Availability in the Commons Society

Before the Swedish elections in 2010 I worked on a web service that gathers data and statistics about migration, migrationsinfo.se. The idea was to present numbers in a succinct and uniform fashion to give people quick and easy access to reliable answers. The site has become so popular that it lists before Wikipedia in some searches. It’s built on data available to everyone, but not in a practical sense.

Statistics on migration and immigration is openly available on the web. Statistics Sweden is the governmental agency for statistics and it has massive amounts of data spanning over more than a hundred years. Researchers have written volumes on the topic of migration and when you google for answers you get more than you can handle. Since the data isn’t practically available getting an answer often requires a big effort.

Practical availability is an important feature of a commons- based society, for a number of reasons. A resource is used when the threshold for usage is low. Easy to use tools consume less energy. Habits are more easily formed with stuff that requires few steps to use.

World Wide Web has lower barriers to entry than most other information tools. The threshold for using the Web is very low, basically just point and click, which is one of the reasons the web took off and became the largest information commons in history. The Web also has low barriers for developers. The underlying technology (html) is so simple most people can grasp it and play with it. World Wide Web is one of few information tools that the masses actually use.

You have the right to remix this image on the condition that you link to the original.

Easy to use tools consume less energy. When you use a slicer to cut some vegetables you simply pick it up, use it, wash it off and forget it. You don’t walk around thinking about it when you don’t use it. The slicer doesn’t drain your willpower or energy  unless you use it.

Think of all the other things you use without effort, like a ewer, a lamp or your kitchen table. They are there for you when you need them, no more, no less.

Some things require learning before you can use them efficiently but once you’re past the initial learning curve you start to form a habit. The things that support your habits are often those that only take a few steps to accomplish something.

Visit jamstalld.se and you’ll find another web service of mine built on the same principles as Migrationsinfo, reliable statistics presented in a uniform way using standard technologies. Just like Migrationsinfo, it is based on common knowledge that isn’t really practically available.

Practical availability I believe is becoming more important. We’re heading towards a world of abundance, a commons- based society, and we need to shape our resources for the common good.

How to win against Donald Trump

Whoever, if whoever’s running against Donald Trump in 2020 calls you up and says, ”What do I do against this guy who has this insight into the American political mindset? What do I do?”

People caring for each other and taking responsibility for each other! That’s your message! The contrast with your opponent will be complete.

Activate your worldview

  • Talk from your worldview!
  • Bring up your morals and connect them with your issues.
  • Repeat your worldview and your morals as much as possible.
  • Build a movement of people that repeats your worldview and your morals.

The Democratic Worldview

Your worldview is about people caring for and helping each other, taking responsibility for each other as well as themselves.

Bring up examples of how people care for each other.

  • Talk about parental leave and show images of fathers caring for their babies.
  • Participate in community gardening, nurturing the plants, cooperating to make things grow.
  • Gather citizens in town halls to talk, answer questions and get people engaged in creating a caring world.

Take photos of moments of care and share them. Share success stories to build momentum. Ask people to share their experience of caring, in writing, with a video or an image.

Avoid

Avoid mentioning his positions and his worldview. Avoid repeating anything he brings up. Forget him and instead think and talk about your own worldview and your own issues.

Conclusion

When people care for each other we all win and that will also get you elected!

3 dimensions of power in the Sharing Economy – Yochai Benkler

Yochai Benkler brings up three dimensions of power that has the capacity to undermine the Commons and cooperative efforts. (These are my notes, not Benkler’s words, based on his speech.)

3 dimensions of power that has the capacity to undermine the Commons and cooperative efforts

  1. The Power of Hierarchy – concerned with positioning and the power within an organization to be controlling. Clashes with efforts to build a bossless organization and participatory governance.
  2. The Power of Property – property as an organizational force for oligarchy, of the recreation of power for ownership. Undermines cooperativism. Commoners accept individual property and try to redistribute it.
  3. The Tyranny of the Margin – the need to compete in the market, to increase economic margins. A context where you have to compete and survive and deliver returns on investment. This postpones the ethical commitment. Entreprenuers with an ethical commitment vs investors raising money.

