Open Collective
Open Collective
Invitation commons.hour session #7
Published on April 20, 2022 by Wouter Tebbens

Digital infrastructure for resilient subcultures
On the fourth Monday of April we celebrate this 7th session of commons.hour with an introduction presentation by Cade Diehm & Benjamin Royer  from the New Design Congress.

They're discussing concepts such as:
1. Society as user - A handy term that references collective and socially-oriented mobilising of digital means, as distinct from individual . 
2 Resilient subcultures - Communities mobilising digital infrastructure to configure modes of power and capability they wouldn’t otherwise have. They are not just (actual and potential) victims of attack and harm (ie the focus of the ‘safety’ or ‘privacy’ concern).

As we move into a new, uncertain decade, the digitisation of collective spaces has historically been seen as a means to build solidarity. But why do these spaces continue to struggle? How do the pre-conceived first principles we hold for identity, ownership, connectivity and scale both shape and limit our thinking? How do we start picturing a process by which we inherit and dismantle the structures that late-stage capitalism has created? How do we face the dual challenge of dismantling systems of thought and systems of production which we still vitally rely on? When do we foreclose, when do we create alternative forks

Cade Diehm and Benjamin Royer share the work of the New Design Congress, tracing lines between the limits of digital consent, the re-imagining of digital identity and the role systems play in shaping our communal ability to sense and think.

Founded on 1 January 2020, The New Design Congress is an independent research and strategy organisation based in Berlin, Germany. They see all infrastructure as power and technologies as societal accelerants. They develop unique understandings of the relationships between societies and their technologies.

The session
  • 25 April 2022 (Fourth Monday). Gathering starts 17:00 UTC, closes at 18:00. (i.e. 18h BST, 19h CEST, 13h EDT) Note: Changed timeslot - used to be an hour later in UTC time. Extra time runs from 18:00 for half an hour, for offers & wants, informal check-in and organiser-chat. 
  • Please register for this event at the forum - knowing how many people intend to participate helps us decide our facilitation approach.
  • The gathering is in the commons.hour room at meet. coop. For best performance, please use Firefox or Chrome browser, and a PC or laptop. The meeting will be recorded. If you wish to be anonymous you should join with an altered name, and leave your camera off.
Essential links
  • Discussion thread - Commons.hour session#7 - discussion Post-meeting links & resources (video recording, shared notes, take-home summary, etc) will be posted here. Feel free to open discussion on this topic at any time - even before the session would be great!
About commons.hour

It's a monthly series of collaborative sessions, to share, learn and build a long term foundation for in provisioning digital infrastructure under multistakeholder governance. We intent to weave commons and cooperative traditions together in a way that can be inspirational and transformative, and we seek to design an approach that can be reused and tweaked by others.
At the core of this practice is an evolving documentation base - a handbook. We intend this to be an open-source resource also for other coops and commons-building organisations, particularly those involved like us in the digital landscape, and seeking a multistakeholder practice across diverse communities of contributors, rather than the more familiar approach: a workers’ coop of tech folks.

In case you missed the first sessions, here you can find the recording, slides and notes: session 1, session 2, session 3, session 4, session 5, session 6.

Why we’re doing this

For more than a year, as a coop with more than a hundred members spanning nine time zones, we have been running a platform for online meetings, powered by renewables and running on open source free-libre software, with a commitment to privacy. However running a platform coop of this kind requires to overcome practical challenges where familiar precedents (like P2P free-libre software, traditional coops, ‘political’ movement organisations, ‘sectoral’ interest groups, etc) don’t necessarily provide the necessary resolutions.

 commons.hour is the open design space we are setting up, where we intend to engage these challenges. For example:
  • How to envision and govern a complex weave of contributions, paid and unpaid, across user members and operational members?
  • How to decide what can be in an open cultural commons, what spaces should be open to coop members only, and what the relationship should be between the ‘toolstack’ we provide for user-members (most of whom are also organisations) and the operational toolstack that we use ourselves ‘in the back office’?
  • Which services to run, what costs to bear by whom, and what privileges and obligations to attach to the various spaces that we provision: platform spaces (eg BigBlueButton), media spaces (eg the Forum), venue spaces (eg commons.hour)?
  • What communication tools, channels and protocols should we provision and deploy, to facilitate participation and contribution across our membership, and capability in the wider, progressive, activist communities that our members are at work in?
  • How to be a viable platform coop (and escape 'sweat equity') while also being a movement organisation, making the transformative coop-commons economy?

Why participate?

This is what contributors may gain from participating in the series:
  • A collaborative review of practice in multistakeholder governance
  • Reviewing skills and principles of distributed organising in the mutual sector, via digital means
  • Reviewing the political economy of livelihood and contribution, in practice, in the mutual sector: voluntary and paid work, care work, sustainability, fair wage, federated provision
  • Cultivating practices of mutuality across sectors of our activist community which sometimes can fall into silos:
    • the coop tradition, and other pivotal orientations including . .
    • commons transition
    • decolonial, de-capitalist, de-patriarchal, intersectional organising, global-North/global-South
    • post-extractive economy (feminist economics, doughnut economics, solidarity economy)
    • free-libre software and peer-to-peer networks of provisioning
    • design justice, digital safety.

 And at the end of the project there will be documentation for you to mobilise, open source:
  • A model of a multistakeholder constitution, and the design rationale that underpins it.
  • A practice handbook for a multistakeholder, contribution-oriented, non-consumerist, infrastructure-providing coop.
  • Methodology of a project to design a distributed mutual-sector organisation, under principles of design justice.

The sessions

We aim to put what we learn, design and decide into a handbook: so we need a ‘filing system’. We’re using a frame from the sphere of commoning:
  • Political economy - the provisioning of a stack of digital-mediated spaces, as commons
  • Plural community - an intersection of diverse mutual-sector organisations and actors, participating in the coop in different ways; and
  • Assemblies and deliberations - the ‘machinery’ of stewarding a digital infrastructure.
Our member community is highly diverse and experienced, mostly comprising mutual-sector and coop-sector organisations. To mobilise this know-how, we’ll open each commons.hour with a handful of highlights from one of them. On one hand this brings their particular ’sectoral' experience and vision into the room, and on the other, it frames one specific area where we need to flesh out the protocols and principles of the coop, concretely, for purposes of governance. We plan this as a collaborative design process - a practice of design justice - spanning a series of twelve-or-so gatherings, one-a-month.

The full list of sessions is here: Running list of sessions

Our session-starters include May First Movement Technology (Mexico-USA), Supermarkt (Berlin), femProcomuns (Barcelona) and Remix the Commons (France-Canada), Commons Network (Amsterdam). We hope you will join us and them in building and sharing this wealth of insight and capability.

 Note it in your diary: commons.hour - fourth Monday, every month, 17:00h UTC