman has made herself a Self-Appointed Artist in Residence at the City of London. The City of London is the seat of the financial industry. Newman asked employees of bank branches if she could do Bank Rubbings, frottages of decorative architectural elements at the bank's entrance. Those frottages are indeed like a natural history, Newman has pinned down some objective historical content, creating over time, a Histoire Economique, a natural history of the financial center. The work is not only programmatic with regard to the aesthetic means but also because of the artistic strategy behind it. Newman's artist-in-residence is a lie, but no more blatant a lie than the self-legitimization of city institutions. The self-appointed artist in residence makes the city, the markets, who consider themselves supreme subjects of history, into objects of a «natural history».
Today, speculative capital is driving an immense flexible innovation regime. It is still legitimate to refer to art's critical function and look at the “social glitch” as the title of a recent exhibition in Vienna has been. Art comes as an intervention into the smooth running of those innovation machines, as a queering of them, but for the price of not being central to them. Because the regime of flexible accumulation can take on board any critique as a new source of profit. For artists the question arises how they can position themselves in relation to the military-entertainment-education-information complex?
Maja Smrekar, Hu.M.C.C. m.k.2 (Human Molecular Colonization Capacity) Exhibition view, Fields 2014
One particular answer has been given by Maja Smrekar. Philosophically similar to the Accelerationists, a new Marxist philosophical school, her proposition is to accelerate current developments in order to use that energy to divert change and drive it in new directions. In Hu.M.C.C. m.k.2 (Human Molecular Colonization Capacity) an artist's gene has been inserted into yeast to make a special yoghurt, the Maja Yoghurt. Maja Smrekar contextualizes this work with a reference to Marx's critique of the appropriation of surplus value, arguing that the enzymes, living substance from our bodies, have now also to work overtime. The setting of the work, as a kind of deep frozen advertorial, continues a line of thought that can be summarized by subversion through affirmation. The type of stem cell research necessary for Smrekar's work operates still in the taboo zones of post-christianity. Smrekar undermines any humanist critique of her work by placing the stem cell research in the context of food and high-tech advertisement. What is interesting about this work is how many-layered it is. A cool high-tech aesthetic to sell cheap yogurt, advertorials and high-end Marxist aesthetics find together in the work.
When publishing our calls for proposals we expected a huge swell of techno-ecological projects. Techno-ecologies and renewables have been consistent streams in RIXC's work. I think also that the Three Ecologies by Felix Guattari are recommended reading. However, those are very short texts and leave a lot to the imagination. Among the many propositions received, a lot of work appeared simply too literally concerned with Fields. Plenty of propositions somehow had to do with agriculture and nature, participation and documenting things, but the art was missing. The artists were incapable of distilling the conflicts and pressures in those areas into a coherent world-image. The works which we did select had an ecological component without being fully absorbed by that.
Erich Berger and Manu Luksch, in installation of Erich Berger, Polsprung
Manu Luksch's Kayak Libre. The “free Kayak” project translates the free software metaphor into an imagined public transport system using Kayaks. Luksch has recorded the conversation and edited them into pieces which can be listened to in the Kayak. The work corresponds with that of HeHe's imaginative uses for rail systems.
Manu Luksch, Kayak Libre, installation view with exhibition visitor
The meme of open/free/libre has jumped into the open, where new digital habits affect old physical processes, in particular the digital habit of cooperation and sharing. Shu Lea Cheang's Underground Seeds Exchange series of works from 2013 bring Open Source thinking to agricultural seeds. Cheang has pioneered the crossing of the fields from the digital to the analog, with her Stream the Greens as early as 2002, and has carried out many works in that vain. In Get Garlic Bio-organically farmed garlic becomes the reserve currency in the exchange economies «after the crash». Cheang invents future scenarios of which the “performance” or action carried out by artists constitutes the sole tangible bit, everything else is in the wider storyboard created by “suggestions” by the artist.
Luksch's Kayak Libre, heHe's railway systems and Cheang's participatory net art and ecology projects are also « suggestive » pieces, the artist suggests a specific practie which can be adopted by the viewer/participant. Those projects have an actualy agency and change the life-world of participants. It is a huge missing chapter in Bishop's Artificial Hells. These artists are bringing together Open Source, ecology and idras about the commons.
Annemarie Maes, Foraging Fields (2014) Detail
Annemarie Maes showed Foraging Fields (2014) a live-monitoring data-sculpture of beehives living around a green corridor in Brussels. Foraging Fields is just a snapshot of an ongoing project of Maes on bees, urban gardening, urban development and Open Source. While not implied in the work, it reminds of the fable of the bees, and also of the ruse of reason, that history does something behind our backs. The fable of the bees, later adopted by Adam Smith, explains how from the private interest of people can arise the public good. It is basically a metaphor for the market as utopia. Annemarie Maes engages in a very close relation with her bees, tracing the flight-paths of urban beehives through analyzing the pollen they bring home. Maes' practice makes her adopt many different techniques, from gardening and bee keeping to pollen anlysis. My argument is that she unites that into an artistic practice, although strongly based on scientific methods, yet still brought together within an art project. Maes' work has urbanistic, ecological and anthropological orientations. She increases the sensorial domain by working with bees, thereby also entering into inter-species communication. Maes practice suggests to use communication networks differently, to tell stories 'from the “mouth” of the bee-hive.' Her work also presents interesting perspectives on a postindustrial, edible city (a slogan used by another artists, Debra Salomon, who did not participate in the Fields exhibition).
As I have said above, creative capital creates the conditions for its own overcoming. One such technology is the Net. The Net could become the decentralized storage of all human knowledges, permanently available to all, for free. The net has a potential as an enabler of end-to-end innovation between people. A lot of that potential is currently blocked, for instance through intellectual property laws. Other blockages stem from social structures, questions of access, who participates in those knowledge economies, and of course, Big Data and raw power, who has access to all that information. The network utopia has given way to a dystopia, yet the positive potential still remains.
We Should Take Nothing for Granted – On the Building of an Alert and Knowledgeable Citizenry, exhibition view 2014
Marko Peljhan and Aljosa Abrahamsberg (SI), Matthew Biederman (CA), and Brian Springer presented We Should Take Nothing for Granted – On the Building of an Alert and Knowledgeable Citizenry. The group juxtaposed the speech by President Eisenhower under that title with real, ongoing surveillance activity. It was Eisenhower who coined the phrase of the military industrial complex. Although a conservative himself, he feared that the apparatus of power could become autonomous, no longer reigned in by political power. What helps against that are alert and knowledgeable citizen and how to get those would be a free and open Internet. Peljhan and his cooperators have consistently formulated a neo- and retro-constructivist position. They are leaving the conventional field of art and are constructing technologies which empower their users. Some of those, such as the spy plane they built a few years ago, are autonomous technologies. Here, by definition, only the technology is free. Makrolab and other projects have provided a kind of anti-surveillance kit, equipping ordinary citizens to do something against surveillance, at least in principle. This time again a real supercomputer is sitting in the centre of the installation, like a buddha statue in a shrine, carrying out real acts of counter-surveillance, scanning the networks and airwaves. An aspect of that work is also conversion, converting military to civilian tools.
Darko Fritz, explaining his work OK 200
A number of works presented such post-Internet art, for instance, Darko Fritz showing internet error messages grown by plants in real fields.
YoHa, Endless War, installation view 2014
YoHa's Endless War takes the viewer inside the database with its minimalistic aesthetics. Using datasets which have become public through one of the famous leaks of WikiLeaks, YoHa used search algorithms in the same way as intelligence agencies do, scanning through thousands of documents according to specific techniques based on word frequency. An area that is normally beyond comprehension, the way how search algorithms are used in massive surveillance operations, becomes in immersive life-data-base art piece.
However, unfortunately the emancipatory potential of the Net comes atop of social structures that are unsustainable. The network economy is based on highly unequal structures also in the rich nations. Apart from the money class as such, there are hierarchies of new types of workers: there are well paid knowledge workers, precarious ones, and there are precarious jobs on which both the well-paid and the badly-paid knowledge workers depend, as part of their infrastructure. These social structures are particularly intense in so called Global Cities where network power manifests itself in new gentrified quarters. People are living their lives locally, in a bubble, without being aware how that affects others or how this is all related.
Ines Doujak and John Barker, Loomshuttle Warpaths (2011-14) Detail, photo taken outside Arsenals exhibition hall
Ines Doujak and John Barker's piece Loomshuttle Warpaths (2011-14) exposed networks linking lines of trade and just-in-time production with narratives informed by indigenous people's perception of clothes as alive, as was and is common in Andean cultures. The project brings together mythical and logistics chains, labour relations and the whims of fashions, exposing how one affects the other. A change in taste in a hipster ghetto in London may transmit into a weekend of work for a factory in Bangladesh. While the western “we” can engage in immaterial production, the existence of JIT and logistics makes sure that those “feelings” are communicated as “ commands” down the line of the global production chain. Through its reference to Southern American approaches to clothes, the piece avoids moralising, showing how resistance can come from an internal psychological mode of being or attitude.
Martin Howse Earth Computer 2014
No material is off-limits any more, everything can go into a unity with everything else through software and through semantics. Martin Howse started a series of experiments with Earth Computers. This was like an experiment in computer shamanism, pretending that the earth was computing, or behaving digitally. Working with rocks and fungi, for example, an assemblage is created that gives some credits to the idea that earth also computes. Gints Gabrans served a new enzyme which would allow people to eat paper and small pieces of wood. Food problem temporarily solved.
Gints Gabrans, Foood, installation view
Erich Berger's work observes if the world's magnetic poles are swapping sides, a process that would take decades, if it ever did occur. Berger's work is like a study room that allows people to engage with this “science”.
RIXC, Biotricity, Fields opening night
In many of those works – I should mention als RIXC's biotricity – a new relationship with nature is the central topic. A common denominator is that those works ask nature to do something. We have reached a historical turning point in our nature relation. Science has constructed nature as its lifeless other, a thing. Because nature was turned into a thing, it could also get exploited by capital. But now we discover that this thing has new characteristics. Through our technical prosthesis we can communicate with nature in new ways and thus develop a new nature relation. This nature relation is not characterized by its surface characteristics but by engaging with it as a lively force. In this new nature we discover a lot of ourselves, it is a nature 2.0 which has already been formed by us. Personally, I started reading philosophy of art from the Jena Romantics.
Their philosophy of art is interesting because it still had a premodern configuration, according to which philosophy stood above all other sciences. The extreme idealism, while providing absurd results when judged through the reductionist, positivist lense, contains a lot of inspiration for thinking about art and nature differently. In this Nature 2.0 information has become the key, it is the glue that brings everything together, the “force” behind the visible things. The next big task will be to deal with information in a way that goes beyond the limited concepts of mathematical information theory. We need to develop a new aesthetics and politics of information. We also need to consider data as a realistic sphere of our existence. Many such artworks together develop new ontologies, new materialisms. Nature, reconstructed in the digital image, emerged as a larger topic from Fields.
The exhibition Fields has raised the question which transdisciplinary practices offer the greatest potential for social change. We got some answers but these are just dots on the landscape. The exhibition has indeed confirmed that there are political art practices based on a particular crossing of skill-sets. What remains to be done is to look deeper into this question of transdisciplinarity. In the institutional system, they talk about interdisciplinarity since 40 years without ever coming closer to it. The system is built in such a way that over each field a chief watches so that nobody crosses it. Art thus remains one of the few areas where critical interlopers are possible. At the same time it would be wrong to assume that it is easy to cross the fields. Therefore, my proposal remains to start a discussion on categorisation. We need a critical vocabulary in order to formulate our topics, not just the old hat rhetoric of art and science. Such a critical vocabulary needs to become shared common knowledge, otherwise there can be no progress in this area. This is the other great danger, that everything becomes absorbed by innovation. That our creativity, skills and desires become part of he next big thing, some form of green capitalism, which is already on the horizon.
My own thinking goes away from technology. I think we have made a mistake by allowing people to belief that it is about technology, but it is not. It is about making an image of this world of which technology is a part. The technology is maybe better understood as a metaphor or allegory. The technopolitical tendency of history plays itself out. It also has a psycho-analytical side. The dialectical movement can liberate us from old thinking, from myth and superstition. The subject, as it becomes self-conscious, also uncovers the technological unconscious. Hegel and Lacan belong together, the moment of becoming is also passing through the collective psyche. We become conscious of what was lingering in the subconscious. But we can also fall back, as societies, that's what we experience with the populist neo-rightist parties which are so successful everywhere.
One tendency that I see is that a certain type of practices often hides the artist, the artist vanishes behind the work. Contemporary art has conducted a politics of form. What media art is doing is a politics of content, but this content is often purely machinic.
