[P2P-F] an assessment of the p2p-foundation in 2013

Michel Bauwens michel at p2pfoundation.net
Sun Dec 29 06:19:25 CET 2013

as requested by kevin, this will be posted on the blog:

Looking Back on P2P in 2013

 Kevin Flanagan has asked me to write two articles, one that reviews p2p
developments in 2013, and one that looks forward to 2014.

 Here is the first part of a personal and impressionistic interpretation.

 I like to describe the development of p2p ideas and practices and the P2P
Foundation as one of the expressions of this, in the following broad

 The time period before 2008 was a period of anticipation, in which the p2p
structures and practices were spreading amongst social movements, local
groups, but in a context of emergence and marginality. During my already
frequent lectures that started in late 2005, most people were presuming
that my talks were about the future, when in fact they were not, they were
already describing concepts, practices and ideas of pioneering social
groups, but the mainstream audiences were still mostly blind to this.

 But the systemic crisis of neoliberal capitalism in 2008 clearly changed
that, it was if the sky was clearing and suddenly, people were looking for
answers and p2p was seen as one of the potential alternatives. We moved
from a period of TINA, 'There Is No Alternatives”, to a period of TAPAS,
“There are Plenty of Alternatives”.

 But after 2008, people not only searched for intellectual answers but also
started practicing p2p alternative mechanisms more massively. Peer
production moved to the physical sphere, with rapidly emerging open
hardware; massive social movements emerged, such as in the Middle East,
Occupy and 15M , which largely used p2p mechanisms in their
self-organisation, and the local resilience movement literally exploded,
with an exponential rise in local food initiatives, transition town groups,
alternative currencies and more. It was also the birth of the sharing
economy movement and a clear revitalisation of the ethical economy took
place, such as a revival of cooperativism, the social and solidarity
economies, and a large move to progressive governments in for example Latin

 Thus by 2012, there was a clear change in my experience. If previously I
would spend 10 days in say Melbourne for 3 lectures; by 2012, I would spend
10 days in the same place but with 20 engagements, and most of the people
and groups who invited me were already practicing to some level, p2p
principles. I am thinking of coworking centers, makerspaces and the like.
Also literally everyone I met seemed to already know the P2P Foundation, as
a significant 'collective intellectual' of the emergent movement. Visits to
our online resource base, such as our wiki, jumped 400% in a single year.

 2013 was a year for consolidation of the emergent p2p movement. I
witnessed this for example by attending the Economics and the Commons
conference in May 2013 in Berlin, which I co-organized with my colleagues
of the Commons Strategies Group, i.e. David Bollier and Silke Helfrich. The
gathering had a level of maturity which was not comparable to the previous
conference in that series in 2010. By 2013, everyone 'got' the Commons in
one way or another, and was intersted not just in mere dialogue, but in
strategizing for social change. A lecture tour in western europe lasted 3
months, and included innovative events such as the Commons Festival in
Crete, which brought together players from across the commons spectrum.
Local P2P-F groups, such as those in Greece and Brazil, got very active,
creating research projects of even 2 physical p2p labs such as in Athens
and Ionnanina.

 There were also some less positive developments. One is the cooptation of
the p2p concept by mere marketplaces. In places like the Netherlands for
example, it seems an almost exclusive interpretation that p2p is not about
constructing commons, but about creating marketplaces for supply and demand
to meet. Significantly, in a presentation about the meaning of the sharing
economy by Rachel Botsman, commons-oriented peer production is not even
mentioned. But there is also a counter-reaction to this neoliberalization
of the sharing economy, with people like Neal Gorenflo, Janelle Orsi,
Simone Cicero and others arguing for another side of the coin, i.e. a more
cooperative interpretation of peer to peer, the commons, and the sharing
economy. It is of course not a question of being opposed to enterpreneurs
and their 'sharing' projects, but of being opposed to the reduction of p2p
to market activities.

 Perhaps because our work is getting more noticed and popular, we also
started encountering more negative attention in 2013. For example, we
discovered that one of our close cooperators was forging communications,
took control of my personal mailbox, and filtered communication with our
partners and associates, creating not just personal damage and hurt, but
also financial distress. After the manipulation were discovered, our income
tripled in a few weeks. We still don't know, and don't hav the means to
know, whether such intervention was the result of a personal pathology, or
a third party driven sabotage. Then, we were targeted by a disinformation
campaign orchestrated through Anonymous twitter accounts. The good news is
that we survived both, and that it actually strengthened our internal
organisation. We now have a much stronger and active internal team, which
nearly doubled in size in one year, with much more seriousness and
commitment than before. The P2P Foundation has long been a network with an
important central node, but it may yet become a real human organisation
that can actually intervene on the ground.

 Intellectually speaking, though 2013 was too busy for in-depth theoretical
pursuits, we do believe we made some important breakthroughs. For example,
our development of four future p2p scenarios , which was very popular as
the closing keynote for the Ouishare fest. Our proposition for a global
coalition for the commons, discussed amongst political movements in places
as different as Poland and Greece. Our proposition for local civic
alliances for the commons and Chambers of the Commons, which is being
prefigured in activities in places such as Crete and France. Thus we
believe that we now have a much more cogent transition strategy.

 An important development was the writing of a book of conversations, with
Jean Lievens, on the peer to peer transition in the Dutch language. We got
intensive coverage not just in the major newspapers and magazines in the
Flanders, but also on radio and television, and the book, which will gets
its third printing in January, is well on it is way to become a national
bestseller. Hence our fervent hope to find publishers to translate it to
other languages in 2014.

 In our next installment, we will discuss our strategic priority around
open cooperativism, the transition project in Ecuador, and other thoughts
about what is coming in 2014. The seeds for these projects were prepared in
2013, but their realisation will take place next year.

P2P Foundation: http://p2pfoundation.net  - http://blog.p2pfoundation.net

http://twitter.com/mbauwens; http://www.facebook.com/mbauwens

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