• May 19, 2013 at 9:50 am

    Dear all,

    my name is anNa and I am Interaction Design PhD candidate, who is working with a practice-based project on infrastructures for common making (fablabs, maker-spaces, hackers-space). I am looking forward to meeting all of you in a few days, in the meanwhile I would like to propose a topic for discussion related to possible ways to frame and understand these spaces in looking for possible models for their long-term sustainability.

    My research is based on the direct involvement in the setting up and running of Fabriken, a maker-space in Malmoe (Sweden), and so far I came out with some concepts/ideas that I would like to share and discuss with you.

    Infrastructures as time and local based, from the experience with Fabriken, it emerges a way to understand infrastructures which is close to the one proposed by Star and Ruhleder (1995), according to who infrastructures become such in their ability to  support the emergence of local practices. As a consequence, infrastructures should not be understood as a matter of  ”what” but rather as a matter of “when”.

    Commons as a mode of governance, what I noticed in Fabriken (but also in other similar spaces) is how production processes are seldom generating commons.  Commons, in these spaces, can be rather understood as a mode of governance for the space and the machineries, which become shared resources managed together by the participants, allowing for diverse kinds of activities.

    Economies of scope, when it comes to long-term sustainability, the commons-based governance allows to introduce the idea of economy of scopes. Instead of writing off the costs of machineries and the space by scaling  one or few similar practices (economies of scale), an alternative  is to create an ecology of activities (and scopes) where sustainability is reach  through diverse uses.

    In the light of these three concepts, some possible recommendations for setting up and running these spaces seem to emerge:

    - the importance of building a strong relation with the local context,  in setting up Fabriken it has been particular rewarding to work together with local actors and considering the specific characteristics of the context, instead of parachuting a pre-determined standard model about what a maker-space is  (what kind of machines and practices it supports). It has also been important to create a space that has the possibility to change over time in order to support diverse practices.

    - looking for scopes, in Fabriken it has been particularly important to open up the understanding of what a maker-space is and what kind of activities it can support (from building robots, to skate-roller training, from hosting temporal cafes to knitting courses). This has been particularly rewarding in terms of participation and financial sustainability of the space.

    -  Ostrom’s design principles, a major problem in Fabriken has been related to how to make participants understand and accept the commons based governance model. Particularly it emerged the importance of having a robust and transparent way of communicating rules, and the centrality of rewarding the most engaged participants as well as “sanctioning” misbehavior.

    Do you have any reaction on this? Thoughts? Experiences?

    Looking forward to discussing with you!

     

     

  • May 20, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    Dear Anna,

    fascinating contribution, though I’m not sure I understand all you are saying,

    time and local based: can Linux not be considered a commons, because it is not local based, or because it is produced by a global community, ‘all the time’ … or by a majority of wage earners for corporations … seems to me there is a diversity of commons, ‘local and now’ being just a special case. It seems to me we have to be especially open to the globa-local aspects .. commons projects that have both aspects intertwined

    commons as mode of governance, yes, but production and governance are inseparable, and going into detail allows to recognize a wide variety of commons production and governance modes .. what then are their common characteristics? how would you charactirize free software or open hardware projects, all of which presently have strong corporate roles in it

    finally I recognize a kinship regarding economies of scope, something which I have used in my own presentations as well. See http://p2pfoundation.net/Economy_of_Scope, where I write:

    “My short definition of EoS is very simple and should be understandable I think: “doing more with less”; and this is mainly achieved by mutualizing infrastructures, both immaterial (open source knowledge, code, design) and material (co-working, fablabs, carsharing, idle-sourcing …); for contemporary implementations we should add: using distributed machinery in distributed workplace to allow local production in microfactories, through the process of manufacturing on demand, while achieving scope through the global immaterial cooperation on both the design of the products, the design of the machinery to produce them, and even the processes through which to make both the previous aspects (ex. the xtreme manufacturing methodology of OSE/WikiSpeed).”

    and from Tom Atlee:

    “ECONOMIES OF SCALE (ground economics in “growth” – i.e., efficiently produced and monetized mass commodities which leave people hungry for more and more as they produce and consume more and more). This involves making lots of stuff at a cheap per-piece rate and getting everyone to buy it all so you make a good profit (partly to pay back the infrastructure investment required to make lots of stuff cheaply and massively). Externalize costs wherever possible, so you can continually profit while degrading society and nature wherever you deem it necessary for your business. Make things that break down so people have to buy replacements. Maintain a sense of scarcity: Make people feel inadequate (intrinsically or in contrast to others) and don’t truly satisfy their deep needs, but keep them coming back to buy temporary pseudo-satisfyers (your products and services). Get people working at jobs they may not like in order to get money to buy the stuff you make, which they often buy to counter the stress they have accumulated doing their jobs. Privatize all parts of the commons you can manage so that people have to pay you to use them. Ship things from cheap-production areas to expensive consumption areas – even if they must be shipped great distances – to improve your profits (which works as long as you can externalize the environmental and social costs of all that transformation). Design machines and create technologies to facilitate mass production, to increase per-person “productivity” and to replace expensive human labor – and thus increase profits. Set up a massive financial industry to profitably manage the movement of money and to facilitate bets on the ups and downs of the resulting out-of-equilibrium economy. Use GDP as the primary economic indicator to keep the focus on the flow of money and the growth of consumption. The “efficiency” of such economies of scale lies in the monetarily cheap per-piece rate achieved by the mass-productivity and cost-externalization in the system as a whole.