There exists an artistic subgenre, the experimental Kit, from Superweed Kit by Heath Bunting and Kate Rich, to the Dullart Media Player and projects such as Superglue, artists build technical Kits which they offer to the public. The art project takes on the outside demeanour of a commodity. It can be a piece of hard- and software, or use the commodity form in the way of a multiple. In the European context, the multiple has become popular in art through Edition MAT by Daniel Spoerri, and has been close to Pierre Restany's Noveaux Realisme.
While Superweed Kit clearly presents its subversive aims, the Kit art type assumes that the Kit allows you to carry out an activity which is basically an affirmation of liberal freedoms. Often this is some kind of communication tool that allows you to transmit freely some content. But this only replicates on the latest layer what has already been possible in this society. The Kits assume the liberal utopia of free choice and free media. Through buying the Kit, you assert those freedoms. Freedom of Speech but only for property owners. Only those Kits which are built in a Dadaistic manner have this irony already in their DNA.
The artistic repertoire of the Kit type of art remains limited, especially when considered more from a hacker point of view. The artists appear to promote something that open source developers have been doing for years, such as the Dyne software and player and the OpenWrt firmware. Dullart's media player presents itself as a piece of proprietary hardware, by the artist. The free and open soure software developers of Dyne and OpenWrt produce something that has moved beyond the commodity form, a peer based community software.
We need to identify the forms of mediation in the early 21st century which allow us to find a new synthesis of contemporary art and postmedia art. This means that hopefully we can continue with Fields, realising the second part, a critical vocabulary of notions of postmedia art.
On Thursday, October 8, Creative Commons (CC) announced the
addition of the GNU General Public License version 3.0 (GPLv3) to the
list of licenses compatible with the Creative Commons Attribution
ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. Compatibility means that a
person can now take a work they received under the terms of CC BY-SA
4.0 and then distribute adaptations of that work under the terms of
GPLv3. However, this compatibility is one-way only, meaning you can
not release adaptations GPLv3-covered works under the terms of CC
The FSF provided extensive feedback throughout the drafting process of
the 4.0 suite of CC licenses, and began discussing the possibility of
one-way compatibility of CC BY-SA 4.0 and GPLv3 in 2011. As a steward
of public licenses, CC has displayed tremendous leadership throughout
the entire drafting process of the 4.0 license suite, and this
leadership has continued through the license compatibility process. In
January 2015, CC officially opened a public consultation on CC
BY-SA 4.0 and GPLv3 compatibility. They facilitated this discussion
via a public mailing list, and supported it by creating strong
educational resources such as their analysis of GPLv3 and their
analysis of BY-SA compatibility. One of the most important ways
in which the community contributed to the compatibility discussion was
by identifying various use cases in which a person may wish to
combine a CC BY-SA licensed work with a piece of software or similar
work. One increasingly common use case is with free hardware design
projects, in which contributors to the project choose to put the
entire repository (for example, an aggregate of art, design documents,
and software) under the terms of the GNU GPL. Similar use cases are
documented with games and the artwork distributed alongside the games.
While we do not anticipate that many people will choose GPLv3 for
their adapted versions of CC BY-SA licensed works of art, we do expect
compatibility will be especially useful for individuals working in
niche areas where a creative work that is licensed under CC BY-SA
needs to be adapted and melded into source code form and combined with
some GPLv3-covered software. As Mike Linksvayer stated in CC's
announcement, this important interoperability between two of the
world's most popular copyleft licenses "not only removes a barrier,
but helps inspire new and creative combinations of software and
culture, design, education, and science, and the adoption of software
best practices such as source control (e.g., through 'git') in these
When combining works licensed under CC BY-SA with ones under GPLv3,
individuals should use caution and make sure that they can actually
comply with the source requirements of GPLv3, specifically that they
are able to show that they can provide the source code, which is
defined as the preferred form of the work for making
modifications. Further, when licensing a CC BY-SA work under the terms
of GPLv3, the FSF urges individuals to take advantage of Section 14 of
the GNU GPLv3, which allows a licensor to specify a proxy to determine
whether future versions of the GPL can be used, i.e., "GNU GPL version
3 or (at your option) any later version." Creative Commons has kindly
provided instructions stating that "individuals can specify
Creative Commons as their proxy (via
http://creativecommons.org/compatiblelicenses) so that if and when
Creative Commons determines that a future version of the GPL is a
compatible license, the adapted and combined work could be used under
that later version of GPL."
Lastly, the FSF is grateful to all of the individuals who helped
contribute to the compatibility discussion and process, including the
many emails and questions we received from members of our community,
but most especially to those individuals directly involved over the
past five years, including: Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, Diane Peters,
Lawrence Lessig, Mike Linksvayer, Kat Walsh, and Christopher Allan
Webber from Creative Commons; Joshua Gay, Donald Robertson, III, Brett
Smith, Richard Stallman, and John Sullivan of the Free Software
Foundation, along with Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center
and Aaron Williamson (who is now an attorney at Tor Ekeland).
Sign up for the FSF's monthly newsletter the Free Software
Supporter to keep up to date on all the latest news in free
To help fund our work, consider donating to the FSF.
October 09, 2015
On Thursday, October 8, Creative Commons (CC) announced the addition of the GNU General Public License version 3.0 (GPLv3) to the list of licenses compatible with the Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 (CC BY-SA 4.0) license. Compatibility means that a person can now take a work they received under the terms of CC BY-SA 4.0 and then distribute adaptations of that work under the terms of GPLv3. However, this compatibility is one-way only, meaning you can not release adaptations GPLv3-covered works under the terms of CC BY-SA 4.0.
The FSF provided extensive feedback throughout the drafting process of the 4.0 suite of CC licenses, and began discussing the possibility of one-way compatibility of CC BY-SA 4.0 and GPLv3 in 2011. As a steward of public licenses, CC has displayed tremendous leadership throughout the entire drafting process of the 4.0 license suite, and this leadership has continued through the license compatibility process. In January 2015, CC officially opened a public consultation on CC BY-SA 4.0 and GPLv3 compatibility. They facilitated this discussion via a public mailing list, and supported it by creating strong educational resources such as their analysis of GPLv3 and their analysis of BY-SA compatibility. One of the most important ways in which the community contributed to the compatibility discussion was by identifying various use cases in which a person may wish to combine a CC BY-SA licensed work with a piece of software or similar work. One increasingly common use case is with free hardware design projects, in which contributors to the project choose to put the entire repository (for example, an aggregate of art, design documents, and software) under the terms of the GNU GPL. Similar use cases are documented with games and the artwork distributed alongside the games.
While we do not anticipate that many people will choose GPLv3 for their adapted versions of CC BY-SA licensed works of art, we do expect compatibility will be especially useful for individuals working in niche areas where a creative work that is licensed under CC BY-SA needs to be adapted and melded into source code form and combined with some GPLv3-covered software. As Mike Linksvayer stated in CC's announcement, this important interoperability between two of the world's most popular copyleft licenses "not only removes a barrier, but helps inspire new and creative combinations of software and culture, design, education, and science, and the adoption of software best practices such as source control (e.g., through 'git') in these fields."
When combining works licensed under CC BY-SA with ones under GPLv3, individuals should use caution and make sure that they can actually comply with the source requirements of GPLv3, specifically that they are able to show that they can provide the source code, which is defined as the preferred form of the work for making modifications. Further, when licensing a CC BY-SA work under the terms of GPLv3, the FSF urges individuals to take advantage of Section 14 of the GNU GPLv3, which allows a licensor to specify a proxy to determine whether future versions of the GPL can be used, i.e., "GNU GPL version 3 or (at your option) any later version." Creative Commons has kindly provided instructions stating that "individuals can specify Creative Commons as their proxy (via http://creativecommons.org/compatiblelicenses) so that if and when Creative Commons determines that a future version of the GPL is a compatible license, the adapted and combined work could be used under that later version of GPL."
Lastly, the FSF is grateful to all of the individuals who helped contribute to the compatibility discussion and process, including the many emails and questions we received from members of our community, but most especially to those individuals directly involved over the past five years, including: Sarah Hinchliff Pearson, Diane Peters, Lawrence Lessig, Mike Linksvayer, Kat Walsh, and Christopher Allan Webber from Creative Commons; Joshua Gay, Donald Robertson, III, Brett Smith, Richard Stallman, and John Sullivan of the Free Software Foundation, along with Eben Moglen of the Software Freedom Law Center and Aaron Williamson (who is now an attorney at Tor Ekeland).
On October 4, 1985, Richard Stallman founded the non-profit Free Software Foundation to support the free software movement, especially the GNU Project (begun in 1983), the GNU General Public License (created in 1989), and the four freedoms that define free software:
- the freedom to run the program as you wish, for any purpose (freedom 0).
- the freedom to study how the program works, and change it so it does your computing as you wish (freedom 1).
- the freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor (freedom 2).
- the freedom to distribute copies of your modified versions to others (freedom 3).
At thirty years old, the FSF was the first non-profit organization dedicated to free software, and is one of the oldest digital rights organizations in the world. This anniversary is a good reason to celebrate, and free software enthusiasts joined the festivities from all over, attending the party in Boston, watching the livestream of toasts by Allison Randal, Eben Moglen, Vernor Vinge, Karen Sandler, Bradley Kuhn, and Cory Doctorow, followed by an inspiring speech by Richard Stallman, and hosting their own celebrations by plugging in to our party network. We even surprised partygoers with a performance of "The Free Software Song" and the Bulgarian song from which it takes its melody, "Sadi moma bela loza," sung by members of the Boston-area Bulgarian groups Divi Zheni and Zornitsa.
The FSF also hosted a User Freedom Summit in Cambridge, with more than 80 attendees, who took part in a copyleft.org hackfest, an introduction to the decentralized Web, a discussion of the free software BIOS/UEFI replacement Libreboot, an intro to GnuPG email encryption, and Eben Moglen's look at the next fifteen years of the free software movement.
Our friends and supporters celebrated elsewhere, too. The Free Software Foundation Europe had a party in Berlin, with this beautiful cake, inspired by our 30th anniversary logo:
CC-BY-SA Matthias Kirschner
CC-BY-SA Daniel Pimentel
and a ton in other locations.
If you organized an event to celebrate the FSF's thirtieth anniversary, tell us about it! Send your photos or blog posts to firstname.lastname@example.org -- we'd like to share them!
So, what does the FSF have planned for the next thirty years? Plenty. We're going to continue to fight for user freedom, alerting the public to the dangers of nonfree software in tiny computers everywhere, enforcing the GPL, and encouraging more people to use free software every day. We just upgraded our CiviCRM instance, which makes staying in touch with you even easier, and we've got more technology upgrades planned, to make our work more efficient. We have added new staff positions in the past two years, and we'd like a few more -- a bigger team will help us expand our reach, share urgent information with you faster, and deepen our relationships in the free software community.
But to do that, we need you. We have over 3,400 members, and more than two-thirds of our funding comes from individuals -- members and one-time or occasional donors of sums large and small. We rely on the free software community's generosity, and there are many ways to give. The third edition of Richard Stallman's essay collection, Free Software, Free Society, is now available in hardcover and paperback. And we still have commemorative FSF30 t-shirts, as well! Members enjoy a 20% discount on all purchases in the GNU Press shop.
Thanks for celebrating with us. In the coming weeks, keep an eye out for recordings from the User Freedom Summity and party, more on LibrePlanet 2016 (you can submit a session proposal through November 16), a community survey that will help us shape the next thirty years of the FSF, and guidelines for repositories that host free software projects, authored by Richard Stallman.
Bonjour ! Cyril Roelandt of Red Hat who works on OpenStack will be giving a talk about Guix-Tox at PyConFR in Pau, France, on October 17th.
Guix-Tox is a young variant of the Tox "virtualenv" management tool for Python that uses guix environment as its back-end. In essence, while Tox restricts itself to building pure Python environments, Guix-Tox takes advantages of Guix to build complete environments, including dependencies that are outside Tox's control, thereby improving environment reproducibility. Cyril will demonstrate practical use cases with OpenStack.
If you're around, do not miss the talk. If you're a Pythonista, you can help by providing feedback on Guix-Tox!
About GNU Guix
GNU Guix is a functional package manager for the GNU system. The Guix System Distribution or GuixSD is an advanced distribution of the GNU system that relies on GNU Guix and respects the user's freedom.
In addition to standard package management features, Guix supports transactional upgrades and roll-backs, unprivileged package management, per-user profiles, and garbage collection. Guix uses low-level mechanisms from the Nix package manager, except that packages are defined as native Guile modules, using extensions to the Scheme language. GuixSD offers a declarative approach to operating system configuration management, and is highly customizable and hackable.
GuixSD can be used on an i686 or x86_64 machine. It is also possible to use Guix on top of an already installed GNU/Linux system, including on mips64el and armv7.
Richard Stallman's speech will be nontechnical, admission is gratis, and the public is encouraged to attend.
Please fill out our contact form, so that we can contact you about future events in and around Paris.
October 08, 2015
During the past two years, the DYNDY crew has been busy researching, designing and coding Freecoin at Dyne.org think&do tank for the EU/FP7 project Decentralized Citizens Engagement Technologies, the D-CENT project.
