Curated by: Luigi Canali De Rossi

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

P2P And Open Infrastructures: The Society Of Openness Comes Of Age

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What are P2P and open infrastructures? Can open knowledge and peer production subvert the economic system of physical production? Is there a chance for the "society of openness" to ever come of age? Robin Good interviewed the P2P Foundation evangelist and founder Michel Bauwens to find out.

Photo credit: itestro

With the visual aid of a very in-depth mindmap entitled "Everything Open and Free", Michel thoroughly touches base on the eight core processes representing the cycle of reproduction and growth of openness inside societies:

1. Aspects of Openness: the demand for open access, spontaneous participation, transparency, full shareability and 'changeability' of the common material. All these represent new social expectations and are key ingredients of the Commons-based peer production.

2. Enablers of Openness: social charters that determine the boundary conditions of the open communities and which define the minimal conditions for openness to be recognized; open code, open licenses, and open standards; as well as the basic conditions which are open access and open data.

3. Infrastructures of Openness: infrastructures in which enablers of openness are embedded. Open platforms, both virtual and physical, to produce in a open way: open collaborative technical platforms, open places where to connect local production with global open design communities, open media and communication infrastructures, open and free software, knowledge and scientific data.

4. Open Practices: all the preceding enablers of openness foster the engagement in open practices, especially open design and open manufacturing, but also free currencies and new forms of sharing (ownership).

5. Open Domains of Practice: embedded in topical domains, such as education and science, where these practices are contextualized and made real to finally result in all kinds of Open Products.

6. Open Products: actual 'social artifacts' like the Apache server, the Linux operating system, etc...

7. Open Movements: new social movements, dedicated to increasing 'openness', tackling the social awareness concerning this shift, strengthening and increasing the numbers of people who see this as a new mode of life and ethical ideal and as their default social practice.

8. Open Consciousness: all the efforts devoted to change subjectivities and how to relate to each other, reinforcing new iterations of the Open Cycle.

Here is the full video interview (with a full text transcription):



P2P and Open Infrastructures: The Rise of Open Society - Michel Bauwens

Duration: 11' 13''

Full English Text Transcription

Michel Bauwens: My name is Michel Bauwens. I am with the P2P Foundation.

We study:

I am doing this with Robin Good of MasterNewMedia, the aim is to explain open infrastructures.

Open everything: What does that mean?

What are we doing here on Earth that is changing the World as we know it and the way people relate to each other and create value together and make new types of businesses and all of that?

I made a mind map, which I called Everything Open and Free.


1. Aspects of Openness


The first thing I want to show is what I call aspects of openness.

Basically, the basis of everything is the change in value.

I am claiming that, because of these peer to peer networks that we are creating, people are more and more relating to each other horizontally and this creates a new value system.

What are these aspects of openness?

For example:

All these are values that are related to openness.

Now, just a little background.

Why is this important? Because every big change in society has also been a big change in the value system.

When Rome changes from a kind of slave-based empire to the feudal system, under the domination of the Catholic Church and the feudal lords, this is a different value system.

For example, the Romans hated work - that was for the slaves, but the Christian monks worked. This was seen as a positive thing for them.

The new feudal society represented a new value system.

In order for this to be created, people also had to change into this new value system and wanted to behave and create value in this particular way.

I am arguing that this is occurring now.

I just want to give one example: The Trust Barometer from Edelman - it is a PR company. In 2003 they asked people: "Who do you trust?" and then again in 2007.

The amazing thing is that in 2003, people trusted institutions 60 to 70 percent. Only four years later, including in China, people said: "I trust people like myself."

This is kind of one of the signs that these value systems are changing.


2. Enablers of Openness


What do we do with these value systems?

We embed them in what I call "enablers of openness".

In other words, we make social charters. We make new social contracts.

Let's take again an historical example.

We have a crisis of the feudal system in the 16th century and serfs are fleeing the countryside. They arrive in the new cities.

In the new cities, they kind of mix with people who have capital to invest in these new workers and cities are created and strengthened.

