Wednesday, August 16, 2017

[Yasmin_discussions] STEAM to STEM: the commons and open science movements, Ghent and Charles Babbage


In an earlier yasmin discussion post I presented a provocation that we
need to think of stem to steam in the other direction or STEAM to
STEM- and specifically how the arts, design and humanities can work
with stem to redesign science itself, both the scientific method and
the way science is embedded in society.

At the risk of exciting Frieder Nake again with a meta level
discussion ( thanks frieder !)( i think there are practical things we
can work on here)- i thought i would expand on the redesign of the
societal contextualising of science. I referred for instance to Helga
Nowotny, former President of the European Research Council called for
development of a 'socially robust science', where the public was
actively engaged in the doing and decision making of science.

When I was working at the Berkeley Space Science Lab, a colleague of
mine was Dan Wertheimer who was part of the group that created the
"SETI at HOME" project, which triggered the vibrant and growing
citizen science and open science community- which I think is a clear
response to Jean Marc Levy Leblond call for the reinvention of the

Levy-Leblond's advocacy of a new amateur connects to Bernard Stiegler
( ) who argued for the
term French term "amatorat' rather than 'amateur" to cover the whole
range of new engaged citizen activities from citizen science, to
hacker and maker culture, to patient and environmental monitoring
groups and in the US the STEM to STEAM movement. In a very real sense
the advocacy of a broadened concept of smart, STEM enabled, citizens
is one element of a response to Nowotny's call for socially robust
science ( ).

What has triggered this email- on how the arts, design and humanities
can contribute to the redesign of scientific culture throughthe
growing "commons" movement ( see for instance what the city of Ghent
is doing) below and a recent workshop creating an urban commons. I
also attended a workshop co directed by David Bollier who is a leading
advocate of 'commoning" - which rethinks the
early internet euphoria about connecting everyone to everyone in a
global village ( yes roy ascott, maybe the emerging planetary
consciousness is more like a planetary delirium..). The peer to peer,
open source, creative commons movements are alive and well and could
be part of a STEAM to STEM to redesign science itself ?

for more discussion with the connection to Charles Babbage see:

roger malina
here is the Ghent announcement

From: P2P Foundation
Ghent's Quick Rise as a Sustainable, Commons-Based Sharing City

Shareable posted: "Maira Sutton: A renewable energy cooperative, a
community land trust, and a former church building publicly-controlled
and used by nearby residents — these are just a few examples of about
500 urban commons projects that are thriving in the Flemish city o"

New post on P2P Foundation

Ghent's Quick Rise as a Sustainable, Commons-Based Sharing City

by Shareable

Maira Sutton: A renewable energy cooperative, a community land trust,
and a former church building publicly-controlled and used by nearby
residents — these are just a few examples of about 500 urban commons
projects that are thriving in the Flemish city of Ghent in Belgium. A
new research report shows that within the last 10 years, the city has
seen a ten-fold increase in local commons initiatives. The report
defines commons as any "shared resource, which is co-owned or
co-governed by a community of users and stakeholders, under the rules
and norms of that community."

With a population of less than 250,000, Ghent is sizably smaller than
the other, more well-known Sharing Cities such as Seoul and Barcelona.
But this report shows how it is quickly becoming a hub of some of the
most innovative urban commons projects that exist today.

The study was commissioned and financed by Ghent city officials who
were keen to understand how they could support more commons-based
initiatives in the future. It was conducted over a three-month period
in the spring of 2017. The research for the report was led by the P2P
Foundation's Michel Bauwens, in collaboration with Yurek Onzia and
Vasilis Niaros, and in partnership with Evi Swinnen and Timelab.

Given how self-governance is central to the success of a commons, the
primary methodology employed by the researchers was to meet and talk
with the members of various projects. Additionally, they conducted a
series of surveys, workshops, and interviews with Ghent residents to
explore how these projects came about and what could be done to
encourage more commons initiatives to emerge. One result of this
process is an online wiki that maps hundreds of successful such
projects in the region.

These are a few notable projects mentioned in the report that embody
the type of commons work currently underway in Ghent:

REScoop — Renewable energy cooperative

For a moderate sum, a resident can become a member of this green
energy cooperative to co-own and co-manage the enterprise. Not only is
this model more affordable for lower income residents, members can
share the efficiency of solar panels. For example, many members' roofs
may not be optimally located to get enough sunlight at all times of
the year. But with collective ownership, people can access and share
the available energy, whether or not their own home is collecting as
much solar power as other locations.