Within D-CENT, Freecoin is the decentralized way to experiment on bottom up trust management systems through the implementation of distributed ledger technologies.
Freecoin is a software toolkit to build and deploy custom distributed authenticated ledger technologies initially inspired by cryptographic blockchains like Bitcoin.
Having foreseen the success and importance of the Bitcoin project and its underlying distributed ledger technology, the Freecoin initiative doesn’t aim to be a currency in itself, but to be a base for field experimentation and lean currency design practices based on such technologies. Freecoin is not a currency, but a suite to create P2P currencies, in order to scale bottom up cooperation for the social good Freecoin is thought of as a toolchain: a backend suite of interoperable tools to run free and open source, ad-hoc blockchain systems. The ultimate ambition of the Freecoin Toolchain is, even beyond the span of the D-CENT project, to reach GNU software quality standards to create and operate blockchain systems.
Below, we link you up to relevant documentation from the D-CENT project, wherein one can find all the steps made to arrive to a minimum viable product, teh Freecoin codebase, to prototype with pilot communities in Iceland, Finland and Spain during the first half of 2016.
They are the deliverables, or project reports, on Freecoin submitted to the European Commission by the D-CENT Consortium.
This deliverable documents the state of the art of legal frameworks of implementation both in general, but also particularly for D-CENT Digital Social Currency experiments with pilot communities in Spain, Iceland, Finland and the use case in Italy.
This deliverable is led by DYNE.org and focuses on the implementation of a software toolkit useful to run community owned infrastructures for the digital social currency design schemes envisioned in D4.4 (Design of digital social currency).
The Freecoin Toolchain is a toolkit to build blockchains for the social good. It aims to improve decentralised trust and identity management for the D-CENT pilot communities. D-CENT is bringing together complementary currency design and the latest development of digital currencies, made famous by Bitcoin. It will run digital social currency pilots in communities that are already actively designing tools for collective decision-making in local economies.
This report provides a background for building a framework for implementing and federating digital complementary currency experiences, and for improving their social benefits. Enabling communities to manage exchange using alternative digital social currencies as new tools for growing a civic sharing economy, including a strong role for interoperable digital social currencies remains the principal goal.
Disclaimer: This reports are currently awaiting approval from the EC and as such cannot be not considered as final version.
October 07, 2015
Edward Snowden: Smartphones can be hacked into with just one text message and then used to spy on their owners
GCHQ, the UK’s spying agency, has a ‘smurf suite’ of tools that allow it to break into and listen in on phones, Snowden claims from Moscow
The world’s spying agencies have tools that allow them to take over smartphones with just a text message, according to Edward Snowden, and there is “very little” that their owners can do to stop it.
The UK’s intelligence agency has a suite of tools that let it listen on phones and their owners, Snowden told the BBC’s Panorama in Moscow. All spies would need to do is send a special text message and they will be able to gain access to the camera and its microphones, the BBC reported Snowden as saying.
The set of tools is called “Smurf Suite”, according to Snowden. Each of the individual tools has their own name — “Dreamy Smurf” lets the phone be powered on and off, for instance, and “Nosey Smurf” lets spies turn the microphone on and listen in on users, even if the phone itself is turned off.
GCHQ even has a tool called “Paranoid Smurf” that hides the fact that it has taken control of the phone. The tool will stop people from recognising that the phone has been tampered with if it is taken in for a service, for instance.
FSF Events: FSF copyright and licensing associate Donald Robertson - "Trading Freedom: The Threat of International Trade Agreements Like TPP, TTIP, and TISA" (SeaGL, Seattle, WA)
The Free Software Foundation has campaigned for years against the dangers of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an international trade agreement with grave consequences for software freedom. This agreement, negotiated in complete secrecy, threatens to lock its member countries into a potential future of spreading software patents, perpetual copyright restriction, and legal penalties for the circumvention of Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). While TPP secretly trundles along, other similarly terrible agreements loom on the horizon, threatening to ensnare most of the world in a web of restrictions. While trade agreements in the past have always presented issues, the threat to software freedom hidden in these hidden talks is an entirely new phenomena. Restrictions implemented in such treaties could be enforced for decades to come, and with little public input, the agreements that will eventually come out of these negotiations invariably will be anti-user.
This talk will begin with a primer on the process and general procedure for these types of agreements, focusing on how ordinary users and citizens (and even elected officials) are left out in favour of lobbyists and corporations. It will then delve in to the particular dangers that each agreement presents. While there is overlap between each, the restrictions hidden within the secret negotiations are each implemented in a slightly different fashion. Finally, the talk will cover what we at the FSF have been doing to campaign against these international agreements, and what the audience can do to join in this fight.
Please fill out our contact form, so that we can contact you about future events in and around Seattle.
October 06, 2015
“¡Abran la Galería 1!”, irrumpe un grito desde el público. La directora del Archivo General de la Nación (AGN), Mercedes de Vega Armijo, sentada frente al auditorio, apenas mueve la cabeza, apenas parpadea sin cambiar el gesto. “¡Sí! ¡Que la abran!”, secunda otra voz y los aplausos explotan.
#CISEN #PRI #malgobierno #asesino #corrupción #represión #espionaje #secuestro #estudiantes #disidentes #política #resistencia #información #IFAI #burocracia #lecumberri #contrainsurgencia #guerrasucia
This week marks the start of a new month. Salaries of teachers
This week marks the start of a new month. Salaries of teachers was paid, teachers are happy with the way the organization is running and were very happy with their pay check.
The beginners class are familiar with the E-learning program and are more comfortable. They have a daily routine which they follow and are becoming more acquaintance. The teachers organize a question and answer session about the Linux operating system during meetings. They where asked to give the advantages of Linux operating system over other operating system and the Linux distributions.
More so in the advance class, lessons on Scribus with quizzes was created, more solar installation project in hand like the Santa, Yaounde, Campo, Buea, Manfe and Bamenda. The Bamenda installation came first .
Michel go alone to Bamenda today Friday 1st of October for solar installation, Michel says he prefer to work with people he knows in different region on solar. Chanceline ask Emmanuel if he was going to Bamenda and Emmanuel said since Michel prefer to used Kwenti Hans in Bamenda then he will not go with Michel.
October 05, 2015
October 04, 2015
#México, campo de #guerra : entrevista con Sergio González Rodríguez un año después de la masacre de #Ayotzinapa
Cada vez más, las sociedades actuales tienden a silenciar los actos de abusos en todo sentido, los estados de excepción, la barbarie, el terror, el riesgo y la vulneración de los derechos, libertades y dignidad de las personas.
El silencio al que aludo tiende a establecer nuevas líneas de coexistencia en todas partes donde la polarización y las tensiones sociales establecen una dinámica de adhesión versus rechazo tajante de una u otra causa, y la reflexión racional deja de ser importante para ser reemplazada por la simple emotividad de “buenos contra malos”
October 02, 2015
October 01, 2015
Article by Francesca Bria and Elettra Bianchi Dennerlein. The original article was published at the Nesta website.
Denis Roio (aka Jaromil) is a researcher in philosophy of technology, artist and software artisan whose creations are endorsed by the Free Software Foundation. He has been involved in Bitcoin since the early days and since 2000 he has been dedicated to building Dyne.org, a software house gathering the contributions of a growing number of developers who value social responsibility above profit.
Jaromil is leading D-CENT development of Freecoin, a blockchain-enabled digital social currency and has been invited at the reinvent.money event on the 26th of September by organiser Paul Buitink to explore the opportunities of Bitcoin beyond its function as currency.
In the recent report published by D-CENT “Design of social digital currency” we have touched upon the notion of freecoin. What is the D-CENT freecoin toolchain?
Freecoin is our toolkit to build social wallets, one of the free and open source pieces of software we are developing as a result of the D-CENT project. We call it a toolkit because anyone can adopt it to design their own application to record value transactions within small or mid-sized groups of participants. The resulting ledgers are distributed and authenticated: they do not only exist on one or more databases, but also on peer-to-peer distributed blockchains.
This way we hope to provide easy peer-validation of authenticated records that are tamper proof and exist beyond the actual Freecoin installation. We are not aiming at the sort of trust less peers scenario in Bitcoin: we assume that trust is abundant within an organisation (this can be helped also by other democratic and decentralized tools in D-CENT) and that the main challenge is to share such trust outside the organisation, with other organisations.
Technically speaking, Freecoin aims to be mostly “middle-ware”, placing itself between a well customisable layer focusing on identity management and the inner process of standardisation for cryptographic ledgers and blockchain backends. We consider the latter to still be in a highly volatile and competitive phase of development, therefore we contemplate multiple options: first and foremost we are trying to abstract a generic API that can be applied to most blockchain existing technologies, from Bitcoin to second generation proof-of-stake (NXT) to the latest development in smart contracts and pegged sidechains.
In the context of the Greek crisis and the never-ending banking scandals how will blockchain technologies help reinvent the future of money?
Reinvent is the right choice of word here, since the main power of this narrative lies in its open horizons, the fact that we could rethink and redesign the most ancient and most used medium in the world: money.
By becoming digital, money has stopped existing in the same form. With the birth of banks money became (mostly) not simply physical and in the past half century it has become a digitised number in something as fragile as a computer database. As every account is digitised, no matter how small that is, banks today became a forced intermediary to operate any monetary value transaction, since there is no asset really behind anything, but numbers written down, bureaucrats validating them – and of course people cheating this system. There won’t ever be the need for a centralised bank to prove that one plus one is two, that all transactions listed by a particular ledger are valid.
At the base of all this there is a ground-breaking technological innovation in the field of accountancy, which is called “triple-entry book keeping” and is brilliantly explained by Ian Grigg in a paper he wrote in 2005, way before Bitcoin was even conceived.
Of course this situation offers a more agile way to manage value transactions than ever before. But this is not to be taken as a solution to the financial crisis. Certainly it is a new dimension in which qualitative changes to the financial industry can be applied together with a progression towards social goals that include mutual credit distribution and structural interventions on the way production is perceived and networks of trust are managed by the corporate financial sector.
What we witnessed in 2015 was not a “Greek crisis”, but an important point for the sort of political consciousness Europe desperately needs to develop beyond the fiscal union. The Blockchain is undoubtedly among the technologies opening up the field of development for new emerging forms of rationality and social relationships, which are still, primarily, of social and political nature.
Today the EFF announced the adoption of its Do Not Track (DNT) policy by the adtech company Adzerk, they are the first advertising company to sign up to a meaningful DNT policy and their involvement will have two immediate consequences.
1. Companies have claimed that the technical obstacles to implementing DNT in the ad environment are insurmountable; they no longer have this alibi. On a more positive note, there is also reason to believe that other ad companies will emulate Adzerk’s example.
2. It puts in place another piece of scaffolding for those publishers considering DNT adoption but unsure how it can be implemented. Offering a version of the site where users are not tracked means reviewing all the third parties used on the site, many of which gather user data: analytics, embedded video hosts, social network ‘like’ buttons, and of course *ads*. These sources of data leaks to third parties need to be disarmed rather than gotten rid of entirely (something users’ expectations will not allow). Adzerk doesn’t supply ads themselves, but it provides the infrastructure for their delivery. As more publishers adopt DNT, it will become easier to convince advertisers that this is an audience worth addressing.
Whilst a lot of attention has been given to online tracking the responses have so far been ineffective. The relevant W3C working group failed to reach a compromise that would change industry practice voluntarily, whilst regulators appear unwilling to take on a sector which has grown during an otherwise lackluster economic period. Where legislation has been tried, the results have been ineffective (e.g. the ‘Cookie Directive’ in Europe). The EFF’s DNT effort aims to construct an alternative ecology where privacy protection and informed user choice is the design imperative behind modified services, and to overcome the engineering obstacles to that objective a step at a time.
September 30, 2015
Text and slides of my presentation in the first Transformaking symposium, Jogjakarta, Indonesia, september 2015 http://transformaking.org
Thank you for your presence here, and thanks to the organisers of this important moment.
I am Jean Noël Montagné, founder of a hackerspace in Nice, France, called Nicelab, " Open Laboratory of Nice". I started cultural collaborations with HONF foundation, Indonesia, twelve years ago. I was very happy last year, when HONF team invited me for brainstorming on the future of making and of DIY spirit, when Gustaff Harriman Iskandar, from Bandung hackerspace, invented the words Transformaking and Transformakers.
For me, these words are an opportunity to impulse a political perspective in the Makers's scene in rich countries.
In France, most of the Makers are hobbyists, technolovers, geeks. They create for fun, for local glory and some, for business. But few of them are makers for social or political goals. Most of the objects created in fablabs and makerspaces in the last years are useless regarding the urgent problems of the planet. Because the planet is on fire. Climate crisis. Energy crisis. Demography crisis. Water crisis. Metals crisis. Financial cris. Education crisis, even crisis of mental health because of the abuse of digital communication.
