Friday, November 11, 2011

A new culture of resistance: from WikiLeaks to the squares

A new culture of resistance: from WikiLeaks to the squares

By Pedro Noel On November 11, 2011

The grassroots movement that started with the Arab Spring has, for the first time in history, made global civil society fully aware of itself and its power.

By Pedro Noel and Santiago Carrion

Now that the grassroots movement that started inadvertently with the Arab Spring has gone global, it is necessary to cast a backwards glance to try and figure out, with some perspective, the dynamics of what has happened, physically and conceptually, over the last year. We propose a simple vision of the process of uprising in 2011, which was consolidated on the past 15th of October as a new culture of popular resistance and creativity. We also aim to point out the recent or enhanced concepts born in the collective consciousness of society during this period.

Wikileaks and the Unmasking of the Global System

Considered the most dangerous website in the world by the end of 2010, posed a serious challenge to the global political establishment. Even though the organization had been active in leaking content since 2006, the release of the Collateral Murder video in March of 2010 made ‘Wikileaks’ the most searched for term on search engines, and brought them to the forefront of mass media interest. The classified video, taken from the cockpit of a US Apache helicopter in Baghdad, depicts the slaying of around twelve people, including two Reuters journalists whose cameras were ‘mistaken’ for AK-47s. After the first round of fire, one of them starts crawling toward shelter when an unmarked van appears to rescue him. Then, even though there was no weapon visible, the soldiers opened fire, executing the journalist, wounding two children in the truck, and killing their father. Hence the title ‘Collateral Murder’.

In barely a few months, the organization followed up with the release of 100,000 classified U.S. files on the Afghanistan war, proving widespread war and the efforts made to hide them. As the organization grew in prestige, their new role as a prominent force of change culminated in November with another historical leak described by philosopher Slavoj Žižek with an excellent metaphor: the emperor had been standing naked for a long time — global society has been living a dramatic period of financial and ideological crisis since at least 2008 — and Wikileaks was the one to stand up and point it out, adding documents to prove their claim. This time nobody laughed, people rose up.

The constant connections made between Wikileaks and the Tunisian uprising are not just a coincidence. Barka, a prominent member of a Tunisian association for female equality, told us that “the Wikileaks revelations circulated very well in Tunisia in January [2011].” She also confirmed that local newspapers were publishing Cablegate analysis at the beginning of the year, prior to the revolution. She considers that the airing of the material on the mainstream media, revealing just how rotten Ben Ali’s crony-capitalist system was, played a significant role in politically engaging the youth of the country.

We do not want to make it seem, as some have, that Wikileaks was the only cause for the uprising in Tunisia. Even though we acknowledge that their success had a moderate role in fueling the subsequent Arab Spring, we believe it played an incredibly important one in shaping the global audience’s understanding of what happened. People following the process worldwide made the connection easily. To a large extent, the media made it for them, as both stories were unfolding at the same time in a seemingly simple cause-and-effect format. This assimilation of the events was to prove critical in the following months, as more and more countries saw their leaders knee deep in corruption.

The Squares: Camping as a Form of Protest

In March, in the town of Ergueb, in the rural province of Sidi Boussid, birthplace of the Tunisian Revolution, a man camped out in front of the local government building. He said he would only leave once he got a job. He is an example of occupation in the very place where the global uprising took off. Afterwards, events of the same nature, albeit with different results and objectives, started popping up across North Africa and the Middle East. Egypt was the next to topple a dictator and soon enough Tahrir Square (Freedom Square in Arabic) became an emblem of popular struggles. The same model was later exported to Puerta del Sol in Madrid as it spread across Spain, then Europe, and finally to North America, where Occupy Wall Street took the protest to the physical heart of the issue. The bold move received widespread support in the US. As other cities followed their lead, and the media began paying attention, the movement went viral.

The will to re-appropriate the physical center of the polis — the ancient heart of politics — is deeply related to the impulse to engage with fellow humans, and is irrevocably linked with the concept of transparency. The new squares are the place to apprehend reality, a piece of land where there is no space for the administrative control of information. The square has once again returned to its role as a place of exchange for individual initiatives, art and politics.

In this sense, public squares have become the physical antagonists of government and corporate conspiracies. This is proven by the brutal repression of the state security forces that didn’t allow this kind of protest to continue in African or Middle Eastern countries. Syrians are still being massacred for demanding their rights. On October 15th, twelve Yemenis were killed, and early on in Zimbabwe a group of teachers was arrested and tortured for showing videos of the Egyptian uprising. Despite the strong repression, peaceful protesters have continued to demand their rights. The movement took root and set an example for the popular uprising in Spain that started on the 15th of May, 2011. In a very significant gesture, the only national flag hanging in the Puerta del Sol in Madrid during the month it was occupied was the Egyptian flag.

Hive Minds: Popular Assemblies and Direct Democracy

As a place to experience the re-creation of social content, the occupied squares of 2011 opened the way to experiment with new kinds of political interaction: the occupation works as a hive mind of resistance against the cybernetic system. In their search for public participation, the squares, which no longer tolerated intermediaries between people, established a more harmonic, tolerant and democratic relationship with each other. This, together with the pulse for political renewal, crystallized into the idea of ‘real democracy’.

