Read Real Utopias: Switzerland’s Housing Co-ops (tribunemag.co.uk)

As countries across Europe struggle with housing crises, Switzerland’s innovative housing co-operatives point the way towards an alternative.

Despite a lot of interest, there’s only a small amount of co-op housing in the UK. Most non-profit housing is charitable housing associations. Large housebuilders have a stranglehold on the market overall.

“the Swiss example shows how these non-state and non-capitalist actors can build quality housing at a mass scale, if they’re encouraged — and that they can create a model of housing provision that moves beyond speculation into something more democratic and innovative.”

This article points to Switzerland and Zurich in particular as examples of more active housing co-op markets. Although it doesn’t give much insight into how to get to that point from our current position in the UK.

Read Amazon’s next big thing may redefine big (BBC News)

Amazon doesn’t feel it has a responsibility to make sure its groundbreaking technology is always used ethically.

“Civil rights groups have called it “perhaps the most dangerous surveillance technology ever developed”, and called for Amazon to stop selling it to government agencies, particularly police forces.”

“Mr Vogels doesn’t feel it’s Amazon’s responsibility to make sure Rekognition is used accurately or ethically.

“That’s not my decision to make,” he tells me.”

Murky AF. I guess this kind of moral self-absolution is a necessity if you’re in charge of Amazon.

“He likens ML and AI to steel mills. Sometimes steel is used to make incubators for babies, he says, but sometimes steel is used to make guns.”

Amazon’s ML/AI is not a raw material. It’s shaped (and sold) by a cadre of people at Amazon.

Do they build in any accountability mechanisms to their algorithms?

They’re making a loaded technology. They’re making the guns, and he’s saying “hey – it’s not our responsibility to add safety catches.”

 

Read We Have Never Been Social by Kathleen FitzpatrickKathleen Fitzpatrick (Kathleen Fitzpatrick)

The project has as its working title We Have Never Been Social: Rethinking the Internet. It revisits the history of the Internet’s development and, in particular, the rise of the social media structures that have come to dominate so much of our experience of networked communication, arguing that a significant part of what has led us to the mess we find ourselves in today is a desperately flawed model of sociality, one that is in fact not just un-social but anti-social.

What if the problem with social media isn’t just that it got centralized, but something deeper than that?  Looking forward to seeing this project by Kathleen Fitzpatrick progress as she looks at the history of sociality online.

That is to say: if the problem has not been the centralized, corporatized control of the individual voice, the individual’s data, but rather a deeper failure of sociality that precedes that control, then merely reclaiming ownership of our voices and our data isn’t enough. If the goal is creating more authentic, more productive forms of online sociality, we need to rethink our platforms, the ways they function, and our relationships to them from the ground up. It’s not just a matter of functionality, or privacy controls, or even of business models. It’s a matter of governance.

Read We Can’t Do It Ourselves by Kris De Decker (LOW←TECH MAGAZINE)

How to live a more sustainable life? By placing responsibility squarely on the individual, attention is deflected away from the many institutions involved in structuring possible courses of action.

This is a very nice analysis of the shortcomings of behaviour change at the level of the individual.  Better to focus on systemic failings than guilt-tripping people for making a wrong choice, when it very often isn’t really a choice at all.

When the focus is on practices, the so-called “value-action gap” can no longer be interpreted as evidence of individual ethical shortcomings or individual inertia. Rather, the gap between people’s attitudes and their “behaviour” is due to systemic issues: individuals live in a society that makes many pro-environmental arrangements rather unlikely.

Read Solidarity economy: Case studies from Rojava and Jackson, Mississippi by Anca Voinea (Co-operative News)

Sacajawea Hall from Cooperation Jackson and Huriye Semdin from Rojava shared their experience during a workshop at Ways Forward.

I’ve found Rojava and Jackson very inspiring movements over the past year or so.  Grassroots and built in areas of intense struggle, they both focus strongly on equality, economic justice and environmental issues.

There’s nothing really in-depth in this particular article, but I like the fact that representatives from both movements dialled in to a workshop in Manchester, England.  Being able to so easily communicate remote can help us build international solidarity.

Read The Green New Deal must have a Zero-Waste Policy by Kali Akuno

If we are serious about ushering in a just transition of our economy, then we have to be prepared to launch a no-holds-barred debate about the need to transform all the productive relationships in our society.

