Here’s our translation of Bernardo Gutiérrez’s love letter to his home city, a place that’s still surprisingly alive and vibrant in the midst of the austerity meltdown affecting southern Europe.
Amidst the nebulous boomerang of history, the 20s live on as a red postcard of a burlesque cabaret in Dadaist Berlin. The 40s bring back an echo of immigrant tango dancers in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. The 80s’ vinyl soundtrack is filled with screaming punks from #post-industrial London. And the 2010s will be remembered for its occupied squares, vibrant streets and political-cultural creativity. It will be symbolised by Madrid. In a few years’ time, some will recall the tumultuous political situation, the police brutality or the unemployment, but the image that will go down in history is a vigorous, intensely social city with an open, cross-cutting, oblique, politicized public space connected to the world. The 2010s will be synonymous with a city that was self-governed by its citizens, driven by a gust of social innovation and unparalleled dynamism. The postcard, scattered with raised hands, will read: La Comuna de Madrid.
Madrid’s Commune—more spread out, diverse and cosmopolitan than the Paris Commune of 1871—will be remembered as the birthplace of communication-action, action-thought, thought-prototype. Madrid as effervescence in the streets and on the web. Madrid as a territorial collective imagination and breeding ground for techno-political projects, processes and actions. Madrid as a glocal people’s lab that looks to the world while including it at the same time. But it’s not all assemblies, actions and protests at the Madrid Commune. This city, whose network weaves across the whole of Spain, is also hatching a body of theory around these new practices. A bastard, remixed, promiscuous theory. A practice theory. “The commons has become an area of exchange, where the traditional commons meet free culture,” says researcher Adolfo Estalella, contextualizing his text in Madrid. And herein lies a little secret.
Since the late 90s, the Madrid free culture movement has become intertwined with social movements at squat centres such as El Laboratorio. While Berlin squatters remain rooted in punk aesthetics and conventional anti-fascism, the thirty-odd squat social centres in Madrid (Centros Sociales Ocupados) are creating a new horizontal, aggregate, online world. A new world imbued with hacker ethics that distorts the frontiers between off- and on-line, blurring the borders between countries and nation states.
These social centres are different. They are extensions of the occupied squares of spring 2011. Centres that merge the notions of inside and outside. Centres whose actions reach every urban space. Sure, Madrid had never had so many squat social centres, but the quantity isn’t what makes this new era in the city unique. What does La Comuna de Madrid taste like? What does it sound like? What does it smell like?
On the one hand, some of these venues transcend the definition of a squat social centre. They are more than that. They’re something different. The most paradigmatic example is La Tabacalera, an old factory handed over by the government to social movements in the multicultural neighbourhood of Lavapiés. La Tabacalera, which defines itself as a self-managed social centre, is a space that would fit into the partner state theory developed by Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation. The Esta es una plaza [This is a square] process, a self-managed park supported by a collective blog, has also had the consent of public authorities for many years. The partner state puts the governance of its spaces at society’s disposal. A networked, peer-to-peer, person-to-person society that self-organizes outside official institutions, but without rejecting them. This is what is happening at the Madrid Commune.
On the other hand, the spirit of the 15-M movement is creating a new kaleidoscope that is erasing the conventional squat from our collective imagination. From Patio Maravillas to La Morada in the neighbourhood of Chamberí, or the socio-cultural, liberated, self-governed centre El Eko in the area of Carabanchel, Madrid’s new social spaces are aggregate, diverse, plural, hybrid. And they don’t revolve around the old epicentre of “anti-system” antagonism. They are inventing and prototyping new worlds without having to frontally destroy today’s world. They build things, connections, processes, without antagonism. And the participation is much more intergenerational than it used to be some years ago. Madrid’s so-called Yayoflautas—the elderly of the 15-M movement—rehearse theatre plays at La Tabacalera, for example. The relation to technology has become far more intense as well.
In all these spaces, we see glimpses of the new world written in jargon and acronyms. An interesting text by Vivero de Iniciativas Ciudadanas [Breeding Ground for Citizens’ Initiatives] in Madrid uses terms like DIY (Do it Yourself), CO-, #, WIKI, MIDDLE-OUT, PRO-, P2P, DIWO (Do it with Others), SLOW-, CROWD-, DIT, @, OPEN, NET- or BOTTOM-UP to describe the new realm that is emerging in the city. Jargon and acronyms are commonly used in digital culture in an attempt to define horizontal, cross-cutting, networked, collaborative practices. So, what does the Madrid (P2P) Commune taste, sound and smell like?
An imperfect definition of a P2P (peer-to-peer) city would go something like this: a city whose nodes (streets, squares, parks) can be interconnected without passing through the centre. Person2Person. Square2Square. Park2Park. At the Madrid P2P Commune, the nodes/neighbourhoods have been reconnected using a logic distinct from that of city centre vs. outskirts. One of the great innovations of the Madrid P2P Commune lies in its open-air spaces. The 15-M movement’s early TomaLosBarrios initiative, which moved the Puerta del Sol encampment to neighbourhood assemblies, strengthened the already existing Comuna.
Ever since the late 90s, the skin-shedding has been gradual. All the 15-M movement has done is multiply and speed up the process. The Madrid P2P Commune began to take shape with the urban recycling/redefining of Basurama, ZooHaus, Left Hand Rotation or Boa Mistura. And with Zuloarks’s free license, low cost, temporary process-furniture such as the superbench or #Savethedinosaur. And with urban interventions by Todo por la Praxis, with their guide to Self-governed Urban Voids and their physical hacks such as the Guerrilla Bank. And with neighbourhood fabric regenerations by Paisaje Transversal. And with post-it galleries on walls and bus stops by La Galería de Magdalena.
The 15-M movement—the unavoidably common screensaver—invigorates the squares with political thought and action. A hundred political assemblies are held at Madrid’s P2P Commune today. The street, according to Adolfo Estalella, is not just the place where politics is exercised but also the political method itself. Henry Lefebvre’s “right to the city” is reborn day after day in Madrid, constantly mutating and recycling itself in the streets and online.
The above mentioned project Esta es una plaza paved the way to the hybrid city (digital networks + physical spaces). The Twittómetro, which took Acampada Sol assemblies from Puerta del Sol to the Internet, or the real time map of #Voces25S, created that digitalogical, physital, cybrid watercolour painting. Madrid’s P2P Commune is a city made of atoms and bytes, both virtual and analogical. Madrhybrid, as in a profusion of citizens’ streamings on PeopleWitness (a project born in Barcelona), or people wandering the city streets as they communicate with WhatsApp groups in real time, or a ThinkCommons.org session, where a virtual gathering of people from around the world is screened at a physical location.
The living city dreamt up by American Jane Jacobs, an icon of the humanization of urban planning, inhabits the hybrid P2P Commune of Madrid or the hashtag-action #BarriosDespiertos [awoken neighbourhoods], or initiatives such as El paseo de Jane [Jane’s walk], an urban walk-movement aimed at weaving together human networks in neighbourhoods. Madrid’s P2P Commune is a lively, bastard, interracial, profound, poetic, sexy postcard. University professors occupy the public space with 500 classrooms in just one day, including streaming and online coverage. And strangers meet in parks, squares or blogs at Desayunos ciudadanos [the people’s breakfasts].
So, what does Madrid’s P2P Commune taste-sound-smell like? Like the social life at El Campo de Cebada, recently granted the Golden Nica award by Ars Electrónica in the ‘digital communities’ category, El Campo de Cebada is an outdoor space, transversely and horizontally governed by its neighbours, where permaculture, beta architecture and free culture blend with an inspiring intergenerational-racial-cultural coexistence. At Madrid’s P2P Commune, the question isn’t so much what to do but how to do it. That’s why the city-world is devoted to the new concept of how-toism: the crux of the matter lies in the transversal, inclusive, interdisciplinary, heterogeneous processes and methodologies used.
Madrid’s P2P Commune is copyleft (free to copy). Its squares are copyleft. Anybody can sit down and talk, film it, share it with the world. Film your square. Copy it. Upload it to the MediaTeletipos cloud. The self is reborn in the we. Much to the annoyance of fanatical neoliberal individualism, this P2P Commune is DIWO: a Do it With Others, collaborative city. Fundación Robo isn’t a person. There are no leaders, no faces. It’s just us. The songs are collective. They are tranferable. In DIWO Madrid, the classic Bici crítica—a collective bike ride with no particular destination—transmutes into the Plano de Calles Tranquilas [map of quiet streets] or into a bar and co-working space called La Bicicleta, which began as a crowdfunding project. You can’t do it alone. You can with friends.