A model of decentralized, horizontal, and not politically preconceived assemblies spread organically to around 300 squares in Spain in the weeks after the 15th of May. Their aim was to create a system of self-governance based on participative democracy, where everyone had an equal say on the issues that affected them. This was a radical shift from the representative democracy they deemed flawed to the core. As they saw it, elected leaders had betrayed the people’s recognized sovereignty by siding with the financial elites, instead of defending social interests. They also recognized that this severe legitimation crisis (various polls set the public support level for the movement at 70%) could not be translated into reform, as there is no democratic control of leaders or institutions after elections. The collective spirit that was awakened in the camps could not find a way to express itself in the outdated Spanish system, making the lateral process flourish as people poured their energy into creating politics, as opposed to political discourse based on hollow ideas, old character types and anachronisms. Slowly but surely the assemblies starting working to build a truly legitimate way for political interaction, based on horizontality and common decision-making. This also meant that the old dichotomy of left and right was finally transcended, as ideology was to be built inside the autonomous space created inside the assembly.

At the same time, many other small activist groups (who already used this method) tied in neatly, and the assemblies acted as an amplifier for these already organized voices. In Spain, direct action platforms such as the PAH (literally Plaftorm of Mortgate Victims, which was already working before May 15th) began forming local nodes within each assembly. The Platform organized flash mobs in front of the homes of families who were about to be evicted when the public inspector was scheduled to arrive. If successful, the inspector would be unable to enter the building, making it impossible for him to effect his orders, which would revert the process back to the judge who issued the order. With this technique, the indignados have managed to stop hundreds of evictions from taking place all across the country. Their actions have become so integrated into the movement that a recently occupied hotel is serving, after the due consensus, to reallocate people who have been evicted. Our prediction is that this process of amplification will repeat itself wherever the assembly-based method takes root, serving to change attitudes towards humanitarian projects and a variety of social organizations.

Soon this method spread to the rest of Europe and finally to the USA, where hundreds of camps and even more assemblies have taken root in recent months. It is safe to say that nowadays, periodical gatherings of the same type occur in perhaps thousands of squares in different countries across the globe. This has brought a generalized shift in civilian attitudes, marking a return to contentious politics. In this sense, squares and assemblies propose more than a transgression: they are a transcendence of political legitimacy. In these squares, creative commons, autonomy, sustainability and transparency are applied to urban reality and communitarian decisions. They are an experiment of direct democracy as a method for free political articulation among people, an afffirmation of existence, and a reaction to the political structures of contemporary society.

Cyber Occupation: The New Dynamics of Social Uprisings

This rethinking of public space that began in Tahrir Square can also be postulated in terms of social cybernetics. In The Self-Organizing Polity (1988), Peter Harries-Jones observed some of the key factors of what he called ‘new cybernetics’ and its relation to political science: “unlike its predecessor, the new cybernetics concerns itself with the interaction of autonomous political actors and subgroups, and the practical and reflexive consciousness of the subjects who produce and reproduce the structure of a political community.” One of the other main intellectuals behind new cybernetics in the 1990s, Kenneth D. Bailey, added that this concept “views information as constructed and reconstructed by an individual interacting with the environment,” which in turn reduces the gap between the individual and the social system as a whole. We believe that this process has come to a high point in history during the last year, serving to create a massive collective consciousness, now oriented towards systemic transformation.

In this specific context, we propose the term cyber occupying, which is inevitably linked with the new culture of resistance, as the appropriation of society’s virtual and physical systemics. At first, this concentration of resistance continued to be in the streets and public spaces, although much of its recent success is, according to Max Rousseau, due to the idea of “physical immobility”. In this sense, it means that “the simple but prolonged collective presence in a public place can be an action of resistance.” By occupying the traditional channels of information exchange (both physical and virtual), a resistance is built against the flow which normally serves to aid and perpetuate the established systems of society. Cyber occupation is based on the prolonged permanence and concentration on strategic spots of informative, political, behavioral or monetary flow (among others).

Rousseau also argues that this new form of protest is born from a resistance to the reduction of the social system’s space and time via the modernization of technology. Therefore, we can see it as a reaction to capitalist dynamics, which implies rapid transformation and movement. Not only do the new occupations work as blockades of the ‘healthy’ systemic flow of information of contemporary society, they also serve as an impulse towards autonomy from these rules in order to partially recreate reality. As a result, most occupied squares became temporary autonomous zones, experiments in collaborative administration that operated in a parallel plane to the system. They actually serve as forces of outward change from within: they are recursive. Thus their attitude is both resistant and creative, as well as adapted to 21st century urban life.

In this light, the term “Occupation” has a broader meaning than it did before. An #occupation can be carried out by one or two million people, as well as by one person, as long as they share the spirit of taking back society’s functional centers, which can be squares, parliaments, bridges, avenues, public transport, or even websites and online feeds. After the 15th of October, the #occupy spirit grew exponentially: people understood all these concepts intuitively, to the point where they started considering the #occupation not only of physical space but also of abstract ideas such as social media, private companies or even voting booths.

Anonymous and the Occupation of Online Space

All the events narrated above co-existed with an important process of change in Internet dynamics regarding political activism, which can be understood as the #occupation of online space. The politicized role that the Anonymous collectiveundertook to defend Wikileaks in 2010 marked the beginning of a parallel hacktivist movement on the Internet. Anonymous is the virtual culmination of the same organizing principles practiced in the squares: they are completely open (in a strange way, you don’t have to know you are a member to be one), decisions are taken horizontally and in a highly decentralized structure.

