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You Can't Steal a Gift: Peer to Peer Politics

by gmoke Mon Nov 26th, 2012 at 04:43:27 AM EST

November 6, 2012, the MIT Center for Civic Media and Department of Urban Planning had a conversation on "Peer to Peer Politics" with Steven Johnson, author of Future Perfect: The Case for Progress in a Networked World moderated by Aaron Naparstek, visiting scholar at MIT's DUSP, and featuring Harvard Law School's Yochai Benkler, Susan Crawford, and Lawrence Lessig. Video of the event online.

To my mind, the discussion was less about the electoral politics we usually associate with that word and more about how peer-to-peer [P2P] networks are already being used among diverse populations for civic activities and many other things.  When Susan Crawford, founder of OneWebDay, paraphrased Kevin Kelly by saying "The internet was built by love. It's a gift," (The Web Runs on Love, Not Greed), I thought  of the idea and the story behind the title of the book You Can't Steal a Gift about jazz players Dizzy Gillespie, Clark Terry, Milt Hinton, and Nat King Cole by Gene Lees (Lincoln, NE:  Univ of NE Press, 2001 ISBN 0-8032-8034-3):

Phil Woods:  "I was in Birdland, stoned, as I often was in those days.  Dizzy and Art Blakey kidnapped me.  Took me home to Dizzy's and sat me down and said, 'What are you moaning about? Why don't you get your own band?'...

"I asked them if a white guy could make it, considering the music was a black invention.  I was getting a lot of flak about stealing not only Bird's music but his wife and family as well [Woods was married to Chan, Charlie Parker's widow]...  And Dizzy said, 'You can't steal a gift. Bird gave the world his music, and if you can hear it you can have it.'"

front-paged by afew


Recent work in behavioral economics shows that we

"do things because we like it, because it's interesting, and because it serves a larger purpose."
(Source:  Drive:  The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us by Daniel H. Pink  NY:  Penguin Group, 2009  ISBN 978-1-59448-884-9)

Peer to peer networks are already based upon a common purpose.   A common, unifying purpose along with a measure of autonomy, and a chance for mastery seem to be stronger motivators than money or other extrinsic rewards.    

Voluntary cooperation on common projects also fits into Gandhian economics as swadeshi, local production.  Daily practice of swadeshi was  the basis of both Gandhian nonviolence and economics.  Can we think of Linux and Wikipedia and the other usual suspects examples of global/local P2P as swadeshi systems?

Mutual exchange within a system of voluntary cooperation was the heart of Kropotkin's  proposed system of economics:

"He believed that should a society be socially, culturally, and industrially developed enough to produce all the goods and services required by it, then no obstacle, such as preferential distribution, pricing or monetary exchange will stand as an obstacle for all taking what they need from the social product."
(Source:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Kropotkin)

Clay Shirky, in his book, Cognitive Surplus:  Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age (NY:  Penguin Press, 2010 ISBN 978-1-59420-253-7), wonders:

"But what if the contributors aren't workers?  What if they really are contributors, quite specifically intending their contributions to be acts of sharing rather than production?  What if their labors are labors of love?"

If work becomes sharing, then we might be approaching a gift economy in which reciprocity and fairness become more important.  Anthropologist Marcel Mauss wrote that there is an obligation to give, an obligation to receive, and an obligation to repay in gift economies but that's only the beginning of complications.  Economies, whether capitalist, Communist, socialist, anarchist, gift, or barter are more complex than any single human mind.

If we do want to talk about P2P and other kinds of networked politics, I would first examine why grassroots/netroots party politics has not yet generated grassroots/netroots governance despite being successful at electing Governors and Presidents.  For example, Deval Patrick of MA won his first term in 2006 with a masterful grassroots/netroots campaign that bubbled up with as well as trickled down.  The two way communication lasted through the transition when Patrick installed a business as usual staff and got into trouble about curtains and Cadillacs with the Boston press.  When Obama ran in 2008 with Davids Alexrod and Plouffe, who both worked on the Patrick campaign, I wondered if the same thing would happen.  

I do not know of any politicians who are currently trying to govern as well as campaign with a grassroots/netroots P2P network but, if P2P continues to be effective within the civic and business spheres, there will be.

Ethan Zuckerman's notes on "Peer to Peer Politics"
http://www.ethanzuckerman.com/blog/2012/11/06/steven-johnsons-peer-to-peer-politics-at-mit-media-lab /

More from You Can't Steal a Gift:  Dizzy, Clark, Milt, and Nat by Gene Lees
(Lincoln, NE:  Univ of NE Press, 2001  ISBN 0-8032-8034-3)

Sonny Rollins:  "Jazz has always been a music of integration.  In other words, there were definitely lines where blacks would be and where whites would begin to mix a little.  I mean, jazz was not just a music;  it was a social force in this country, and it was talking about freedom and people enjoying things for what they are and not having to worry about whether they were supposed to white, black, and all this stuff.  Jazz has always been the music that had this kind of spirit.  Now I believe for that reason, the people that could push jazz have not pushed jazz because that's what jazz means.  A lot of times, jazz means no barriers.  Long before sports broke down its racial walls, jazz was bringing people together on both sides of the bandstand.  Fifty-second Street, for all its shortcomings, was a place in which black and white musicians could interact in a way that led to natural bonds of friendship.  The audience, or at least part of it, took a cue from this, leading to an unpretentious flow of social intercourse."