Buren van de abdij ("Neighbors of the abbey") — Neighborhood-managed
church building

A decade ago, the city gave the keys to a formerly abandoned church to
neighboring residents. Since then, the space has been turned it into a
thriving center for exhibitions, meetings, and other community events,
and it is entirely self-governed by the residents.

CLT Gent — Community land trust

Community land trusts (CLTs) are associations that develop and manage
land in order to keep housing or other types of properties affordable
and accessible to lower income populations. When the city of Ghent
develops housing, it dedicates a percentage of it to CLT Gent to
manage and oversee it.

NEST (Newly Established State of Temporality) — Former library
building turned into a temporary urban commons lab

The city made plans to renovate an old library. Instead of leaving the
building empty for the eight months leading up to its reconstruction,
officials decided to turn it into an experimental urban commons
project. Now, the space is a thriving community center with meeting
and event spaces, a music studio, children's play area, and more. Each
of the services and spaces are operated by different community
organizations and enterprises. They also have a contributory rent
arrangement, where organizations that are more participatory and
sustainable in their practice pay less rent. That means 20 percent of
the enterprises pay 60 percent of the rent, thereby subsidizing the
commons activities of the other spaces.

NEST opening day. Photo courtesy of Evi Swinnen

The strength of Ghent's commons can be traced to how the projects
encourage participation by individuals and community organizations to
steward the shared resource, according to lead researcher Bauwens.
There are a few factors that stand out among Ghent's various commons
projects. The first is that the projects' members invite residents to
openly contribute their time, skills, money, or goods, while at the
same time not requiring contributions by people to make use of the
resource. Secondly, these urban commons projects rely on some aspect
of their operation on "generative market forms" that can produce
income to sustain them. And finally, they also require support from
government agencies or nonprofits to help manage the resource.

Despite the plethora of commons projects that are there, however, the
commons-based economy is still relatively small. The report concludes
with a series of 23 proposals for actions the city could take to
support and strengthen the urban commons in Ghent. Much of the
recommendations are aimed at addressing the underlying problem that
the researchers identify — that the movement is very fragmented.

The local commons initiatives do not actively collaborate or cooperate
with one another. Bauwens noted that he saw members of commons
projects within the same domain not know of one other's commons
initiatives. That's why the report suggests the city set up alliances
and other opportunities for cooperation between individual commoners,
civil society organizations, the private sector, and agencies within
the government itself.

An innovative proposal is what one of the researchers, Swinnen, refers
to as a "call for commons." The idea emerged from the way the NEST
Experiment came about. Where major work is required to build a shared
space or resource — such as a new library or community space — heavy
institutional support is needed to carry forth the project. The idea
is that instead of having potential developers individually compete to
win the bid for the project to build it — as is the case in most
commercial-style development contracts — the project would be rewarded
to the strongest coalition of community partners and organizations.
And instead of giving it to one developer of one winning proposal,
this method enables several organizations to have all their winning
ideas realized in tandem. The coalition would have to prove its
ability to collaborate, share resources, and maximize community
benefit, all the while enabling the most public participation.

Commons as a School for Democracy

Bauwens says that with any commons project, urban or otherwise, there
are two major potential benefits of having people share and govern
over a common resource. The first is that it can reduce the
environmental and material footprint of that community. With any
physical commons, people can mutually share and provision its use.
Instead of having many people buy or own their own car or tools for
example, they can share it, leading to less of those goods having to
be produced or transported in the first place.

The second potential of the commons is that they can help build a true
democracy, or what Bauwens calls a "school for democracy." When people
have to govern something together, they need to make decisions
collectively and work together. The commons is where people can
practice and exercise their civic muscles by talking and meeting with
other members of their community face-to-face.

Hopefully, we will continue to see the people of Ghent build new urban
commons projects as fervently as they have done in the last 10 years.
With the additional support of their city government as proposed by
this report, Ghent could become one of the leading urban commons
capitals of the world.

Header image of NEST in Ghent courtesy of Evi Swinnen

Shareable | August 14, 2017 at 9:03 am | Tags: Vasilis Niaros |
Categories: P2P Cultures and Politics | URL:


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