In late 2010, Anonymous began to coordinate the shutting down of websites that were boycotting Wikileaksusing their trademark DDoS attack. In a few weeks, ‘Operation Payback’ managed to take down the virtual spaces of Amazon, Mastercard and Paypal, who had unilaterally broken agreements to handle donations made to Wikileaks, freezing their assets and making them lose estimated millions of dollars. When the uprisings in North Africa started, Anonymous and various other hacktivist groups defaced and shut down websites related to the Egyptian and Tunisian governments, who were censoring and repressing their citizens. This connection with the movement has proved to be long-lasting, as local hacktivist groups have immediately backed the occupations as they reached their countries. This tendency has continued to expand as the organization merged with others and diversified, until it became hard to keep track of everybody’s actions (a good source for information on this topic is

At the same time, the people’s freshly tuned moral compass, at its height of awareness during the Cablegate revelations, took over social networking sites, mainly Facebook (800 million users) and Twitter (200 millions users), which had already been acting as the largest centralized global forums on the Internet. These are the two most mainstream channels of communication that have been born on the web — over the last decade they have transformed the understanding and mechanisms of social interaction radically. Their technical capacity to host, debate and share information on a massive scale has united the global population to an unprecedented point.

This is because they are ‘transparent’ communication channels and their structure allows every citizen to become a potential journalist, a practice which has been increasingly common during the new wave of protests. The free flow of information, generated independently from political and corporate interest, has had a cleansing effect, allowing a clearer look into the dynamics of administrated media channels. In this sense, social networking tools effectively helped to facilitate the uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia, where state controlled media chose to manipulate information. “During the days of the Revolution, we watched Facebook and Youtube to find news of the martyrs,” a Tunisian living in Sfax told us.

The year 2011 has seen the biggest mass uprising of the history of the Internet so far. The global popularity of the movement has been translated into the appropriation of these public arenas, transforming them into crowd-sourced media outlets — the use of Twitter has certainly been revolutionary — and focal points of public debate on the issues explained above. The amount of blogs, Twitter accounts, Facebook pages and groups, as well as free platforms and tools successfully created to challenge the mechanisms of manipulation and control of information, is unprecedented. Every unknown user who silently but strenuously played a role in taking the Net was part of the decentralized response to the uprising.

A New Starting Point: October 15, 2011

The 15th of October of 2011 was the first global culmination of these complex processes. In almost a thousand cities, in around 90 countries, millions of people began occupying their squares, parks and public areas. In countries where the movement was already established, the growth was spectacular. Madrid and Barcelona hosted the largest protests, with almost a million people between the both of them. The fact that they were the largest protests yet serves to prove that the process, already spread out into neighborhoods, is working.

It also means that there is a healthy flow of information on the web, which in turn also influences the mass media. In previous weeks, many important cities in the US had already followed the example set by Occupy Wall Street: for example, camps in Washington D.C., Oakland, Denver and Chicago grew, and many others were started. On the 15th, it spread around the world, as hundreds of new occupations sprung up in cities such as London, Melbourne, Sao Paolo, Berlin, Seoul and many others.

In all of these cities, assemblies were organized, as well as working groups and specific task forces, replicating and reassuring the flourishing of the new system. These camps are now facing the first weeks of occupation, which are incredibly chaotic due to the organic and unguided nature of the process. Soon enough, however, we believe that the same dynamics of replication and intercommunication will set similar structures in place everywhere. This new richness, in the form of plurality, will be visible in the global structure of activism that is forming a new culture of resistance, which is of critical importance for the future of society.

Therefore it must not be forgotten that this movement is a reaction to the overwhelming understanding that the future of civilization is under serious question: the economic system is collapsing on top of the social stratus that sustains it, crushing millions underneath it, and the uncontrolled misuse of resources is seriously destroying the very planet we live on. This structure is the only way we can articulate a deep process of transformation that might save society from the gloomiest predictions. In this sense, the 15th of October marks a new beginning in the articulation within global civil society: it is the date when it became fully aware of itself and its power. Whether or not a sufficient amount of energy can be channeled towards political reform, and especially towards a general shift of underlying morale, is yet to be seen.

Source :

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

2011 Frontiers of Engineering: The Shape of Things to Come: Frontiers of Additive Manufacturing

National Academy of Engineering
2011 U.S. Frontiers of Engineering Symposium
September 19-21, 2011
Google, Inc.
Mountain View, California

The Shape of Things to Come: Frontiers of Additive Manufacturing
September 19, 2011 
Presented by Dr. Hod Lipson.

ABSTRACT: Google hosted 100 attendees of the 2011 Nat'l Academy of Engineering's U.S. Frontiers of Engineering symposium (FOE) at our Mountain View office and Dinah's Garden Hotel in Palo Alto. The symposium is an annual three-day meeting that brings together 100 of the nation's outstanding young engineers (ages 30-45) from industry, academia, and government to discuss pioneering technical and leading-edge research in various engineering fields and industry sectors.

About the speaker: Dr. Hod Lipson is an Associate Professor of the School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Cornell University in New York.

New Technologies like additive manufacturing (3D printing) will change everything, from the way we produce things to the way we interact with them...

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Power Of Social Media

Finally People Power

I was very interested to read the article written by the CEO ofChange Dot Comin CNN Mr. Ben Rattray recently. As most people have read in the news recently Bank of America was planning on passing on a five dollar charge on debit card use to their customers. The greed after being given a huge bailout by the government is to me beyond comprehension. The taxpayers have been hit enough by these banks especially since their own mistakes caused their financial problems in the first place. Giving mortgages and credit cards to people who did not have the income and/or the proper identification got them into this mess in the first place. Passing the cost on to consumers is the not answer. Taking responsibility for their own mistakes is.