But stop ! it's enough ! Come back to transformaking, No-one wants to ear this crude reality !
*No lessons from the past*
And that's the problem: historians studying the extinction of old civilisations in the last millinaries have discovered that leaders and populations perfectly knew the serious problems of their time but they have ignored the scientific advices and all indicators turning to red, until the end. We are doing exactly the same and we don't have a lot of time to act. We must transform all sectors of the society before the conjunction of some important crisis, and transformakers will help us to do it.
In the global village, industry is totaly dependant of flux, networks of raw materials, energy, goods, tools, components, distribution and transportation. Any failure on one spot can disturb or stop all the chain, from extraction of raw materials to distribution of goods. This interdependency is an enormous fragility in the context of the coming crisis, and transformakers can help us to break it.
* Resilient society*
We have all noticed that we can't really count on our political systems to find efficient solutions, we should count on ourselves. We, citizens, can buid resilient communities, based on small structures, driven by direct democracy, and based on big citizenship networking. We have the digital tools and the network to do it.
Transformakers have a key role in this transition from globalisation to resilience.
Let's have a deeper look in this crisis instead of being blind to reality. If we are here in Jogyakarta, it's because we have understood what is coming, and how Transformaking can help us.
The first crisis to observe with the glasses of Transformaking is climate crisis.
*Climate crisis *
In december 2015 in France, during the UN conference about climate change, COP21, a hundred presidents and 25 000 leaders and technocrates will brainstorm on how to impose radical solutions to nations, or not, for limiting the rise of the global temperature to 2 degrees more.
For me, it's an announced fail.
A fail because the goals of the meeting started in a wrong direction. Accepting 2 degrees more, in average, on the planet, is accepting violent transformations of the climate: hurricanes, floods, dryness, wildfires, pollination problems, soil erosion, insect, animals and vegetal invasions, viruses emergence, and so on, that will create a giant loose of biodiversity, massive extinction of species in earth and ocean during years. Look at what's happening with just a half degree more in the last fourty years, we see important effects on the poles, on the climatology, on water storage, on agriculture, on the acidity of ocean.
So 2 degrees more will create huge environemental and social disorders, unstability everywhere, wars, starvations. Hundred millions of refugees could have to move, but move where ?. The management of this mass of refugees can completely dismantle the actual geopolitic equilibrium (if any....) and will deeply affect all the planet. A new era of chaos, but a opportunity for changing radically the system in good directions.
This meeting will be a fail, because the richest countries don't want to change their way of life in the direction of degrowth, wich is the only realist solution. And because developing countries with a big growth, like in Asia, South America or Africa for example, don't want to stop this mad race to personal enrichment. Look. This is a picture taken here in a street of Yogyakarta, Indonesia:
Can you imagine what can happen, in terms of energy, in terms of circulation, in terms of urbanity, in terms of pollution, in terms of fluidity of a city, and merchandise transport, if all this people earn enough money to buy a car for rainy days ?
How transformakers can help in the context of climate crisis ?
By helping us to change the scale from globalization to small resilient networked communities. By helping us to rebuild real direct democracy. By helping us redefine our urbanisation, our usage of the lands. By helping us to rebuild our social organisation around knowledge networks.
Second crisis affecting the world is energy crisis: all our societies and economies are totally dependent on oil: the actual madness of the low prices must not mask that conventional Oil had a production peak few years ago. We live now in the illusion of infinite Unconventional oil and shale gas, but this new prosperity will have a end. And it will not be possible to drill and destroy all our lands and groundwater everywhere and continue to produce greenhouse gas. The planet has a limited quantity of fossil energy in the ground, and we are reaching the limits in one or two generations, our children.
Coal will stay a durable low cost solution for many countries, but increasing the global climate chaos. The actual very low cost of oil is a unique opportunity to invest in renewable energies, but few people, few nations have understood that. ( 100% renewables soon in New Zealand, Denmark, Bhoutan, etc)
We imagine how Transformakers can help in the context of energy crisis and interdependency: in the same direction of autonomy and solidarity. Changing the scale again. We must harvest clean energy, renewable energy everywhere, and share it. Hackers and Transformakers have a lot of solutions.
The third big crisis, coming at the same time, is a the crisis of ressources: pure water is missing everywhere because of very bad managements, but the most important resource crisis will come with metals: here is the previsional calendar about the peak of production of metals. Source from one famous elit engineer shcool in france Ecole Centrale:
Peak of metals= huge price increase
Terbium, Hafnium, Antimony ==> crisis 2020/2025 (batteries)
Palladium, Gold , Indium, Zinc ==> crisis 2023/2027 ( computers, electronics)
Stain, Silver, Nickel ==> crisis 2028/2033 ( food industry, chemistry, metallurgy)
Lead ==> crisis 2030/2035 ( batteries)
Copper, Tantalum ==> crisis 2035/2040 ( electricity, electronics)
Uranium, Platinium ==> crisis 2060 ( nuclear energy, aerospace, chemistry)
Iron ==> crisis 2080
Transformakers must help us to redefine our materials strategies our industrial strategies. How to go from globalization of the production of very bad quality goods, to small autonomous production of very solid tools and productions ? How to organise a clever recycling of all materials ? how to change the scale in the direction of self-democratic management, citizen industry, is again the problem to solve. And Transformakers have a lot of solutions.
No lessons have been taken from the 2008 crash. Fragility of the economy grows with technological improvements in high frequency trading. 95% of daily market transactions does not involve goods, but only speculation. The debts of many countries are deeper every day, and those debts places the political teams under the control of big banks, big monetary regulators driven by banks, and under the control of big companies wich doesnt care about common goods. This provoke also a crisis of democracy, of citizenship, of trust into others.
Hackers and transformakers have always worked on the evolution of money. Digital encrypted currencies, local moneys, networks of exchange, P2P moneys are research we should more focus on very quickly, because solutions exist to be less dependant on banks and markets.
Come back to transformaking, and let's have a look to good, positive news, coming from everywhere in the world.
We discover today that good social, environemental and financial practices have always existed. Transformaking is the common behaviour in many communities in the world, especially in rural areas: do it yourself, DIWithOthers, Do It Together: people invent tools and technologies adapted to their context, to their pragmatic needs, using few ressources, using local resources, people repair, they recycle, they hack objects, they transmit the knowledge to young generations. Poor countries will not suffer as rich countries in the chaotic future, because they have always lived in the Transformaking way.
In social organisation, all over the world, small communities use solidarity structures, monetary arrangements, like barter systems that can be considered as local money, in a pure peer to peer exchange. The organisation of traditional communities are big lessons for us and this model just need digital tools to be adapted to small communities in modern world.
*Sharing knowledge = open sourcing*
Transformaking has had also an official arrival in our society, 30 years ago, when hackers started to change the world with the first open source software licences, wich was one of the most powerfull polititcal act of the XXth century. Artists have followed the movement 20 years ago with open source documents and artworks licences, and some makers have taken another important step, ten years ago, with Open Source Hardware licences. This is transformaking: changing the society by offering alternatives containing the values of solidarity and knowledge.
Open source technologies, from their concept to production or distribution, open the possibility of a total citizen control on technology. It's now possible to envision human-scale industry, citizen industry, decentralized industry, like our ancestors did before industrial revolution. The ecosystem of transformaking is self-organised around knowledge networks. Any technological process can be created or improved by transformakers, because networks of knowledge, networks of citizen research, networks of materials and networks of components exists underground. In the recent years, transformakers have started to design and build very complicated open source machines related to many sectors of industry, and citizen research attacks now topics like high tech medecine, nuclear physics, nanotechnologies or genetics. All in Open Source: Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Free Libre Open Source Hardware (FLOSH)
Patents are living their last twenty years, even in some very protected niche industries, like for example medical equipements: look at this websites and initiatives:
One could argue that hackers, transformakers are not regulated by authorities, certifications, ethic comitees ? and could launch dangerous projects for the society ? No. They couldn't.
Because we are network of citizens, we are self organized and the debate is always open in open source technologies. Creation and correction of code, of designs, follow real democratic rules. Less dangerous than governement or military-security's projects.
*How to push more transformaking in society ?*
-first by protecting internet and the net neutrality. Networking tools are essential for democracy and sharing of the knowledge. Big companies like Facebook and GAFAM are silently killing internet by replacing all software on the client side, by services driven by their data-suckers servers, associated to the Panopticon of the Internet Of Things. New global totalitarism.
-by supporting hackers and transformakers projects through their crowdfundings
-by opening new medialabs, hackerspaces, makerspaces, and open laboratories, and specialized of them ( biology, health, agriculture, etc)
-by opening places in cities to dismantle, repair, recycle objects, parts, etc
-by choosing to use open source software and open source hardware when available
-by funding P2P and common goods initiatives on all sectors of society ==> P2P foundation
-by installing education programms about hacking, about transformaking
-by choosing slow and resilient communication technologies for establishing strong communication and education networks.
*Post capitalist era*
Transition from globalisation to new resilient small scale networked societies is necessary and must start now. Transformakers are the first explorers of a post capitalist era. But they don't move alone. Many new citizen organisations, new style political movements are following the movement, but most of them ignore what transformakers are doing. But they do:
Transformakers have started to transform the society through new behaviours based on local resources, local solidarities, self-management and direct democracy, and based on global communication and global exchange of knowledge.
Instead of loosing energy to impulse this vision into standard political systems, it look more efficient to start building initiatives around us, responding to our values, co-existing with the actual system, and if our alternatives are good, if our models takes sense into the society, they will naturally replace the old system, without war, without revolutions.
Let's do it. DIY, DIT, DIWO, DIN *
Jean-Noël Montagné, Transformaking Symposium, Jogjakarta, September 2015.
* Do-It-Yourself, Do-It-Together, Do-It-With-Others, Do-It-Now
September 29, 2015
Rhizomatica has recently moved into a phase of critical reflection about what we do. Specifically, we are looking to share not only our successes, but also the challenges we face, how the affect us and what we are trying to do about them. The idea and practice of local or alternative networks is not new, but is a space where we think there need to be some hard conversations about how to expand them and make them more resilient. This starts with being honest about our own shortcomings and the difficulties that exist when interfacing with the traditional or corporate infrastructure that we rely on to move some of our data or traffic around. So with that in mind, an explanation of why some sites die or go down for longer than a few days. Please note these are not in any particular order.
Reason 1. Political or Social problems
Rhizomatica has decided, for a host of reasons that are beyond the scope of this post, to work directly with organized communities and social organizations, rather than a more entrepreneurial or private investment approach. This means that while we are protected from some things such as vandalism (much more likely someone will steal something belonging to someone else than to themselves) it puts the project at the whim of local political issues. We have one site that has been down for 2 or 3 months due to a disagreement between two political factions within the town. This has meant that the administration computer was held “hostage” and no users could pay their monthly fee, buy credit, etc. and that the town stopped paying it’s Internet bill and therefore had no long-distance service. While the places we work are generally quite organized, these types of political disputes do happen and are pretty much impossible to do anything about from our end. Mainly we just have to wait for things to work themselves out locally.
Reason 2. Existing networks, “Interference” and Colonialism
We find that our service struggles when there is already a corporate telco network present or one comes along in a place where there is a community network. We’ve found there are a few explanations for this. The first is an issue around how people experience their phone and network and are conditioned around what traditional providers provide. The second is something more ephemeral relating to how people view development, modernity, progress and so on. This mentality is in turn shaped by the history of colonialism in Mexico. What this all means for our work is that we face, in some localities, expectations of what the community cell phone service should be like. So even if it’s vastly cheaper and more or less of the same quality, the fact that we don’t have direct interconnect and users have to dial using the country code or folks calling in hit a virtual exchange and then need to enter an extension to reach their destination, makes it so that some people prefer to use the more expensive, corporate network. Sometimes its just pure brand recognition. For some rural towns being able to show off that you can afford to use the corporate network holds prestige.
Another related issue we face is the existence of fixed wireless terminals; a fancy name for a cell phone that looks and operates as if it were a fixed line phone. Since coverage is scarce in many rural areas, people resort to buying these and attaching high gain directional antennas in order to pick up signals from really far away, behind mountains and so on. Strictly speaking this isn’t legal, but who can blame folks for doing what’s necessary in order to communicate? The problem for us comes in when the community installs a network and the fixed wireless terminal tries to negotiate between the community network right there and the weak signal coming from far, far away. The result is that the weak signal sometimes seems to disappear as far as the phone is concerned and therefore it can’t be used. This angers lots of people and has led to us having to shut down two networks permanently. If you understand Spanish, you can read more about it here>> http://wiki.rhizomatica.org/index.php/Site_selection
Reason 3. Infrastructure problems.
