Session#10 discussion

Commoners’ actions against digital colonialism - Openness and limitation in digital stacks

This is a thread for discussion related to Session#10 of commons.hour.

Drawing on feminist-intersectional themes in The Tyranny of Openness: What Happened to Peer Production? and postcolonial themes in Governable Stacks against Digital Colonialism the discussion starter will open up some topics strongly relevant to as a digital infrastructure provider:

  • Open source, evolving to be both more open and more closed.
  • Contributors receiving recognition, and sometimes, remuneration aka wages.
  • The need to offer a parallel economy and a parallel ethics.
  • Stacks are way more than software.
  • Assuming the responsibility for developing new infrastructures, values and institutions - in movements and in platform organisations.

Post-meeting links (including video recording and shared notes) are posted below.

For the original session announcement see: Signup commons.hour session #10

Meanwhile . . An hour in a video meeting isn’t going to tap all the dimensions!! Do please get started below at any time, on the big issues underlying this month’s session :+1:

Here’s the full-feature video playback including slides and public chat : Playback
Here’s the mp4 download. Note: no slides, just audio.
And here’s audio with video thumbnails

Pre-meeting notes by meet. coop Nextcloud pdf See also our ‘take-home’ points for this session, below, which refer to these notes.
Nathan Schneider’s slide presentation pdf

Public chat: Nextcloud
Shared notes: Nextcloud
All these resources are here: Nextcloud

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We in would really like to see some discussion of our own take-home points from the session. They’re in the cloud too, as well as posted here:

commons.hour session#10 - Take-home points

Building a commons needs to be done in specific ways, for specific kinds of stuff-in-the-commons.

The ‘institutional stack’ is local to this commons. Thus for example, a commons that puts food in people’s kitchens is a different cultural-economic ‘stack’ than a commons that secures opportunities for marginalised people to participate in sport. And that is different from a commons that provisions digitally-mediated spaces for civil-society organising - which is meet. coop. See 1 A stack of spaces, a stack of commons in the notes and below.

Specific economic and cultural forms

The points raised by Nathan, basically around undesirable limitations of conventional FLOSS/opensource commitments and protocols, need to be localised, in ‘this’ coop-commons, and ‘this other’ coop-commons . . the institutional stacks, the (parallel) economies and the (parallel) ethical frames will be specific. Thus, the notes associated with this session attempt to start with a number of striking general points made by Nathan, and to follow these through into specific issues of protocols and principles in this coop: (FLOSS : free-libre open source software)

Six particulars

Starting from a specific quote in Nathan’s articles, in the notes we can highlight six areas for developing principles and protocols for the coop, as below:

  • 1 A stack of spaces, a stack of commons (an ‘institutional stack’) - not a stack of code entities, but a stack of spaces in which members of the commons - broadly seen as ‘organisers’ - perform actions of a collaborative kind.
  • 2 Contribution economy, dual power - A parallel economy of contribution (not ownership, not exchange, not primarily money) is inescapably in contact with and in contradiction with the dominant economy. Thus dual power.
  • 3 Practices of transformation, altered social relations - feminist economics, and stewarding in commons of plural kinds of users (including non-producer users), necessarily generate a ‘parallel ethics’ that differs from FLOSS. It involves protocols that determine privileges and obligations, and also legitimate participation. This is the analogue of the licensing issue in FLOSS, but not dealt with thro licenses as such. It is dealt with through membership rules and stewardship actions in the commons.
  • 4 New infrastructures and institutions - As a digital platform provider, this leads us into matters of design justice. This framework of ‘parallel ethics’ is based on:
  • 5 Stewarding - Privileges and obligations in a commons - Stewardship is an explicit collective practice, executed thro a General assembly, a Board and a Standing assembly of workers, rather than a tacit social hierarchy (a tyranny of nominally ‘open’ structurelessness) of wizards and benevolent dictators.
  • 6 Contribution economy - Recognition and value(ing) - the platform service depends significantly on financial payments: by User members to the coop, and by the coop to operational members, as livelihood. This differs from a FLOSS regime that depends tacitly on privilege: a capacity for freely disposable, skilled, volunteer work hours (typically, white-male, global-North, graduate-level actors).