Someone Takes a Stand

According to the article a young woman by the name of Molly Katchpole who is presently working two jobs to make ends meet was outraged by this coming charge, she is a customer of the bank. Through the social media network Face book, and others she launched a petition against this five dollar charge and it spread like wild fire, she received over three hundred thousand signatures on her petition. Change Dot Com got involved and the petition was presented to Bank of America and eventually the bank because of public pressure decided not to access the charge. Meanwhile other banks Wells Fargo, Citi Bank and JP Morgan who also considered adding the charge decided not to as well.

The Power of The People Through Social Media

Middle America is rising through protests and the Internet through social media power letting our government and corporate America that we have had enough. The people we vote into Congress have done nothing but argue and act like children getting nothing done for us. Nothing is going to be kept behind closed doors anymore once it's found out by one of two people it's on Tweeter, Face book and other means on to the Internet where the people can finally voice their views and raise their voices about what is going on in their country. It's our taxes that pay for the majority of these funding decisions and we should have a say in where our hard earned cash is going to.

Is Social Media a Good thing?

If social media is used is for information, keeping the public informed yes. To bully or harass people of course not, that is not what the intention of the social media was intended to do. Power of the people can be strong, very strong as we have seen in the last few months. The facts are we are not going back, businesses are using the Internet for research on consumer consumption, logistics, and trends. College students depend on it and law enforcement use it to map crime waves in different districts in their communities. Marketing affiliates are using it to promote products and e books. For people who cannot run around to libraries and post offices, stores and other places they need a car to get to it's a God send. As for social media itself, it can help someone gain friends around the world and learn how other people from other cultures feel about their world. We are entering a time of enlightenment, it should prove to be an interesting time for us all.

Article Source:

The Power Of Social Media

Monday, October 31, 2011

C3 Technologies: 3D map of Oslo, Norway

MORE INFO 3D map of Oslo, the capital of Norway, based on incredible mapping tech from Swedish startup C3 Technologies. Based on declassified missile targeting technology from Swedish aerospace giant Saab, C3 maps can be rotated around because each individual pixel has depth information attached to it. 3D data is calculated directly from high-resolution aerial photography, based on the positions and angles of the cameras to give each pixel its geographical position with very high accuracy. C3 maps also sport interior panoramas of points of interest based on HDR imagery, with room navigation, 3D menus and banners, overview maps and other interactive features. There's also street-level imagery captured using an advanced multiple camera system with overlapping viewing angles to capture the entire surroundings in stereo.

Citizen Scientist 2.0

Andrea Kuszewski
The Rogue Neuron

Posted: Oct 20, 2011

What does the future of science look like?
Andrea Kuszewski

About a year ago, I was asked this question. My response then was: Transdisciplinary collaboration. Researchers from a variety of domains—biology, philosophy, psychology, neuroscience, economics, law—all coming together, using inputs from each specialized area to generate the best comprehensive solutions to society’s more persistent problems. Indeed, it appears as if I was on the right track, as more and more academic research departments, as well as industries, are seeing the value in this type of partnership.
Now let’s take this a step further. Not only do I think we will be relying on inputs from researchers and experts from multiple domains to solve scientific problems, but I see society itself getting involved on a much more significant level as well. And I don’t just mean science awareness. I’m talking about actually participating in the research itself. Essentially, I see a huge boom in the future for Citizen Science.

What are Citizen Scientists?

Citizen Scientists are non-scientists who contribute data and/or analysis to aid in scientific studies, or hobbyists, often referred to as “DIYers”, conducting their own scientific studies outside of a formal research institute or university. This is usually done in their own homes, or in publicly set up “DIY Labs” such as BioCurious, a Bay Area BioTech hackspace.
With the Open Science Summit coming up in less than a week (I know! It’s almost here!), I thought this would be the perfect time to illustrate just how big of a deal Citizen Science is to the future of scientific progress.

The Key Role of Technology

‘Citizen Science’ has been around since the days of Darwin and Einstein, but today, modern technology has allowed for worldwide participation in projects and rapid analysis of data, making it a more streamlined, widely collaborative initiative. Citizen Science has seen a rise in popularity especially in the last several years, gaining traction in more diverse audiences, and utilizing the newest technological tools for outreach and data analysis.
ak1The organization, for example,  has a website where you can find out what types of projects are going on that you can get involved in, as well as upload your own citizen science project that you are seeking participation for. Participants upload their own data contribution, then they can go back to see the recorded results of everyone involved—no waiting a year or more for peer reviewed journals to release data. Science in action, right there. Practically instant gratification! 
Smart phone apps like Project Noah—which allows people to discover and document local wildlife data, then contribute those findings to on-going research being done by scientists—are setting the standard for practical, fun, and easy-to-adopt Citizen Science apps that can radically increase the amount of public interest and participation in science. This is truly a time when every person, no matter their educational background or training, can experience the wonder and beauty of the scientific method.
Even the government is starting to catch on. In fact, NASA just announced that they are releasing oodles of data for the public to access and analyze at will:
We’re excited today to announce the launch of our Data API for, the collaborative online database of NASA datasets we launched in August. The API allows a machine-readable interface to return metadata from the site organized by category, tag, date, or search term. We’re hoping this allows new and creative visualizations of the data resources NASA provides to the public. Additionally, it is a learning experience for us as we work to expand transparency, participation, and collaboration at NASA through new uses of technology.
How cool is that?! Wicked cool. If gamers can find a potential treatment for AIDS by folding proteins, I can’t wait to see what the public can do with NASA’s data.