This is something that we’ve spoken about before and refers mainly to electricity and Internet. As a hybrid approach to networking, we rely on the existence of other systems to do what we do. This is certainly a vulnerability. It also makes what we offer much less expensive. To the point, we have had equipment damaged by electrical surges, or the whole system will go off when the power is out, which can sometimes last for days. The situation with the Internet is more or less the same, with the added issue that, at least in Oaxaca, the major routes to the IXP and the US seem to be constantly broken or not operating to any reasonable standard. This means it is really hard to connect long distance calls for the users. The solution to the electricity issues in most cases is having a backup battery and protecting the equipment from surges and discharges. But fixing the Internet is hard. Maybe we’ll end up trenching our own fiber to Mexico City :)
Reason 4. Damage from lightning
This plagues pretty much every rural network and relates partially to Reason 3, when the bolt strikes the power lines rather than the tower or installation directly. For direct strikes, we are working to find a cheap and reliable way to protect everything we put on the tower and everything that it connects to. It’ll add about 5 – 10% of the total installation cost, which is reasonable.
Some of the above can be fixed with a little more investment. Some are complex, deeper issues that we can’t fix on our own. And yet others are tied to the way we have and would like to continue doing things because they align with our values as an organization. We want to offer free/open, inexpensive communications options to people that allow them to both organize collectively and strengthen existing community institutions. We probably focused too much on getting costs down and not enough on making the networks robust. So now we can adjust and bring things into better balance.
We have written previously about the organizations and individuals who opposed exemptions to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act's (DMCA) anti-circumvention provisions. These drones oppose the rights of users to backup, modify, and study the software and devices that we own. The DMCA's anti-circumvention provisions create legal penalties for simply accessing your software under your own terms, and raises those penalties even higher should dare to share the tools needed to do so. It creates real penalties for anyone who wants to avoid Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) controls. The granting of exemptions to these totalitarian rules is a broken and half-hearted attempt to limit the damage these rules bring, granting for 3 years a reprieve for certain specified devices and software.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) side-stepped this process and sent a letter separately directly to the Copyright Office. In the letter they argued that users should not be able to access and modify the software on their own vehicles. In their estimation, this would enable users to violate emissions controls. So it would be better for them if the hammer of the DMCA remained hanging over the head of every user or researcher who wanted to access the software on their vehicle.
Of course, just a few months after telling the Copyright Office that users couldn't be trusted with access to their devices, the EPA revealed a major scandal involving Volkswagen using proprietary software to cheat its emissions tests. The FSF Licensing and Compliance Lab details how the DRM that the EPA supported, along with the lack of free software on Volkswagen vehicles, helped to hide this fraud for years over in their blog on FSF.org.
But the fact remains that even without the scandal, the EPA was wrong for supporting DRM. We can't let governments and corporation use DRM to take over our lives. So we are adding the EPA to our list of DRM Drones, and asking you to let them know how wrong they are. This is what you can do today to fight back:
If you microblog, please share the following message (or your own) with the hashtag #DRMshame. We strongly suggest that if you use Twitter to publicly call the EPA and Volkswagen out, you do it in a way that avoids using proprietary software:
- @EPA You should be ashamed of yourself for trying to use Digital Restrictions Management #DRMshame https://u.fsf.org/fraud
- @VW All software on your vehicles needs to be free software without DRM to restore our trust #DRMshame https://u.fsf.org/fraud
Here's what else you can do:
Article by Francesca Bria and Elettra Bianchi Dennerlein. The original article was published at the Nesta website.
During the last few years, the internet economy has been mainly developing using a business model that offers services for free to the end users, but at the same time creates profits by mining, aggregating, and selling personal and social data for commercial and surveillance purposes. Therefore, the lives of internet users are continuously electronically tracked, analysed, clustered and segmented in profiles and graphs: personal data as a commodity for the “markets of identity“, with large implications on the users’ privacy and the rights related to personal data.
Under the quest for secure identities, governments, banks, social media platforms and many specialist communities have been driving the technical aspects of online and digital identities to become more sophisticated and able to record, analyse, and eventually monetise everything we do. In the research carried out by D-CENT, “Research on Digital Identity Ecosystems” a concrete analysis of the latest evolution of the Digital Identity ecosystem in the Big Data context is presented alongside economic, political and technical alternatives to develop an identity ecosystem that respects citizens’ rights, privacy and data protection.
As explained in the D-CENT research, in order to establish a competitive advantage in the market it is critical for companies to collect and analyse vast quantities of personal information. However, the financial and technical resources required for gathering and managing such massive amount of information is leading to the formation of global digital oligopolies. Companies such as Google and Facebook may have improved competitiveness, efficiency, and access to knowledge, but in their accumulation logic based on a new economic model defined by intense data extraction, data analysis, continuous monitoring, and prediction they are representing a new form of capitalism, namely “surveillance capitalism”.
The growing market of citizens’ data, which is creating an identity marketplace is harvested not only by the big tech brands but by other hundreds of lesser-known companies that are building all sort of analytics, trading personalised ads in real time and providing other ancillary services for a variety of industrial sectors.
On the flip side of the coin, governments have also increased the intensity of their surveillance to an unprecedented level, and even with the massive amount of data held by private companies, states maintain the largest databases of personal information. The documents leaked by US whistleblower Edward Snowden have brought to light the unprecedented mass surveillance schemas that governments are engaging in. Comprehensive surveillance is the way in which both the corporate world and governments are now operating and allows the two to cooperate in programs such as Prism: where the NSA and FBI have direct access to data from some of the major tech companies including Google, Apple and Facebook.
Alongside mass surveillance, data commodification is the other worrying aspect of the Big Data. While public actors have so far promoted the availability of open data to enhance the measurement and understanding of our societies and environments, and to enhance transparency and accountability, private actors have focused on the value of personal data, promoting the commodification of identities with the hope of developing highly personalised services that can be charged at high premiums. As highlighted by the D-CENT research, we are now witnessing the emergence of Public-Private data partnerships, specifically in the field of health data, which has led to the emergence of an “identity market”, where personal data is increasingly treated as a valuable commodity. Within this market “data brokers”, who collect and aggregate consumer information for individual profiling, play a key role.
The research conducted by D-CENT presents empirical case studies in the field of the sharing economy, data broker industry, public service provision, political profiling and the personal data market in e-education. In spite of the evolving field of the digital economy, some trends can already be analysed.
- The introduction of private actors for the management of political profiling and, digital identity assurance programs or e-education platforms has blurred the borders between public and private identity management.
- Whilst the advantage of private actors is undeniable, it is also apparent how often market interests are at odds with regulatory principles. There is a conflict between the goals of business models that lead the economic activities of data brokers and the privacy principles that guide the corresponding regulations.
- Although data brokers are not a recent phenomenon there has recently been a transformation of the data brokerage market, due to the evolving technologies like Big Data or the Internet of Things that are affecting the value chain and their business models. Even though there are no actual identifiable and quantifiable revenue models yet, new frameworks are emerging, which will play a significant role in the potential futures of the digital economy and the identity market.
In the current digital world, the ability to gather data about individuals, build more complete personal profiles and generate insights is more than a privacy and freedom conundrum, it has shown to be a tool for potential discrimination based on class profiles. Above all, for ordinary people who provide the data that fuels the Big Data, it is unclear whether the benefits that arise are equally distributed. This has been leading to growing concerns over what happens with the personal information, and for many years there has been a wide discussion about the possibility of adopting an Internet Bill of Rights, and debates have produced a considerable number of proposals.
For instance, Tim Berners-Lee together with juridical and legal scholars advocate for an online Magna Carta, which should include the protection of personal data but also access, neutrality, integrity and inviolability of IT systems and domains. The need to consider the access to the Internet as a fundamental right of individuals is stressed (Tim Berners-Lee compared it to the access to water), as an essential guarantee against any form of censorship and indirect limitations. As emphasised by the Italian jurist Stefano Rodotà, the perspective of a Declaration of Internet rights aims at developing through new procedures the constitutional rules fundamental for allowing the Internet to keep its main feature as a place of freedom and democracy.
People must reclaim the sovereignty on their digital person, since identity is a key issue for the free development of one’s personality. To face the problem of digital identities and personal information in the context of Big Data and mass surveillance technical solutions are not enough. The D-CENT research formulates a combination of technical, political, economic and juridical solutions
In order to preserve trust, privacy and data ownership in today’s big data environments there is a need to have access data to advance alternative economic strategies to manage data and knowledge as commons, to provide explicit consent and open licensing, to develop tools for citizens to control and own their data, and to establish fair terms of services. Ther key aspects include the right to the informational self-determination, neutrality, integrity and inviolability of IT systems and domains, rights and guarantees of people on Internet platforms, interoperability, right to knowledge and education, and control over Internet governance. Contemporarily to these economic alternatives policy strategies need to support responsible innovation, enhance privacy and data protection by design and promote international standards against mass surveillance.
If these technical recommendations are followed by future developers of identity ecosystems and have a mutually beneficial relationship with a legal and policy framework that upholds rights such as that of data protection, rather than be a honey-pot for surveillance, together with an economic strategy that favours public good over financial profits, an identity ecosystem that is truly user- centric and based on the fundamental right of autonomy of data can be established by Europe.
The original article was published at the Nesta website: http://www.nesta.org.uk/blog/digital-identity-ecosystems-context-big-data-and-mass-surveillance
September 28, 2015
September 26, 2015
September 25, 2015
At this moment students are getting familiar with our system and they are already getting lectures.They are striving hard to learn more,
Even though most of them, are not accurate in typing, they are advice type without looking at the keyboard. They were surprised to see lessons prepared with E-learning moodle.
Most of them come to school with their laptops and ask for the same program and operating system to be installed so that they can study at home.
conclusively, it was a good week since each of them own a computer in class. Their presence was not all that good but we think since it is the beginning things will change for good.
A REPORT ON THE ACTIVITIES DON IN THE ADVANCED CLASS
On Monday the 14/09/15 as from 9:10am check and make research on the lesson, creating Quize and solving all problems in the beginners class for example hard ware and soft ware problem check to see that the E-learning is going well and correct some that are not going, learning recent technologies and try to teach others download newest versions and installed it on our program.
On Wednesday 16/09/2015 Three routers was use to test how to spread the network signal wilder with the normal access point that is from the school to a distanced of about 100m, studies on the Linux Command which is what disturbed must students was made known to them.
This week was a very interesting week as must of our programs were accomplish and also new things was made known to us.
We hard our first solar class on the 17/09/2015 with only two students at the momentOn this first day introduction to solar and electric circuits were introduce to the students and even how
to use a volt meter. At this delight various solar material were introduce e.g solar controller, lithium batteries and types of solar panels.
On the other hand within the week we install Ubuntu on raspberry pi 2 so as for it to work as a stand a lone machine so one of such machine was install in the secretarial, beginners as well as advance class more so, materials were tested e.g monitors, power supply and some others were well label
September 24, 2015
In this talk, I want to bring together two notions: the city as utopia and project; and the recent developments, over the past 10 to 15 years, with regard to the development of a network commons. The network commons is one among a number of other initiatives that propose alternative future developments, from alternative and creative uses of technology, to alternative energies to alternative economies and ecologies. Those propositions, however, have remained separate. The thesis that I propose is that as long as those propositions remain separate, they will either be absorbed or destroyed by capitalism. There will be some change but ultimately nothing really will change, the world will not become a better place, which is, as I assume, that what really interests us all and brings us together here. We thus need a coherent and collective vision that is anchored in reality. As the locus of this vision I have identified the city as utopia and project.
The network commons1 is part of a swell of initiatives to create a digital commons: this includes free and open source software, open data, open sensor networks, or what is called by industry the internet of things; in this area a lot is happening that has not received a proper name, a bricolage of technologies and collaborative methods; when this applies to design and everyday objects it is called critical making; it is part of a wider DIY – or do-it-with-others – culture which does not necessarily use high-tech but deploys common but underused knowledge such as fermentation, agricultural and green technologies, permaculture, alternative energies. There exists also another type of innovation which has more to do with democracy and participation, with economy and politics. The notion of the digital commons has emerged from cooperative hacker culture within computing. But meanwhile this starts to develop links with another discourse on the commons which comes from what was once called the developing world. In poor nations mainly of the global south, ecologies based on the sharing of common resources are still pretty much in place. There, primitive accumulation is still happening every day, the process described by Marx whereby subsistence farmers are turned into worker-consumers. As a reaction to that, as well as in crisis hit countries such as Greece and Spain, economies of solidarity are developed. The commons of all types and shapes and economies and ecologies of solidarity have become an alternative vision of a post-capitalist economy in a peer-to-peer culture. All those visions, however, are usually addressed separately. The people behind those initiatives are from different demographic groups. They rarely meet in one place and discuss common strategies. For this reason, each of those initiatives, left to its own devices, will be either absorbed and co-opted by capitalism or fought, destroyed, made impossible by legal changes, sidelined by other innovations. What is thus necessary is a coherent and collective vision that brings those alternative strands together.
