Every now and then when my friends and I arrange to meet up, one of us is late and has to call to find out where we are. Often, this prompts a discussion of what life would be like without mobile phones and wonderment at how our parents did it – being on time, agreeing and sticking to a plan, and, seemingly, existing in only one plane of reference. To me, that’s what mobile phones offered: the ability to immediately connect with someone not only in a different physical location, but one that wasn’t fixed or concrete. To maintain a dialogue whatever the movements of the body. And now the proliferation of the Internet means this is happening on a massive, global scale, with dialogues happening between people not only on different continents, but people who change continents monthly.
It’s easy to say we’re connected like never before, and it’s true, but the more challenging aspect of this, and something I think this week’s readings address, is what we are going to do with these new tools and opportunities now that “the world is shedding yesterday’s skin” (Bauwens 2011). We need help channelling and directing the chatter, but must walk the fine line between enough direction and too much. I think this is where P2P and Coalition of the Willing have the right idea in offering the structures, whether this be a computer program, social media platform or something completely different, something to base your ideas off and concrete your thoughts but lacking any heavy handed control. With all the structures that are becoming available, “the possibilities are only limited by the software you run and your ability to learn how to use it.” (Anon 2009a) When you think about it, the Coalition’s knowledge trust, innovation centre and catalyst system (Knife Party et al. 2010) could be applied to almost anything, and surely, considering the nature of their project, they wouldn’t mind sharing?
Because “information is a nonrival good” (Anon 2009b). It is there to share. The problem is we have so much of it that it can be hard to know where to start. Once again, this is where structures come into it. Ostrom states that “if the community doesn’t have a good way of communicating with each other or the costs of self-organization are too high, then they won’t organize, and there will be failures.” (Anon 2010) It doesn’t matter if the information is there is no one is doing anything with it. However, at the same time these structures need to be flexible because it is the fluidity and dynamic nature of the system that gives this new social organisation its power, it is the “aggregate result” not of the machines but of the interactions between them (Terranova 2004, p. 101) that will shake the foundations of traditional networks and organisations.
Anon (2009a) ‘A Revolution in the Making’, P2P Foundation: Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices <http://p2pfoundation.net/A_Revolution_in_the_Making> [accessed 29 April 2011]
Anon (2009b) ‘Economics of Information Production’, P2P Foundation: Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices <http://p2pfoundation.net/2.3_Economics_of_Information_Production> [accessed 29 April 2011]
Anon. (2010) ‘Elinor Ostrom’, p2p foundation <http://p2pfoundation.net/Elinor_Ostrom> [accessed 27 April 2011]
Bauwens, Michel (2011) ‘Book of the Week: Umair Haque’s New Capitalist Manifesto’, P2P Foundation: Researching, documenting and promoting peer to peer practices <http://blog.p2pfoundation.net/book-of-the-week-umair-haques-new-capitalist-manifesto/2011/02/13> [accessed 27 April 2011]
Knife Party and Rayner, Tim and Robson, Simon (2010) Coalition of the Willing <http://coalitionofthewilling.org.uk/> [accessed 27 April 2011]
Terranova, Tiziana (2004) ‘From Organisms to Multitudes’ In Network Culture: Politics for the Information Age London: Pluto: 101-106