New Kinds of Outreach

I already mentioned the Internet and smart phone apps as ways of utilizing modern technology to allow citizens to participate in science projects, but what about filming a ‘movie’ trailer to advertise your project? Check this out—a scientist is trying to get participation for a study, so he filmed a trailer to upload to YouTube, in order to recruit participants. Brilliant. Could you see doing something like this for grant proposals?

Some have predicted that learning via web video—from e-learning phenomenons like Khan Academy and the hugely popular free online courses Stanford just launched in Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Databases—is poised to be the new medium of choice for the future of education.
I have to agree.
With web video, you have access to the entire world, with one 2 minute video clip. Demonstration, conveying body language, and showing facial expressions all adds to the experience, bringing us one step closer to reality, but from anywhere on the globe. Even real-time collaboration is now possible over video chat with applications like Google+ Hangouts (which integrates Google docs right into the hangout feature and allows screen-sharing and real-time modification) and the much-anticipated Hangout Academy, which is geared as a professional (or personal) building and sharing tool for limitless collaboration.
Think of the power in outreach and communication we have now, that was non-existent in Darwin’s time. I wonder how much quicker his theory of evolution would have come to fruition had the power of crowdsourcing ideas and social media tools been available to him? Blows my mind.

A New Model of ‘Scientist’

There’s another reason why I think we are going to see a rise in Citizen Science: our entire model of education and what it means to be a ‘trained professional’ is shifting. There’s a hell of a lot of resistance from the status quo—which makes it difficult and inconvenient for rapid progress—but it isn’t enough to stop it from happening. Even if society is kicking and screaming, we are still headed in that direction, like it or not.
When the university system and the current PhD paradigm was invented, it was a different time. For the majority of the world, going to a university to study under a mentor was pretty much one of the only ways to gain access to those volumes of published research, equipment, or like-minded individuals from whom you could learn. If you wanted to study advanced topics, or apprentice under someone famous to learn from their expertise, you needed to go to a university.
But things are different now.
Technology allows us access to some of the leading minds of our age, with a few clicks of the mouse. You could be living in Uganda and still participate in a Stanford University course, right alongside students in Mexico and Hawaii. Study and discussion groups form on social networks like facebook and Google+, making proximity to a university campus nearly irrelevant in order to meet other students and benefit from valuable peer-to-peer discussions. With the world’s information available on the web, and with all of these advances in technology allowing for rapid data sharing and collaboration, how much value is there in the Ivory Tower?
We are becoming a society of autodidacts, with information at our fingertips 24/7. Citizen Science is a natural consequence of that. Have an interesting scientific inquiry? Get on the web and investigate it. Learn from the millions of sources out there. Crowdsource some ideas, generate some hypotheses. Have discussions with others. Make a plan. Get your equipment. The scientific method is in-progress.
Science is free for all to explore. Why waste time jumping through bureaucratic hoops when you can begin investigating what you want, when you want? Need to fund your research? Crowdsourced methods of funding, such as Kickstarter, are becoming more popular for these types of endeavors. Instead of 100 scientists chasing the same grant, why not go to the public and let them fund what they think is valuable? I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of this in the future. 
As technology advances and more tools are made available, science will inevitably become more open. Society just won’t stand for paywalls and red tape when there are 1000 ways to get around it, while still making scientific progress. If we want rapid progress, rapid advancement and rapid innovation, we need to allow and promote openness. The future is already here—might as well get on board and enjoy the ride!

Andrea Kuszewski, an Affiliate Scholar of the IEET, is a researcher investigating the neuro-cognitive factors behind human behavior.

The Zeitgeist Movement | Los Angeles CA "TownHall" | Oct 26 2011

We can imagine a new world, a better relationship with our planet and a better society based on solidarity, love and evolution of our entire ecosystem...Technology and science are helping us change everything !

Intro Part 1

 Jason Lord | "Visualizing a Systems Approach" |     Part 2
Google + NASA + Wolfram Alpha = ? ? ?

 Peter Joseph | "From Consequences to Solutions"|   Part 3

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The New Socialism: Global Collectivist Society Is Coming Online !

Wikipedia, Flickr, and Twitter aren't just revolutions in online social media. 
They're the vanguard of a cultural movement. 
Illustration: Christoph Niemann