The thesis that I am testing in this talk is that such a coherent and collective vision can be developed on the basis of the city as a utopia and project. This projection of a collective future does not have a name yet but it can or should not be called socialism or communism for two reasons: first, Marx's ideas, as much as I like them and although Marx's writing is still an inspiration for me, was too much steeped in the industrial culture of 19th century. The working class, considered as an avant-garde, this notion was based on Marx's insight that in the future everybody would be a wage worker. We now live in a time that has already moved beyond that future. We know now that it is unlikely that everyone will be a wage worker. In the past this has only been the case in industrial societies in Europe, North America and Japan. Now a few more nations, notably Taiwan and South Korea, have reached that stage. The great majority of people on the Earth, however, live under unstable and precarious circumstances. Even in the post-industrial, rich countries, wage labour is receding. Secondly, socialism and communism as terms have become an impossibility for historical reasons. The forms of actually existing communism have deteriorated into inhumane, dictatorial regimes of a backward mentality. If we want to develop any coherent and collective vision for the future that does not apply only to the most developed urban centres, such a vision must not exclude from consideration the vast majority of people, what autonomous Marxists such as Toni Negri call the multitudes.
But why the city, you may ask, and why this strange combination of terms, utopia and project? Aren't we living in a thoroughly globalised world? Yes and no. The world has indeed been shrinking through the forces of technology and commerce, but these forces were mainly directed and deployed by transnational capital. This recent wave of globalisation that started in the 1970s and reached its peak in the early 2000s has emphasised the free flow of money and information, while it has built fences to prevent the movement of people. It has used wage differentials between people in different places to create profit and it has developed an international division of labour which has concentrated the production of intangible goods in so called Global Cities, as Saskia Sassen has called them, while material production could be literally everywhere. The different organs of a globalized cybernetic production system have also had implications for the dominant ideology. The appearance of the waning importance of material production has furthered the flourishing of various theories of immateriality, of a weightless economy, of immaterial labour, of capitalism having become “cognitive.” At the same time an aspect of the digital revolution has received little attention which was focused on Just-in-Time production and logistics chains, on driverless forklift trucks in container terminals and super-freighters. Material production has intensified, yet the dominant ideologies of Western cultures, by the left and the right, focused on immateriality. The dialectical relationship between the production of intangible goods in the centers and extraction of raw materials and the production of consumer goods in conditions near to slave labour at the edges has been left underexplored. In addition to that we are faced with a condition of contemporaneity – the existence, at the same time, of developments which are incommensurable to each other. Those are contradictions of a type that do not resolve into dialectical opposites but rather create antinomies, unresolvable contradictions.2 It is therefore of greatest importance to create new collective visions that can deal with the plurality of developments without resorting to idealism. Following a methodological suggestion by Saskia Sassen, it is thus necessary to ask where those global developments come together? Where does this material/immaterial production and reproduction come together? How can a vision for a future collective project be anchored in the here and now? And my preliminary answer is the city. The city has always been the locus of utopia as a place that allows to express a meaningful collectivity. It is important to avoid the pitfalls of a utopianism that paints a blue-sky picture without any real content. It is necessary to be able to dream, to develop a vision that may seem a bit far off, but this vision should also have some concrete starting points and ties to lived reality in the here and now. Otherwise, it becomes a utopianism of the kind that has no real consequences. And for this reason I have added the notion of the “project.”
A “project” in the sense of Marxists such as Ernst Bloch or Henri Lefebvre is distinct from utopia insofar as it projects a future that is actually attainable. While utopianism is necessary, it can become disconnected too easily. The project can bring all those threads together into something that I would call a positive ideology. The Cold War discourse about totalitarianism has discredited any ideology as a bad thing. Even the Left has chimed in, practising “ideology self-critique.” But this ideology self-critique has run its course. It has been ineffective in stopping neoliberalism. At best it has made some academic careers, in particular in the art field. Rather than critique we need to rewire the strings that connect network society to create new force fields that drive change into a different direction. If those ideas have some cohesion, they may well be called an “ideology.”
The City as Utopia and Project
I will now turn to a brief genealogy of the city as a project. This will necessarily have to be a sketchy version. The city as utopia has a deep history in human thought, but this utopia has often been tainted by its association with class society and its need to repress aspects of its social life on which it was based. This can be traced back to the very place where we stand now, Athenian democracy. The Greek Polis is widely seen as the cradle of democracy, but what also has been recognized is that this ideal was tainted by the exclusion from the political Agora of women and slaves.
The Greco-French philosopher Cornelius Castoriadis3 has provided the most vivid and insightful description of Athenian democracy. Castoriadis emphasized that voting was one of the least important aspects of Athenian democracy. What mattered more was that large numbers of people participated in political life and negotiated subjects in intense exchanges, forming large ad-hoc committees on specific subjects, often voting by acclamations – expressing a majority decision reached by other means than that of voting. Speeches were often short and sharp, and the outcome of decisions was determined by educated, lucid and rational judgements achieved at collectively. The democratic society for Castoriadis was the self-instituting society. It was, in a Hegelian sense, a society that became conscious of itself as a political unity which produced its own institutions, but was also capable of changing those institutions when needed. Politicians, while democratically elected, could also be removed from positions relatively quickly. The self-instituting society, Castoriadis stresses, had the means of educating itself to create a collective social imaginary. In the educational process also women and slaves participated. But it was not to last.
Learning from Athens means also to learn how democracy degenerated into tyranny. Plato's ideal city state was a dictatorship of philosophers. Even Sokrates supported tyranny, the rule of the few over the many, on the basis of their superiority. As Hannah Arendt has pointed out, Greek philosophy was shaped by the class structure of its society.4 The separation into a leisurely class of philosopher-politicians and a class of enslaved producers was constitutive for a tendency to give preference to intellectual over manual labour. This found analogy in the philosophical domain, where metaphysics was regarded to be more important than practical ideas. The technologies of the ancient Greeks did not achieve the high levels it might have, simply because the Greek ruling class saw no need for it.5
I touch upon the medieval city only very briefly. We note that this was a city idealized as an organic community based on sharp separations between the city and the countryside. It was a religious community whose highest expression was the building of cathedrals, which were built through a huge intergenerational and interdisciplinary effort of builder-engineer-artists.
The Renaissance city reached again the level of urbanism already achieved in antiquity. It re-rediscovered architectural and urbanistic concepts based on the sensual and rational concepts of Greece and Rome, using grids and perspectives. The Renaissance was also the era of the rebirth of the ideal city. Urban utopias were in plentiful supply, among those the one that provided 50% of the inspiration for the title of this talk, Tommaso Campanella's City of the Sun. The City of the Sun was conceived as a form of theocratic dictatorship. However, Campanella also engaged in an “explicit polemic with Aristotle and Plato, who had excluded artisans, peasants and those involved in manual labor from the category of full citizenship and from the highest levels of virtue.”6
In the City of the Sun all occupations were of equal dignity—in fact, those workers who were “required to expend greater effort, such as artisans and builders, received more praise.”7 There were no servants, and no service was regarded as unworthy. It was also a community where everything was held in common, from food to houses, from the acquisition of knowledge to the exercise of activities, from honors to amusements, and, somehow disconcertingly for us today, a form of free love that must appear as sexual slavery for women. What strikes most readers of this dialogue is that the city walls are also the curtains of an extraordinary theater and the pages of an illustrated encyclopedia of knowledge. The citizens of the City of the Sun were engaged in a permanent process of education and all knowledge was always publicly accessible.
The Great European City of the second half of the 19th century had inequality written into its structure. It was based on the destruction and undoing of parts of the medieval city, destroying grown working class communities. The Haussman Boulevard's were designed to counter the tendency of the urban masses to spontaneously erupt in revolution. But it was also a city that was only possible because of another great revolution that took place in the 19th century. As is often forgotten, the industrial revolution was based on an industrial revolution in agriculture. New techniques in agriculture achieved huge increases in output with ever fewer people. As people moved from the country to the city, they became proletarians, forced to live by selling their labour power. Fredrick Engels has described the horrible conditions in which the English working class lived around mid century.8
This caused various counter-movements:
- the hygienic movement, a movement of the educated bourgeoisie, of doctors and planners, who argued for rooms with high ceilings painted in white, for an architecture of light and air to counter the spread of epidemic diseases such as tuberculosis.
- the Garden City movement formed a specific version of this approach, proposing grand schemes for new urban dwellings
- the working class movements formed themselves, asking not only for typical trade unionist goals such as better wages and a shorter working day, but also for political emancipation.
At the beginning of the 20th century those movements converged to create functionalism and the Fordist city. The political working class movements changed the course of history successfully claiming universal voting rights after 1918 in many countries, bringing socialist administrations into government. The Fordist city was based on an alliance between the reformist sectors of the educated bourgeoisie who believed in rationalism and the ability to plan a better world, the political emancipation of the working classes and the functionalist spirit of what Reyner Banham calls a New Machine Age.9 The Fordist city led to achievements such as Red Vienna in the 1920s and 1930s, large scale public housing developments which provide working people a decent standard of living together with amenities for sports and leisure, education, political gatherings and entertainment.
The Fordist city comes more fully into force only after the Second World War. It is a space where the political emancipation of the working class is brought together with the functionalist and technological spirit of the new machine age. The Fordist city is also a very fragmented city, divided into areas for production and leisure, into working class and middle class quarters. It continues the destruction of grown working class communities, for instance in London, where people from the East End were resettled in New Towns just outside London. While planned according to some of the ideals of the Garden City movement, the new spatial arrangements destroyed networks of kinship, as a famous study from the 1950s was called,10 therefore making life actually more difficult for working class people.
The Fordist city was the city of the atomized individual or at best of the family as the nucleus of society. The atomized structure was overlaid by force fields of mass media communications through radio, television and illustrated mass media magazines and the yellow press. It was a city characterized by the separation between producers and consumers, order givers and order receivers, senders and receivers. As Henri Lefebvre has pointed out, the Fordist city was of a destructive effect on forms of everyday life which had existed in the older forms of city life.11 A political critique that was oriented towards Praxis, towards a realisation of political philosophy in life, could not only focus any longer on those domains traditionally associated with politics, such as political parties, and the state. It would also have to proceed from the critique of everyday life. Lefebvre's rebellious disciples, the Situationists actually claimed that political revolution had to be raised from the ground up, through the decentralized passions of the many revolutions of everyday life.
The ideas of Lefebvre and the SI were put to the test by the revolutions of 1968, from the Parisian May to the many revolutions and revolts that broke out simultaneously nearly all over the world. It was a revolution against the social and political forms of Fordism, its one-dimensionality and its one-directedness. What we have now in Europe is in many ways the long term result of those revolutions on the micro-scale of where the personal becomes political.
As Fordism has been replaced by the Network Society – a term by Manuel Castells – this has brought forward the networked city, also to be understood as the projective city (to be differentiated from the city as project). The projective city is part of the analysis brought forward in The New Spirit of Capitalism by Luc Boltanski and Eve Chiappello.12 It is based on a new flexible regime of accumulation, a term introduced by David Harvey13 and elaborated by Brian Holmes.14 In this flexible regime the life-long job is replaced by a succession of projects in which networked individuals come together for a limited period. The project creates a highly activated segment of a network with dense connections between protagonists which intensify into a critical mass of active connections which are able to create new forms, what Boltanski and Chiappello call … “a temporary pocket of accumulation.” Moreover, the authors claim that those pockets of accumulation actually realized the demands of the revolts of 68, albeit in commodified form. The changes demanded by the 68 generation in those areas where the personal becomes political have been captivated by the new spirit if capitalism and streamlined into new products and services. What they describe is how capitalism is capable of mobilizing terms and concepts that have developed outside it, autonomously.
I find it debatable if the 68 generation can really be blamed for everything that goes wrong in networked capitalism, especially if the claim is made that the decline of those ideas was already contained, in seed form, at the point of their inception. I agree with Brian Holmes that this would constitute a denunciation of the radical social imaginary of '68. At the same time we can witness that something of the kind they are describing is actually happening. But it is not the spirit of 68 that is becoming commodified, but individual aspects of it, which are taken out of context and then realized in a commodifying form.
As a holding remark, lets recapitulate: I have advanced the idea that the current city, the city of informational capitalism, is the projective city, where a new regime of flexible accumulation reigns. Capitalism is a dynamic and creative force which has the capacity to appropriate concepts developed outside itself and turn them into new sources of profit, by creating temporary pockets of accumulation. We need to leave the urbanist discourse and turn to a technological discourse.