In the Madrid of the 80s narrated by singer-songwriter Joaquín Sabina, “the sun was a butane gas heater” and there were “syringes in the lavatory”. Unemployment. Junkies. Beer-drinking rock. At the Madrid Commune, there is unemployment, but the trans-, the co-, the inter-, the plural take precedence. So does the RAM Culture, a new cultural paradigm based on exchange and relationships rather than accumulation. Do it with others. Share books at Bookcamping.cc. Exchange your time at the NOCKIN bank. Share an Internet connection with your neighbour at WIFIS.org. Drink free knowledge at the Traficantes de Sueños bookshop/publisher. Lose yourself on a hacker sightseeing tour at the Loginmadrid project, where each local person functions as a password that allows the visitor to explore different neighbourhoods. Madrid’s P2P Commune tastes-smells-sounds like serendipity, random encounters, open culture, cross-over innovations.
In the early 90s, Madrid was still that “sea of tar, domain of the state” that the heavy metal band Barón Rojo ranted about. A #PostMetropolis divided into a centre filled with institutions and a working-class periphery emotionally disconnected from the heart of the city. Today, Madrid’s P2P Commune is a maze of interconnected public spaces that grows and mutates on the margins of governments and institutions. It shares ideas, it co-creates. It doesn’t rely on the Establishment, but doesn’t antagonize it either.
The city is simply reborn without asking for permission to occupy its inert or vacant spaces. At the San Fernando market in Lavapiés, for example, books are sold by the kilo at La Casqueria and vegetables coexist with free software. The city reconfigures itself crosswise, cross-border, asymmetrically. At open seminars such as Hack the Academy Studio, where academia tears down its walls and allows citizens to participate. At La Mesa Ciudadana [The Citizens’ Table], experts, amateurs, architects, artists, multidisciplinary networkers and city hall technicians get together to cook-think.
Madrid’s P2P Commune is the birthplace of the concept Extitución [Extitution]. If institutions are organizational systems based on an inside-outside framework, extitutions are designed as areas where a multitude of agents can spontaneously assemble. Liquid, flexible, inclusive, itinerant, post-it extitutions. Extitutions such as Intermediae, forged with free software and transversal participation, which sometimes holds its meetings-debates at the Matadero, but also at various other urban locations. Extitutions such as MediaLab Prado, which offers its body to communities, cooks open science, yawns multiple prototypes, transforms citizens into sensors (see Data Citizen Driven City) or its façade into a shared, recoverable, playable screen.
Spanish poet Antonio Machado once described Madrid as the breakwater of every Spain. In the 2010s, Madrid is a revamped breakwater of every square, continent, language and network. Toma la plaza. Take the square. Nationality is irrelevant. La Comuna’s area of debate is the world. Within the hyperlocal there is a global beat. People protect immigrants from the police. In common spaces—whether it’s La Tabacalera, El Campo de Cebada or MediaLab Prado—multiculturalism is the rule. And a growing galaxy of intercultural projects based in the city, such as Lab Latino, Inteligencias Colectivas, Red Trans Ibérica or Curator’s Network, connect affect networks throughout the planet by developing projects in other countries.
If this ungovernable city of layers—multicultural puzzle; national, micro-macro-cry—were governed by bright politicians, they would have already turned such effervescence into the “Madrid brand”. Madrid would be reliving La Movida all over again, a cooler Movida than that of Almodóvar. Or a Movida 2.0, designed to attract tourists, which would end up watering down the initiatives.
All the better if nobody takes over the narrative. Let it be a volcanic co-creation with no name. An almost invisible, choral, subterranean river. Let Madrid’s P2P Commune be a soft, yet constant, breeze; let it be rhizome; an ocean where glocal affect navigates amidst the macroeconomic storm. Let La Comuna P2P de Madrid be at least barely understood a few decades from now. Let it go down in history as the first stone, the prototype that—square by square, word by word, concept by concept—gradually replaced the old world without anyone even noticing.
Article translated by Arianne Sved, edited by Susa Oñate – Guerrilla Translation!
This translation has also been republished on:
This short piece, written by Bernardo Gutiérrez, defines and describes a number of traditional terms and practices, originating in Latin America’s indigenous cultures, which find their mirrors in the modern P2P and commons lexicon. This piece originally appeared on Yorukubu.
The native peoples anticipated the much-touted sharing economy by a few centuries. While the current global crisis pushes capitalism towards an irreversible mutation, our vision of a post-capitalist future is remarkably similar to the pre-capitalist origins of indigenous America.”
The sharing economy is on the rise. Crowdsourcing (the externalization of process to multitudes working online) is on the lips of every guru. Crowdfunding, or collective financing, is making its mark in areas like culture. The P2P Society, as presented by respected figures like Yochai Benkler and Michel Bauwens, is more horizontal and participatory, goes beyond strictly economic returns, and may be the light at the tunnel of oppressive, dark capitalism.
The commons, the common good and common resources are all the rage; co-working is no longer a passing fad, but a real thing. Of course, there are those who’ll only give credit to these new practices/realities when they’re recommended by a Silicon Valley icon, and only if they’re accompanied by an English name.
Here’s the paradox: Words like “the commons” already exist in Spanish, and have existed since Antonio Nebrija published the first Spanish dictionary in 1492. And, surprise: If we look at Pre-Columbian American traditions, we can see that the indigenous people were already practicing forms of crowdfunding, crowdsourcing and other 2.0-era participatory dynamics. The arrival of African peoples, with their strong collective traditions, also turned America (particularly Latin America) into a spectacular commons-based territory. Pre-capitalist America was as cool and chic and 2.0 as it gets, right? And it still is. The native peoples anticipated the much-touted sharing economy by a few centuries. While the current global crisis pushes capitalism towards an irreversible mutation, our vision of a post-capitalist future is remarkably similar to the pre-capitalist origins of indigenous America.
A warning to skeptics: I’ve cooked up a quick overview of some of the terms and collaborative practices of Latin America’s indigenous communities. Anyone can remix this or complete the list as they like; without a doubt, it’s just an approximation.
Tequio: Tequio is a very popular type of work for collective benefit in the Zapotec culture. Community members contribute materials or labor to carry out construction work for the community. This could take the form of a school, a well, or a road. An individual can never be the sole beneficiary of tequio. It has a touch of crowdsourcing, a little crowdfunding and a lot of commons built into it. Tequio is still practiced in some Mexican States. In the State of Oaxaca, tequio is protected by state law. There are other terms for similar practices such as “gozona”, or, “a mano vuelta” (changed hands) labor.
Potlach: Indigenous tribes in the Pacific Northwest carried out an exchange ritual that is, in practice, identical to the peer-to-peer file sharing of the Digital Age. Potlach, as used by the Haida, Tlingit, Tsimshian, Salish, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Kwakiutl peoples was P2P through and through. Potlatch isn’t exactly barter. The communities distributed food (principally seal meat and salmon) and wealth to other tribes that hadn’t had a plentiful season. Here’s an important detail: some European colonizers became remarkably rich thanks to potlatching. The same as those superstar artists who, according to some studies, benefit from file sharing amongst users, even though some insist on calling it piracy.
Guelaguetza: The guelaguetza tradition, from the Mexican State of Oaxaca, can be described as cross between a potlatch and a tequio. The term describes “a reciprocal exchange of goods and services”. Its practice is woven from the reciprocal relations that tie people together. It’s the starting point for family and even village and territory-wide cooperative networks. The guelaguetza also evolved to a syncretic sort of celebration held in the town of Oaxaca.
Minga: Minga is a Quechua term defining an ancestral mechanism for collective work that’s very common in Ecuador and the north of Perú. The common objective is always more important than any individual benefit. Collaboration trumps competition. In effect, it’s 100% reminiscent of crowdsourcing or a commons-based economy. It’s no coincidence that Cultura Senda, a collective for the promotion of networked cultures, has held workshops in Quito called “Open Minga”. Minga, according to Cultura Senda’s own description, “implies the challenge of overcoming selfishness, narcissism, mistrust, prejudice and jealousy; the misfortunes that regularly allay collective work and social mobilization.” In fact, “it implies learning to listen and to comply, while making proposals”.
Ayni: Ayni is a term with a meaning that’s closely related to minga. It describes a system of work and family reciprocity among members of the ayllu (a community working on collective land). It is commonly exemplified in the sharing of tasks such as agriculture, shepherding, cooking or house construction. The tradition is still alive, not only in many peasant communities, but among the mestizo populations of Ecuador, Bolivia and Chile. Any Time Bank or hours exchange system, such as those of the Spanish 15M movement, could, in essence, be described as an ayni.
Mutirão: This is originally a Tupi term used in Brazil to describe collective mobilizations based on non-remunerated mutual help. Wikipedia’s Brazilian Portuguese definition for mutirão is very telling: “An expression originally used in field work for the civil construction of community houses where everyone is a beneficiary and offers mutual help through a rotating, non-hierarchical system”. It’s often used to describe collective, unpaid actions such as park, street and school maintenance. There are plenty of words that also describe this sort of communal action: muxirão, muxirã, muxirom, muquirão, putirão, putirom, putirum, pixurum, ponxirão, punxirão and puxirum.