Bill Gates once derided open source advocates with the worst epithet a capitalist can muster. These folks, he said, were a "new modern-day sort of communists," a malevolent force bent on destroying the monopolistic incentive that helps support the American dream. Gates was wrong: Open source zealots are more likely to be libertarians than commie pinkos. Yet there is some truth to his allegation. The frantic global rush to connect everyone to everyone, all the time, is quietly giving rise to a revised version of socialism.
Communal aspects of digital culture run deep and wide. Wikipedia is just one remarkable example of an emerging collectivism—and not just Wikipedia but wikiness at large. Ward Cunningham, who invented the firstcollaborative Web page in 1994, tracks nearly 150 wiki engines today, each powering myriad sites. Wetpaint, launched just three years ago, hosts more than 1 million communal efforts. Widespread adoption of the share-friendly Creative Commons alternative copyright license and the rise of ubiquitous file-sharing are two more steps in this shift. Mushrooming collaborative sites like DiggStumbleUponthe Hype Machine, and Twine have added weight to this great upheaval. Nearly every day another startup proudly heralds a new way to harness community action. These developments suggest a steady move toward a sort of socialism uniquely tuned for a networked world.
We're not talking about your grandfather's socialism. In fact, there is a long list of past movements this new socialism is not. It is not class warfare. It is not anti-American; indeed, digital socialism may be the newest American innovation. While old-school socialism was an arm of the state, digital socialism is socialism without the state. This new brand of socialism currently operates in the realm of culture and economics, rather than government—for now.
The type of communism with which Gates hoped to tar the creators of Linux was born in an era of enforced borders, centralized communications, and top-heavy industrial processes. Those constraints gave rise to a type of collective ownership that replaced the brilliant chaos of a free market with scientific five-year plans devised by an all-powerful politburo. This political operating system failed, to put it mildly. However, unlike those older strains of red-flag socialism, the new socialism runs over a borderless Internet, through a tightly integrated global economy. It is designed to heighten individual autonomy and thwart centralization. It is decentralization extreme.
Instead of gathering on collective farms, we gather in collective worlds. Instead of state factories, we have desktop factories connected to virtual co-ops. Instead of sharing drill bits, picks, and shovels, we share apps, scripts, and APIs. Instead of faceless politburos, we have faceless meritocracies, where the only thing that matters is getting things done. Instead of national production, we have peer production. Instead of government rations and subsidies, we have a bounty of free goods.
I recognize that the word socialism is bound to make many readers twitch. It carries tremendous cultural baggage, as do the related terms communalcommunitarian, and collective. I use socialismbecause technically it is the best word to indicate a range of technologies that rely for their power on social interactions. Broadly, collective action is what Web sites and Net-connected apps generate when they harness input from the global audience. Of course, there's rhetorical danger in lumping so many types of organization under such an inflammatory heading. But there are no unsoiled terms available, so we might as well redeem this one.
When masses of people who own the means of production work toward a common goal and share their products in common, when they contribute labor without wages and enjoy the fruits free of charge, it's not unreasonable to call that socialism.
In the late '90s, activist, provocateur, and aging hippy John Barlow began calling this drift, somewhat tongue in cheek, "dot-communism." He defined it as a "workforce composed entirely of free agents," a decentralized gift or barter economy where there is no property and where technological architecture defines the political space. He was right on the virtual money. But there is one way in which socialism is the wrong word for what is happening: It is not an ideology. It demands no rigid creed. Rather, it is a spectrum of attitudes, techniques, and tools that promote collaboration, sharing, aggregation, coordination, ad hocracy, and a host of other newly enabled types of social cooperation. It is a design frontier and a particularly fertile space for innovation.
A History
Thomas More's Utopia
Thomas Paine's The Age of Reason
First US commune
Marx & Engels' The Communist Manifesto
International Workingmen's Association
Bolshevik Party elects Lenin
Russian Revolution
Stalin consolidates power
State-run health care in Saskatchewan
Cuban Revolution
Che Guevara executed
Salvador Allende deposed
Mikhail Gorbachev's glasnost
Soviet Union dissolves
Linux 1.0
Venezuela elects Hugo Chavez
Google: 1 billion indexed pages
Brazil elects Lula da Silva
Public Library of Science
Amazon's Mechanical Turk
Facebook: 100 million users
US allocates $700 billion for troubled mortgage assets
YouTube: 100 million monthly US users
In his 2008 book, Here Comes Everybody, media theorist Clay Shirky suggests a useful hierarchy for sorting through these new social arrangements. Groups of people start off simply sharing and then progress to cooperation, collaboration, and finally collectivism. At each step, the amount of coordination increases. A survey of the online landscape reveals ample evidence of this phenomenon.
The online masses have an incredible willingness to share. The number of personal photos posted on Facebook and MySpace is astronomical, but it's a safe bet that the overwhelming majority of photos taken with a digital camera are shared in some fashion. Then there are status updates, map locations, half-thoughts posted online. Add to this the 6 billion videos served by YouTube each month in the US alone and the millions of fan-created stories deposited on fanfic sites. The list of sharing organizations is almost endless: Yelp for reviews, Loopt for locations, Delicious for bookmarks.
Sharing is the mildest form of socialism, but it serves as the foundation for higher levels of communal engagement.
When individuals work together toward a large-scale goal, it produces results that emerge at the group level. Not only have amateurs shared more than 3 billion photos on Flickr, but they have tagged them with categories, labels, and keywords. Others in the community cull the pictures into sets. The popularity of Creative Commons licensingmeans that communally, if not outright communistically, your picture is my picture. Anyone can use a photo, just as a communard might use the community wheelbarrow. I don't have to shoot yet another photo of the Eiffel Tower, since the community can provide a better one than I can take myself.
Thousands of aggregator sites employ the same social dynamic for threefold benefit. First, the technology aids users directly, letting them tag, bookmark, rank, and archive for their own use. Second, other users benefit from an individual's tags, bookmarks, and so on. And this, in turn, often creates additional value that can come only from the group as a whole. For instance, tagged snapshots of the same scene from different angles can be assembled into a stunning 3-D rendering of the location. (Check out Microsoft's Photosynth.) In a curious way, this proposition exceeds the socialist promise of "from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" because it betters what you contribute and delivers more than you need.
Community aggregators can unleash astonishing power. Sites like Digg and Reddit, which let users vote on the Web links they display most prominently, can steer public conversation as much as newspapers or TV networks. (Full disclosure: Reddit is owned by Wired's parent company, Condé Nast.) Serious contributors to these sites put in far more energy than they could ever get in return, but they keep contributing in part because of the cultural power these instruments wield. A contributor's influence extends way beyond a lone vote, and the community's collective influence can be far out of proportion to the number of contributors. That is the whole point of social institutions—the sum outperforms the parts. Traditional socialism aimed to ramp up this dynamic via the state. Now, decoupled from government and hooked into the global digital matrix, this elusive force operates at a larger scale than ever before.
Organized collaboration can produce results beyond the achievements of ad hoc cooperation. Just look at any of hundreds of open source software projects, such as the Apache Web server. In these endeavors, finely tuned communal tools generate high-quality products from the coordinated work of thousands or tens of thousands of members. In contrast to casual cooperation, collaboration on large, complex projects tends to bring the participants only indirect benefits, since each member of the group interacts with only a small part of the end product. An enthusiast may spend months writing code for a subroutine when the program's full utility is several years away. In fact, the work-reward ratio is so out of kilter from a free-market perspective—the workers do immense amounts of high-market-value work without being paid—that these collaborative efforts make no sense within capitalism.
Adding to the economic dissonance, we've become accustomed to enjoying the products of these collaborations free of charge. Instead of money, the peer producers who create the stuff gain credit, status, reputation, enjoyment, satisfaction, and experience. Not only is the product free, it can be copied freely and used as the basis for new products. Alternative schemes for managing intellectual property, including Creative Commons and the GNU licenses, were invented to ensure these "frees."
Of course, there's nothing particularly socialistic about collaboration per se. But the tools of online collaboration support a communal style of production that shuns capitalistic investors and keeps ownership in the hands of the workers, and to some extent those of the consuming masses.