The General Intellect and Peer-based-commons Production
A foundational insight by Marx was that capitalism is based on contraditictions. On one hand capital develops the forces of production. The laws of competition make this constant innovation necessary. Through capitalist innovations, new modes of production are created, which have the potential of completely changing social relations. Through processes and innovations summarized as industrial automation, the socially necessary labour time could be reduced, for instance to a 20 hour week. This would allow a completely different society to emerge, in which people's highest priority would be to develop their personal faculties, their senses and sensibilities, their creative faculties, their capacity for speculative thought, their need and desire to maintain affective relationships. This potential for an actually possible utopia is consequently thwarted by capitalism's other need to maintain current relations of production. The existing social relations, the class structure of society which, in its most extreme form has now become the one percent against the rest, has to be maintained at any cost. Marx has expressed this most pointedly in a famous passage in Grundrisse: The combined power of all this highly skilled human labour develops the general intellect which reaches a stage where it would “blow the foundations of industrial society sky-high.”
According to Toni Negri we have reached that stage. Science and technology can be viewed as accumulated, dead, collective labour. As capitalism mobilizes this accumulated dead labour, the labour theory of values does not apply any more. Labour time cannot be the foundation of value. Whence labour time, the time spent by us in sweat and toil, can no longer form the basis of an assessment in the wage-labour relation prices become arbitrary, dictated by the labour market and by the markets in general. While Fordism found a way of balancing real incomes and prices of consumer goods and services necessary, this balance has been lost in network society. What follows is the “real subsumption of labour” under capital, as Negri calls it, through arbitrary rule and through sheer command, and under the threat of violence.
For the very reason, that the overall trajectory of technology is dominated by capital, any technological utopia which is based on this or that property of the technology alone, is doomed. It is not just doomed to fail but to bring about its opposite, not the technological utopia but a dystopia.
As Marx has predicted correctly in the fragment on machines and the general intellect, over the last 40 years new conditions have arisen from the most advanced poles of capitalism, from computer science and information technologies, to blow the foundations of this society sky-high. As the United States was locked into an ideological battle with the Soviet Union, it spent enormous sums of money to beat its rival for global hegemony. The surplus of Fordism was used to invent the Internet and thus create the conditions for capitalism to be overcome. I do not claim that the Internet was invented with anti-capitalist ideas in mind, but that, as an unintended consequence of high spending on information and communication technologies from the midst of the military-educational-industrial complex, arose ideas, techniques and protocols that have an unmeasurable potential for the social good. Moreover, the way in which those technologies were created were based on a type of freedom that existed, at the time, only inside the closed worlds of Cold War computer science.15 The high-tech bubble of military Keynesianism enabled a commons-based-peer production as a new production method amongst those scientists and engineers inside the techno-bubble.
The social method of peer-production was matched by a new type of communication structure. Bert Brecht's demands for a two-way communication of radio was realized on the level of the protocols. The protocols of the Internet enabled synchronous two-way communications in many-to-many networks. At the same time as the Internet protocols were written, in the late 1960s, the student movement demanded a new horizontal, de-centralized politics and new forms of participatory media communications, for instance in the free radio movement.
Fast forward 30 years later, in the 1990s, the surplus created by advanced capitalist society, the capacity to carry out socially necessary labour with an ever smaller number of people, set free the capacity for people to participate in creative economies and in peer-based-commons production. The Linux operating system, followed by many other innovations, set up the formula for the digital commons.
The 1990s: Internet as Electronic Agora and New Economy
In the 1990s the Internet was hailed as a new electronic agora. The forms of participatory democracy that had existed in Athens 2500 years ago could be re-created, on much bigger scale, through participatory, synchronous communication in networks. The electronic agora combined ideas of participatory democracy with the US-American ideal of the liberal modernist utopia. It connected a John Locke type of liberalism, based on individual ownership, with network utopia. Everybody was a node in a network and could communicate, unfiltered and uncensored, with everybody else, in peer-to-peer communications. Through those “communicologies” as Jürgen Habermas has called it, the rational and polite exchange of ideas could take place for a new civil society to form. This civil society would be global and no longer Eurocentric and it would, guided by an ethical sense, develop global collective consciousness, through which pressing social, political and ecological problems could be addressed.
As we now know, it did not happen like that. The 1990s utopia was based on a disembodied notion of information. Advocates of Internet utopia such as John Perry Barlowe posed the digital communications sphere as a separate reality. Saskia Sassen asked the question, where those disembodied communications in electronic networks actually touched ground. She found out that although at the time the properties of disembodied information were hailed, there were actual places and spaces where those new forms of communication touched ground, the Global Cities. Those were cities such as Hong Kong, New York or London who had little to do with their hinterlands or the nations they belonged to, but were interlinked in high-speed communication networks which fostered new forms of financial speculation in derivatives.
Those privileged virtual market places were based on support structures that needed the actual cities, places that fostered close proximity between speculative financial capital and the professional classes it relied on, such as lawyers, accountants, policy makers, think tanks, and also a second layer of professions that provide the quality of life that this new class finds to its taste, nouvelle cuisine, new bars and night-life scenes, museums of modern and contemporary art and types of cultural production that project a liberal, multi-ethnic, cosmopolitan elite – which they found in the Global City. LTJ Bukem is playing in a few days here in Athens. Thus, allow me this pun, what we got in the late 1990s was “intelligent drum-and-bass for cognitive capitalists.”
As the 1990s played themselves out, ideas of the electronic agora were sidelined by the boom of speculative capital investing in new Internet companies, the New Economy. The capitalist dream of the New Economy came crashing down in the year 2000.
The Rise of the Network Commons
At the moment of the demise of the New Economy, a new cycle started with new projects and new ideas. In London in the year 2000, and in Athens independently from London, two years later, movements started to build wireless community networks. Using a license exempt part of the electromagnetic spectrum and Wifi – Wireless Local Area Networks -- network enthusiasts built their own networks. Based on the property of the Internet protocols that allow creativity at the edges, they could create networks of their own. Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network was initially started mainly by technology experts. They knew about other initiatives, such as Seattle Wireless, but developed their own “technological style”. Using the urban topology of Athens with its hills and cooperation with radio amateurs, they could create a network that covered a vast area, the Attica peninsula and beyond. The social model was based on the liberal utopia of individual ownership. Each node was built and maintained by its users, all the nodes together formed - and continue to do so - a network commons. The particular idea of AWMN was that it did not offer Internet access. Some nodes were connected to the Internet but this was not publicized as a reason to join the network. The idea was that the network builders would together create a network which would be attractive to its users because of its services. Services offered include mirrors of free software repositories, file sharing, streaming services, games, voice over IP and much more.
Consume in London proposed a slightly different idea. Informed by experiences with Backspace, a net art creative hub in central London, the idea was to have synchronous broadband networks which offer also gateways to the Internet. The net should become a shared resource, both as an Intranet and as a network that connected with the wider world. Backspace, initiated by James Stevens, was a place that allowed many initiatives to thrive, where people could realize their own projects, people such as net.art artists Rachel Baker and Heath Bunting. But it also hosted the Vulcano free film festival, a website for a transgender-cyborg club, and a festival for Buskers (street musicians). A particular noteworthy initiative that emerged from Backspace was Indymedia London. On June 18th 1999 a global “Carneval against Capitalism” was organised by the collective Reclaim the Streets. This protest brought together the multitudes – a new social class that substituted the working class as a new social subject. The size of the protest took police by surprise, and also the decentralizing tactics of protesters, marching out in three different columns, so that for several hours the City of London, the seat of multinational financial capital, was taken over by protesters dancing to samba drums. It was a happy day, until a police van drove over a woman who was seriously injured. This afternoon was filmed by artist activists, among them Austrian multimedia artist Manu Luksch. Couriers cycled back and fourth between the sites of protest and Backspace, where video tapes were transcoded and live streamed by techno-activists such as Gio d'Angelo. Half a year before Seattle, where Indymedia was officially founded, Backspace had become an Independent Media Centre which presented a different viewpoint on the protest of the Multitudes against financialized capitalism. While mainstream media focused only on the police's failure to keep control and the stupid acts of a minority who smashed some windows – possibly police agent provocateurs anyway – the videos streamed from Backspace showed a different reality, a Bakthinian carneval, where the multitudes became aware of its political agency and its mass creativity as a form of opposition against bureaucratic capitalism, the grey men and women of the City of London.
To cut a long story short → for a fuller account I have to refer you to my forthcoming text “Shockwaves in the New World Order of Information and Communication (Wiley-Blackwell 2016) – we saw a relatively short period of the prospering of Consume in London and the UK, where the network commons was merged with ideas by avant-garde digital artists and media activists.
In 2002, the Consume idea was transplanted to Berlin, Germany, where able technician-activists started the initiative Freifunk (free radio). Freifunk adapted the Consume idea to German reality. There were two issues: on one hand, there were areas in East Berlin and East Germany, which could not get ADSL connections for broadband because of the existence of proprietary fibre optics technology of the telecom incumbent. So this was a big motivating factor. Secondly, Berlin in particular and Germany in general has a large reservoir of what I would call ethical hackers, creative free software people, who are happy and willing to carry out free voluntary labour. Those two factors allowed Freifunk to spread rapidly, so that within a few years Berlin alone had more than 1300 free radio nodes and many more users. However, after a phase of rapid growth in the early 2000s, this development slowed down in the second half of the 2000s, some networks even started to shrink. The Deutsche Telecom had recognized the issue with its fibre optical technology and pushed other broadband technologies such as ADSL and cable. Freifunk was no longer needed to get affordable broadband Internet.
At around 2003, Guifi.net started in the rural area of Catalunia, near the small town of Vic. At the time, it was impossible to get broadband Internet in the villages. An initiative started to build wireless community networks. Guifi.net developed around similar ideas of AWMN, Consume and Freifunk, but with a number of differences. It set itself the explicit goal to bring good internet service to the highest number of people at the cheapest price; it developed a system where people could pay technicians to install a network node. Guifi.net did not see this as in contradiction with the idea of the network commons. As long as the nodes built by small service providers joined the network commons, the fact that some money was paid for installation was not an issue. This idea enabled Guifi.net to grow more rapidly than any of the other systems. It now stands at 30.000 nodes.
The projects just described constitute the counter-thesis to the network model offered by the ISP and telecom corporation with their centrally managed operations and their practices of metering and controlling the data flow in their networks. The atomized ethical technologist recognizes him or herself as a community networker who becomes a builder, owner and maintainer of a network node. Those network nodes together form a network commons, a network, where each node transports data according to the original Internet utopia, in two-way synchronous forms, without any discrimination between types of data and users. The network created by the community networker realizes the decentralized utopia. Its political structure was, depending on your viewpoint either anarchist or libertarian, an abdication of centralized control, but also a rejection of strong social regulation mechanisms. While some of those networks have created some form of legal entity, an association for instance, the association usually does not create the network. It does fund-raising, and it is there to assist in fending off political and legal challenges, but it does not own and run the network.
The technological and economic foundation of those networks, however, rest on the production mechanisms of advanced capital exploiting global imbalances and cheap labour. Advanced capitalist production methods using automated machine labour and cheap energy, mainly derived from fossil fuels reduce the socially necessary labour time to such a degree, that people in the capitalist core countries are freed up to devote their time to innovation practices and to participate in peer-based-commons production. The beautiful achievements of the network utopia are built on silicon sand, since those conditions are subject to change. The boom and bust of the New Economy was followed by a relatively mild recession in the early 2000s. New ideas about a commons based economy started to flourish.
The Artistic Urban Utopia
In 2001-2002, the artist Shu Lea Cheang started creating a series of wireless projects which can be considered exemplary for the idea about the city as utopia and project. The very first work, Steam the green, Stream the field in New York highlighted the potential of the coming together of social self-organisation with a social and trans-media art practice that combines landscapes and datascapes, the natural and the digital commons. Cheang organized the harvesting of organically farmed garlic from her own farm and brought this together with the idea of sharing bandwidth in a wireless commons. Inspired by the Argentinian cooking pot revolution, where people created their own barter economies in so called truque clubs, she created a community currency, the Garlico, which would enable people to engage in sharing economies, whether sharing bandwidth or organic food or services such as haircuts. Cheang intermixed the political economy of communications with that of the real economy, by involving participants in a gift economy on- and offline. For several days she and her associates drove around Manhattan in a truck whose load was filled with fresh garlic and on whose side were painted the words RichAir Equals Garlic. Those organic cloves were to become something resembling the gold standard transferred onto a gift economy. This was embedded into a fictional after-the-crash scenario: capitalism had collapsed, the only networks still working were those made by the wireless community network activists of NYC Wireless, the currency was worthless, and organic garlic became the 'new social currency.'
In 2006 Cheang realized Porta2030 together with the Hivenetwork group around Alexei Blinov. Blinov built so called Portapaks – a technological remake of the portable video equipment that was released by Sony in 1965 -- in a low-cost free network form. The Portapaks built by Alexei Blinov and Hivenetworks, were pouches made of a synthetic material. It contained cleverly slung together cheap gear to send audio signals and images within a local area. The main feature was an emergency button, to warn the local community about threats. At the time, gentrification was raging through East London like a wildfire. Rogue developers were sending demolition crews to destroy homes and businesses of people who could not afford the rent which had been drastically raised. Porta2030 played itself out in a tense social setting around Broadway Market in southern Hackney, London, where at the time a very real gentrification process threatened to rip apart communities.