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/11/23/1161667/-You-Can-t-Steal-a-Gift-Peer-to-Peer-Politics

Poll
More peer to peer politics?
. yes 83%
. no 0%
. not yes 0%
. not no 0%
. neither yes nor no 0%
. both yes and no 0%
. don't understand the question? 16%
. none of the above 0%

Votes: 6
Results | Other Polls
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I'd love to see this diary on Voices on the Square

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 12:15:09 AM EST
That's Voices On The Square

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 12:15:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Everything I do is public domain so feel free to post it there yourself.  If you want to give me credit and leave a bread crumb trail back to the source, that would be nice too.

Solar IS Civil Defense
by gmoke on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 01:17:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - You Can't Steal a Gift: Peer to Peer Politics

If we do want to talk about P2P and other kinds of networked politics, I would first examine why grassroots/netroots party politics has not yet generated grassroots/netroots governance despite being successful at electing Governors and Presidents.  For example, Deval Patrick of MA won his first term in 2006 with a masterful grassroots/netroots campaign that bubbled up with as well as trickled down.  The two way communication lasted through the transition when Patrick installed a business as usual staff and got into trouble about curtains and Cadillacs with the Boston press.  When Obama ran in 2008 with Davids Alexrod and Plouffe, who both worked on the Patrick campaign, I wondered if the same thing would happen.  

I do not know of any politicians who are currently trying to govern as well as campaign with a grassroots/netroots P2P network but, if P2P continues to be effective within the civic and business spheres, there will be.

My impression from the rise of mass parties in Sweden (roughly first half of 20th century) is that the need for allowing mass participation from the members was made really obvious when there was more then one mass party.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!

by A swedish kind of death on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 04:43:19 AM EST
My suspicion is that politicians are happy to have P2P in campaigns, within limits, but do not want to give up their own power to govern in the same way, but I could be wrong.  P2P is arising in the civic arena - repairing potholes and meeting immediate needs.  Seeclickfix is the standard example cited.  Another suspicion I have is that P2P politics will sneak in through the civic activity.

I live in the USA and thus have only one political party separated by small differences into two entities, both right wing.  Third parties are almost impossible here, having been legislated into irrelevance.

Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Sat Nov 24th, 2012 at 05:52:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seems to me that it's important to include the concept of "editor" or "organizer" or "distributor" or "aggregator" or "regulator" or "reviewer" into this.

Right now the Internet is a gigantic collection of random voices generating a cacophony of viewpoints, ideas, theories, opinions, and facts--or things listed as facts. Many of us come into this with some sort of background information that came from the pre-Internet world. We learned our science from textbooks written by credentialed authors and reviewed by their peers. We learned our economics from professors and lecturers who selected their view of history to put together a story that we believed and bought into and internalized. Should you get your physics news from arXiv or from Physical Review Letters?

If a newcomer goes onto the Internet now, how is he supposed to make any sort of selection between the mass of information that's there? Should they read the NYT or the WSJ? They appear to be equally valid. Should you read DailyKos or RedState? Which party do you follow? Is religion real? What about global warming? Is it ok to "steal" jazz or is that horrible theft of intellectual property?

I think we as a society have not followed the Tarzan Rule* in this case, and are eager to reject conventional methods of defining knowledge, conventional means of accreditation, and conventional history--without having a practical alternative in place. It is like the time before the printing press, almost, except that instead of no information, we have so much information and no way to filter it so that for practical purposes, we have no information.

The Internet needs a system for differentiating between fact and fiction. Without it, grassroots initiatives will continue to be taken over by the more organized parties in the community.

*"Don't let go of the vine until you have the next one firmly in hand."

by asdf on Mon Nov 26th, 2012 at 11:16:40 AM EST
(Oops, physics question meant to be appended to next paragraph.)
by asdf on Mon Nov 26th, 2012 at 11:18:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]



I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Tue Nov 27th, 2012 at 03:17:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"The Internet needs a system for differentiating between fact and fiction. Without it, grassroots initiatives will continue to be taken over by the more organized parties in the community."

There is Snopes.com or you could use some of the techniques in Howard Rheingold's Net Smart, a very well thought out book.

However, the struggle between grassroots organizers and originators and more powerful latecomers is a continuing dynamic offline as well as online.  There are ways to deal with this in a variety of ways, some successful, some not, and almost all which cause rifts and splits.  

If you'd like to, please provide an example of what you mean by an online grassroots initiative that was taken over.  It would be good to have some case studies.


Solar IS Civil Defense

by gmoke on Tue Nov 27th, 2012 at 04:37:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Public libraries (in the US at least) have played this role in the pre-internet days, and could continue to do so in the future.  Libraries have been on the front lines of digitizing information (about books and holdings) for decades, and they are providing free public access to the internet which is a lifeline, or a crucial backup, for so many.  Where I live, the public libraries offer free wifi as well, so you can bring your own equipment and surf away.  Libraries are so important, and librarians even more so.  Librarians can help anyone on a quest figure out how to get a drink from that fire hose of information, as they always have.  At the community college where I teach, librarians are trying to find new and more effective ways to connect students (as well as instructors, administrators, etc) with the torrent of information, both in and out of the  classrooms, to find what is most useful, relevant, trustworthy, meaningful for them.  The public libraries are also doing this with an even broader population of users--basically anyone off the street.  I think public libraries are one of the greatest things about this country, and librarians are unsung public treasures--and their expertise is more needed than ever.  And around here, at least, pretty much everything they offer is FREE.  Including, talks and workshops.
by jjellin on Sat Dec 1st, 2012 at 09:22:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some libraries are also getting into 3D printing and becoming Maker spaces.  Libraries and librarians rawwwk!

Solar IS Civil Defense
by gmoke on Tue Dec 4th, 2012 at 09:12:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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