More from Kali Akuno of Cooperation Jackson on some requirements of a Green New Deal, specifically around zero waste.  Making things last longer; local collective ownership; producer responsibility.

The program should also require the elimination of the planned obsolescence built into the life cycle of all modern consumer products from cars to cell phones, a practice that both enriches corporations and drives the need to extract more resources and expend more fossil fuels to make more products.

cooperationjackson.org/blog/greennewdealmusthaveazerowastepolicy

Read It’s Eco-Socialism or Death by Kali Akuno

The Green New Deal (GND) is now part of the national conversation. But for decades, social movements have been doing the on-the-ground work to resist fossil capitalism and envision a different future. Such grassroots social mobilization — but at a massive scale — is vital to ensuring the GND catalyzes transformative social change.

Good discussion about the nuances of a Green New Deal with Cooperation Jackson.

“We have to articulate a program that concretely addresses the class’s immediate and medium-term need for jobs and stable income around the expansion of existing “green” industries and the development of new ones, like digital fabrication or what we call community production, that will enable a comprehensive energy and consumption transition.”

cooperationjackson.org/blog/ecosocialismordeath

Read The Fourth Industrial Revolution Won’t Trickle Down, Under Capitalism by Aabid Firdausi (Socialist Economist)

Most economists suffer from misplaced optimism about the oncoming Fourth Industrial Revolution. Some reskilling here and there would suffice to spread its benefits to all workers. They ignore how capitalism invents and employs technology for profits, not people.

I first came across the idea of the third and fourth industrial revolutions (3IR and 4IR) in Jackson Rising, where the technologies of these present and upcoming revolutions were seen as potentially liberatory, if used in the right way.  The possibilities are exciting, with (amongst other things) fablabs enabling manufacture to move local, and an open web allowing information resources to be shared globally.

Unsurprisingly though, there’s a very capitalist potential outcome of 3IR and 4IR too.

Like the previous revolutions, it *could* be liberatory, or it *could* as easily reinforce existing inequalities. The historical record isn’t too great in terms of global equality and liberation.

This article makes the argument for ensuring these revolutions are for liberatory ends.

“how technology is put to use fundamentally remains a social choice and a “global network of resistance” to the way the emerging technologies are utilised “is both necessary and feasible.”

To me that’s a given really – shame the article doesn’t go into much detail on actual strategy. (Which Cooperation Jackson do in great detail.)

There’s much more to 3/4IR, but selectively quoting from the connectivity and communication parts, as they piqued my IndieWeb interest:

“While social networking provides relatively open spaces for public expression, the immense wealth that is generated by the techno-capitalists shows us that even public spaces can become a profitable business model.”

“necessitates the need for resistance against the tendencies of capitalism in general that has historically encroached upon public spaces for profit.”

Here’s to being part of a global network of resistance.

Read Local-first software: You own your data, in spite of the cloud by Ink & Switch (inkandswitch.com)

A new generation of collaborative software that allows users to retain ownership of their data.

I like this concept of “local-first software”.  This is a very comprehensive survey.

Foundational part of it are Conflict-free Replicated Data Types.  Can’t say I know a thing about the details, but they sound pretty good:

CRDTs emerged from academic computer science research in 2011. They are general-purpose data structures, like hash maps and lists, but the special thing about them is that they are multi-user from the ground up.

Just as packet switching was an enabling technology for the Internet and the web, or as capacitive touchscreens were an enabling technology for smartphones, so we think CRDTs may be the foundation for collaborative software that gives users full ownership of their data.

Read Straws in the wind… which future of work are we heading for? – RSA (thersa.org)

Our latest report portrays four alternate futures of work. What clues do current trends give us for the future that awaits us?

