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)
P2P-foundation
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://bollier.org/blog/coming-soon-think-commoner

    • 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”

  • James Arnfinsen

    The Buddhist Geeks community, and on of the founders Vince Horn who I interviewed in Episode 4, has been a great source of inspiration to me ever since I first came across BG. Recently they sent out an email pointing to some upcoming changes that their making in regards to their online community and here they also sketch out some interesting points in relation to possible challenges inherent in any peer-to-peer driven initiative. What they address fits nicely with some of the themes discussed in the interview above with Michel Bauwens. Here is their message:

    Dear Buddhist Geeks,

    As many of you have notice, the Buddhist Geeks Community is in a transition. It has been almost a year since we launched and we are now taking a step back and actively planning the next phase of this project. This re-evaluation comes for two reasons: 1) We have not been able to find a sustainable business model for this community & 2) The peer-driven nature of the community, while working in some ways, has fallen short for us in delivering the kind of space that we yearn for as organizers and that many people were looking for but could not find here.

    In terms of finances, this community currently brings in $1,500/month in membership dues. That’s enough to pay for part-time help to coordinate the community, but isn’t nearly enough to maintain the time or resources that the rest of the team puts in to it. One of our mentors pointed out that in order to run an organization well we need to have both an “open heart” and a “strong back.” The open heart is the vision and care behind what we do and the strong back is the fiscal and organizational resiliency that enables us to do it well. We need to have both, and the reality is that we’re not quite there with this Community.

    Another interesting thing that we have learned is that a majority of applications to join the community expressed interest in learning meditation and in instruction. We intentionally–and in retrospect quite naively–designed a teacher-less space here for people to self-organize. The problem is that anytime there’s a power vacuum, people step in as they do to fill it. While we respect everyone here we have observed that there is now teaching occurring–from both qualified and unqualified people, some who we know and some who we don’t know. This causes legal concerns for Buddhist Geeks and increases our overhead since we would need different insurance, grievance procedures, and councils that deal with the conflict that inevitably happens in a community where people are teaching each other. We have no interest in continuing to support a space where what most people are looking for (a practice community with some amount of instruction) and what is being offered (a peer-led community) are in discord.

    We have been holding a strong teaching role in the Life Retreat program, and have had great success with that, but for some reason decided against taking that role here in the Community. We have found that it can be difficult to stand firmly in our own sense of authority as Buddhist Geeks organizers and authorized teachers in the Buddhist lineage. It’s largely due to our lack of clarity and our giving this power away that we have helped give rise to the confusion of this situation. We’re deeply sorry for that.

    We have decided not to close the community right away, but instead to take the next few months to learn from what has happened here and transition into a new re-birth of this project. This next phase has been germinating for the last few months and will be called the Buddhist Geeks Dojo. The Buddhist Geeks Dojo will be a training ground for heart & mind and will be focused more specifically on practice–with more clear facilitation and teacher involvement. In the meantime, posting in the google+ community, live interviews, open practice, and already organized hangouts will continue.

    We know that this may bring up frustration and/or disappointment from some of you. For others it may bring a sense of relief or excitement. In both cases we are available to hear your thoughts and will be reaching out to all of you via e-mail to set up a time to talk in July as we begin working on the Buddhist Geeks Dojo.

    Thank you for your support.

    Yours in the Journey,

    Emily and Vincent

    http://us1.campaign-archive2.com/?u=321bbbb5b3e1bdb4fa717afa0&id=25f35a5318&e=70e3cc9714