Córima: The Rarámuri people of Mexico’s Chihuahua mountains use the word “córima” to describe an act of solidarity with someone who’s having trouble. Not offering córima to someone who needs help is considered both a breach of an obligation and an offense. The definition could also describe “the practice of the common good”. It’s not really related to charity, as the Rarámuri are as far removed from Catholic morality as you can get. The utmost authority overseeing all village decisions is a community assembly, much like what we’ve seen in the 15M movement, Occupy Wall Street and Mexico’s #YoSoy32.
Maloka: Maloca (or maloka in Portuguese) is an indigenous communal house found in the indigenous Amazon region of Colombia and Brazil. These are cohabited by different families. They share their workspace, like any modern co-working space. Property is collective, as in Europe’s squatter communities. They live, in effect, by and for the commons. At night, the maloca becomes a knowledge center where stories, myths and legends are told. The tents present at Tahir Square in Cairo, in Madrid’s Puerta del Sol or in Zuccoti Park, New York during Occupy, are the modern techno-digital versions of the Amazon’s collective houses.
Article translated by Jane Loes Lipton and Stacco Troncoso – Guerrilla Translation!
This translation has also been published in:
The following article, written by our good friend Bernardo Gutiérrez, looks at MediaLab Prado, a very special hybrid space in our hometown, Madrid. This translation features additional original content by the author (not originally published in the Spanish media article), citing MediaLab as one of the spaces where the initial gestalt of the early 15M movement was collaboratively created. It has subsequently been republished in Shareable magazine, and the website for The 2013 Economics and the Commons Conference.Image adapted from an original at Nómada Blog
It seems that “lab” is the word making the rounds amongst innovation buffs these days . Maybe the term “laboratory” isn’t the most appropriate analog, given that its dictionary definition, “a facility that provides controlled conditions in which scientific research, experiments, and measurement may be performed”, falls short in describing the present day use of “lab”, and what these spaces are about.
This divergence of terms originated with the foundation of the first Media Lab at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), in 1985, a space characterized by its convergence of technology, multimedia art and design. However, in recent years, MIT’s model seems obsolete and at a standstill, especially when compared to a newer and more relevant generations of labs. Madrid’s MediaLab Prado, currently celebrating its tenth anniversary at a new location -la Serrería Belga– stands out as the premier reference points for labs worldwide.
So, what is a lab, exactly? A technical laboratory? A multidisciplinary space open to the public? Rather than nailing down one definition, it may be better to observe some of these labs worldwide, and notice the local idiosyncrasies. Any city eager to reinvent itself and adapt to the networked society invests in an urban lab, such as the Laboratorio Procomún in Rosario, Argentina. Cultural centers like, for example, Ljudmila Media Lab (Liubliana, Slovenia) are currently mutating into places where the artistic paradigm goes beyond art objects. Digital art spaces, such as the prestigious Eyebeam in New York, are recycling themselves following collaborative models. All of the above share a common source of inspiration: Medialab Prado Madrid.
This could likely be said about many other institutions, labs, universities and cultural centres around the world. Any city would be proud to host something like a Medialab Prado. What is it about this media lab’s DNA that makes it so desirable in areas as diverse as technological innovation, culture and civic participation?
The key to MediaLab Prado’s success may be held in a definition first proposed by José Luis de Vicente: “it’s a community incubator”. In fact, both words, “community” and “incubator”, have been the trend amongst Silicon Valley circles and community managers alike. It’s also worth noting that, as terms, they are seldom seen together. And, as Juan Freire and Antoni Gutiérrez Rubí express in their book “Manifiesto Crowd”, in the age of networks, innovation walks a different path. “The factories that were churning out companies in the 20th century are dead. The 21st century is witness to the birth of spaces for collective innovation”. An incubator lacking a community will never be enough. This is the reason why a lab – both in its physical and digital realms – needs to be an open platform. And that is precisely why MediaLab Prado has become such a a relevant space for coexistence, innovation and mutual co-creation.
MediaLab Prado is both a physical and a digital platform. Physically, it’s a space where anyone can walk in, while online it functions as a laboratory for connecting ideas. MediaLab Prado is an interdisciplinary workspace for creation and innovation. And here’s an important detail: its strength doesn’t reside in its own programming, put together by stewards and specialists. It lies instead in the various working groups, projects and encounters collectively cooked up by the citizen communities who frequent Medialab’s headquarters, or participate in its digital channels. Every Friday, for example, there’s an open lab where anyone can collaborate with anyone else in the creation of new projects.
Another defining feature is its focus on prototyping – another digital culture and IT term. Prototyping culture doesn’t seek definitive or finished products; instead, it prefers to function in a transparent and collective manner, employing open projects in a constant, citizen-fueled process of improvement. All in all, MediaLab Prado has become a catalyst for culture, technology, networks, science, education, and innovation.
Evidently, MediaLab Prado’s official areas of competence are both necessary and relevant. Interactivos? (a laboratory for creative and educative technological applications) Visualizar (data and citizenship visualization) or its Commons Lab (transversal investigation centered on the Commons) are clear international reference points. Additionally, self managed working groups, such as “Funcionamientos: Diseños abiertos y remezcla social” (Functioning: Open design and social remixes) or “Género y Tecnología” (Genre and Tech) are just as influential. MediaLab Prado cannot simply be described as a “Cultural Centre”, as it is so much more than a building populated with works of art or technological infrastructures. It’s a connector, a hub, a platform for the collective intelligence that is transforming industry, economics, technology, education and art throughout the whole planet.
In fact, it’s been one of the citizen hubs where civic activism slowly forged the 15-M/ Indignado movement that heralded Occupy Wall Street and the global revolution. To give an example, in early 2011, while Spanish mass-media ignored collectives such as Democracia Real Ya or Juventud sin Futuro, the Redada Encounters in MediaLab Prado transformed an incumbent and collective -as opposed to hierarchical- form of web activism into a palpable phenomenon. Open code practices, now essential to modern activism, have always been central to MediaLab Prado.
The challenges in this new chapter in MediaLab Prado’s history are undoubtedly many. One of the most important will be channeling corporate innovation and navigating new economic paradigms. At a time in which The Economist, no less, dedicates its front page to the sharing economy, MediaLab Prado is in a better position than many. By developing its own trajectory, it could well become a great catalyst for the future networks of innovation, open culture and citizen intelligence that will soon be needed in Europe. In fact, connections established within MediaLab Prado in these last few years have given rise to projects and citizen start-ups such as MLP, Play the Magic, Open Materials, Hackteria, Lummo, Muimota, Máster DIWO, Ultralab and Data Citizen Driven City, amongst many others. Certain working groups, like IoT Madrid (Internet de las Cosas) or exhibitory projects such as Impresoras 3D: Makerbot y Reprap clearly lead the way to the future.
Living at a time when most of the world’s population is concentrated in cities, urban innovation may well be MediaLab Prado’s greatest challenge. It’s no coincidence that some of the most influential labs in the world, such as CityLab in Cornellà, Barcelona or the BMW Guggenheimlab in New York, are focusing their efforts on urban innovation. This is the reason why Medialab Prado’s new location at the heart of historic Madrid is so essential. Its urban vocation is most evident in working groups such as Ciudad y Procomún, the new Ciencia Ciudadana (Citizen Science) station or projects like Hacer barrio or Quality Eggs.
The history of Barrio de las Letras -or “writer’s district”- where Medialab Prado is currently located, is another key facet. The scientific institutions of the 18th Century were responsible for the first major developmental push in Madrid, which then led to the expansion of Barrio de las Letras. During this time, the city witnessed the construction of the Botanical Garden, the Astronomical Observatory, the Academy of the Sciences (which now houses the Prado Museum) and the General Hospital (currently housing the Reina Sofía Museum) and the “Gabinet de Máquinas” a demolished Industrial Engineering museum from that era and situated quite close to the old Army Museum. All of this frantic building activity took place in less than 3 decades. MediaLab Prado´s new location in the Serrería Belga, an old abandoned industrial building, is another telling metaphor of an industrial era that left so many urban carcasses in its wake.
In summary, the conversion of an old, abandoned, industrial space into an citizen innovation lab in the same area where literature and science flourished in centuries past, is a promising metaphor indeed. MediaLab Prado is one of the closest examples of the new Partner State proposed by Michel Bauwens, founder of the P2P Foundation. A State which guarantees the necessary space and resources to activate a P2P society’s collective intelligence for the improvement of the Commons.