The Old

The New
Authority centralized among elite officials
Power distributed among ad hoc participants
Limited resources dispensed by the state
Unlimited, free cloud computing
Forced labor in government factories
Volunteer group work a la Wikipedia
Property owned in common
Sharing protected by Creative Commons
Government- controlled information
Real-time Twitter and RSS feeds
Harsh penalties for criticizing leaders
Passionate opinions on the Huffington Post
While cooperation can write an encyclopedia, no one is held responsible if the community fails to reach consensus, and lack of agreement doesn't endanger the enterprise as a whole. The aim of a collective, however, is to engineer a system where self-directed peers take responsibility for critical processes and where difficult decisions, such as sorting out priorities, are decided by all participants. Throughout history, hundreds of small-scale collectivist groups have tried this operating system. The results have not been encouraging, even setting aside Jim Jones and the Manson family.
Indeed, a close examination of the governing kernel of, say, Wikipedia, Linux, or OpenOfficeshows that these efforts are further from the collectivist ideal than appears from the outside. While millions of writers contribute to Wikipedia, a smaller number of editors (around 1,500) are responsible for the majority of the editing. Ditto for collectives that write code. A vast army of contributions is managed by a much smaller group of coordinators. As Mitch Kapor, founding chair of the Mozilla open source code factory, observed, "Inside every working anarchy, there's an old-boy network."
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Some types of collectives benefit from hierarchy while others are hurt by it. Platforms like the Internet and Facebook, or democracy—which are intended to serve as a substrate for producing goods and delivering services—benefit from being as nonhierarchical as possible, minimizing barriers to entry and distributing rights and responsibilities equally. When powerful actors appear, the entire fabric suffers. On the other hand, organizations built to create products often need strong leaders and hierarchies arranged around time scales: One level focuses on hourly needs, another on the next five years.
In the past, constructing an organization that exploited hierarchy yet maximized collectivism was nearly impossible. Now digital networking provides the necessary infrastructure. The Net empowers product-focused organizations to function collectively while keeping the hierarchy from fully taking over. The organization behind MySQL, an open source database, is not romantically nonhierarchical, but it is far more collectivist than Oracle. Likewise, Wikipedia is not a bastion of equality, but it is vastly more collectivist than the Encyclopædia Britannica. The elite core we find at the heart of online collectives is actually a sign that stateless socialism can work on a grand scale.
Most people in the West, including myself, were indoctrinated with the notion that extending the power of individuals necessarily diminishes the power of the state, and vice versa. In practice, though, most polities socialize some resources and individualize others. Most free-market economies have socialized education, and even extremely socialized societies allow some private property.
Rather than viewing technological socialism as one side of a zero-sum trade-off between free-market individualism and centralized authority, it can be seen as a cultural OS that elevates both the individual and the group at once. The largely unarticulated but intuitively understood goal of communitarian technology is this: to maximize both individual autonomy and the power of people working together. Thus, digital socialism can be viewed as a third way that renders irrelevant the old debates.
The notion of a third way is echoed by Yochai Benkler, author of The Wealth of Networks, who has probably thought more than anyone else about the politics of networks. "I see the emergence of social production and peer production as an alternative to both state-based and market-based closed, proprietary systems," he says, noting that these activities "can enhance creativity, productivity, and freedom." The new OS is neither the classic communism of centralized planning without private property nor the undiluted chaos of a free market. Instead, it is an emerging design space in which decentralized public coordination can solve problems and create things that neither pure communism nor pure capitalism can.
Hybrid systems that blend market and nonmarket mechanisms are not new. For decades, researchers have studied the decentralized, socialized production methods of northern Italian and Basque industrial co-ops, in which employees are owners, selecting management and limiting profit distribution, independent of state control. But only since the arrival of low-cost, instantaneous, ubiquitous collaboration has it been possible to migrate the core of those ideas into diverse new realms, like writing enterprise software or reference books.
The dream is to scale up this third way beyond local experiments. How large? Ohloh, a company that tracks the open source industry, lists roughly 250,000 people working on an amazing 275,000 projects. That's almost the size of General Motors' workforce. That is an awful lot of people working for free, even if they're not full-time. Imagine if all the employees of GM weren't paid yet continued to produce automobiles!
So far, the biggest efforts are open source projects, and the largest of them, such as Apache, manageseveral hundred contributors—about the size of a village. One study estimates that 60,000 man-years of work have poured into last year's release of Fedora Linux 9, so we have proof that self-assembly and the dynamics of sharing can govern a project on the scale of a decentralized town or village.