    ECONOMIES OF SCOPE (ground economics in the free creative participation of everyone, in the true satisfaction of deep needs, and in the natural abundance of peer production, immateriality, community, creativity and the commons). Make only the “stuff” your community really needs to function. Focus on satisfying deep personal/interpersonal needs using primarily non-material aspects of life like spirit, learning, beauty, community, relationship, nature, activity, conversation, creativity, games, celebration, and other forms of deep enjoyment and mutual pleasure that involve little material or money. Share ideas, culture, designs and all other immaterial knowledge, resources and enjoyables freely. Set things up so that people can meet most of their material needs through sharing and gifting networks: This vastly reduces how much “stuff” they and their community need to have on hand, thereby reducing environmental impact (less material flow-through) and making up for the possibly higher per-piece cost of locally producing smaller quantities of needed “stuff”. Set things up (with, for example, guaranteed minimum income for everyone) so that people tend to do productive work that they enjoy; their productive activity then becomes part of their high quality of life, rather than a drain on it. Design machines and technology to facilitate on-demand local production and for replacement of unpleasant human labor to free people up to do what they want, thus enhancing quality of life while reducing environmental impact. Use quality of life/sustainability statistics as the main economic indicator(s) so that monetary considerations do not trump the long term (sustainable) satisfaction of deep human needs. Minimize the financial sector that does little truly productive work, freeing up resources for productive work and lessening the danger of arbitrary financial colonization or collapse. Likewise, minimize bureaucracy. The “scope” of economies of scope embraces the scope of participation and the depth, breadth and longevity of the needs met. The “efficiency” of such economies of scope lies in the lower costs (financial, social, and environmental – all!!) of reduced material consumption in the context of a refreshed sense of abundance and quality of life.” (email: march 2013)

  • May 20, 2013 at 2:47 pm

    Dear Michel

    thank you for your answers and links on economies of scope: I am looking for other definitions/formulations to develop my understanding of the concept. Concerning the other points you make:

    time and local based: can Linux not be considered a commons, because it is not local based, or because it is produced by a global community, ‘all the time’ … or by a majority of wage earners for corporations … seems to me there is a diversity of commons, ‘local and now’ being just a special case. It seems to me we have to be especially open to the globa-local aspects .. commons projects that have both aspects intertwined

    Probably I did not explain myself clearly enough. I am trying to work both towards understanding what an infrastructure is and how commons could play a role in it. When I talk about time and local based infrastructures I am thinking about infrastructures in general terms not neccesarly commons-based one. Specifically, I am building on Star and Ruhleder definition of infrastructure (http://www.google.se/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0CEEQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fciteseerx.ist.psu.edu%2Fviewdoc%2Fdownload%3Fdoi%3D10.1.1.88.3121%26rep%3Drep1%26type%3Dpdf&ei=bQ6aUZy0GY3Osgai0oGoAg&usg=AFQjCNGQBAB-aotrcTFzXCe98tNnwFOT8g&sig2=8Aux4FxrYmZL0FKuRSFN-g&bvm=bv.46751780,d.Yms). In their understanding infrastructures allow for the emergence of local practices and for this reasons the local and temporal dimensions play a major role. I do not think this understanding is in opposition with having global infrastructures (think about Internet and what it allows on a here/now perspective) but rather it underlines the importance of understanding the interplay between global and local (as you point out) and, when it comes to design (-ers community) the importance of moving out from logics of standardization and “one-solution-fits-as-many-as-possible” mind-set towards some form of located-design.

    In this logic if we think about hacker-spaces, fablabs, maker-spaces as having the same role that Internet has in intangible (=information based) commons-based P2P production, it emerges not only the importance of creating a distributed system but also having a system that, according to a logic of scope, allows for diverse local practices to emerge . This means that rahter than a  “standard FabLab model” there is the need to develop approaches to establish a “located” FabLab that supports specific local practices,  how to “fork”a FabLab?

     

    commons as mode of governance, yes, but production and governance are inseparable, and going into detail allows to recognize a wide variety of commons production and governance modes .. what then are their common characteristics? how would you charactirize free software or open hardware projects, all of which presently have strong corporate roles in it

    I am not sure I understand your point here and also I am not an expert in production so I might be wrong in separating production from governance. If we go back to the cases, a major issues in fablabs/hacker-spaces/maker-spaces is sharing of outputs. While in intagible production it works quite easily when it comes to tangible processes there are issues not only because of the nature of the outputs themselves(being rivalrous and non-durable), but also in having people documenting the processes. A possible way to go, that is what was tried out in Fabriken, is to not focus on the processes but rather on the fact that the machines and the space are commons: we do not ask people to document their processes, but rather to embrace that space and machines are shared (cleaning after themselves, mainting the machines, buying coffee etc etc). So while the governance (or maybe I should say “management model”?) of the space is commons-based (we share the machines, we have common rules to access and taking care of the space) the production processes are not necessarly generating commons (of course sharing/taking care of the space leads often to mutual collaboration and sharing of knowledge but that’s not regulated). In this kind of model it becomes also easy to involve commercial partners because they are asked not to share processes or outputs but rather participate in taking care of the commons. Although, this model may work with small start-ups  I can see its limits if bigger corporations would join, then probably different rules need to be applied.

     

  • May 20, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    Thank you Anna, very clear points, I need some time to digest them first!

  • May 20, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    looking forward to continuing the discussion :)