CFP> Journal of Peer Production Special Issue #11: CITY – Abstracts due 31 Jan 2017

CFP JOPP Special Issue #11: CITY – Abstracts due 31 Jan 2017

Editors: Penny Travlou, Nicholas Anastasopoulos, Panayotis Antoniadis

Call for papers

One of the welfare state’s key jurisdictions was to tend to housing and public space in benevolent ways. However, under the neoliberal dogma, commodification and gentrification threatens both the right to housing and the right to the city while in recent years, cities have become increasingly militarized and surveyed, resembling battlegrounds where freedom and democracy are under attack. At the same time, recent economic, political, and social crises have activated many counter-forces of resistance and creative alternatives for the grassroots production of food, health services, housing, networking infrastructures, and more.

The role of technology has been contradictory as well. On the one hand, the Internet has enabled some of the most remarkable peer production success stories at a global scale, such as Wikipedia and Free and Open Source Software, among many others. On the other hand, it has empowered huge corporations like Facebook and Google to fully observe and manipulate our everyday activities, and oppressive governments to censor and surveil their citizens.

At the city scale, technology offers opportunities for self-organization, like wireless community networks and numerous bottom-up techno-social initiatives, but also animates the top-down narrative of the “smart city” and the commodification of the “sharing economy as a service” provided by globally active platforms such as Airbnb and Uber. In this situation, peer production in space emerges as a vital bottom-up practice reclaiming citizen participation, and inventing new forms of community.

In this context, some core challenges arise:
– If we choose not tο rely on global players to provide peer production support at a local scale, how could different areas of peer production in the city, digital and physical, interact and support each other?
– What types of governance models can adequately support peer production in the city?

To address those challenges one needs to take into consideration the following:
– Lessons learned from the Internet and how they may be incorporated in the context-specific realities of the city.
– Knowledge-transfer methodologies across different localities.
– Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary collaborations (urban studies, media studies, sociology, architecture, cultural geography, informatics etc.).
– Possible collaborations and synergies between activists that fight for the “right to the city” and those that fight for the “right to the Internet”.
-Knowedge/experience transfer between non-urban settings (i.e. intentional communities, ecocommunities, the Transition movement, etc.) and the urban movements.
– Inquiry into research methods and methodologies to be developed and used for analysing ICT-mediated peer production in urban space.

This special issue aims to explore a wide variety of alternative and innovative peer practices, like urban agriculture, food sustainability, solidarity economy, right to the city movements, cooperative housing, community networks, P2P urbanism tactics, co-design practices and more, that are directly reflected in the production of urban space. We are particularly interested in novel combinations of theory, methodologies, and practices that can contribute to peer production in the city and enable new synergies between projects and communities.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:
– Urban commons and peer production
– Case studies of innovative peer practices approached from different perspectives
– Comparative case studies on patterns of commoning and think-global / act-local methodologies
– The regional dimension: examples from the Americas, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australasia
– Political issues of autonomy, hegemony, labour, gender, geopolitical and post-colonial perspectives
– Alternative forms of education and learning tools for promoting self-organization and community
– Innovative governance tools for peer production in the city
– Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary methodological approaches
– Urban studies and the right to the (hybrid) city
– Open source urbanism/architecture
– Recycling/upcycling vs buying: making, consuming or prosuming the city?

Important dates
Abstract submission: 31 January 2017
Notification to authors: 15 February 2017
Submission of full paper: 15 May 2017
Reviews to authors: 15 July 2017
Revised papers: 15 September 2017
Signals due: 10 October 2017
Issue release: October/November 2017

Submission guidelines
Abstracts of 300-500 words are due by January 31, 2017 and should be sent to>. All peer reviewed papers will be reviewed according to Journal of Peer Production guidelines. See Full papers and materials are due by May 15, 2017 for review. Peer reviewed papers should be around 8,000 words. We also welcome experimental, alternative contributions, like testimonies, interviews and artistic treatments, whose format will be discussed case by case with the editors.

*This special issue was initiated during the Hybrid City III (Athens) conference and developed further during the IASC Urban Commons (Bologna) and Habitat III (Quito) conferences.

Event> Abbinnett & Fuller: The philosophy of Bernard Stiegler – capitalism, technology & politics of spirit

Birmingham’s Contemporary Philosophy of Technology group have an event with Ross Abbinnett and Steve Fuller in conversation. Abbinnett is asserting himself as one of the few anglophone interpreters* of Stiegler’s work, with a monograph due out fairly soon and a punchy article in Theory, Culture & Society interpreting Stiegler’s project in terms of a politics of spirit (in the vein of Ars Industrialis).