Collaboration, networking, transversality, openness, free licenses, remixing, transnationality. On March 20, the hashtag #GlobalP2P suddenly vaulted up among Twitter’s most globally used. One detail: it had never before been a TT(Trending Topic) in any country. Afterwards, it took place as the most watched among many. #GlobalP2P was a choral cry. #GlobalP2P was an insistent echo raising the visibility of the P2P Foundation ‘s Wikisprint event (a mapping of experiences happening around the commons and peer-to-peer) taking place that day in Latin America and Southern Europe. The explosion of #GlobalP2P as a global trend was no accident. There was strategy behind it. The hashtag #P2PWikisprint had had a few weeks to gear up. It came about in a decentralized way, hence its big leap to the global TT. Above all, there was a very intensive process already in place, common among hundreds of groups, networks, activists, foundations, thinkers, universities … and even some governments, both local and supranational.
This spectacular graphic visualization of #GlobalP2P, 24 hours of transnational P2P, produced by Outliers studio, highlights the incredible web of connections that appeared during that day. Some links had already existed. Others emerged. In just one day, 235 projects were mapped in the P2P Foundation wiki. And most importantly: as projects connected, new ones were born. In the upper-left corner, we can see how concepts intermingled, in spite of the normal tendency towards inbreeding. At 13:00 (GMT+1), free and open culture, government, network, and people were discussed. At the bottom left, you can see the accounts talking with one another, showing high rates of transnationality, regardless of borders.
The most interesting thing about #P2PWikisprint is its survival as a process. As an expanded community. As a transnational network. The coming months may bring more wikisprints. But without a doubt, there will be unplanned and unexpected things developing around the #GlobalP2P. The Open Latin America (working title) campaign has already launched. And one idea in the works is to create distributed hackatones, to build a mobile app to find a way to geolocate, in every city, the networks, communities and/or people who work for the common good.
This text has a goal: to share the methodology. I’ll reveal a few details about the process, which may not be obvious at first glance, so that anyone can replicate the experience. These 13 keys summarize the essence of this process. They could be applied to many other fields.
— ❦ Mario Tascón (@mtascon) March 20, 2013
1. Circle of friends networks. The process would not have been possible without networks of confidence. A personal message sent to a hundred people at the end of 2012 wouldn’t have worked without an established network of trust. Mindmapping which networks, groups and individuals that one could get involved with in #P2PWikisprint was a vital step. The cross connection of different profiles generated a new network, also based on mutual trust, information sharing and personal connections and affections.
2. Open process. The second step was to create a Spanish-language mailing list for the P2P project called “Our Project”. Anyone can subscribe to this open list, without invitation. It wasn’t public at first. We used a personal referral strategy: each person was involved in building the community. This is how we created the network. Transparency – we even created an open document in order to add new members to the list – boosted confidence in the process. However, the list maintains the ethics of netiquette. Good online manners, with minimal static. It wasn’t always necessary to write to the entire list (as a centralized network would encourage). Better to send personal emails to a specific people, to strengthen the autonomy of the nodes.
3. Produ-communication. Production processes must be intimately tied to communication processes. Launching a campaign with a D-Day-like concrete objective may not be as effective in the network age. Communication as nothing more than marketing just doesn’t hold up anymore. We kept the procedure for #P2PWikisprint totally open from the get-go. To do this, we made use of the TitanPad platform. Every document we created – like this one, listing all the cities involved in the summons- was left open for anyone in the world to see. Documentation becomes communication, and communication is a form of action. Action-communication joined as a unit, acting as one.
4. Collaboratory Economy. The whole #P2PWikisprint process lacked financial resources. Every person, collective or institution involved, came together voluntarily and unpaid. Collective enthusiasm served as the (intangible) fuel for the whole process. #P2PWikisprint reinforced the commons-based peer production thesis as proposed by Yochai Benkler. Collaboration amongst great numbers of non-hierarchically organised individuals can be more effective than vertical organization. Besides, Benkler defends that money isn’t the sole motivator for human activity. It’s possible that, given a budget, #P2PWikisprint could have had a wider impact, but a centralized communication agency endowed with a large budget wouldn’t have produced the same outcome.
5. Ethical Framework. “Intense regulation allows for great liberty, and said liberty favours proliferation”. Guillermo Zapata, in his Spanish language article, “Más libertad… más regulación” (More liberty… more regulation), reflects on how a minimal set of very rigid rules can generate a great amount of freedom. We see this in Open Software where we find “..great freedom of usage, as long as…” the four basic freedoms are respected. The criteria for inclusion in Wikisprint – open input, participatory production and governance process and commons-oriented output – were rigid, but I’d rather define them as “freeing”. Or as a solid ethical framework. Whoever doesn’t adjust to the ethical framework is automatically excluded from the Wikisprint.
6. Maximum Common Multiplier. “Rather than searching for a minimum common denominator, it’s about a maximum common multiplier that extols particular qualities.” This sentence, part of the brilliant study made by Wu Ming Collective on T.E. Lawrence’s Guerrilla Theory, could be used to describe the essence of #P2PWikisprint. That which binds us, the minimum common denominator, is the rigid ethical framework. It isn’t enough. The maximum common multiplier represents what we could achieve by multiplying skills, resources and/or enthusiasm. We will not conform to the Minimum That Unites Us. We aspire to a maximum common multiplier.
7. Expanded Communication. Distributed Action. “All change means disorganization of the old and organization of the new.” Extracted from Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals”, the above quote permeates the whole of the #P2Pwikisprint – #GlobalP2P process. A centralised process would have been a mistake. That’s why we created a communication strategy that was open, expanded and P2P. Any organization could adapt a P2P press release by adding their name and sending it to their contacts in the media. Any action-communication concordant with the ethics code was valid. In Bueno Aires they produced an animation video. In Bilbao they illustrated text with drawings. In Mexico they celebrated a week’s worth of activities. In disorder we found our equilibrium.
Final session of the #P2PWikisprint special on the ThinkCommons.org platform
8. Hybrid Spaces. The Wikisprint also featured an important physical dimension. Meeting on the ground and speaking in the analogue realm was essential to the process. Many cities held face-to-face sessions. We simultaneously held a video-streaming Google hangout, hosted by the ThinkCommons.org platform featuring guests from across the globe. The video stream aired for nearly 14 hours. Some of these were held, face to face, at MediaLab Prado (Madrid, Spain) and Tabakalera (San Sebastian, Spain), tying in virtual and analogue spaces. Every single session from the special P2PWikisprint remains freely accessible on the Internet.
9. This is not a Trending Topic. The #GlobalP2P hashtag was chosen to encourage a global Trending Topic via Twitter. #P2PWikisprint wouldn’t do, given that Twitter penalises previously used hashtags. This action was collaboratively planned through the use of a Pad featuring general guidelines, following the same template found in the 15M and #GlobalRevolution milieu. Soon after its release, it became the 6th ranking global TT. Afterwards, it remained a TT in some countries. #GlobalP2P managed to hold its ground very strongly, especially in Spain. Achieving a TT should never be an objective in and of itself. Visualization, setting an agenda, feeding a process, building a network and creating community will always have more importance.
10. DIffuse Objective. “…but suppose they were an influence, a thing invulnerable, intangible, without front or back, drifting about like a gas?” T.E: Lawrence, writing in 1929 what would become his essay on Guerrilla Warfare, studied the conditions that allowed the victory of the Arabs over the Turks in 1916, and forever changed the logic of campaign and confrontations (not exclusively military ones). The lack of a clear, unique, visible objective can be advantageous. Best to become like vapour, drift about like gas. Fighting against a concrete enemy can be a tactical error. Guerrilla Communication has to be like the wind. Tactics are lateral, transversal, peripheral. Curtailing those initiatives in #P2PWikisprint that looked to go beyond mapping P2P initiatives (the initial objective) would have been an error. But vying to determine a common, unique objective could have led to a failure.
Everything was possible during #P2PWikisprint. It was all fair game within the ethical code. The new #GlobalP2P could hardly be described as a united force. #GlobalP2P, to paraphrase T.E. Lawrence, was like a dispersed vapour carried by the wind.
11. Imagery. How might the maximum number of people visualise “Wikisprint” or “P2P”, two words altogether outside of everyday vocabulary? By creating imagery. Mass media likes to link P2P to piracy. Exchanging music = piracy. In truth, sharing, generosity and collaboration are the more characteristic traits of peer-to-peer dynamics. P2P logic goes beyond merely cultural considerations. It’s scalable to economics, politics, ecology…. would it make sense to take advantage of #P2PWikisprint to declare war against the content industry? #No. It’s best to create new imagery. Give shape to a collective wish. Create an indestructible narrative. Because, in much the same way the Turks expelled the Arabs with lesser numbers, for us “the contest was not physical, but moral”. There’s nothing better than a new narrative to tear down the sharing = piracy cliché. Nothing more solid than intangible imagery. The exchange of toys amongst children that took place at the Museo del Juguete Antiguo (Antique Toy Museum) in Mexico DF represents a scene capable of demolishing the arguments of any lobby: P2P= children sharing affection.