Of course, the total census of participants in online collective work is far greater. YouTube claims some 350 million monthly visitors. Nearly 10 million registered users have contributed to Wikipedia, 160,000 of whom are designated active. More than 35 million folks have posted and tagged more than 3 billion photos and videos on Flickr. Yahoo hosts 7.8 million groups focused on every possible subject. Google has 3.9 million.
These numbers still fall short of a nation. They may not even cross the threshold of mainstream (although if YouTube isn't mainstream, what is?). But clearly the population that lives with socialized media is significant. The number of people who make things for free, share things for free, use things for free, belong to collective software farms, work on projects that require communal decisions, or experience the benefits of decentralized socialism has reached millions and counting. Revolutions have grown out of much smaller numbers.
On the face of it, one might expect a lot of political posturing from folks who are constructing an alternative to capitalism and corporatism. But the coders, hackers, and programmers who design sharing tools don't think of themselves as revolutionaries. No new political party is being organized in conference rooms—at least, not in the US. (In Sweden, the Pirate Party formed on a platform of file-sharing. It won a paltry 0.63 percent of votes in the 2006 national election.)
Indeed, the leaders of the new socialism are extremely pragmatic. A survey of 2,784 open source developers explored their motivations. The most common was "to learn and develop new skills." That's practical. One academic put it this way (paraphrasing): The major reason for working on free stuff is to improve my own damn software. Basically, overt politics is not practical enough.
But the rest of us may not be politically immune to the rising tide of sharing, cooperation, collaboration, and collectivism. For the first time in years, the s-word is being uttered by TV punditsand in national newsmagazines as a force in US politics. Obviously, the trend toward nationalizing hunks of industry, instituting national health care, and jump-starting job creation with tax money isn't wholly due to techno-socialism. But the last election demonstrated the power of a decentralized, webified base with digital collaboration at its core. The more we benefit from such collaboration, the more open we become to socialist institutions in government. The coercive, soul-smashing system of North Korea is dead; the future is a hybrid that takes cues from both Wikipedia and the moderate socialism of Sweden.
How close to a noncapitalistic, open source, peer-production society can this movement take us? Every time that question has been asked, the answer has been: closer than we thought. Consider craigslist. Just classified ads, right? But the site amplified the handy community swap board to reach a regional audience, enhanced it with pictures and real-time updates, and suddenly became a national treasure. Operating without state funding or control, connecting citizens directly to citizens, this mostly free marketplace achieves social good at an efficiency that would stagger any government or traditional corporation. Sure, it undermines the business model of newspapers, but at the same time it makes an indisputable case that the sharing model is a viable alternative to both profit-seeking corporations and tax-supported civic institutions.
Who would have believed that poor farmers could secure $100 loans from perfect strangers on the other side of the planet—and pay them back? That is what Kiva does with peer-to-peer lending. Every public health care expert declared confidently that sharing was fine for photos, but no one would share their medical records. But PatientsLikeMe, where patients pool results of treatments to better their own care, prove that collective action can trump both doctors and privacy scares. The increasingly common habit of sharing what you're thinking (Twitter), what you're reading (StumbleUpon), your finances (Wesabe), your everything (the Web) is becoming a foundation of our culture. Doing it while collaboratively building encyclopedias, news agencies, video archives, and software in groups that span continents, with people you don't know and whose class is irrelevant—that makes political socialism seem like the logical next step.
A similar thing happened with free markets over the past century. Every day, someone asked: What can't markets do? We took a long list of problems that seemed to require rational planning or paternal government and instead applied marketplace logic. In most cases, the market solution worked significantly better. Much of the prosperity in recent decades was gained by unleashing market forces on social problems.
Now we're trying the same trick with collaborative social technology, applying digital socialism to a growing list of wishes—and occasionally to problems that the free market couldn't solve—to see if it works. So far, the results have been startling. At nearly every turn, the power of sharing, cooperation, collaboration, openness, free pricing, and transparency has proven to be more practical than we capitalists thought possible. Each time we try it, we find that the power of the new socialism is bigger than we imagined.
We underestimate the power of our tools to reshape our minds. Did we really believe we could collaboratively build and inhabit virtual worlds all day, every day, and not have it affect our perspective? The force of online socialism is growing. Its dynamic is spreading beyond electrons—perhaps into elections.

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