Peer production and collaborative forms of technological design – such as those based on commons-oriented approaches – have at their core a critical stance towards the technoscientific landscape, an approach shared with Science and Technology Studies (STS) as a theoretical archipelago that has produced a significant wealth of knowledge that points out the social constructive and performative character of technoscience.
From October 2017 to June 2018, in the framework of the Heteropolitics ERC COG (2017-2020) Research Project, we conducted ethnographic research in Elassona, where over the past nine years eleven villages have built, run and maintain a Wireless Community Network (WCN), sarantaporo.gr. The aim of our research is to contribute to the debate on Commons through feedback from the field where such ventures take place. More specifically, the aim of Heteropolitics is to highlight alternative, self-organised communities of Commons. In the case-study of sarantaporo.gr, we have focused on the community created around a Digital Commons and the perceptions emerging from participation in the WCN concerning the infrastructure, which is provided by all participants to all the inhabitants of the villages that belong on the network, either they are participants or not. The following narratives (in Greek) from interviews we held answer questions such as:
How do the Commons emerge as everyday politics?
How do the Commons differ from bureaucratic state policies?
How do the subjectivities of participants emerge and get transformed in the contexts of such endeavours?
How do participants understand their role in the endeavour and in the wider society they belong to?
In the last decade, the concept of the commons has become prolific, if not popular. There are millions of references to the commons in a very wide range of literatures, from the academic, social activist, to the UN-and other multilateral institutions, think tanks, and popular literatures. However, in most, the idea of the commons is rather vague, a stand-in for public resources that avoids any references to specific collectivities of people, places, political economies and systems of power, and/or the historical and conflict-ridden origins of the commons at the dawn of the capitalist era in Northern Europe.
In Naples, the fieldwork of Heteropolitics is focused on Ex Asilo Filangieri, a self-managed cultural space in the historic centre of the city. In this space, cultural activities are consciously organized as commons. Τhere is also an intense concern with the internal political self-administration of the space, the relationships with the municipality and the city at large, as well as an endeavor to experiment with alternative democratic politics in ways which could resonate with citizens, cities and communities more widely. Civic and cultural praxis in ‘L’Asilo’, as it is called by participants, pivots around a) collaborative artistic creation and experimentation; b) egalitarian democratic self-management; c) self-legislation through the production of an internal regulation that was finally ratified by the municipality after a long struggle; d) the making of a different community and politics informed by openness, plurality, horizontality, non-violence and non-domination, consensus, collaboration, and experimentation; e) the negotiation of a different relationship with the municipality characterized by both collaboration, struggle, conditional municipal support and autonomous self-organization of the community in l’Asilo.
Tomorrow evening at 19:30, Alexandros Kioupkiolis will be a guest of the Refugee Center of Chania for a debate (spurred by the publication of his book ‘Politics of Freedom: Agonistic democracy, meta-anarchist utopias and the emergence of the multitude‘) on the significance of December 2008 and the commons of our time.
Our new postdoc researcher is Dr. George Dafermos, who will be looking at the potentialities opened up by the digital commons for social and political transformation.
For those who don’t know him, George has been involved in the digital commons for nearly 20 years: he is a research associate of the P2P Foundation, a member of the Commons | Lab co-op (a small open source technology co-op in Heraklion-Crete, Greece) and a member of the organization team of the Festival of the Commons (aka CommonsFest) in Heraklion-Crete. In the recent past, he was also the coordinator of the research of the FLOK Society Project in Ecuador in the areas of biodiversity, open-sustainable agriculture, open design commons, distributed manufacturing and distributed energy.