12. Transverse connections, transnational connections. Outliers used a new type of indicator for visualizations: a transnational index of tweets. International information exchange was a constant during #P2PWIkisprint. Transnational exchange was over 40% for most of the day. On March 21st, at 05:00 GMT, it rose to 100%. Transnationality was much higher than the median for other global initiatives. Outliers, for example, calculated the transnational percentage of tweets for #15oct (the global mobilization held on the 15th of October of 2011) at around 5%. #GlobalP2P was characterised by dialogue, connection and the empathy of many peers, transcending all national considerations, nation states and political frontiers. Additionally, we witnessed the creation of múltiple, unprecedented spaces for asymmetrical dialogue. During #P2PWikisprint both regional governments – Rio Grande do Sul (Brasil), for example- and supranational organizations, such as The Iberoamerican General Secretariat (SEGIB), spoke on a one-to-one basis with activists from 15M, Occupy Wall Street and #YoSoy132.
13. Liquid Membership. Participation in the #GlobalP2P process, even at the mailing list member level, has some interesting quirks. You don’t take part in #GlobalP2P with a sense of absolutely belonging to a community. There is, however, a sense of community spirit. Association with the #GlobalP2P process is a lot more flexible than the militancy of a political party or collective, or following a religion or supporting a football team. Flexibility lies at the heart of #GlobalP2P’s strength, a functioning process much like the swarms described in Kevin Kelly’s Out of Control. Allowing for escape from the swarm, the possibility of dispersion, guarantees its strength. You can fly with #GlobalP2P for a while, like a bird in a flock. You can leave the flock at any stage, and join another. The ethical framework and moral commitment will incite a return to the flock for specific actions. The wind that was #GlobalP2P shall shake up the net once again.
This translation has been republished on:
“The old protests, so dull and single-minded, have passed into obsolescence, and given rise to infinite possibility. We’ve rethought the concepts of action, protest, relationship, the public, the common…”
In the collective text, This is Not a Demostration, we find a hidden corner of thoughtfulness completely ignored by mass media. This is Not a Demonstration isn’t an exercise in nostalgia. There’s no sense of longing for that Vibrant Mass that Occupied the Squares which formed that unpredictable collective body, the tangle of relationships some call “The 15-M Movement”.
This is Not a Demonstration has taken all-inclusive stock of actions, processes and projects which simply can’t be done justice by the old lexicon of protest. This is not a demonstration, we said: “And our imagination has totally overflowed the space of what’s possible, even as we build new worlds upon the carcass of the old”. This is not a demonstration. This is not a sum total. This is more than a rattling-off of victories. This is more than an echo of “we’re going slow, because we’re going far”.
Some of the media is too quick to bury “what’s left of 15M”. After the second anniversary protest of May 12th, which took place all across Spain, some will rush to hammer the final nail in 15M’s coffin. After the headcount, they’ll pick the photo with the sparsest crowd. They’ll even go so far as to manipulate some images, like any dictatorship would.
Alone in their cave, they’ll toast the funeral, reflected in the tarnished mirror of old-world media. They won’t see the details, the process, the steady drip. They will not take note. They will not listen. They will not read this text.
Surely, 15M is too complicated to be easily categorized, explained, translated. Besides, the eye sees what it’s used to seeing, as Amador Fernández-Savater reminds us in his highly recommended Seeing the Invisible: on Unicorns and the 15-M Movement. But it might just be possible to catch a glimpse of its transformative power by describing the little things, the modest dreams, the collective projects, invisible to many. There´s no need for that utopia of May 68, that ridiculous “Beneath the paving stones, the beach” which never materialised. There´s no need for it because 15M has already built its own: dozens, hundreds, thousands of networked micro-utopias. 15M has no use for a utopian model because it already has one, hundreds, thousands, of working prototypes. Micro-utopian prototypes, connected amongst themselves and (almost) in real time.
Keyword: Prototype. “An early sample or model built to test a concept or process or to act as a thing to be replicated or learned from”. Digital culture, copyleft processes and the hacker ethic, so pervasive in the leadup to 15M, all imbued their spirit in this new revolution of the connected crowd. The working prototype, within this new, open, process-based world, replaces any fixed model. And 15M is still churning out prototypes. It has built them collectively, as a network and in an open way.
The initial Acampada Sol (encampment at Madrid’s Puerta del Sol square) wasn’t made up of groups protesting the collapse of the system. Within the encampments were prototypes for the new world. And the devil was in the details: its day-care centers, its open libraries, its food gardens, its video streaming, its analogue and digital mechanisms for proposing change. 15M – whether seen as a signal, a movement, a state of being or a set of human interactions – has built its prototypes, and they’re many: judicial, urban, cultural, economical, technological, communicative, political, affective.
The true power of 15M doesn’t lie in its (necessarily) reactionary collective defense of the welfare state. Its real, and massive, hidden strength is in its creative, innovative, proposal-oriented nature. Given our willfully blind politicians and media, increasing the visibility of these real, shareable, living prototypes is crucial, now more than ever. But it’s not a list we need, it´s more like an act of poetic justice. A subjective inventory, giving shape to something so big we don’t yet have a name for it.
As we’ve been saying for some time, being happy is our best revenge.
PROTOTYPE 1 / THE METHOD MICRO-UTOPIAImage: Ondas de Ruído. Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0
The encampments of 2011, specifically their restoration of community assemblies, took the political old guard by surprise. Here were non-hierarchical, open assemblies that anyone could take part in. For the first time in decades, we saw political assemblies held in public spaces. Assemblies that turned into method, human hardware for uniting urban citizens. The need for consensus arose from a spirit of dialogue and coexistence, born in reaction to the visceral antagonism of the old political class: we won’t go until we reach an agreement. Following the erosion of the mechanisms of consensus during the encampments, the strategy of geographical and thematic diaspora came into being. #TomaLosBarrios (#TakeTheHoods). #TomaLaPlaya (#TakeTheBeach). #TomaLoqueQuieras (#TakeWhateverYouWant. Join with others. Open it up. And, from the hardships of coexistence, the slow nature of consensus, from decentralization, the workings of autonomy emerged..
In free software jargon, “fork” describes a peaceful deviation within a common project. The term was quickly adopted in 15M citizen politics. The newly formed Comité Disperso (Scatttered Committee) sums up 15M’s fresh ways of dealing with an assortment of processes. “You can be there without always being there. You can be, without being the same. You can participate without needing to tie yourself to anything or giving up your autonomy. Acting from mutual respect, scattered organization allows varying degrees of collaboration amongst people and collectives, according to their own wishes, goals and abilities at any given moment”. It isn’t surprising then that Partido X, Partido del Futuro, which forked out from 15M, defines itself as “a method”.
PROTOTYPE 2 / THE URBAN MICRO-UTOPIAImage: Campo de Cebada. Creative Commons Share Alike 2.0
The encampments led to a double mutation of urban space. First: the shift from public space into common space. Public squares, beset by excessive prohibitions and the privatization of their usage, were reborn as the urban commons. A leaderless, non-hierarchical citizen network organized this urban space “peer-to-peer”, consisting of interconnected public squares.
Second mutation: hybrid space. These weren’t squares made of paving stones. These squares were of bits and atoms. Analogue and digital life were intimately intertwined, inseparable. During the encampment at Sol, theTwittómetro connected networks and public squares, virtual and physical spaces. The #AbreTuWIFI, (#OpenYourWifi) campaign, which encourages people to open their home WI-FI access during protests to allow easy communication, nurtured this new hybrid urban space. Another good example is the #Voces25S map, created to protect mass groups from police violence. You only had to tweet from your GPS-activated mobile phone to lay out the “digital rug” over the physical city-space.
The first of the two mutations described above is building a network of former public spaces, now transformed into self-organising, self-governed places bristling with activity, like Madrid’s Campo de Cebada, recent winner of Ars Electronica’s prestigious Golden Nica Award in the Digital Communities category. These spaces are often supported in part by stale, dried up public institutions desperate for new ideas. The second mutation is branching out through Convoca!, a mobile app that allows you to check in at gatherings, protests, events or encampments. Both mutations coalesce in a melting pot of networked spaces, connecting peers locally and globally, beyond institutions or boundaries, on the fringes of commercial logic.
PROTOTYPE 3 /THE COMMUNICATION MICRO-UTOPIAImage: Fotomovimiento.org
Very few countries have put into practice sociologist Manuel Castells’ concept of “mass self-communication” at the same level as Spain. Under the nose of a mass media trapped in its clichés and corporate compromises, 15M created an historically unparalleled system of mass communication. It introduced transparency as a method: video streaming of assemblies, open minutes and documents for every meeting, a transparency at once action and communication. From the get-go, 15M produced better live-streamed media of protests than anyone else. TV grew increasingly irrelevant when compared to on-the-ground video streaming as exemplified by People Witness or Toma La Tele. The revolution had finally been televised, contrary to Gil Scott Heron’s prediction (The Revolution will not be televised). What’s more, some written media, after seeing the global impact of SolTV and citizen-streaming, felt the need to catch up by aping the method and providing live video too.