I suspect it’ll be a rather muscular affair, so if that’s your thing here’s the info:

* I use ‘interpreter’ purposefully, I don’t think Dr Abbinnett translates Stiegler’s works.

Bernard Stiegler: “The time saved through automation must be granted to the people” [translation]

The interview with Bernard Stiegler translated below comes from the l’Humanité.fr website. This follows nicely from the other interview about ‘how to survive disruption’ I recently translated. It’s interesting for a number of reasons, but I think principally because he offers a little more detail on how one might go about creating an ‘economy of contribution’ by discussing the experiments with Plaine Commune and what he means by “contributory income” and how that differs from a ‘universal basic income”. For those interested in Stiegler’s work, beyond the philosophical texts, this is quite an enlightening read (I think).

As usual, clarifications and original French are in square brackets. In this case, all of the footnotes are by me. I hope some others find this of interest… I did.

Bernard Stiegler: “The time saved through automation must be granted to the people”

In the face of the upheavals created by digital data, the philosopher [Bernard Stiegler], developing his research in concert with the think tank Ars Industrialis and the Institute of Research and Innovation [of the Pompidou Centre], invites us to comprehensively [de fond en comble] rethink work. He advocates the establishment of an economy of contribution based on a new type of value production and social justice.

We are entering the era of big data. Does the quantitative explosion of digital data signal a new industrial revolution?

Bernard Stiegler Yes and it is already upon us. A study for the board of Roland Berger [a global strategy consultancy] suggests that three million jobs will be destroyed in the next ten years. But, other studies predict that 47% of jobs in the US, 50% in Belgium and France, will be automated in the course of the next twenty years. We are entering the third historical wave of automation. In the 19th century machine tools enabled capitalism to achieve enormous gains in productivity, while distributing the resulting profits only amongst the bourgeoisie. The second wave was created through Taylorism and the assembly line, which in part benefited the working classes because the workers consumed the goods they played a part in producing, creating mass markets. The third wave is not solely constituted by robots but also by the data we all generate, notably with our smart phones. All of these data that we deliver to platforms, such as Google, banks or shopping websites, are processed in every country and in an immediate manner by algorithms. Their exploitation allows, for example, a company like Amazon to predict what it may sell and to encourage us to buy in an extremely efficient manner, all with the minimum staff. Further, automation is allowing the company’s founder, Jeff Bezos, to design very simple robots, capable of placing and retrieving stock incredibly quickly, without human interaction, controlled by software.

Does this means that in the near term a company like Amazon will be able to do without employees to pick, pack and send out packages?

Bernard Stiegler Warehouse workers will be replaced by robots. The “robolution” [1] is becoming increasingly possible for a large number of companies. The humanoids that are reaching market now are much less expensive and more advanced than the large automata already in use. Even SMEs can invest in them.

In the medium term then, such automation concerns everyone?

Bernard Stiegler Driverless lorries are already on the roads of Nevada and soon will be in Germany. Artificial intelligence will be able to replace lawyers who put their legal studies on file. All analytical jobs will be effected. Even medics. A high performance robot is able to conduct prostate surgery… In his Foundations of a Critique of Political Economy [the Grundrisse], Karl Marx formulated the hypothesis: what if everything  is automated? If nothing changes, in particular regions, 80 to 90 percent of the under 25s will soon have no other perspective. The markets will collapse, because there will be no more purchasing power, and with them will go the social security system that relies on workers’ contributions. A new society is being formed and it is not very compatible with that of today. We urgently need to rethink everything, to develop trade based on a new type of value production and social justice. I strongly believe in experimentation, which is why we have launched a project related to Plaine Commune [2] in the urban community of Seine-Saint-Denis. Beginning with a 10-year pilot programme, the aim is to create a district of learning [territoire apprenant] whose inhabitants are not only consumers of but also providers [prescripteurs] of digital services.