More recently, Shu Lea Cheang has been linking different data sets of nature and culture with Composting the city, Composting the Net (2012-13). People in support of the urban gardening project Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin could adopt a composting box to provide urgently needed compost. This was brought into association with using mailinglists of network culture such as nettime and syndicate/spectre as compost for a new type of thinking. And in Seeds Underground Exchange she used the net to create seeds exchange networks. Those project point at the merging of topics surrounding network ecologies with alternative energies and food sovereignty, providing building bricks for the cities of the sun. As art projects, however, they remain symbolic, they indicate a direction that developments could take without actually being able to initiate such change. Cheang's projects are also riddled with contradictions. In particular, Porta2030 was seen as cynical by some, doing an art project on the back of a community that actually suffered from evictions against which the art project could do nothing.
The Automatic Utopia of Mesh Networks and the Social Development of Technologies
At around 2004, citizen technologists from Freifunk in Berlin and Funkfeuer in Austria started to experiment with the mesh network routing protocol OLSR. Mesh network routing protocols such as OLSR and BATMAN and its recent variations are special routing protocols, optimized for the conditions of wireless networks. They do not need manual configuration, but automatically recognize when new nodes join the networks or existing ones drop out. Their capacity to automate route-finding allows the development of fixed and mobile wireless ad-hoc mesh networks.
The rise of the network commons in general and the development of mesh network protocols by the community in particular illustrate that technologies are inherently social. We have been made to believe that the development of technology is somehow autonomous, that technology follows a course of its own and that people have to adapt to the technologies that are created by corporate research labs and universities, who are often closely interlinked. Yet the development of wireless community networks in Athens, London and Berlin followed trajectories of the social development of the communities it was connected with, communities of practitioners (the ethical hackers who write the code and build the networks) but also the social structures those technological developments are embedded in, which includes the communities of users, but also wider social structures. This can have positive and negative consequences.
The Consume way of developing networks, for instance, was strongly emphasizing workshops and local knowledge. Through those workshops people came together and formed ideas about how to grow the network locally and to what uses to put it. In the process as such, the technology became socialized. Non-techies, like me, became knowledgeable about technology, started to understand networking technology better and began proselytizing about those social technologies. As such knowledge spreads, it contributes to the demystification of technologies. In capitalist societies, technologies are mystified. Technology is surrounded by an aura of being complex and difficult to understand. This creates the fetishized believe in technologies which makes people think that they are either ruled by technology or that they can solve any problem by technology alone. The technologies are understood as things outside us that have a power over us. But once we take developments into our own hands, we learn that those objects are man-made and relatively simple. The overall social complex that produces those objects and how they are deployed in the fabric of society, these things are much more difficult to understand. As we become techno-social communities we discover that the development of a technology is not separated from the social sphere but influenced and guided by it.
The developers of mesh network protocols in Berlin, Vienna and Catalonia first analyzed the needs of the wireless community networks and found an answer. In order for those networks to spread and become more efficient, they thought they needed to create firmware that would contain mesh network technology. Based on the Linux firmware distribution OpenWRT, each of those communities developed their own firmware. With so called firmware flashing, the firmware on a cheap WiFi router can be replaced by a high-end free firmware running mesh network technology turning a piece of industry hardware into, as Freifunk called one such hack, a “Freedom Box”. It is without doubt that community networks have been key drivers of the development of wireless mesh network technology. As Elektra, one key developer in Berlin put it:
“The sleeping beauty of mesh network protocols has been kissed awake by the community networks”
No company, corporation or university has been as efficient and as good in developing those protocols than the community networkers. Those developments, as beautiful and commendable they are, also have several dark undersides. First, the distributions and the mesh network protocols are all open source. That means that everybody can use them, change them, as long as they publish again the source code. The technology of mobile ad-hoc networks has originally been developed by the US military. There is no doubt that those circles are watching what is being done and that the code produced by ethical hackers potentially can find entry into new weapon systems that deploy wireless mesh networks in the battle field, especially as military technology is becoming ever more automated and autonomous. The peer-to-peer based methodology of ethical community hackers offers no way of resisting this form of adaptation.
Secondly, the achievements of open source hackers have also no resistance against being appropriated by the advanced forces of informational capitalism. The freedom on the level of infrastructure gets harnessed on the application layer for commercial gain, by Google, Facebook and other players. The activities of community hackers, guided by an ethical sense, contribute to an economy that creates ever more inequality.
Since the network commons does not exist in a political and economic vacuum, the achievements of community networkers are of a temporary kind only and always in danger of being reversed – the negation of the negation. We can say that wireless decentralized community networks are the antithesis to the broadcast model of communication. Rather than one-sided flow of commands, they allow egalitarian two-way communication. Yet the ethical hackers often claim to be apolitical. They say that they are not interested in politics, they just care for the politics of technology. As long as the network is held in a commons, and every packet of information is routed freely, the hacker's utopia is in good order.
In the past, when non-techies such as me encountered a problem, hackers used to tell me RTFM: Read the fucking manual. Now I tell techies also RTFM: Read the Fucking Marx.
The mesh network utopia is an automated utopia. You take the device, you flash it and up you go. The idea was promoted that firmware with good mesh routing protocols would make it easy to create large scale ad-hoc communities. Indeed, the technology has matured and technically speaking, the utopia is a utopia no more, it is here and real.
In recent years, Freifunk in Germany has experienced rapid expansion. After the revelations of Edward Snowden about the scale of surveillance by governments with the complicity of informational capital a second wave of German community networkers has become active. Those groups have developed their own firmwares, using mesh network protocols, but they do not share the anarchist spirit of the original Freifunk cell. They are growing, and at a very fast speed, but the question remains, what is growing here. Through the use of mesh routing protocols, the user does not need to do anything at all. The automatic utopia creates mesh networks, but the users are left behind. The type of knowledge transfer envisioned and practiced by Freifunk and Consume does not take place anymore. Some of those new networks have become like veritable service providers, they even have the capacity to update the software on all routers from remote.
Mesh network technology, rather than becoming the boon of community networks, tends to reinforce the separation between producers and consumers, between network builders and those who just passively use them. Rather than engaging with the network commons, they enjoy whatever commercial services they receive from the Internet, which itself has become thoroughly commodified. The new Freifunk initiatives have even started to call the groups who started Freifunk “legacy”. In software development legacy is something you need to acknowledge exists and may still be in use so you have to offer backward compatibility. But at some point you will start to consider if you still want to offer backward compatibility or if you simply detach yourself to offer faster growth and greater efficiency. A new generation who has never known anything else but neoliberal informational capitalism follows the patterns of the start-up mentality and of a competitive commercial environment. In this environment, mastering the technology becomes a pretext of commercial success and mastery over other people.
The network commons is embedded in the current political economy and exposed to its force fields. Athens Wireless Metropolitan Networks are suffering from the general economic and social crisis in Greece. Since the model of network freedom they have chosen is based on liberal capitalism, which means individual node ownership and responsibilities, the network deteriorates, as some node owners are affected by the economic crisis and cannot maintain adequately the rather high-tech installations they have built.
The impact of the overall social development on the wireless utopia reaches a particular poignancy in Global Cities such as London, where the city itself is subject to rapid change. As gentrification moves through the districts of London like a wildfire, people have to move to ever more remote areas (or abroad). The maintenance of a community and a network becomes an impossibility. Donating free voluntary labour becomes ever more difficult when rents are so high that you are working day and night just to keep a roof over your head. The urban space itself becomes completely reshaped by a form of aestheticized hipster consumerism. As the open culture of the Internet becomes substituted for the closed commercial world of Apps, and the cities ever more saturated with bandwidth on commercial mobile frequencies, the conditions for a sharing culture deteriorate.
The network commons is also threatened by practices such as Wifi off-loading practiced by mobile telcos. Whenever a phone detects a free open WiFi network it uses that rather than its own infrastructure. Commercial providers thus contribute to the tragedy of the open spectrum commons. Other threats are of a political nature. A new EU directive has been released which would make firmware flashing illegal. Although mesh networking appears to have solved the technical issues, the network commons is in peril through political, sociological and economic threats.
From Community Networks to Citizen Networks
There is a notable change going on regarding the way in which community networkers start to understand themselves as political networks. The “old” groups behind Freifunk have drafted a memorandum of understanding which defines the network commons less technologically rather than politically. The Freifunk umbrella association has also started to organise itself better, and is constantly engaged in lobbying efforts, trying to shape public opinion and the opinions of their political representatives, the members of parliament. Whilst the network commons had initially been built by ethical hackers, they now start to recognize themselves as citizen networkers. Freifunk have begun setting up free and open WiFi in refugee accommodation centers throughout Germany.
Community networks, with their decentralized forms of organisation, have set up mesh networks, technically and socially decentralized networks. The economic crisis that developed in the wake of the financial crash of 2008 has led to an economic crisis which now has become a social crisis. The social crisis undermines the capacity to participate with voluntary labour. The business environment, under lobbying influence by mobile telcos, who have to pay billions for spectrum licenses, and in a climate that is generally sharpening, makes the conditions for the network commons ever more difficult. Under those conditions, the network commons has to become political. Rather than being just another project in the projective city of network society, the citizen networkers who build the network commons need to consciously join other commoners to build the city as utopia and project. As the network commons joins forces with civil society, it could turn into an infrastructure that supports a new commons-oriented mode of production. Areas that immediately come to mind are alternative energy and networks of food provision. Rather than having corporations and the state who centrally organize production and consumption, in such a commons mode of production peer-to-peer forms of cooperation link infrastructural, political and cultural layers. The decentralized utopia envisioned by the 68 generation can now become a concrete project. With citizen networks and decentralized computing power localized exchange economies can be organized.
In a study titled City of the Sun – which formed the other 50% of the inspiration for my title – the EU concludes that a marked effort in using solar energy could replace fossil fuels on a scale much bigger than believed up until now. It could reduce carbon emission of the scale of the annual output of India, a whole subcontinent. However, such change would still only bring us into a new climate economy. What we need are new ecologies that bring nature, the flows of material production, people and ideas into close communication. The methods of Athenian democracy to form decisions on the basis of a close and rational exchange can, with the help of meaningful two-way communication be replicated on a much larger scale. We have learned, however, to distrust a one-dimensional, instrumentalized rationality. Hybridity needs not only connect the city with new technologies but also new forms of being in the everyday, with new forms of conviviality, and with a greater emphasis on education. This should also include the arts. The city as utopia and project needs to consider also the invisible cities about which Italo Calvino wrote; it needs to provide spaces for societies other, the refugee, the outcast; it needs to be an open and permissive city, but also offer new forms of social cohesion. Many initiatives have sprung up in recent years that envision new forms of food provision, not just urban gardening, but also urban beekeeping and ideas about an edible city. Ideas about a Situationist City, developed by Constant Niewenhuis, can come together with Castoriadis ideas of the self-instituting society, a society that became conscious of itself as a political unity and which produced its own institutions out of its shared social imaginary. In such a society, public opinion would be truly well informed rather than manipulated. And maybe in the long run, even the notion of information could be replaced by something more beautiful and more useful, more akin to philosophy and poetry rather than just bits and bytes.
Citizen networks, wireless or not, could become a transversal infrastructral layer, reaching across society and different domains, becoming a revolutionary enabler of a new urban life in a way that points beyond capitalism as we knew it.
- 1. see my forthcoming book on the subject: The Rise of the Network Commons
- 2. see Smith, Terry E. Contemporary Art: World Currents. Prentice Hall, 2011.
- 3. Castoriadis, Cornelius. The Castoriadis Reader. Oxford; Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 1997.
- 4. Arendt, Hannah. The Human Condition. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958.
- 5. Farrington, Benjamin. Greek Science, Its Meaning for Us. Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1953.
- 6. Ernst, Germana. “Tommaso Campanella.” In The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, edited by Edward N. Zalta, Fall 2014., 2014. http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/campanella/.
- 7. Ibid.
- 8. Engels, Frederick. The Condition of the Working-Class in England in 1844. BookRix, 2014.
- 9. Banham, Reyner. Theory and Design in the First Machine Age. London: Architectural Press, 1962.
- 10. Young, Michael, and Peter Willmott. Family and Kinship in East London. 2nd ed. London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1986.
- 11. Lefebvre, Henri. Critique of Everyday Life. Vol. 1 : Introduction. London: Verso, 2008.
- 12. Boltanski, Luc, and Eve Chiapello. The New Spirit of Capitalism. London: Verso, 2005.
- 13. Harvey, David. The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1989.
- 14. Holmes, Brian. “The Flexible Personality: For a New Cultural Critique.” In Economising Culture : On “the (digital) Culture Industry,” 23–54. New York: Autonomedia, 2004.
- 15. Edwards, Paul N. The Closed World: Computers and the Politics of Discourse in Cold War America. Boston Mass.: MIT Press, 1996.