Commitment to the commons is central to the ability to negotiate and reverse these three powers. It has happened in the Free and Open software movement, building Wikipedia, the free culture movement and in citizen journalismcore parts of  the industrial information and cultural economy that has turned into the social production economy.

you are producing something that has value, and in the process of giving you the ability to do it, the company is capturing the value in a way that doesn’t respect what you brought in to it — which is your social relations, your sense of identity and privacy

Yochai Benkler

Zipcar, Uber and the Blockchain are examples of systems vulnerable to these powers.

Zipcar

Zipcar turned into Avis because they were committed to the lowering of greenhouse gases but not to the commons of property, not committed to reverse the structure of hierarchy and how to manage the organization and they were not committed to the commons based model that resists the tyranny of the margin.

Uber

  1. Uses algorithms to control drivers (enables reemergence of hierarchy).
  2. Uses power of property to extract rents from drivers to maximize return to investors.
  3. Designed to force potential competitors to the margin.

Uber rides on a brutal hierarchy. Financiers are at the top, then investors and directors, then engineers and managers, then drivers and riders, and finally everyone else, those people known as “externalities”.
Uber doesn’t pay for the cars, maps, driver’s licenses, roads, or the health insurance plans of their drivers. Yet they can build a thin layer of software on top of all that value and use it to hoover as much wealth as possible towards the top of the pyramid.
Uber combines the efficiency of high technology with the leverage of high finance to strangle one marketplace after another. The global ecosystem of cooperative taxi companies is rapidly being replaced by a monoculture of precarious independent contractors. If they have an ethical commitment, it is delayed so far as to be invisible.

Building a Commons- based society means designing for resilience to these 3 dimensions of power.

Bitcoin and the Blockchain

The focus in the Bitcoin community is on Decentralization of Technology which is not enough to build a commons. It ignores that organizational re-concentration can happen at a higher level. You have to integrate resilience for all 3 dimensions of power. The Blockchain can be co-opted by changing the conceptual model around the technology towards a concentration of power, for example by building a hierarchy to manage the Blockchain infrastructure or by building Blockchain- based tools that assume competition to function.

How to Design for the Commons

The Commons- based Society thrives when we build tools that

  • add to the commons
  • organize in a distributed fashion
  • share ownership

We see examples of this in

  • Free and Open software
  • Wikipedia
  • the Free Culture movement
  • Citizen Journalism

Communicate Community

To establish the Commons as a Socitey we also need to focus our communications efforts on these issues, on the cooperative perspectives, on communal benefits, on building community and the power of re- use and remixing.

Related

Making Sense of the Emerging Economy with Yochai Benkler

Platform Cooperativism: What Is It?

The New Shift

Bike shift

Dave Winer and Hugh McLeod are cooking a new blogging stew, a cultural shift:

As this Internet-malaise that Dave is fighting against reaches critical mass, I predict we’re going to see a backlash, a rebellion, similar to what blogging was originally, back in the day. A shift.  A movement. A reaction against the mainsteam Internet, against the noise. A new quiet, as it were.”

I’m not sure about calling it quiet, at least not in the sense we are used to-> silence, on or off. Because people are not ears that either hear a sound or not, no… people are multifaceted. And so is the web. What the web brings to the table is connectedness, the links, being neighbors the Pope puts it. So that needs to be a part of this shift, embracing connections. And I think the quiet that Hugh wants is a better use of connections and links, not shutting things out.

My 2 cents, things that could make this new shift valuable

  • Eternal backup. We need posts to remain online. The web still has enormous amounts of linkrot which, paradoxically, is part of what makes the web noisy. How do we accomplish that? Domains are part of it, once I stop paying for a domain it disappears, except for Internet Archive but that’s not a good solution, the eternal backup needs to be distributed, or it won’t be eternal. Maybe Bittorrent is a piece of this puzzle?
  • UserPower. The power to set print styles, or to comment, or add links should belong to the user by default. Your browser could receive posts in RSS or some other XML version and render it as html, or some other structure depending on your need. The trick here is not really technological, we’ve seen solutions for this before, no it’s about ownership. How about a blogging platform that has this as default license, in the footer of every page along with info on how to reuse a post? And maybe links to some remix tools.