I like speculative future scenario planning, as a way of outlining possible alternatives and encouraging agency towards which one we actual want. Peter Frase’s Four Futures is a great book on this, from a general socio-economic view. So I like the idea of doing this from a technological perspective. Cooperatives and mutuals appear in the “Exodus Economy” future, in response to an economic slowdown. (I wouldn’t want the assumption to be that this is the only way they will appear, but I guess that’s not the intention of the authors.)

www.thersa.org/discover/publications-and-articles/rsa-blogs/2019/03/straws-in-the-wind-which-future-of-work-are-we-heading-for

Read The Player of Games by an author
Just finished The Player of Games (Iain M Banks) – also really enjoyable.  Less cinematic than Consider Phlebas (though still nicely paced), and a bit more to chew on philosophically.  The contrast of the hierarchical Azadian empire and the egalitarian Culture is interesting.  Gurgeh, the main character, from the Culture, finds some appeal in the way things work in Azad.  Azad feels like a caricature of Western society as it is today – superficially advanced and urbane, but with some real darkness hidden away, out of sight.
Read Consider Phlebas by an author
Really enjoyed Consider Phlebas (Iain M. Banks).  It was a rip-roaring read.  Very visual and cinematic, I can still conjure up a picture of a lot of the scenes in my head.  Enjoyed the brief intro it gives to the Culture, too – the post-scarcity socialist society that are featured in a lot more books in the Culture series.  Interested to see how that’s explored further.  I’ve just started reading the next in the series, The Player of Games.

After this I think I’ll try some Kim Stanley Robinson – more speculative socialist futures as far as I understand.

Read Protocol Cooperativism?: Platform Cooperativism by an author (Platform Cooperativism)

To break down capitalism, coops should focus on shared protocols, not platform coops that replicate platform capitalist systems.

Interesting argument that we should view protocols as the digital means of production, more so than platforms. And that ‘protocol cooperatives’ will do more to break down capitalism than platform coops will. I think the main argument being that platform coops are inherently centralised, and that as far as challenging capital goes, we should be striving for decentralised architectures. I think the argument being we should have coops that interoperate on top of a shared protocol; not one coop that dominates an entire market with a platform.

Relates somewhat to the Statebook article, which argued that the state would serve us better if it focused on building and promoting shared protocols, not on building a Facebook alternative.

Read Beyond “Taming” the Tech Giants by an author (New Socialist)

To truly challenge the power of the tech giants, we need more than better regulation. We need class struggle.

If neoliberalism is a class project, then Silicon Valley is the industrial manifestation of neoliberalism applied to technology. Silicon Valley is a class project. To abolish it needs large structural transformation. We need to change the balance of class forces, tipping it away from capital and in favour of labour. Worker organisation from below, with a change in conception of what a tech worker is. Start taking lucrative technologies out of the capital-accumulation process.

“Tackling the problem at the root requires that we *abolish* Silicon Valley.”

newsocialist.org.uk/beyond-taming-the-tech-giants/

Read Disrupting the climate by an author (neweconomics.org)

Digital technology has an impact on climate change in three distinct ways – all of which we need to radically change if we want a chance of preventing climate chaos.

Digital technology’s effect on the environment.

It uses a lot of raw materials; produces a lot of CO2 in manufacture; and the ‘cloud’ uses a vast amount of energy in use.

“What we really need is a whole new way of thinking about digital technology. In a world focused on ownership driven by conspicuous consumption, in the thralls of a digital revolution, we have created a sprawling global beast that might consume our society as well as ever greater amounts of energy and resources.”

Things we should do: use materials more efficiently; make things more repairable; use renewable energy.

I’d probably also add ‘abolish capitalism’ to the list.

neweconomics.org/2018/11/disrupting-the-climate

Read What to do once you admit that decentralizing everything never seems to work by an author (Hackernoon)

Lots of tech projects these days, especially crypto-networks, aspire to decentralization. Or their evangelists say they do, because they feel they need to. Decentralization is the new disruption—the thing everything worth its salt (and a huge ICO) is supposed to be doing.

Really good article by @ntnsndr: hackernoon.com/decentralizing-everything-never-seems-to-work-2bb0461bd168.

I’m intrigued by the idea of where centralisation arises in decentralised systems. Is the protocol by which decentralised apps communicate a point of centralisation? Maybe you need some things centralised to facilitate decentralisation. Is that then a single point of failure?

Personally think it’s healthy to see a plurality of decentralised protocols, and it’s even better to see them bridging to each other. All about the bridges.

Read How solid is Tim’s plan to redecentralize the web? by Irina Bolychevsky (Medium)

The internet and near-costless scaling of digital has allowed the concentration of too much power in too few hands. Our systems for…

I really like the Personal Data Store concept. You own your data, and you choose to let apps interact with it for your benefit. It’s pretty much what the is doing (though perhaps for the more limited subset of things that don’t need verified claims).

I don’t like the commercial nature of most PDS offerings (including Solid now).