A good number of photopress agencies lost some lustre to the explosive, poetic material showcased by FotoMovimiento. Meanwhile Audiovisol, Agora SolRadio or the printed-paper Periódico 15M have set the new standard in intelligent mass self-communication.
Some new media such as ElDiario.es, La Marea, Reset Project, Revista Números Rojos or Café amb Llet were born steeped in the micro-utopic communicative spirit of 15M. And if that wasn’t enough, let’s not forget 15M’s role as a global Twitter-trending-topic machine, planned on collective pads such as this one, and which are already being studied in the communication programs of universities worldwide.
PROTOTYPE 4/ MICRO-UTOPIA IN FEMININE
Vídeo: presenting the Zorras Mutantes (Mutant “Ho”s) in Sol General Assembly, 3rd of May 2012.
Spanish, being a gender-based language, was hacked to be gender-flexible (from nosotros to nosotras) early on in the encampments. We started seeing men speaking very naturally in feminine/gender inclusive forms of speech, a hugely significant detail. It’s a symbolic mutation, a step onwards from competition to collaboration. This is the tip of the iceberg of a new worldwide paradigm. I’m not referring to it as a Feminine Micro-utopia, because this shift runs much deeper than that. At the very least, we’re witnessing a remix of classical feminism, which, at times, has constructed the same kinds of antagonistic and categorical walls as “machismo”. 15M is creating a grounded, intuitive outgrowth of Donna Haraway’s utopian cyberfeminism.
The existence of assemblies such TransMaricaBollo (composed of LGBT collectives in Madrid) is another example of the micro-utopian aggregate, inclusive and genre-transcendent, that 15M as a movement is striving for. While not being central to the movement, the Zorras Mutantes assembly, which plays with the queer movement, polyamory and the jargon of “cyborg-feminism”, is another spark within this #PostFeminist, #PostPatriarcal micro-utopia. Here’s an extract from their manifesto: “We’re animal-human-machine-software hacking the limits of established norms (…) We’re on strike, striking against species and gender: we renounce our binary gender and human categorizations, arbitrary classifications of an imperialist tradition (…) We abhor subject-object dualism, possessive individualism and the right to own property, and we declare ourselves as metabodies.”.
PROTOTYPE 5 / THE COLLECTIVE CULTURE MICRO-UTOPIA
Copyleft culture – conceived as a reaction to copyright – directlly influenced 15M. Copyleft idealism and its legitimization of copying and recycling content was at an all-time high in the months leading up to 15M, due to the threat of the antipiracy Sinde Law. These intuitive, collective and unplanned tenets formed the backbone of the #GlobalRevolution. Public squares acquired copyleft traits, becoming ctrl+v spaces constantly mirrored in their digital doppelgangers through texts on how to camp, how to videotape in a constant and unprecedented barrage of infectious creativity.
Born in the wake of 15M’s explosive appearance, Fundación Robo (or, “Steal this Foundation”), diluted the concept of individual authorship, churning out songs authored by the collective identity of Robo (Steal). Freely downloadable songs, under open licenses. Meanwhile, Asalto (Assault), Robo’s literary counterpart, was born soon afterwards, with its collective literature and poetic snippets remixed into intense “Collective Assaults”. And Plazas Invisibles (Invisible Squares), as written by Italo Calvino with the 99%. And VocesConFutura, visual shout-outs by inspired graphic creators camped within 15M pixellated environs. And Bookcamping.cc created to answer the innocent question, “what book would you take to the square?” With its book-filled shelves, its playlist of titles, its guided visits, Bookcamping.cc stands as a prime example of the new web-created and commons-oriented culture. But, it’s possible that 15M.cc, – a transmedia project composed of a book, a documentary and the 15Mpedia – may well be the best across-the-board representation of the collective, open and collaborative spirit of 15M’s cultural micro-utopia.
Remixing – A copies B, B recreates A’s original work – turns flaws into virtues. Remixing becomes an homage, a co-creation – and, why not, a battle cry. What could be better than #cutandpaste a fragment from “Asalto nº 4, Lorca remix” in support of Marea Verde and its defense of public education. “Green that I love you Green. Green wind. Green branches. Education needs your hand, to help avenge it, to expel those seeking the failure of the masses”.
PROTOTYPE 6 / PARTICIPATORY MICRO-UTOPIA
The assemblies, celebrated in public squares, marked a previously unheard of politicization of public space. Even taking into account that their consensus building mechanism didn’t end up directly influencing the democratic process, the creation of new spaces for political dialogue soon made the old institutions look dated. The project/process Parlamento a la Calle (Take Parliament to the Streets) for example, is a true master stroke against a static democracy that only allows for dialogue within the chambers of parliament. Besides, public-square assembly did manage to consolidate certain specific mechanisms.
This yearning for participation is the essence of Propongo (I Propose), a tool and platform for the collection and implementation of political ideas by a collective voting system. Propongo inspired the Rio Grande do Sul’s (Brazi) Digital Cabinet. Meanwhile, Asamblea Virtual (Virtual Assembly), a participatory online system where proposals are drawn, debated and voted on, has become an invaluable laboratory for techno-political participatory systems. Similar initiatives, such as Ahora tu decides (Now You Decide), a platform for non-state-mediated digital referendum, the urnas indignadas, physical voting booths placed on the street last November to vote on the proposal against foreclosures, or ballot information tables set up by public health defenders, Marea Blanca, make an important symbolic statement capable of forcing change in the system’s participatory mechanisms. Finally, Graba tu pleno (Record your Plenary Session) which encourages transparency by inciting citizens to video every single convention of assemblies, could also be considered another 15M prototype.
Demo4Punto0 (Democracy 4.0) is perhaps the most innovative initiative of them all. A hybrid participatory strategy and mechanism, it would allow any citizen to digitally vote on any parliamentary proposal or law. Based on each political party’s ratio of seats in Parliament, the mechanism proportionally discounts a seat for every 150.000 that participate in a vote. These citizen votes represent a proportional part of a congressman’s constituency. It’s no coincidence that the regional government of Andalucia (in the south of Spain), has commissioned the groundbreaking Andalusian Digital Democracy Report from the founders of Demo4Punto0.
PROTOTYPE 7 / FUN-TIVISM MICRO-UTOPIA
Non-violence has always been an inspiration to 15M. The Movement resurrected peaceful resistance and adapted it to the Internet age. Repudiating weapons and classic urban guerrilla tactics, 15M made protest creative, constructive and, unmistakably, fun. Networked emotions and viral actions that amplified and altered their own effects. Culture Jamming, the remixing of logos and commercial symbols as exemplified by Adbusters, morphed into something else in Spain. 15M’s culture jammers became virtual DJs, spinning memes and emotions. We saw how Flo6x8, a flash mob collective, was able to flamenco their way into a bank. We saw a crowd throwing a party in a Bankia branch, to promote its #CierraBankia (#ShutDownBankia) campaign. Bankia was Spain´s own big-bank-bailout debacle, going from public bank to private entity, subsequently bankrupting itself and then controversially being rescued with public funds, concurrent with the imposition of austerity measures. We were delighted by the parodical Ballot Box ATM: if it´s the banks that really govern us after all, why not just vote directly while at the bank?
Political Jiu-jitsu, or defeating an enemy by turning its strength against itself, is the tactic used by the Metro de Lujo (Subway DeLuxe) campaign. Elegantly attired individuals protested the Madrid subway’s inscrutable price hikes by dressing up and toasting champagne to welcome the new “aristocratic” pricing. Or, how about the ultimate fetid vengeance, exemplified by the #TubasuraalBanco (#TakeYourGarbageToTheBank) campaign – which, ultimately, made it as far as Portugal (#OLixoAosBancos). Another hilarious example is the #ManiFicció/#ManiFantasma (#FicticiousProtest/#GhostProtest), a fake protest announced as a total urban guerrilla outing, which managed to ridicule and embarrass Catalonia’s riot police (Mossos D’Esquadra), when they arrived to meet the dangerous enemy to find… no one!
15M has creatively and humorously reinterpreted the tenets of Saul Alinsky classic “Rules for Radicals”, or The Guerrilla Communications Handbook. amongst other direct action classics. Additionally, it has birthed a particularly active army of Twitter troll activists. Profiles such as @barbijaputa or the @ikastrolla collective are prime examples.
