Notes from the Fourth Oekonux Conference I

ox4 conference logoFrom March 27th to 29th, the Fourth Oekonux Conference (announcement) took place in Manchester. It was great to meet some nice people again and to meet many nice and interesting people for the first time (in real life, that is, since I knew many participants already from virtual communications and it was a good experience to finally meet them in person).

Here are some quick notes which I wrote down during the conference sessions and polished and extended a bit afterwards.

During the first day, I didn’t took many notes, since I was busy as session helper (moderating the discussions and so on). Stefan Merten talked about Current limitations of peer production, and ideas on how to overcome them. Since Stefan doesn’t like the idea of social agreements between producers which might involve a coupling between giving and taking (as I discuss in my book), he is stuck with having to hope for technical solutions. Computers are machines for making perfect copies of digital goods, and Stefan hopes for machines can take make perfect copies of physical goods—the old Replicator dream.

Among other things, this completely neglects how to get the resources necessary for production, and how to organize tasks that cannot be handled by machines, e.g. health and elder care or education. I don’t think that such an approach could ever be sufficient—both technical solutions and social agreements are necessary and need to be interwoven.

The second and last session of the first day was given by Jacco Lammers, who talked about the c,mm,n car, which has already been discussed (in German) in the Keimform blog. Cars, of course, are a very individualistic and somehow “capitalistic” way of movement; accordingly, Jacco’s talk was quite business-oriented, too. Still, it’s an interesting project—one of the most ambitious open hardware endeavors which has made some reasonable progress so far.

After the session, I talked with Jacco about licensing issues—most open hardware projects use licenses designed for software (e.g. the GNU GPL) or content (Creative Commons). These are quite inappropriate for hardware, since the license covers only the designs, not the hardware itself—a manufacturer who produces and sells open source hardware wouldn’t be bound by the copyleft clause of the GPL, for example. Jacco said that they have found a license that seems to solve this issue and are now in the process of evaluating it—I’ll have to check that out.

The second day started with a joint introduction by Michel Bauwens and Stefan Merten, who explained the goals and philosophy of Oekonux and the P2P Foundation, the two projects organizing the conference. Stefan again expressed his belief that physical production is to become a mere appendix of information production—well, we’ll see. Michel talked about the “distributed production of money,” a toy topic of his I don’t believe in. Still, they’re both doing great jobs in inspiring and leading these organizations and the world would be much worse off without them and their dedicated work. Thanks, Stefan and Michel, for doing what you do and for making this great conference a reality!

In the next slot, it was my turn to talk about Peer Production Everywhere (cf. my submission). In the first part of my talk, I introduced the core ideas of my book about how a society based on commons and peer production might look like; in the second (and shorter) part, I discussed some ideas and approaches for how to get there. (I prepared my talk slides using the S5 file format; they’re designed for viewing on a 1024×768 display in full-screen mode.) The discussion was quite lively and there were the usual questions about whether and when coupling between giving and taking is necessary, and whether it is compatible with the peer mode of production. The general reception was quite positive, I think.

This report will be continued in a few days; there is also a report by Michel Bauwens: Extraordinary fourth Oekonux conference marks milestone for P2P movement. Audio recordings of some of the sessions are already available; more are to come.

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