We imagine that this area was not chosen at random. Plaine Commune is both rich in diversity, it’s network of associations but also home to a disadvantaged population, facing mass unemployment… 

Bernard Stiegler When I started talking about this project with Patrick Braouezec, president of Plaine Commune, 38% of young people under 25 were unemployed in Seine-Saint-Denis. That figure is now 50% and if we follow the projections, the rate could reach between 80 and 90% in ten years. This endemic problem of unemployment will affect all developed countries unless they invent something new: that’s what we want to do in Plaine Commune. The idea is to develop an economy of contribution in a completely different model to Uber. The time gained through automation must be made available to people, otherwise the economy will collapse. The Indian economist Amartya Sen has shown, through a study comparing the residents of Bangladesh and Harlem [New York], that life expectancy is better and we live in a better society when the sharing of expertise strengthens social ties. He discusses a Human Development Index. Plaine Commune is a bit like Bangladesh: the people there are exercising a remarkable energy. [Various] actors, businesses and residents are aware of the urgent need to invent something radically new, which is to use the mechanisms of contribution to develop a commons in a project that promotes the development, exchange, and transmission of practical knowledge [savoir-faire], life skills [savoir-vivre] and theoretical knowledge [savoir théoretiques] among the younger generations, associations, businesses, public services of the area, and doctoral students from around the world. Researchers will have the mission to facilitate and work alongside these changes.

So this project proposes to put people at the centre of an increasingly automated society [une société de plus en plus robotisée]?

Bernard Stiegler Standardisation, the elimination of diversity, and the destruction of knowledge produce high-dose entropy, characterised by the state of “disorder” of a system. Here was must engage in a little theory. In the nineteenth century, physicists established that, in the theory of a universe in expansion since a big bang, energy irreversibly dissipates. The law of becoming is entropy [La loi du devenir est l’entropie]. Erwin Schrödinger, a great theorist of quantum mechanics (which is the theoretical basis of nanotechnology), however, showed that life is characterised by its ability to produce negative entropy, which is also called negentropy. This delays disorder, that is to say death, which is a decomposition of living matter. Social organisations have a similar function. Automation, which is a hyper-standardisation, produces entropy. Google’s algorithms, which can translate the languages of the world through English, which acts a pivot language, causes an immense linguistic entropy. The impoverishment of vocabulary and dysorthography regresses individual and collective intelligence through a submission to the law of averages. Conversely, life produces, through exceptions, mutations that are impossible to anticipate but which are the very conditions of evolution. Poets and writers have shaped languages through their exceptional use of language. Algorithms erase all exceptions: they only work by calculating probabilities based upon averages. Crude automation produces a generalised (mental as well as environmental) disorder, which ruins the economy. In the economy of tomorrow, automation can instead be placed at the service of the production of negative entropy. It must allow for the valorisation of exceptions by developing the collective empowerment of everyone to make the commons [la valorisation des exceptions en développant la capacitation collective de chacun pour en faire du commun].

The upheaval that you describe considerably changes the concept of work. Are we facing the erasure of the organisation of employment around the notion of salaried work?

Bernard Stiegler In employment [l’emploi] today, the worker [travailleur] is deprived of their expertise [savoir-faire]. They must follow a process and rely upon software – until one day, the task has become automated and the employee [l’employé] is dismissed. Work [Le travail], by contrast, is an activity during which the worker enriches the task by exercising their knowledge [savoir] through its differentiation [en le différenciant], and continually bringing something new to society. This kind of work produces negentropy, that is to say, also, value, and it cannot be automated because it consists, on the contrary, in de-automating [désautomatiser] routines. Ongoing automation must redistribute some of the productivity gains in order to fund some time for everyone to build capacities [un temps de capacitation de tout un chacun] within an economy of contribution that enables everyone to enhance their knowledge. This is why we advocate the adoption of a contributory income, which is not the same as a universal income.

Precisely, the idea has even more trouble finding its way because it overlaps very different definitions … 

Bernard Stiegler Such an income, also called “basic” [income], is a safety net. A contributory income is at the intersection of the models of temporary work in the performing arts [intermittents du spectacle] and the practices of [creating] free software. It covers various levels of compensation that depend upon the periods of employment and the level of salary. The work of tomorrow will be discontinuous [intermittent]. Periods of employment will alternate with periods of acquiring, developing and sharing knowledge. The right to the contributory income will be “rechargeable”, based upon the number of hours of employment. In case of problems, the system will be accompanied by a minimum living wage [revenu minimum d’existence] – as a social protection system accompanying the scheme. The trial we have led with Plaine Commune includes testing a contributory income to benefit those who are younger, for whom the amounts could increase with age and where the contribution allowance [allocation contributif] outside of the employed period would represent a percentage akin to the model of paying unemployment benefit to those working in the performing arts [les intermittents]. The beneficiaries would be invited to “invest in themselves” [«s’encapaciter»], that is to say, to increase their knowledge through studies as well as professional experience. They would be invited to share their knowledge [savoirs] with their neighbouring community [communauté territoriale]. All of this calls for a new collective intelligence, capable of mobilising formal and advanced theoretical knowledge, which is why, with doctoral students, the aim is to develop a contributory research involving the young and local residents. The aim is to develop an economy of contribution founded on the production of negentropy. [3]

So, periods of paid employment remain in your system – what is the difference between contributory work [travail contributif] and precarious part-time job [petit job précaire]?