PROTOTYPE 8 / RESILIENCE MICRO-UTOPIA
Faced with the unjustified rising cost of public transport, classic resistance-based activism would respond with barricades, protests and setting things on fire. On the other hand, resilience-based activism uses adaptation, micro-attacks, and hacking, expressed through cracks and loopholes in the legal system. “Translegal”, rather than illegal. IGetOn YouGetMeoOn… non-payment tactics for public transport. If you get fined, there’s a co-op that will handle the cost of the fine. It works out cheaper to make a monthly contribution to the MeMetro (IGetOn) co-op than paying the regular monthly pass. Adapted from an identical initiative in Greece, the YoNoPago movement fights against the rising cost of highway tolls and public transport, another sign of resilience. When the VAT was raised 21% for Spanish freelancers, a new “bacterial” web-based network called #HuelgaAutónomos (Freelance Strike) sprung up to deal with the problem by paying individual taxes collectively, or by refusing to declare income on certain months (Freelancers in Spain are required to pay a disproportionately high fixed monthly fee to able to work legally).
PROTOTYPE 9 / THE NETWORKED POST-SYNDICATE MICRO-UTOPÍAImagen: Marea Verde, by Andrés Arriaga. Licensed under: Creative Commons.
The Citizen Tide phenomenon, especially in Madrid, has not been thoroughly studied by social anthropologists, but it should be. As far as mass media is concerned, apparently it isn’t even worth analysing. The Marea Blanca (defending Public Health), Marea Verde (Public Education), Marea Azul (against the privatization of water) and the Marea Violeta (feminism), are permutations on the traditional protests and marches declared by unions or political parties. 15M turned everything upside down. It modified the source code of protest and spread the virus to the rest of society. That’s the reason the Mareas work within horizontal, non-hierarchical networks. These mobilizations create new sets of visual associations (green equals “education”), and no one displays any union or political party paraphernalia during marches, whether they’re members or not. Their texts and objectives are written collaboratively and with absolute transparency. The Citizen Tides are a new form of social mobilization. Could we be witnessing the birth a radically different form of syndicalism? As for me, I haven’t the slightest doubt that the Tides represent a form of networked post-syndicalism that marks the beginning of a new era.
#TomaLaHuelga, a summons by 15M to attend the protests organised by the official government sponsored – and highly inefficient and corrupt – unions, as a differentiated “critical march”, is another clear-cut case of post-syndicalism.
PROTOTYPE 10 / THE COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE MICRO-UTOPIAStop Desahucios (Stop Foreclosures) map, built on Ushahidi. A SMS alert shows foreclosed individuals and families the location of empty bank-owned apartments in their area.
The popular, and subtly reactionary, eighties Spanish children’s TV program “La Bola de Cristal” (The Crystal Ball) introduced the phrase “sólo no puedes, con amigos sí” (you can’t do it alone, but you can do it with friends”) into the burgeoning Spanish collective unconscious. Those youths, now grown, repurposed the phrase from the start of the movement. Maybe that’s why we’ve seen such a natural shift from DIY (Do it Yourself) to DIWO (Do it With Others). Here’s an interesting distinction: 15M has consecrated the value of “multitude” over “masses”. In contrast to the “mass-man”, as portrayed by Ortega Gasset, we see the emergence of the “multitude man”. as exemplified in the Smart Mobs of Toni Negri and Howard Rheingold. The Smart Mob forms an autonomous whole, bigger than the sum of its parts. 15M’s Smart Mobs brought to life the concepts of “swarm” (Kevin Kelly / Steve Johnson) and “collective intelligence” (James Surowiecki, Pierre Levy) like never before. Initiatives such as Stop Desahucios (mass gatherings to physically prevent foreclosure eviction proceedings), actions like the “Eschaches” (public humiliation and condemnation of corrupt politicians and bankers) and campaigns such as Toque a Bankia are palpable demonstrations of swarm and collective intelligence initiatives in full gear.
Collective intelligence also powered the 15Mpedia or the Vivero de Iniciativas Ciudadanas (Open Hatchery for Citizen Initiatives) Glossary, and played an essential part in the formation of WhatsApp IM groups used in protests to assure the protester’s bodily safety. These are telling examples of the kind of collective intelligence that feeds the parallel, alternative and sustainable world mapped on projects such as MeCambio.Net, a listing of companies and services founded on ethical and sustainable values.
PROTOTYPE 11 / THE MICRO-UTOPIA OF THE COMMONS
“Out of chaos, we’ve seen actions, constructions and turnarounds arise with clear, integral, non-corporate intentions, all marked by a tendency to organise into community”. These words, recently expressed by hacker Marga Padilla, give credence to the theory that 15M has acted as a springboard for communities. A steady stream of communities where neighbours share their wifi thanks to Wifis.org, use community currencies (like Seville’s PUMA, and many others), analogue/digital barter systems such as Nockin or cooperative practices like the No.Ma.Des Project (a wordplay on nomadism and and “No More Unemployment) which seeks to find meaningful, constructive activity for the hordes of Spanish unemployed.
References to “the Commons” were omnipresent in all the initial debates of the 15M movement. The construction of interrelated communities stems from a marked desire to improve on the wealth of the commons. The Carta de los Comunes (A Letter for the Commons), a text signed the Madrilonia.org collective and edited by copyleft publisher Traficantes de Sueños, is an excellent example of the concrete – if, at times, cleverly subtle – prototypes reflecting the commons via their intellectual content.
PROTOTYPE 12 / THE LEGAL MICRO-UTOPIA
15M has shaken up one of the pillars of the Western State: the legal establishment. The existence of The Comisión Legal Sol, (Puerta del Sol Legal Commission), was an impromptu creation on the first night of encampment, when one camper offered legal advice to another. This marks a shift towards collective methods in what is traditionally perceived as a very individualistic profession. In Spain, certain groups of lawyers were already pooling their talents, sharing resources and incentivizing the use of free licenses in their documentation. The arrival of 15M has multiplied this free, open and collaborative legal micro-utopia. We can see a good example of this in the legal strategies collectively designed to benefit the Stop Foreclosures movement. Op-Euribor, a collective initiative organised and disseminated by online working groups, is another spectacular example of 15M’s burgeoning legal micro-utopia.
Toma Parte (Take Part) is another fascinating example. On the one hand, it’s a networked collective of lawyers functioning anonymously. On the other, it acts as a platform and tool for the activation of collective intelligence: “Toma Parte is a tool designed so we, as citizens, can pool our resources to find solutions. Our team of legal advisors will provide the necessary knowledge to determine the best legal course of action to implement these solutions. Anyone can make an online proposal, which will then be voted on by the community at large, completing it with evidence and testimony and funds generated through crowdfunding campaigns. All the documentation pertaining to the proposals – made available under Creative Commons Licenses – will be freely reusable”
But the most spectacular and ambitious example of this legal micro-utopia is, undoubtedly, the 15Mparato campaign. Launched through crowdfunding platform Goteo.org, the campaign gathered more than the necessary 16.000€ in less than 24 hours, collapsing Goteo’s servers in the process. These funds are being used to finance a lawsuit against Rodrigo Rato, former IMF Managing Director, head of Bankia and nominated by Bloomberg as one of the worst CEOs in the world (2012), for his mismanagement and accounting irregularities at the time of Bankia’s merger. We are talking about a mass lawsuit designed and funded online, that quickly gained the support of 50 shareholders who stepped forward as plaintiffs, as well as a host of internal witnesses. Spain’s networked citizenship shifted from defending itself to taking on the enemy. This, the first crowdfunded mass lawsuit, showed that the economic political elite isn’t as cozily secure as it thought. Or, as we can read in 15Mparato’s site: “Fear has switched sides in the struggle between those who are the bottom and those who are at the top”.
PROTOTYPE 13 / THE FREE KNOWLEDGE MICRO-UTOPIA
Free Knowledge, Free Licenses, Free Access. 15M squarely positioned itself against copyright from the very beginning. Many individuals and collectives within 15M have played an important role in lobbying for a more thorough transparency law. These groups have also been instrumental in the fight against restrictive proposals like the SOPA-like Lasalle Law. 15Mpedia reflects a healthy amount of free-culture and free-access related initiatives, like this list of online libraries which offer free downloads.
15M and the Marea Verde are defending universal access to public education by incorporating some important new details. The “Ciudad del Aprendizaje” (City of Learning) – education partaken on the streets, without walls and free from traditional hierarchy – is already up and running. On March 9, Spanish universities took to the streets as part of the #UniEnLaCalle (#CollegeInTheStreets) campaign, with 575 public squares and urban meeting points serving as the backdrop for innumerable master classes.