What do they do? They ask for free city charters. They use their new influence to obtain a number of rights and freedoms that are encoded in social charters.

The Magna Charta, for example, is a charter that gives certain rights to people, but also the farmers, their commons is protected - it is a set of rights.

I am arguing this is what we are doing now.

The value systems are being encoded in, for example, open definitions.

Think about the General Public License, the license that governs free software. It is a set of five rules.

Basically, what you are saying is: "If you want to be part of our community, if you want to create value the way we do it, you have to abide by these five rules."

In summary, you can use everything that is in it, but every change and improvement also has to go back to the community.

That is a basic new value system and rule embedded, what I call "enablers of openness".

We have:

  • Access,
  • the new principles,
  • aspects of openness,
  • the value system, and then
  • the enablers of openness.

These are embedded in social charters.

Here I have a list:

We arrive at the third step.


3. Infrastructures of Openness


We are going to embed those social charters in our infrastructures.

Commons-oriented peer production is basically a combination of an open community, using collaborative platforms and putting knowledge, code and software in a Commons.

The infrastructural element is very important. We need those collaborative platforms.

What I am saying here is that we are creating an infrastructure of cooperation, an infrastructure of openness, in all the different fields of social life.

Here is the list again:

  • Open collaboration spaces - think about The Hub, which is a place where global entrepreneurs can work together - this is an infrastructure that reflects different values.
  • Open meeting infrastructures - like BarCamps and Unconferences - these are ways of bringing people together to share knowledge and achieve some change, which has completely different rules from classic conference, where you have to listen to people speak.
  • Open funding infrastructures - where every individual has the freedom to collaborate in creating a fund, Crowd funding, social lending, etc.

This is the third step.

We had aspects of openness, new value systems, which were embedded in social charters.

Now we have achieved a third step.

We are creating new infrastructures of openness and collaboration, which are based on these new values, which have these these charters embedded in the way they are conceived.

This brings us to a fourth aspect.


4. Practices of Openness


I am just showing now examples of the open infrastructures.

What you see passing on the screen is, basically, the shift from open software to open hardware.

In other words, we have gone from open knowledge to open software and now we move to

  • Open designs,
  • shared designs,
  • manufacturing base of shared designs,
  • making things based on sharing the designs in an open way.

I showed Arduino, which is a circuit board project, an Italian project, with 13 companies making more than one million dollars and cooperating with this open community and sharing their innovations.

What I have on the screen now is called eCars. It is a Finnish project where they make designs for changing any car into a hybrid electric car. They started with the eCorolla.

This is just to show the shift of open infrastructures towards making things.

I have an extensive directory of open hardware, with as an example, open source projects in cars, open car projects.

These collaborative platforms are going to lead to new practices.

With a practice, I mean something which is not valid in one domain but over every domain.

For example, when I say open hardware, you need open hardware:

  • For science,
  • for education,
  • in manufacturing.

It is a practice that is across different domains.

What are these practices?

I want to give you one example: Open currencies or open money.

The idea here is to conceive of money as something that is designed and the way it is designed has consequences.

For example, if we have an interest-based money system with compound interests, it needs infinite growth.

Infinite growth is not a good thing for our society today.

You can redesign the money in a different way and that would have a different logic.

Today people, for example, are making something called the Metacurrency Project, which is a project to create a TCP / IP like a standard for open moneymaking

Every community can eventually design its currency and see how this can be exchanged with another community.

These are open practices.

You need money for different things, not for one thing.

This is differentiated from the next section, which is domains of openness.


5. Domains of Openness


The new values that we have embedded in social charters, embedded in infrastructure of cooperation, and that we are practicing. With this we are going to change our own fields of practice.

If I am a scientist, I am going to use these practices to build open science.

If I am active in business, if I am an entrepreneur, I am going to change my practices into open business.

People are asking transparency and open politics.

If I want to have a spiritual life but I do not believe in a particular, let's say, hierarchically-organized religion, I can have an open spiritual practice.

