Participation not markets

December 31, 2012 |

Issue 9 of Jacobin has an article theorizing about the economic feasibility of a planned rather than a market economy: There is a discussion of ‘Participatory Economics’ as an alternative to market prices as the guiding signals in an economy. The basic idea is an iterative annual process whereby everyone in a society anticipates their annual consumption of all goods, and this is matched to the society’s productive capacities to generate a set of prices.

Zara and Public Participation

November 22, 2012 | 2 minutes

The NYTimes recently had an article about the clothing company Zara ( It turns out that what’s distinctive about Zara is it’s operations. By having a distinctive supply chain and innovation model–definitely a post-Fordist flexible specialization type thing–they’ve managed to grow into this huge company. So what’s interesting from the PartLab pov is how they crowdsource fashion trends. Basically they use the stores and sales people as information gatherers. Shoppers are giving Zara information about fashion trends when they ask sales people for clothing with particular features.

Some recent articles on participation in science

April 6, 2012 |

The center for the advancement of informal science education has a report on three cases of participatory science from 2009, which I only just discovered. A workshop on “Volunteered Geographic Information” took place in april of last year. UCL Professor Muki Haklay wrote three posts that are relevant. He is also apparently director of something called “the UCL Extreme Citizen Science group” (1 | 2 | 3). Disaster Relief 2.0, publisher march of last year.

Digital Money, Mobile Media, and the Consequences of Granularity

January 11, 2012 | 9 minutes

Nicholas Negroponte famously insisted that the dotcom boomers, “Move bits, not atoms.” Ignorant of the atom heavy human bodies, neuron dense brains, and physical hardware needed to make and move those little bits, Negroponte’s ideal did become true in industrial sectors dependent upon communication and economic transaction. In the communication sector, atomic newspapers have been replaced by bitly news stories. In the transactional sector, coins are a nuisance, few carry dollars, and I just paid for a haircut with a credit card adaptor on the scissor-wielder’s Droid phone.

Participation and governance in new times

December 2, 2011 | 4 minutes

In a recent article in New Statesman (Nov 16 2011) social theorist Will Davies reflects on the “new times” that seem to be emerging through the unfolding crisis which began in 2008. One possibility seems to be the end of the period of “neoliberalism”—or at least the end of some of its intellectual foundations, if certainly not all of them. The basic idea of neoliberalism is that government intervention or collective planning is always doomed to produce problems.

‘All Books Are Participatory’: Interview with Adam Hyde at FLOSS Manuals.

November 22, 2011 | 8 minutes

Adam Hyde is the mastermind behind FLOSS Manuals, a set of wiki-editable collaboratively written how-to textbooks for open source software. I talked to Adam about the next steps for his project, the future of publishing (the one where a book is ‘alive’ and each author can take a cut), and the worldwide spread of the booksprint format, a process enabled by Adam’s Booki software that brings together a group of people to produce a book in 3-5 days.

Online Community Managers

November 2, 2011 |

Every case we investigate has them. Either FSE-housed and salaried individuals doing the work the algorithm can’t–humanly cultivating, curating, and cheerleading participation–or the OP netizen doing it for free, fun, or the Lulzzz–online community managers. Alex Leavitt recently asked the AIR-L list about research on this necessary yet precarious species of knowledge. These were the returns: The Art of Hosting Good Conversations Online by Howard Rheingold and Misbehavior in cyber places: The regulation of online conduct in virtual communities on the Internet by Janet Lynne Sternberg

The Public Sphere of Occupy Wall Street

October 30, 2011 | 8 minutes

I keep returning to the public sphere as Habermas originally described it as I think about progressive political movements of today: Occupy Wall Street and its global dimensions, Anonymous and its more theatrical and political wing LulzSec, and progressive and independent cable television news network Current. Internet activism, television news punditry, and street-based social movement each work together implicitly or explicitly to constitute a larger public sphere. As scholars we need to resist the temptation of excluding one form of resistance as being inconsequential to social justice or to analysis and instead see all three as working together in a media ecology.

Some cases to pursue…

October 7, 2011 |

Citizen Science Public laboratory Galaxy Zoo Zooniverse Phylo Decision Making/Recommendation all our ideas ideascale google moderator votorola Consumer production/Prosumption? open source footware at john fluevog (open) Hardware Hacking safecast (Also citizen science) freedom box freedom fone Adafruit Artwork repository / Artistic Communities Deviantart The Internet Archive Project Gutenberg Anti-organizations Anonymous Nettime Mailing List Media The Station (YouTube) PCF (Miro) Fan Culture/Participatory Culture cases? Original Hip Hop Lyrics Archive

Fold it participation

September 20, 2011 |

Apparently a major discovery of the structure of a key retrovirus protease was made with the help of online gamers playing “Foldit”. Not only are the players helping scientists with the “drudgery” of research (as in distributed computing or people submitting animal sightings), but these game players are “providing answers beyond the capabilities of experts in the field.” Thus good game players have some kind of very specific expertise that scientists don’t have.