Blog Archives

Blockchain technology: a new (r)evolution in the digital economy

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By Primavera De Filippi, researcher, Centre d’Études et de Recherches de Science Administrative, CNRS-Université Paris II.

Remember the world, back in the 90’s? Before the Internet had invaded pretty much every aspect of our lives? It was back then quite difficult — if not impossible — to foresee that one day, not too far away, people would be able to communicate directly with one another, that they would be able to broadcast themselves to the world and interact in a peer-to-peer fashion, bypassing most of the intermediaries of that time.

This marked the beginning of a new paradigm shift in the way people communicate — the beginning of a digital revolution characterised by a process of decentralization and disintermediation. With the Internet, traditional media operators, such as publishers and broadcasters, have been progressively displaced by a more distributed network of players, relying on emerging information and communication technologies in order to provide new opportunities for people to receive and impart information.

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Posted in Open Thoughts 2014

Open science and the environmental movement

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By Shannon Dosemagen, co-founder and Executive Director of Public Lab.

Historically, environmental monitoring in the U.S. is by industrial polluters and those responsible for regulating and enforcing environmental laws. This leaves little room for engagement with those who are affected by the environmental health decisions being made about their communities.

The vision behind Public Lab is a community driven collaborative model that creates the physical means for independent people and organizations to engage in environmental data collection and the scientific research process.

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Posted in Open Thoughts 2014

Shining a new light on democracy

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By Andy Williamson, consultant, researcher and speaker on digital and social media, society and policy.

It was Jacques Ellul, in his book The Technological Society, who noted in the 1960s that technology, in its broadest sense, cannot be isolated from the social and human factors that surround it. Technology forms a core part of the ecology in which it is situated and, within which, we live. When the lightbulb blows, we notice it. It affects us in various ways and, as the light fades, it becomes obvious that it must be changed.

In a literal sense, one individual might physically change the bulb. But it takes an entire supply chain to ensure that the bulb is there when we need it. Package designers ensure it is packed safely, logistics experts get it from factory to warehouse to the supermarket, and electricians have installed the fittings. To ensure that it all works, regulators and policy makers must draft laws, create standards and ensure these are enforced. And without electricity the lightbulb remains dark. Even the humble light bulb is part of a complex ecosystem.

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Posted in Open Thoughts 2014
About the Question
How many peers does it take to change a light bulb?

Systems like Linux and websites like Wikipedia are paradigmatic of a particular way of open collaboration known as peer production. Peer producers choose their tasks freely and coordinate their work using open digital platforms. They share the fruits of their labour as part of a global commons, and everyone works according to their abilities and benefits according to their needs.

Is this an emerging form of communism? Or the future of liberal capitalism? Or is it simply a new mode of production? In this blog we want to explore both the benefits and the downsides of such way of working.

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