I am going to change how I do spirituality.

All the domains of life are going to be changed in this way by achieving and adapting to these new demands of openness.


6. Products of Openness


Domains of openness leads to products of openness.

What we have here is concrete stuff, like: Wikipedia, open government data, or OpenCourseWare.

These are, within a field, something concrete that people can use.

Here we are in a very concrete life.

We have new products, new institutions, and this is changing the way society functions.

We are almost at the end, because the end is the following, which I call open movements.


7. Open Movements


I would just like to say a word about the P2P Foundation.

We are a global foundation for people collaborating around building knowledge around peer to peer. This means the open, free input.

You cannot work together if you do not have open and free input. This means participatory processes.

You are not going to contribute freely to a project where your work can be appropriated by somebody else and not shared and therefore we put it in a Commons.

This is our way of explaining the new reality and to contribute to the changing consciousness.

What you see on the slide are movements like:

If you like, we work on the consciousness that people have.

We take all these open platforms, open practices, open products and we create a platform where people can exchange these concrete experiences and learn from each other.

We arrive at the end of our circle, which is basically open consciousness.


8. Open Consciousness


We had the starting point which was the transvaluation, a new value system, which is an expression of a new form of consciousness.

We have arrived at this expression of open consciousness.

I want to use an analogy to explain why I took this approach.

Let's say we live in a feudal society.

In a feudal society, the lord gets the surplus from his farmers. He has, really, no interest in accumulating capital, but he spends it in a kind of competition with all the lords - but if you live in the city of Florence or Venice and you are a merchant, this does not really work.

At some point, a monk invents double bookkeeping, but once people start using double bookkeeping, they start thinking differently about value and managing value.

The fact that they use these tools, in turn, changes consciousness.

And a new society will basically be born because, in different fields, people are inventing new patterns.

These patterns kind of align to each other and, eventually, will create a new logic within society that emerges first, then might become as strong as the old system and eventually takes it over.

That is the story.



What I want to say is that we cannot change society merely by doing politics if we do not also have a proof that our alternatives work.

  1. It is important to combine constructive and inter-networked construction of open infrastructures. This is how we change our concrete lives.

    Even within the old system, we can change our lives.

  2. Then we interconnect with each other and we create a baseline of change within society.

    This, in itself, is not enough to change society, but it is a condition.

  3. We combine that with social movements who have the power to change politics and to change the institutions in society.

  4. Finally, we deal with policymaking and creating new institutions that will embed all of these changes.

I think open infrastructures are a very important step and it is very important to understand them.

The final point I want to make is: An enormous amount of people are doing this, but they may not know that other people are doing it, so they feel isolated and maybe they do not really believe in the change they want.

I think, by showing this map, we are showing that the open alternative, far from just being something totally marginal, has, already a substantial reality.

In the P2P wiki, we have 10,000 entries reflecting open patterns, open projects.

I invite you to check it out and to look at your own field of activity, whether it is spirituality or business or politics, and find out what other people are doing to change their lives, to create new social structures and to connect with them and to form a social movement that can change the world.


Video clips originally recorded by Robin Good for MasterNewMedia. First published on October 26th, 2010 as "P2P And Open Infrastructures: The Society Of Openness Comes Of Age".

About Michel Bauwens


Michel Bauwens (1958) is a Belgian integral philosopher and peer-to-peer theorist. He has worked as an internet consultant, information analyst for the United States Information Agency, information manager for British Petroleum (where he created one of the first virtual information centers), and is former editor-in-chief of the first European digital convergence magazine, the Dutch language Wave.

To know more about Michel Bauwens you can visit these sections of the P2P Foundation wiki:

Photo credits:
2. Enablers of Openness - Mipan
3. Infrastructures of Openness - Konstantinos Kokkinis
5. Domains of Openness - Chris Lamphear
8. Open Consciousness - Chris Harvey

Robin Good -
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posted by on Tuesday, October 26 2010, updated on Tuesday, May 5 2015

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