Bernard Stiegler The switchboard operator job at TF1 paid in the vein of someone working in the performing arts [comme intermittents du spectacle] is only made precarious [précarisée] at the expense of Assedic [4]. Contributory work must be defined by precise criteria. However, such a question cannot be answered a priori, except through the formal principal I have already stated, which is the production of negentropy, that is to say: practical know-how [savoir-faire], life skills [savoir-vivre] and formal knowledge [savoirs formels]. The PhD theses of our doctoral students are intended to inform these issues in close collaboration with the work carried out in Villetaneuse by Benjamin Corriat’s team on the economy of the commons. We will build on the experience of the architect Patrick Bouchain, who has shown how to put urban renewal projects in the service of a political economy of collaboration – where the residents, who are directly involved in the renovation, may be paid in shares of the development [l’habitat]. There are possibilities for developing the economy of contribution through associations, cooperatives, the social economy and solidarity, public services, as well as through industry, where new production methods will create new professions, which will be intermittent.

Have you any idea of how to fund this radical transformation to systems of production?

Bernard Stiegler A share of the gains in productivity must be redistributed. Taxes raised on trillions of euros passing through purely speculative markets might actually be invested in profitable, just and sustainable projects, without forgetting the fight against tax evasion. Vocational training credits [Les crédits de la formation professionnelle] – 38 billion Euros per year – should be involved in funding the economy of contribution, as should many of the exemptions from social charges or tax that could be diverted for this purpose. They represent 80 billion Euros. There really is enough there for this to be funded.

Notes [by me]

1. “Robolution” is a literal translation of the neologism used by Stiegler, i.e. a portmanteau of robot & revolution.

2. The project with Plaine Commune is specified in outline [in French] on the France Strategie 2017-2027 website, and is supported by the Fondation de France.

3.As in previous written work and interviews, Stiegler uses the idea of the “intermittents” or “intermittents du spectacle” to signify the idea of work that is subsidised through some form of state administered allowance, such as unemployment benefit. In France people working in the performing arts are entitled to claim for social security benefits designed for people without regular employment [as per the definition provided by Larousse online.]

4. Assédic or ASSEDIC is the partial acronym of “Association pour l’emploi dans l’industrie et le commerce” (Association for Employment in Industry and Trade).

How to survive “disruption” – interview with Bernard Stiegler (translation)

In a recent interview with the French-language Swiss newspaper (or at least the web version) Le Temps, Bernard Stiegler addresses some of the key issues underlying his most recent book (not yet in translation) concerning disruption. Addressing in one sweep the ideological uses of the term by those involved in technological entrepreneurialism (especially in the US) and the wider sense in which (as he has previously argued) Stiegler sees a form of widespread dispossession of knowledge, of life skills and indeed of livelihood across Europe through the rapid political, social and technological changes to work and everyday life — Stiegler continues to argue for his favoured political response: an economy of contribution.

Of interest here, perhaps, is the brief discussion of his (and, I think, Ars Industrialis) collaboration in the creation of a Chair of Innovation [one of a number of proposed ‘research chairs’] to be based in Plaine Commune an urban unitary authority, or greater Paris borough (established through the creation of Metropolitan Greater Paris [Métropole du Grand Paris] as one of the nine Établissements publics territoriaux or boroughs/unitary authorities) on the Northern fringe of Paris that is designated as le Territoire de la Culture et de la création, or ‘the borough for creativity and culture. As I understand it Stiegler proposes Plaine Commune as ‘territoire contributif‘ – a sort of region of contribution [a territory or zone delineated as an area in which the economy of contribution might take precedence, along the same lines as ‘free trade zones‘ perhaps, but with a very different ethics/politics]. The principle role of the ‘chair’ is to oversee the pilot of a kind of basic or citizens’ income (broadly akin to a universal basic income) that Stiegler suggest will be implemented through a formal agreement of ‘contribution’ – whereby the income is granted on the premise that the young people given it will use it to subside their own personal development, in turn making them greater contributors to society.

As always, I have done my best to clarify and offer original French terms where I think it helps but done so in square brackets. I welcome comments and suggestions about this translation – please understand it to be a ‘rough’ version, I am nowhere near fluent enough for this to be considered particularly authoritative!

[See the original in French here].