Either way, some good general food for thought in this article.

Read Fully Automated Green Communism | Novara Media (Novara Media)

How can we secure luxury for all without careering even faster towards climate catastrophe? Aaron Bastani discusses.

“It means saying ‘here is a path to limitless abundance’, rather than calling for civilisation to be placed in a straight jacket.”

Following on the previous ‘degrowth vs accelerationism’ article, a view from what the other article would call the left accelerationist approach.

I wouldn’t call it accelerationism though. Just a harnessing of technology for the aims of equality and abundance. But not blind techno-optimism.

Good article.

Read Repair Day: No One Should Be Punished for “Contempt of Business Model” (Electronic Frontier Foundation)

Repair is one of the secret keys to a better life. Repairs keep our gadgets in use longer (saving our pocketbooks) and divert e-waste from landfills or toxic recycling processes (saving our planet). Repair is an engine of community prosperity: when you get your phone screen fixed at your corner…

Great piece by Cory Doctorow on the importance of repair.

“This is the golden age of repairs, a moment made for a renaissance of shade-tree mechanics, electronics tinkerers, jackleg fixit shops, and mom-and-pop service depots. It has to be: our planet, our pocketbooks, and our neighborhoods all benefit when our property lasts longer, works better and does more.”

Read Radical municipalism: demanding the future (openDemocracy)

‘Municipal politics’ may raise new types of demands crucial in organising powerful social movements and improving material conditions, while orienting us towards new understandings of what is possible. 


Some good musings on the relationship between post-nationalism and post-capitalism.

Hypothesis: “that the ‘municipal’ – whether we’re talking about towns, cities or city-regions – might be a fundamentally important scale at which, and through which, to generate progressive movements towards post-capitalism”

Some good thorny issues that need examining in the ‘Our questions’ section.

 

Read Everything for everyone: Michel Bauwens interviews Nathan Schneider – Commons Transition (Commons Transition)

An interview with Nathan Schneider by Michel Bauwens, on this very interesting book about the past, present and future of the cooperative movement and how it intersects with the revival of the commons.

“I regard cooperatives as a kind of commons, a mode of commoning that has made itself legible to the industrial-era state and market. […] But I wouldn’t claim cooperatives are sufficient. They’re a starting point, a gateway to more diverse and widespread commoning.”

Nathan Schneider interview by Michel Bauwens.

commonstransition.org/everything-for-everyone-michel-bauwens-interviews-nathan-schneider/

Read Mondragón and the System Problem by Gar Alperovitz (Truthout)

Politics & Elections Native Vote Could Determine Outcome of Senate Race in Montana Human Rights New Senate Bill Would Allow Indefinite Detention of Migrant Families Human Rights New Legislation Gives Access to Medication Abortion at Public Colleges War & Peace Bernie Sanders to Pompeo: Yemeni Lives …

Interesting read about some of the issues faced at the system level as cooperatives get large and embedded in global markets. As experienced by Mondragon.

www.truth-out.org/news/item/19704-mondragon-and-the-system-problem

Read The making of the CommonsCloud – technical choices | Free Knowledge Institute (freeknowledge.eu)

Interesting article on the tech choices behind CommonsCloud.

freeknowledge.eu/article/makin

(CommonsCloud is a platform coop combining Discourse, NextCloud and Phabricator. They’re trying to build an online collaboration platform for the solidarity economy.)

en.goteo.org/project/commonscl

Read Blockchain could reshape the world – and the far right is one step ahead | Josh Hall by Josh Hall (the Guardian)

Crypto technology is coming to a crossroads. Plenty want to use it to radically redistribute wealth – but plenty don’t, says writer Josh Hall

Thoughts?

I think the article could explain better what it is specifically that both the left the far-right are doing with cryptocurrency. And in what way the far-right is one step ahead.

Read Next, the Internet: Building a Cooperative Digital Space (The Internet of Ownership)

Originally published in the Cooperative Business Journal’s winter 2018 issue. For a sizable portion of the people running the established cooperatives in the United States, I’ve found, the in…

Really nice article by @ntnsndr on the possibilities of coops in the digital space (and what they’re already achieving).  Quality rather than unnecessary growth; data privacy; federation rather than centralization; harnessing ideas like blockchain for trust; and funding new ventures through cooperative means. Exciting times. (h/t @Matt_Noyes)