PROTOTYPE 14 / THE SENIOR CITIZEN’S REVOLUTION MICRO-UTOPIAVideo: Iaioflautas The Rebel Grandparents from Magma Multimedia Productions /Creative Commons Non-Commercial, Non-Derivative License
“We may be old, but we have no fear” This is the collective motto often used by the Iaoflautas / Yayoflautas collective, and it demolishes every stereotype about the 15M movement being made up of unemployed, lazy youth with nothing better to do than protest. The eruption of the Senior Citizen Iaoflauta collective in Barcelona dismantled the media’s repetitive, closed-minded mantra that 15M is a collection of crusties and and dirty hippies (“Perroflautas”). “Yayo” is an affectionate word for “Gramps” in Catalonia. It didn’t take long for the Yayoflauta phenomenon to spread throughout the rest of Spain. It marked the arrival of a new revolutionary meme within an old, withering Europe. Could it be that the meme that demolishes the Troika and takes over Brussels won´t come from a student, but from a grandma empowered with social media skills by her grandson?. The #LaBolsaolavida (#TheStockExchangeOrYourLife) action that kicked off the Yayoflauta prototype had such symbolic impact that I don’t think we’re quite able to grasp its implications yet. The image of a group of pensioners invading a Stock Exchange is so unprecedentedly shocking, it sounds like something out of a cyberpunk novel. But no dystopian future vision could have imagined something like this, and #ItsHappeningRightNow.
PROTOTYPE 15 / THE NEO-INTERNATIONALIST MICRO-UTOPIA
15M has dissolved international borders. It has woven transnational communities together and eased the exaggerated nationalism that the system likes to promote during crisis. First, 15M expanded its network around the world, ignoring nation-states. The proclamation, “We aren’t commodities in the hands of politicians and bankers” was immediately understood across all nations and languages, enabling networks and breaking down borders. At the heart of this global network, the Spanish node that is 15M has always embraced diversity. It’s protected its immigrants from police abuse, it’s campaigned against Alien Detention Centers, it’s founded Neighbour Brigades for the Observation of Human RIghts. There are even doctors who’ve declared themselves as conscientious objectors due to the recent cut in immigrant public health rights, and have vowed to treat illegal immigrants, in spite of new laws prohibiting this. 15M is forging a new Internationalist movement, as far-reaching as the workers movement of the late 19th century, but endowed with an historically unmatched set of tools and connectivity. The video embedded above, showing German citizens in solidarity with Spain, was filmed as a direct response to one of 15M’s videotaped assemblies, and is visible proof of the new international micro-utopia we are forging together.Image by Olmo Calvo
I have presented 15 Prototypes, 15 for 15M. I could describe more, many more, but this text is not intended as a list, or 19th century inventory. This text is in construction. This text longs to be a candle, a lantern. A faint ray slipping through the cracks in the system to throw some clarity on the building blocks of the world that’s coming. There could be as many prototypes as there are individuals. It only takes a certain attitude to pick up the lantern, shine some light into a corner, and try to see the change.
Guerrilla Translation/Related:Seeing the Invisible: on Unicorns and the 15-M Movement/ Amador Fernández-SavaterUnity sans Convergence/ Madrilonia/@PinkNoiseRev#GlobalP2P, The Wind that Shook the Net/ Bernardo Gutiérrez
This translation has been republished on:
- The Economics and the Commons Conference’s site (Published in two parts: part 1, part 2)
- TAHRIR International Collective Network’s website (Published in two parts: part 1, part 2)
- The P2P Foundation blog (Published in two parts: part 1, part 2)
- TakeTheSquare.net (Published in two parts: part 1, part 2)
- Occupy.com (Published in three parts: part 1, part 2, part 3)
The emergence of Partido X (Spain), Partido de la Red (Argentina), Red Sustentável (Brasil) and Wikipartido (Mexico) suggests a new era in politics. Net (Internet) parties incorporate the open, horizontal and leaderless processes associated with free software and social movements such as 15M.
“The party is a platform, not an ideological stance”, “The party is a tool used to convert the “one for many” structure, into a “many for many” conversation.” “The party should be both a movement and a platform”, “The party aims to develop a method, not an ideology”. These aren’t mere political slogans. These are statements which define, respectively, the essence of the Wikipartido (Mexico), Partido de la Red (Argentina), Rede Sustentabilidade (Brasil) and Partido X (Spain). All four first appeared in recent months. And together they seem to pose a question to representative democracy: If the Net is changing every aspect of society, how is it that democracy remains based on 19th Century form and technology?
These four parties didn’t come out of nowhere. In fact, they evolved from other parties, such as the Spanish Wikipartido, Sweden´s Demoex, Equo, the Pirate Party, Lista Partecipata from Italy or the Partido de InterNet. These parties, despite their differences. already shared some points in common. A big one: technology isn’t just a set of tools for spreading ideas. Technology is the new process that changes the way we work, make decisions, and communicate. For example, Equo open-sourced their program for the Spanish General Elections of November 20, 2011. Meanwhile, The Pirate Party uses a participatory, interactive program called Liquid Feedback, where each voter can cast their vote through a web of trust. Special mention goes to the Spanish Wikipartido, which, long before the birth of the 15M movement, was experimenting with building collective proposals. Using the motto “Collective Intelligence: Better Decisions”, Wikipartido proudly states in their wiki platform that “every citizen has the right to propose legislature”.
What do Net parties bring to the political scene, and what differentiates those described above? First of all, unlike Equo for example, they aren’t led by familiar faces. The Wikipartido in México clearly states that ”Any attempt to generate a new political option will undoubtedly fail if built around a personality”. Partido X goes even further. It defies persistent political self-promotion by continuing (despite criticism) to protect its members identities. The Argentinian Partido de la Red explicitly criticises the “personalismo” (self-promotion) of current politics in their highly recommended Web Manifesto, which states that: “#StuckDemocracy is a bargain-basement supermarket forcing the debate and election of prominent figures, as opposed to ideas”. One notable exception would be the Brazilian Rede Sustentabilidades, centered on the charisma of the popular Marina Silva, a fact which could be explained by the anthropology of the country´s affections.
Regardless, the biggest difference between the new Net parties and the old is something else: their open program. Both the Pirate Party and Partido de Internet have very specific objectives regarding Internet freedom, free licenses and participatory democracy. And Equo doesn’t try to hide its green face. The Candidatura d´Unitat Popular (CUP) – a Net-born Catalonian Party – defines itself as “Anticapitalist, Separatist Left”. Despite this, Net parties are, above all, open processes. They are also, by choice, unfinished mechanisms. The aim is to create platforms, protocols and tools that can employed by others. Anyone can use the mechanism, regardless of the content created with it.
The Partido de Red defines itself as “a #HumanWeb without a center, sharing knowledge, experiences and wisdom”. The Wikipartido of Mexico, in the word of its founder. Alfonso Tamés, “wants to work just like Wikipedia”. And Partido X, rather than develop a full program, insists on the construction of a basic infrastructure of platforms and tools to activate the collective intelligence. Their democracy, full stop – the only item in their program – is precisely that, a process. Social software, a space for dialogue. The party-as-software equation is one of the defining features of the new bottom-up dynamic being fostered by the Argentinian Partido de la Red: “#PartidodelaRed” uses software for the construction of collective thought and the promotion of new interactions between citizens and policy”.
Another common thread is the perceived lack of ideology of the new Net parties. Traditionally, being “neither left nor right” was taken to mean being a centrist. Or anarchist, ultra right wing or apolitical. Within the new logic of the Internet, it can mean something quite different. In complex networked systems, 2 +2, as the theorist Kevin Kelly likes to remind us, almost never equals 4. Asking an old question to try and explain something new just won’t work. For example, do transparency, participation and network horizontality have more to do with the political left than the right? Santiago Siri, expert on social networks and member of Partido de la Red, drops a few clues in a recent essay: “Never before have we been the objects of one another´s attention as much as we are now, in our routine online experience (…) and that is neither good nor bad, it’s simply new”.
What about traditional parties, aren’t they trying to incorporate Net dynamics, open processes and interactivity? Antonio Guitíérrez Rubi, in his essay The Political Party as a Social Co-Working Space complains that “the day-to-day workings of political parties are becoming less and less attractive, stimulating and creative for many citizens”. Additionally, Joan Subirats, director of the Institute of Government and Public Policy (Instituto de Gobierno y Políticas Públicas or “IGOP” in Spanish) states that certain parties, such as UPyD or Ciutadans de Catalunya, “are trying to play at New Politics”. They claim to be neither left- nor right-leaning. Instead, their operations and ideologies contradict much of the essence of what would be considered a Net party.
In fact, traditional parties aren’t even seeing themselves reflected in the mirror of the web. They don’t understand non-hierarchical leadership. The meritocracies that emerge in free-software and networked systems are unknown to them.. One sentence from the Web Manifesto sums up the abyss separating traditional political parties from the Internet’s aggregate logic: “#Pairs are plural: not governed by adversarial logic, they seek synthesis, rather than displace the other”.
It´s possible that Net parties may never govern a country. But it’s also very possible that, before long, they may change the rules of the political game forever.This translation has been republished on: The P2P-Foundation Blog Shareable Reality Sandwhich Occupy.com