How to survive “disruption”

The vacuity of the “data economy” or the revitalisation of our societies in a contributory mode? For Bernard Stiegler it’s time to choose …

Bernard Stiegler does not define disruption within the five hundred pages that begin with “Inshallah” and end with “we must dream”. The term, borrowed from nuclear physics, and in particular, experiments in closed rooms suggestively called “tokamaks” denotes a “sudden onset of instability”. In the jargon of our digital age the word now means the ability of an innovation to destabilize entire sectors of the economy and society. It is also worth noting that in the (not unrelated) terminology of the American Medical Association, a “disruptive physician” is a practitioner whose deplorable behavior undermines the health of those around him. So, we’re all clear then.

Bernard Stiegler does not define disruption because that is not his objective. His new book is placed in the disruption: the subject is us, who are totally enveloped within it – all of us, with our “processes of individuation” devastated by the conversion of our interior being into data that is delivered for automatic calculation. All of us, with our “protentions” (that is to say “the desire and expectation of the future”) short-circuited by algorithms. All of us, who face the “hegemonic becoming of disinhibition” [désinhibition devenue hégémonique] exemplified by the repulsive figure of Dominique Strauss-Kahn. We are all looking for tools to perform a split, the stakes of which are everything: on one side the void, on the other, if all goes well, the “reconstruction of a true society” [reconstitution d’une véritable société]. This is the conclusion of the French philosopher, theorist and practitioner of innovation, pioneer of digital and socio-technical thinking – and also, in previous lives, owner of a jazz club and former prison inmate, as he as highlighted himself – a combination of analysis with lived experience, which is, in this way, faithful to the foundations of phenomenology.

“How to not go mad?” Asks the subtitle of his book, and how did we arrive at such a question becoming inescapable? Via a long and winding path for society, answers Stiegler, that passes through “the inversion of the Enlightenment project” and leads to the “ultra-liberal capitalism” of the present, born from conservative revolutions that work towards the “pure and simple liquidation of public power”. Also, via a long technological path that has remained unthought since Plato, because philosophy essentially refuses to think technics. To represent the point where digital disruption converges with the climate crisis, Stiegler offers the testimony of a fifteen year old boy called Florian: “We no longer dream of having a family, of having children, a profession, ideals, because we are convinced that we are the last generation”. What is to be done? Surrender to madness? Allow suicidal thoughts to creep into the crevices of our minds like ivy? Let’s see…

Le Temps: Is the situation you describe the product of technology itself, or rather of the socio-political context?

Bernard Stiegler: When computing technologies can go four million times faster than us there are associated structural effects. However, we can use these tools in alternative ways to servicing the data economy. In any case, the web was not, initially, designed for capturing data: it was a space for publication, whose success was related to the opportunity to participate in public life through publication. In the Renaissance, printing opened out a public space that we call the Republic of Letters. The web potentially opens a new space that one can call the Digital Republic. The is what happened at first but quickly, and especially in the ten years since the introduction of social networks, the internet has become a system for capturing behaviour, for the development of what the Belgian lawyer Antoinette Rouvroy calls algorithmic governmentality, by which she means the control of individuals by algorithms.

– Is it still possible to split away from this?

– It is not only possible it is absolutely essential. The computational system as it functions today produces a standardisation, a homogenisation of existential spaces, which leads to a destruction of society. Increasingly, people are seen as the mediated reports of algorithms, and these are substituted for social systems. This results in a loss of a sense of existence that causes frustration, violence and madness, which is to say: despair and desensitisation [denoétisation]: the destruction of cognitive capacities. At an economic level, with the development of automation we see the destruction of more than half of the jobs in Europe and the United States. If we do not want to also thereby destroy half of the purchasing power, and thus consumption and economic activity, we must redistribute income outside of salaried employment, which exists less and less.

– We understand you have a plan…

– It shall be necessary to redistribute the gains made through automation through what we can call a contributory income, remunerating people who augment their capacities to act, in the sense understood by the Indian economist Amartya Sen. At the moment I am developing a project in the Seine-Saint-Denis district, which has more than 430,000 inhabitants, working with their unitary authority [l’établissement public territorial] Plaine Commune. Within the authority, we are creating a Chair of Contributive Research, in partnership with universities and businesses and with the support of three ministers. Primarily, this relates to the question of distributing a contributory income amongst several hundred young people drawn at random, whom we will support through a formal agreement [with them] based upon their acquisition of knowledge. The latter need not be purely academic, we are also speaking here of life skills [savior-vivre] and practical know-how [savoir-faire] in areas that could be [for example] sport or cooking.

