Episode 90: Peer to peer as an approach to governance, production and distribution of knowledge

bauwens2In this episode I´m joined by Michel Bauwens, who is the founder of P2P-foundation which works to promote, research and develop different forms of peer to peer practices. He starts out by describing his engagement with civic entrepreneurship, where the P2P-foundation is one example of this kind of relational dynamic. He then explains in detail what peer to peer actually entails, while also placing this trend in a historical context in relation to how people have organized different forms of transaction and value creation. An interesting point here, regarding work, is how we have moved from a division of labour to the distribution of tasks. Peer to peer implies a very different method of organizing and controlling how people engage in a project or in the production of complex social artifacts (such as Wikipedia and Linux). He also points to how peer to peer production is codependent on the conventional and existing system today, mainly capitalism, and how this new form of organizing value creation is emerging from within the old system while at the same time transcending many of the constraints found in the the old paradigm. An important distinction is the idea of “the commons”, and Bauwens points out that peer to peer production is often organized around some kind of communally shared value where the participants contribute so as to uphold and maintain the common asset (couchsurfing is only one example). Another interesting point is how peer to peer can create a space for both cooperation and market-based competition. Further on in our conversation Bauwens describes how it´s possible to upscale the relational dynamics of peer to peer and apply it to larger societal change processes. He is currently engaged in a project in Ecuador and he uses this initiative as a case in point, explaining how Ecuador, through peer to peer practices, is trying to move into an open commons based knowledge society. An interesting point here is how knowledge can be understood as an infinite resource, and with the advent of 3D-printing and local micro production facilities, this could have dramatic effects on how a society sustains itself. We also discuss how innovation often will come from the periphery, and not necessarily from the center stage, so maybe Ecuador can play an important role in global change processes? Another theme we bring up is how to understand peer to peer from an integral perspective, with reference to the work of for instance Ken Wilber and Susan Cook-Greuter. A poignent question here circles around if and how peer to peer presuppose higher stages of consciousness? Towards the last section of the interview Bauwens speaks to his hopes for the future development of peer to peer practice.

If you feel inspired or provoked by our conversation feel free to add your comments after the interview. You can also send in a written piece of work and get it published together with this episode. Further details can be found here.

Episode links: 

Michel Bauwens (bio)
What is an interesting life in the p2p era?, short article by Michel Bauwens
Defining P2P as the relational dynamic of distributed networks, an informative overview of P2P
P2P and Human Evolution: Peer to peer as the premise of a new mode of civilization, an extensive essay by Michel Bauwens

  • James Arnfinsen

    I´ve often read and referenced this article by Garreth Hardin, his seminal work on “The Tragedy of the Commons”. Can be downloaded for free here: http://www.geo.mtu.edu/~asmayer/rural_sustain/governance/Hardin%201968.pdf

  • James Arnfinsen

    Øyvind Holmstad tipped me about a book by David Bollier: “Think like a commoner”. Probably worth checking out and maybe a theme I will explore in greater detail at a later date.

    • http://www.permaliv.blogspot.com/ Øyvind Holmstad

      This book is now available here: http://www.newsociety.com/Books/T/Think-Like-a-Commoner

      Jeg vil tilføye litt på norsk, fordi jeg føler det er to aspekt man ikke har integrert innen “commons”-teorien hittil, her er et sitat fra en e-post jeg mottok i går:

      “Takk Øyvind, men fremdeles har ikke disse viktige kritikerne knekt koden med pengefølelsen, eller sett at det eneste Ellinor Ostrom mangler, er forståelse for inngruppestørrelsens betydning for politisk styring….” – Terje Bongard

      Selv gleder jeg meg stort til å lese boka til Bollier. Men jeg vil ha i bakhodet at heller ikke han har knekt disse to kodene til Bongard. Men ettersom Bongards forskningsprosjekt om inngruppedemokratiet starter opp i løpet av året håper jeg å kunne poste resultatene deres på bloggen til p2p-foundation, slik at disse to avgjørende parametrene, inngruppa og pengefølelsen, kan bli en integrert del av “commons”-teorien.

      Her er litt om forskningsprosjektet til Bongard: http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/wp-content/uploads/MEDOSS_proposal_16-10-FINAL-1.pdf

    • http://www.permaliv.blogspot.com/ Øyvind Holmstad

      Bollier gir en god introduksjon til boka her: http://bollier.org/blog/now-available-think-commoner

  • James Arnfinsen

    In my conversation with Michel Bauwens we explored, amongst many other things, the advent of 3-D printing. The Guardian just published a great overview of “30 things being printed right now”, which clearly shows the extent of how much is going on in this field of technological development. http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/jan/29/3d-printing-limbs-cars-selfies

  • James Arnfinsen

    Came across this fascinating exchange between Bonnitta Roy (who has also been a guest on the show in episode 36) and Michel Bauwens, circling around the themes of grand narratives, deconstruction, re-construction and post-post-conventional ways of meaning-making.

  • http://www.permaliv.blogspot.com/ Øyvind Holmstad

    - Julie Tran from MakeChangeTV interviews Michel Bauwens: http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/what-is-p2p-an-introduction/2014/02/04

    “We can’t continue with a system that creates wealth, but that’s also destroying the planet and creating so much social inequality. I think that after 400 years of this, we know it doesn’t work. We need a new system to reclaim all these communal values”