In a famous study, Amartya Sen wondered why adult male mortality was higher in the New York neighbourhood of Harlem than in Bangladesh. In answering the problem he put forward an explanation based on [the idea of] collective knowledge that, he said, gave the Bangladeshis an ability to withstand incomparably greater adversity. In the Western world, people are thoroughly proletarianised: they no longer have [such] knowledge [savoirs], they only have the skills to operate a supermarket checkout, accounting software or financial data tools. They are therefore no longer capable of innovating [produire du changement], they only perpetuate the standardised nature of the system. A contributory income, on the contrary, remunerates people who acquire and enhance their capacities to enrich the social. We are also in favour of an unconditional income: both of these devices [dispostifs] are complimentary.

– So, in this way, there can be a future “in the disruption”…

– It is never too late for effective action [pour bien faire]. It is absolutely essential to develop an economy of contribution, using the algorithms that are already exploiting the data economy, that does not reject disruption, because that serves no purpose, because the reality of disruption is something nobody can prevent. This demands a new form of public power and a new European politics that develops an alternative model for these technologies. We must urgently reconstruct an ecology of dreams [une écologie du rêve], of thought [pensée], and social relations, and it must be created through experimentation, rather than solely through theorisation. Today we are in processes of denial, people do not want to hear talk of the extreme gravity of the situation. Yet as soon as there are real prospects [of change], they will [finally] be able to discuss it.

Bernard Stiegler, «Dans la disruption. Comment ne pas devenir fou?» (Editions Les Liens qui libèrent, 480 p.)

The Museum of Contemporary Commodities in EXETER

The Museum of Contemporary Commodities

Just a quick note to let you know that the brilliant Paula Crutchlow has brought “The Museum of Contemporary Commodities” (MoCC) to Exeter for the majority of May.

There’s lots going on, much of it creative and interesting – so if you’re in Exeter or nearby: come and visit!

Two immediate things this week:

RIGHT NOW!: help re-create the internet in paper with Artist Louise Ashcroft from 11 -2 in the Exeter University Forum.

TOMORROW: sign up to do a data walkshop with Alison Powell from the LSE on Saturday from 10-1. Places have to be booked, and the Eventbrite page is here

Please do visit the MoCC website for lots more events and activities taking place this month and visit the shop:

87 Fore St,

Open 10:00-18:00pm Weds-Sat, 4th-21st May.

Reblog> Improvised Publics :: Control and Calculation :: Inheriting Liberation :: 6-17 June 2016

This event looks really interesting, check out the website for more information…

Emergenc(i)es – an event in Bristol between 6th and 17th June

Emergenc(i)es is an invitation to consider the emergency of the current historical moment.

The exhibition will dwell in the question of emergence within emergency.

Performance, education activities, visual art, screenings, installations, workshops and a library-cum-pharmacy will create time and space to diagnose, explore and understand the world we live in.

Enter – Relate – Improvise – Diagnose – Inherit – Public – Liberate – Gather

All activities are free to attend, thanks to generous funding from Awards for All.

Stiegler: Stop the uberisation of society!

Posted below is a translation of a piece co-authored by Bernard Stiegler with Ariel Kyrou (journo),  Yann Moulier-Boutang (writer) and Bruno Teboul (Director of innovation at Keyrus) and published in Libération on the 10th April.

I suppose it doesn’t really propose anything especially novel, if you’re familiar with others involved in debates around “postcapitalism”, automation, worklessness and universal income (e.g. Srnicek and Williams, or Mason). What is perhaps novel is an application of the ideas in a distinctly European flavour, with examples in France and in the context of a much more robust unionised response to Uber (and the task/gig economy).

Anyway, it’s an interesting read I think…

The piece is rather conversational in tone and uses idioms I have only been able to infer (not being a fluent and native speaker) so it was quite difficult to translate, and so I’m pretty sure there are errors. As usual clarifications or original French are in [square brackets].

Stop the uberisation of society!

Libération, 10th April

The war by taxi companies against an Uber society cannot be reduced to the storyline of a film depicting an ancient evil battling benevolent forces of modernity. If on the one hand the participatory economy threatens our social structures, it can also, on the other, make possible a society with greater solidarity.

Since the first moves towards the draft Thévenoud law in June 2014[1], the urban transport soap opera has generated multiple variations on the theme of the standard storyline. On one side are the taxi federations, which have been labelled a horde of grumpy medieval malthusians by Uber, who in the opening of the second act of the performance of the trial of the 11th February demanded a whopping €100m in damages from Uber, on the other the ‘white knight’ of the new economic order, the high-tech Robin Hood of its pleb users whose UberPop service enables simple fellows in search of employment the opportunity to offer at cut-price their talents for automotive locomotion, between February 2014 and July 2015. This tale of jokers against modernisers is more attractive than the G7, queen of opaque rentier sorcery, who could not turn themselves with the wave of a magic wand into the cinderella of Parisian Transport.

Except that the movie script of the ancient evil against the benevolent ‘disruptors’ rings as hollow as any Hollywood blockbuster: seen quickly, soon forgotten. It works in the short-term, like the groan of the indefinite vigil for a taxi at 3 o’clock in the morning in the banlieue, but it hardly takes us any distance towards solving the questions about the future of our society and the search for sustainable solutions to the crisis we are experiencing.

Let’s not misunderstand this scenario: the agonism presented by this contemporary drama [série du moment] is neither the ardent need to pit global start-ups against French corporatism [corporatismes franchouillards] nor its exact opposite, namely the obligation to defend the capitalism of tired old barons against the hyper-capitalism of the rulers of the digital future. No, the issue that should be obvious to everyone with a stake in the debate is the urgent need to think about the society we want, and then act in order to build it.

For why should we anoint an ‘uberisation of the economy’ without interrogating its ideology and long-term deleterious effects? Uber, which declares only a fraction of its profits in France thanks to a complex form of tax evasion through the Netherlands, Bermuda and Delaware, is participating in the liquidation of our social structures. It embodies a short circuit that threatens the fragile economic balance between taxation, social law, transport policy, infrastructure investment at the local level and the pensions system. Worse still: its social and economic logic foreshadows the advent of a futuristic no-man’s land in which the a priori ideal of liberty becomes monetised against an a posteriori generalised casualisation throughout society. Indeed, the rictus predatory behaviour of platforms like Uber, Lyft and others such as Amazon’s Mechanical Turk is founded upon a low intensity of capital, little infrastructure, a minimum of salaried employees with more independent or self-employed workers.

The uberisation process forms the first wave in the tsunami of automation. Its primary consequence will be a net loss of five million jobs in industrialised countries by 2020, according to a report published on the 18th of January by the oracles of the World Economic Forum in Davos, the shameless apostles of the “fourth industrial revolution”. This deeply unappealing assertion has been amplified by several studies in the last three years (by Oxford, MIT, the Breugel Institute and Roland Berger) which predict around 47% fewer people in employment by 2025. This slow but inexorable extinction of of the salaried world effects not only warehouse workers, supermarket cashiers and lorry drivers but also barristers, solicitors, journalists, those working in medicine, and so on. Why should it remain necessary to use human beings for tasks that are reducible to systematic procedures? Which in our data economy robots and algorithms will soon perform much more efficiently. The combination of robotics and ‘big data’, algorithms and network effects, is already transforming us into the involuntary gravediggers for salaried employment. Welcome to a world that is ultimately ‘flexible’, boosted by robotic automation [robotisation] and work on the meter. A world where users and customers constantly account for themselves, where each becomes their own big brother and where most of the activity in every market, like with car insurance, will increasingly play out more in an automated big data-driven fashion than according to laws or to forms of trust that are not based in calculation.

Nevertheless we should beware skewed perspectives: such a world is not inevitable. The digital gives us an opportunity to reconsider work not only in terms of jobs doomed to become ever more precarious, provoking anxiety about self-exploitation, but also as a part of a project for a contributory society in which salaried employment would be one means amongst many, rather than an end in itself. A company like TaskRabbit certainly creates use value through its platform of small on-demand jobs, but it keeps for itself and its shareholders the [accompanying] exchange value in the form of profit. In contrast, Loconomics is a co-operative owned by those who use it to advertise their services. Against the platforms of the so-called sharing economy (which it is in name only) Trebor Scholz endorses a ‘platform cooperativism’ [2] to build a society of commons that operates beyond solely economic and financial dimensions.

This shambles needs to be urgently addressed. Thinking in the long-term, this is political in the principal sense of the word. To buckle down to the future of work equally concerns: expertise in data to use and liberate ourselves from algorithms and a care for people without the need for machines; to classify work in a way that is both protective of our ways of life and much less administrative than today; to examine the establishment of an adequate basic income, structurally justified by massive unemployment due to automation and the coming slow death of employment; to experiment with the extension of the regime of casual work in the context of a true society of contribution, with the acquisition and sharing of knowledge by and between everyone; to study tax reform based upon the principles of a financial transactions tax [la taxe pollen], beginning with the establishment of a European tax on the flows of High Frequency Trading, to finance a universal income.

Rather than the two opposing and yet complimentary nightmares that are the integral uberisation of society and the sovereignist protection of the capitalism of yesteryear we prefer the realisation of a dream: to imagine, to experiment, to build, step by step, a freer society with greater solidarity; preferring disagreement to the brainwashing that has played out, historically, through the carrot and the stick, or, in our high-tech times, through a blind obedience to shiny artificial devices [l’obéissance aveugle à de rutilantes mécaniques artificielles et augmentées].

1. For more information on the Thévenoud law see this article – Sam.

2. See this article on Medium by Scholz.

Reblog> Civil Society 4.0 – Refugees and Digital Self Organization

This conference/hackathon at HKW in Berlin looks brilliant – it’s a part of a fantastic programme for 2016, including the exhibition Nervous System, which I hope to take our 2nd year field trip students to in March.

Civil Society 4.0 – Refugees and Digital Self Organization

2016, Mar 03, Thu — 2016, Mar 05, Sat

Refugee-Hackathon | © Lionel-Kreglinger/Berlin 2015

Refugee-Hackathon | © Lionel-Kreglinger/Berlin 2015

Refugees are also digital trailblazers; the use of smartphones and social media are essential both for their escape and for everyday life in their new homes. For voluntary refugee aids, digital tools are also of great importance. Recently projects such as the platform have demonstrated how important the web is for the self-organization of refugees. The Civil Society 4.0 conference aims to network the many initiatives and projects.

Arriving in Berlin is an example of a participatory online platform in which refugees map their new city of Berlin based on their own experiences and needs. The huge response to the launch of the interactive map on social networks reveals the demand for projects by refugees for refugees. The first Refugee Hackathon held in Berlin in October 2015 was similarly popular. Initiated by Anke Domscheit-Berg, it united 300 programmers and designers in Berlin who developed 18 projects including and The Facebook page “Moabit hilft!” is the largest social media platform in Berlin aimed at making life easier for refugees in their new neighborhoods. The group Refugees Emancipation e.V. has set the goal of setting up Internet cafés in refugee accommodations where they can help each other learn basic computer skills in order to be able to program online applications according to their own needs.

A three-day conference at Haus der Kulturen der Welt will center on digital self-organization by refugees. Between March 3 and 5, 2016 existing projects will present themselves while workshops probe the potentials of project and partner synergies. The idea of the hackathon will be taken up by programmers working together with refugees on the relevant tools.

In cooperation with, Chaos Computer Club Berlin e.V., Hackathon, Maptime Berlin, Metrozones

Reblog> CFP: Participatory Activism

CFP: Participatory Activism

How to Do It – Call for Papers

Creating Bottom up Political Participation

9-10th April 2016 | Kings College London

This conference brings together academics, political activists and community organisers to contribute to the working out of a question central to the current political climate: ‘how can we create progressive and effective political participation?’ From citizen engagement to radical collective action, the focus of the event is how ‘ordinary’ people can come together to collectively act upon and change their environment.

We are living in a time where conventional political processes are losing credibility and traction, as access to social justice is blocked by the capturing of the state by neoliberal forces. There are substantial academic and mainstream literatures on how states, governments and corporate organisations can act upon their citizens for their own ends. Yet there is a big gap in the knowledge of citizens on how to mobilise popular cultural and political participation.

The challenge is to create determined and conscious collective action, which can be effective, shared and scaled up. Left-wing alternatives are frequently discussed but these ideas often quickly stall as pragmatic processes remain under explored and are never fully envisaged. Too often well-intentioned thoughts fail to translate into action.

This event seeks to generate and share concrete knowledge of how bottom up radical political participation can succeed. It aims to reach out beyond the academy to bring people together to strategise, network and celebrate our collective potential to create a better world. It will bring together disparate knowledge to identify best practice. This will be done through a collective and deliberative process; identifying effective sequences and combinations of campaigning tactics and mechanisms, and a practical programme of radical political social change to move towards a truly democratic culture. The event seeks to challenge the established political class and provide a pre-figurative inspiration of popular deliberation to show that another world is possible.

Relevant topics will include:

  • Participatory education
  • Practice: the stories of actual existing politicised groups and communities
  • Encouraging participation through accessible political language
  • Participation through radical art and culture
  • Opportunities and challenges of participatory organisation in the global city
  • Political strategies and tactics for participatory mobilisation
  • Radical media organisations and strategies
  • Models of participatory organisation and political decision-making

Further information and submission guidelines can be found here: