The Factory of the Mind

Everything began like this, with a Facebook post:

“The Third Industrial Revolution? Yes! Meaning that we’re seeing a new kind of factory: this time not for bodies, but for minds”

Always on, Always working.

We’re moving towards a dimension of continuous work.

Life becomes work.

Within cognitive economies we have entered a domain in which the working condition is permanent. Off moments do not exist. Off moments become opportunities to create (and, thus, to produce), not to switch off from work.

Even switching off is encoded:  meetings, social media, pictures. And coffee culture. 24h challenge marathons. HackathonsThe culture of sleeplessness. I never sleep, I always create.

But sleeping is useful. Neuroscientists know better, Sleep recharges and, more important of all, it enables dreaming.

Zombies of the 21st century

The second industrial revolution saw bodies under stress. The third one is about minds.

It is in the mind, in perception, that the encounter/conflict takes place.

Therefore factories move. We don’t need physical factories to contain and to encode bodies anymore, we need cognitive factories to contain and encode minds.

Contain and encode minds: let’s try to understand what that might mean.

In pop culture, zombies are monsters of the 20th century, correlated with mass phenomena: mass production, mass consumption, mass death.

Zombies are not aristocratic monsters like Dracula, nor freak superstars like Frankenstein. They are the monsters of everyday life.

What is the zombie of the 21st century?

Zombies and immaterial production celebrate the logics of the colonization of the mind and of the central nervous system. – Lars Bang Larsen

The living dead walk the world and have a genetic relation with restlesness. They are “pure motor instinct”, as described by Romero in the “Night of the Living Dead“.

In 1956, Don Siegel’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, in which a space plant duplicates human beings and extends its reach all over the world, much like the World Wide Web, exposes the violent normative power of the American way of life (during McCarthysm). It’s 1978 remake, by Philip Kaufman moves the discourse to highlight the role of technologies and networks: the snatchers occupy telecommunication networks and start a planetary action for the circulation of bodies, in the transition from the industrial era to the one of immaterial labor. Production ends, replaced by a regime of mediation and reproduction.

In these visions the imperatives are about socialisation and re-invention, together with the scenarios of self-canniblism (self-management, self-evaluation, self-regulation, self-consumption).

Art and creativity become the norm.

In “The Experience Economy: Work is Theatre and Every Business is a Stage”, James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine II, observe the evolution of art’s and creativity’s normative power.

Most product designers focus primarily on the internal mechanics of the good itself: how it performs. What if the attention centered instead on the individual’s use of the good? The focus would then shift to the user: how the individual performs while using the good.

and

The emergence of the Experience Economy coincides with, albeit not coincidentally, heightened interest in creative thinking. It also introduces a real need for greater improvisational skills in the workplace.

Both art and creativity, become norms, expected, needed, both from the point of view of the industry, and from the perspective of the user, of the individual. Both become performers, in stage acts (the authors describe them in terms of theatre genres), in which both parties take active, constructive, creative part in a creative action.

The myth of the otherness of art becomes commoditised, leading to the reproduction of subjectivity: experience is the new source of profit, and the object of production is the experience (and, thus, the performance) of the user.

Conscience as a social product

The premise to this approach is psychological: the ability to alter consumers’ perception of reality is a central theme.

In 1962’s “Industrialization of the Mind”, Hans Magnus Enzensberger explores the condition of human beings with the rise of the cultural, cognitive and creative industries. He started out from the analysis of the issues of consciousness and awareness.

No illusion is more stubbornly upheld than the sovereignty of the mind. It is a good example of the impact of philosophy on people who ignore it; for the idea that men can “make up their minds” individually and by themselves is essentially derived from the tenets of bourgeois philosophy: secondhand Descartes, rundown Husserl, armchair idealism; and all it amounts to is a sort of metaphysical do-it-yourself.

Marx: what moves within our mind is a product of society.

The industrialization of the mind (and in the mind) is a process of the last 100 years which just cannot be explained through the analysis of its technologies.

The term “cultural industry” is vague and inaccurate, and embeds a paradox.

Conscience can be induced and reproduced by industrial means, but it cannot be produced.

Conscience is a social product, and the result of dialogue. No industrial process is able to replace the people who generate it.

The industry of the mind does not produce anything, but the dynamics of infiltration and transmission which are necessary to the formation of the perception of what is possible, desirable, preferable: in the formation of the perception of the future.

Which is a form of power, but also its weakest spot: it benefits from that which cannot produce on its own, people’s creative productivity.

The industrialization of the mind begins from education.

While we debate about curricula, education systems and university reforms, the technological systems which will make all of these things obsolete and irrelevant are right around the corner.

The education system as a mass-media, the most powerful of them all, and a multi-billion dollar business.

The possibility to control that which is accepted or refused, perceived as present and future, is a primary subject for political debate.

Material exploitation must disguise itself to survive, and immaterial exploitation has become its necessary corollary. Exploitation has not been abolished: our perception and awareness of exploitation has.

Prosumers in the era of remix

The focus shifts from consumers to producers. Prosumers, some time ago. Makers, now.

There is no doubt, from the point of view of the architectures of power, on who runs the business.

It is not the intellectuals for sure (designers, coders, creatives, engineers, artists, writers…) who control the industrial complex.

Nonetheless present time allow for a certain degree of ambiguity, as the industry of (in) the mind can enforce control only by acquiring the services of the few ones who, effectively, create something.

The majority of creative products are derivatives. Wether we are speaking about music, interfaces, apps, hardware, software, fashion or else, there are a few drivers and even fewer enabling innovations: the majority of the rest is the result of derivation, remixing, recombination.

In the long term, this is not enough to feed the industry.

This results in the need for “new things”, and the consequent dependency on those who radically innovate: in other words, on potential troublemakers.

All sorts of techniques, from the crudest to the most sophisticated, have been developed to this end: physical threat, blacklisting, moral and economic pressure on the one hand, overexposure, co-optation into star cult or power elite on the other, are the extremes of a whole gamut of manipulation.

These are all short-term, tactical solutions, used to resolve this paradox: managing the unmanageable people who are able to introduce alternatives. If it is not possible to control the producers, it will not be possible to control the consumers (now under the form of prosumers, makers or the other kinds of performative consumers, the subjects who consume by performing/expressing themselves, producing).

Enzensberger:

The rapid development of the mind industry, its rise to a key position in modern society, has profoundly changed the role of the intellectual. He finds himself confronted with new threats and new opportunities. Whether he knows it or not, whether he likes it or not, he has become the accomplice of a huge industrial complex that depends for its survival on him, as he depends on it for his own. He must try, at any cost, to use it for his own purposes, which are incompatible with the purposes of the mind machine. What it upholds he must subvert. He may play it crooked or straight, he may win or lose the game; but he would do well to remember that there is more at stake than his own future.

And, thus, we can go back to the beginning, to the factory of/in the mind, and to our contemporary zombies: the creatives.

Industrialized, they find themselves immersed in a recombinand cognitive assembly line, whose every element is dedicated to their self-cannibalism, through creativity: continuous innovation; the search for the billion dollar startup.

Obviously, it isn’t a matter of being able to controlling the future, but of being able to control the perception of the future (which implies the possibility to control the present, time): what is considered and perceived as possible, desirable, preferable.

It is a matter of education, conscience, awareness and performance. Of understanding where our perceptions come from, from which infiltrations in the social game of dialogue.

Short term innovation, and beginning from scratch

The control of time, and of the perception of the future.

Many important issues are at stake. For example the possibility for the many different types of innovation, and of the capability to create shared practices and methods to produce usable knowledge and wisdoms.

A strong focus on efficiency innovation is common in current times. Much more than the one on enabling innovations. They have different time cycles and modalities. Enabling innovation usually need longer time frames, and different operative modalities, which struggle with the ones of the cognitive industry, always on a rush and pulverized, competitive, focused on simple, localised ideas which allow for venture capital investments that are oriented at exit strategies.

On top of that, the research for enabling innovations is progressively becoming encoded through a singular vision of the future. On a techno-deterministic vision of technology, or even on the singularity: artificial intelligence, robots, nanotechnologies, biotechnologies, colonisation of space. Which, of course, is not something negative in itself. What is negative is the absence of critique, and of the lack of a pluralistic, polyphonic vision on what the future can be. It is consumerism, and the status quo perpetuated through positivistic and techno-deterministic utopias. Technologies become spectacle and, thus, hyperreal, forcing alternative models out of the stage. The search for efficiency forces the focus on the modalities of problem solving: even holistic and ecosystemic methodologies are transformed to serve efficiency and the production of more effective business models which are based on the emergence of a self-cannibalistic creative class.

The evolution of philosophies yields space to efficiency and to the possibility to maintain current lifestyles, enacting novel kinds of colonialisms and the resulting comfort zones.

The result comes under the form of short term strategies, of the impossibility to deal with uncertainty and of the progressive encoding of new normalcy fields – of novel consensual realities – characterised by diminished social certainties, of lessened shared social unconscious spheres, which can all more easily become the target for the influence of power players.

Who decides what a “smart city” means? Who decided the future of work? And other examples.

Following the money is always a good exercise in trying to find answers to these questions.

Plural holistic and long term visions are progressively disappearing. And so is the perception of the possibility for a plurality of futures.

History and Aesthetics

The impossibility of history is directly connected to this.

The perceived structure of time has changed. We are now in a state of continuous present, of continuous flow.

We constantly start from scratch.

All this can be framed into a discourse which is about perception and, thus, of aesthetics.

Beauty is a complicated matter. Just as the Future.

Being able to decide (or even only to suggest) what is beauty and what is future constitutes a great power.

We live in times in which the architectures of power have learned to liberally draw on this modality. By doing that, they create a funnel, in which beauty and future loose modalities and possibilities: they progressively stop being a polyphony, and become mono, singular.

This condition and progression can be inverted by a few things. Among these are enabling innovations and art (which is different from creativity).

Both enabling innovations and art enable different, other, possible, emergent, dissonant visions of “consensual reality”, of “beauty” and of “future”. Possibilities which are plural, emergent and performable, through the construction of dialogues.

Both have different times frames and cycles than the ones of work, creativity, competition, and even of current currencies.

The scenario can change whenever novel platforms for identity (and, thus, for representation, in a social context) enter into the game.

Networking is not enough anymore, as it is not enough to have open source tools, open data, 3D printers, etcetera. Because whomever controls the platform also controls the framework which is used to define oneself. Wether it’s Telecom, Facebook or Energy Company X, it makes a small difference. Even Energy Company X will tend towards becoming a platform for identity: it is the difference which will mark the transition between the energy companies who extract, refine and distribute energy, and the ones who control the information of people who produce their own, and share it.

Sometimes it is possible to hear the objection: “If you don’t like Facebook, abandon it!” And, obviously, it is not that simple. One does not simply leave an identity system.

How-to

How can we imagine framing and resolving these issues. What is the zombie of the 21st century, and how can we perform a shared transition towards a more reasonable and empowered control of time and of the perception and performance of possible futures?

It not simple, and it is not a technological feat. And it is not singular.

With all probability it is a process which can only begin at the level of the education system, by integrating in schools and universities a critical vision of the world, along with an ecosystemic (and, thus, possibilistic, even in terms of the possibility and opportunity of conflict) one. An education system whose interest is not on building a system of consensus, but of co-existence. Of the capability for the perception of the value of diversity and of civil confrontation and conflict, not on techno-utopian and singular visions of the future.

In all of this, the roles of governments, organisations and companies can change: not, anymore, evangelists and advocates of visions and approaches, but enablers of ecosystems who construct their own, and who learn how to make them co-exist.

This is the great opportunity of our times.

[this article, in modified form, appeared in Italian on CheFuturo!, here: http://www.chefuturo.it/2014/10/come-sopravvivere-alle-nuove-fabbriche-della-mente-proviamo-a-ripartire-dalla-scuola/ ]

The Near Future of Education

 Introduction

With students, designing the future of the education system. A fundamental action towards a shift to a participatory, inclusive knowledge society. This post describes the structure and methodology of our action.

Note: This post is the result of the conversation which we had at CyberResistance in Milan, at the Cantiere.

 The Future does not Exist.

In our approach to Near Future Design we try to create a state of suspension in which it is possible to explore multiple versions of future scenarios and to engage people from different cultures and backgrounds to enable them to become performers, able to express themselves in highlighting not just (technically/technologically) possible futures, but desirable, preferable futures.

Near Future Design: infinite futures

Near Future Design: infinite futures

There are a few steps involved in doing this.

The first step is to create a Future Map.

From our point of view, the building a Future Map involves the combination of a technical/technological activity together with an ethnographical/anthropological one.

The first one involves the comprehension of the current State of the Arts & Technologies: current technological advances, promising research, patents, new products, trends, etcetera. Given proper and reliable information sources, this task is rather simple, in that it requires to keep updated.

The second one is fairly more complex, as it requires the comprehension of the Established Narratives, the Strange Now and the Future Possibilities.

The Established Narratives describe our common understanding of consensual reality. Given a certain topic or domain, the established narratives enclose the forms of consensus which is accepted within relevant communities or cultures: “normal” things within the domain, as they are culturally, traditionally and commonly understood.

The Strange Now describes the emergence of recurring patterns, rituals and other behaviours. Although having become recurrent, these behaviours do not yet benefit from widespread social understanding, comprehension and encoding: they are commonly understood as “strange”, peculiar or curious.

The Future Possibilities describe what people in relevant cultures and communities perceive as possible, feasible and technically/technologically advanced and desirable regardless of their actual technological feasibility, present or future: they describe people’s perception of possibility, in the future.

All these elements are combined into a Design for the New Normal. Its objective is to merge the two types of results into the description of near future designs: the “things” which will be normal a short time from now; the next normality field.

The Near Future Design is represented in a series of ways and it becomes a Simulacrum: a state of suspension of disbelief in which the Design is implemented using a Transmedia Narrative whose objective is to make it as believable and likely as possible, so much that it becomes so entangled in consensual reality that it eventually becomes it.

In particular, this last phase, happens by means of imagination, performance and desire. It is a language-based operation, in which a linguistic landscape is created which allows for the emergence of new imaginaries: people become performers by apprehending new languages, which allow them to imagine new things and concepts and, in turn, to bring them to life, through desire. The performance of the future: people’s perception of what is possible shifts, as they experience a transmedia simulacrum which is so likely that they start using it, eventually making it become true and, in the process, express themselves on what is their desired, preferred future.

This is exactly what we are doing with the education system.

The Near Future of the Education System.

Together with the students at ISIA Design in Florence we are using Near Future Design techniques to design the Near Future of the education system. To do this, we are following the the full Near Future Design methodology outlined above, and we are enacting the transmedia simulacrum in two ways: by enacting a transmedia narrative which will be started shortly, in the following phases of the action, and by adopting the model we’re designing, performing it and using it ourselves, to experiment it on the field according to an agile methodology, by designing it, implementing it, releasing/using it in its beta version, and by redesigning it according to a series of iterations, forks, merges.

Here below is an image which describes the structure of our initial design, further detailed in the next sections.

Near Future of Education structure

Near Future of Education structure

Assumptions

Assumption number 1: decent education has an really high entrance/access barrier.

If you have a lot of money, you don’t have a problem with the current education system. If you can afford the hundreds of thousands of dollars which are needed to attend the best (and not-so-best) schools in the world, you really do not feel the crisis. You have laboratories, personalised courses, a good student/professor ratio, tutoring, mentorship, auditoriums, libraries, equipment, etcetera, you have it all.

Too bad that not many people have all of this money. And even of the ones that do, most of them rely on Debt to obtain access to these schools, and debt – as we have learned – comes with an awful lot of implications.

Assumption number 2: current education models are mostly competitive rather than collaborative.

Competitive models may be adequate for the industrial era, but they are not for the networked, information/knowledge/communication era, which is based on collaboration, universal access and inclusion. All of which are critical to the creation of social capital and the ushering in of a sharing economy.

Assumption number 3: knowledge as a common.

Not only because, as Rifkin puts it, it allows for marginal costs to tend relentlessly towards zero, with all that this implies, but also (and most of all) because, as Bauwens frames it, in the framework defined by Contributory Commons (provided by the Civil Society) and Ethical/Solidary Economy (the Reframed Corporation), an Information & Knowledge Common is enabling and empowering, and should be defended as a strategic asset.

Assumption number 4: perceptive, cognitive, attention and strategic models for education.

The ways in which we learn, collaborate, work, design and relate have radically changed. From a perceptive and cognitive point of view, and from the perspective which sees the emergence of novel modalities in which multiple disciplines converge, different roles become entangled, serendipitous actions become strategic and, in the passage from atoms to bits and back, the production of knowledge and information becomes a performance which is cultural and linguistic, and which is polyphonic, interconnected, emergent in nature.

Assumption number 5: need for a new definition of “value”.

From the P2PValue project page:

Commons-based peer production (CBPP) is a new and increasingly significant model of social innovation based on collaborative production by citizens through the Internet.

In this framework a novel definition of “value” must be found, encompassing the well-being of the ecosystem, and in a mutualistic sense, progressively loosing the definition of “value” determined by the market sale price of products and services, and embracing one which is mutually determined, at a peer-to-peer level.

On top of these 5 initial assumptions, the State of the Arts & Technologies and the Strange Now analyses have provided indications about 11 axes in which we have dimensioned our proposed design. You can read more about the 11 axes of transformation on the NearFuture Education Lab’s blog on Nòva24.

The Foundation

Why create a Foundation to explore the Near Future of Education?

There are multiple answers. Two are the most important ones: to enact a strategic shift, and to host, protect and preserve the Knowledge Common that is at the center of ecosystem.

First: to enact a strategic shift.

a strategic shift

a strategic shift

In the current situation, a hierarchical organisation of things and processes is in place: governments and companies deal with each other to establish policies and strategies which are applied to, in this case, schools and universities and, by them, to students and other participants. This has major political, social and economic implications. And, maybe most important of all, is not flexible, resilient and capable of adapting to the transformation of cultures, societies and the environment, or to take into account people’s and communities’ desires, visions, expectations and emergent behaviours.

The transformation we propose is dedicated to creating an environment, a space.

The environment is the Knowledge Common, which is protected and preserved by the Foundation.

The Foundation itself is open, accessible and permeable: anyone can get in, but it is not necessary to get in to make use of the Knowledge Common.

Multiple forms of interaction and interrelation with this environment are possible, such as contributing to the Common, using the knowledge contained there within, producing recipes to it, a particular form of meta-knowledge (and, thus, that is part of the ecosystem itself) which shows how the various parts of the Common can be used together, combined, assembled together with other relations, elements, or even with other recipes.

These forms of interaction can come from inside/outside/edge of the environment/common.

The Foundation, open and accessible to everyone, preserves the Common.

The Currency

The Knowledge Common has a value, which constantly grows.

This value is measured using K-Coins, Knowledge Coins.

K-Coins are a mutualistic currency, which is used to measure how much a person or organisation contributes to the value (well-being) of the Environment/Common.

K-Coins are mutually assigned: if subject A perceives that subject B contributes to the value of the ecosystem (by participation, contribution, production, meta-production…), A can assign K-Coins to B. In other words, K-Coins are proportional to the Reputation which one has in relation to their active participation to the well-being of the Environment/Common.

(some additional info on the ways in which we are designing the K-Coins may be found here: http://p2pfoundation.net/Near_Future_Education_Lab )

Agile Ecosystem: pull, fork, watch, merge

All the things we have seen so far (and the next to come) represent knowledge, as well.

The Future Map, the definition of the Foundation (its statute and regulations, for example), the K-Coins definition and the software needed to make them work, the collaboration and relation tools… everything that we describe here is part of the Knowledge Common that constitutes the core of the Environment, of the Public Space, that we are describing.

As such, they can be freely accessed and used.

Using the Git metaphor, they can be watched (to know how they’re changing), pulled (to use them), forked (to modify them, creating your own version) and merged (to take the results of multiple contributions and to assemble them into a new version).

If a certain subject grabs and modifies, let’s say, the Future Map, or the statute of the Foundation, they can use it for their own purposes, but the results remain part of the Knowledge Common, together with their relation with the original version.

This fact has enormous cultural, political and practical implications.

First of all determined by the possible co-existence of multiple versions of everything.

This implies, for example, that if I have a certain vision of the Future Map, of how the future of the education system could be, I could just fork the currently adopted Future Map, modify in ways which reflect my point of view, and put it back up for merging. Then other people will be able to make their own decisions: merge it, fork it on their own and use it, or else. In any case, I would be able to use my own Future Map for my own purposes (in this case, to aim at a certain objective in the transformation of the future of the education system).

In all this, K-Coins allow everyone to express (currency as a means of expression) themselves about their perception of my contribution to the Common, contributing to my reputation and, thus, augmenting the value of the environment/common itself.

This possibility for measure also achieves a virtuous effect: since everyone’s reputation is connected to their active contribution to the well-being of the Knowledge Common that constitutes the environment, and since the K-Coins measuring it are mutually assigned, everyone will be engaged into making positive contributions, thus augmenting their value, thus incrementing their reputation and possibilities/opportunities within the ecosystem.

How Does all this Work?

The Foundation will work as a Wirearchy.

In Wirearchy a social network (in our case it will be a combination of a peer-to-peer social network, and of a meta-social network, operating in piggy-back with major social networks such as Facebook and Twitter and in mode physical modalities) hosts conversations, relations and interaction.

From these, the communities of practice emerge: people and organisations interested and involved in certain topics, domains and issues, and making experiments, hypotheses, researches…

Work teams can emerge from all this, eventually including some or all members of the communities of practice as well as participants from the rest of the social network, or even from beyond its (fuzzy) boundaries. Work teams actively work on the domain/theme/issue, eventually arriving at the definition/creation/implementation/deployment of a certain information, knowledge, object, product, service or else.

In this ecosystem, any form of production includes two elements: knowledge and other things (such as objects, products, services…).

All knowledge produced becomes part of the Knowledge Common.

All the rest may be sold, offered, used or else, at the discretion of the producers.

The knowledge produced and put back into the Common defines the “value” of the “project” within the ecosystem, through the number of K-Coins that other people assign to it – from their point of view and if they desire to do so – evaluating how it contributes to the well-being of the ecosystem.

Recipes

Within the ecosystems, a series of subjects produce recipes.

Each project, course, study program, how-to, tutorial… each of these things is a recipe, may contain and use recipes and may be contained in one or more recipes.

Recipes are like the ones for cooking: they contain ingredients, and the instructions on how to combine them to obtain a certain result.

Recipes, as forms of (meta-)knowledge are part of the Knowledge Common.

There can be recipes about what is the education path to become a Designer, an Engineer, a Cultural Anthropologist. Recipes about how to build chairs, drones, particle accelerators. Even recipes about cooking.

A certain recipe may indicate that, before attempting to do something, I should learn something: Recipe to create object X could state that “you can use software tools Y and Z, physical tools K and T, and you have to follow course A, preferably with Mr. B, and it would be better to join Lab C, and you would need the collaboration of at least 1 person who has followed course D and E, and who is proficient in using tool Y”.

Recipes can be produced by multiple subjects: I, for example could produce a recipe about “what you need to learn and do to become a proficient Communication Designer”.

Other people could create similar recipes (starting from scratch, or forking my recipe, for example): other designers, people who think they know what it takes to become a Communication Designer, and more.

One peculiar type of subject which could desire to have its say about this could be, for example, the Italian Ministry for University and Research (the MIUR), or any other governmental institution in other parts of the world. Actually, all of these types of subjects basically occupy their time creating “recipes” – under the form of official study plans, policies, regulations and more. We recognise these plans, rules and regulations as valid and mandatory on the premise that we trust these governmental entities and institutions, and that we acknowledge them the role of the maintainers of the systems in which sciences, humanities and research can thrive and prosper.

It’s a matter of trust, and reputation.

What could, then, happen in the ecosystem which we’re describing?

It may become true that Mr. X’s recipe on “how to become a Robotic Engineer” is valued more (in K-Coins) than the one from the MIUR, other Government Agencies, or even than the one from Stanford, or even MIT. Because…? It can happen for multiple reasons, of course. One of them is that, in the ecosystem, more people have recognised more value (by attributing K-Coins) to Mr. X’s recipe. This would mean that the education ecosystem recognises Mr. X’s recipe more valuable than the one by the Ministry, or by Stanford, or by…

This possibility is disruptive: what could a Ministry of Education, or Stanford, or MIT do in this case? They could produce a better recipe, or adopt Mr. X’s, or fork it or… many more things. Sure is that that they would have to act, in order to bring more well-being to the ecosystem.

Let’s look at some scenarios.

How can I teach in this Ecosystem?

I could offer a course/lab/training-on-the-job/something using the social network, or by participating to a Community of Practice or Work Team (and possibly recognising the need for such an offering), or because I really enjoy teaching a certain subject/practice, or because I have the tools/spaces/conditions to offer it, or else.

In my offering I can use elements from the Knowledge Common, optionally forking them and creating my own versions, which are put back into the Common. I can use recipes, and produce recipes of my own, to be used in the course or outside of it (“my course is needed to learn how to build object X, as described by recipe Y”). The offering can also be included in recipes by other subjects, which deem it as being fundamental for achieving a certain purpose.

These same people may decide to replace a certain element of their recipe with my offering, should they be convinced (and, in this, reputation helps) that mine is better.

Eventually, I will give the course/lab/stage/practice… and the people who have participated (students, recipe-adopters, be that to become an engineer, complete a project, to learn something so that I can then teach it, to learn something for no purpose at all…) may decide to assign me some K-Coins for my positive and active participation to the well-being of the Ecosystem.

From this moment my offering would benefit from increased reputation.

How can I create a project in the Ecosystem?

This scenario works much in the same way like the previous one.

The major difference is in its augmented degree of generality.

To engage a project you have to learn something, use knowledge and information, assemble a certain number of recipes, and more. All to produce, as described, more knowledge and some objects/products/services/other.

Thus, it would work out in the same way.

The social network/communities of practice/work teams scheme could be used to start a project. The project would use elements from the Knowledge Common (be them single elements or recipes…), combining them with courses, laboratories and relations with other people and organisations which would have to have access to knowledge and recipes (either directly or by “going to school”) and, possibly, a certain level of reputation.

In this scenario: the value of reputation in the ecosystem becomes self-evident, as enabler, facilitator, multiplier, accelerator of the action.

How can I learn something in the ecosystem?

You always learn in this ecosystem.

One of the strengths of this approach is the explicitation of this fact: in different moments and contexts of their life subjects will act as “learners”, professors, laboratories, entrepreneurs, producers of recipes, and more.

I could decide to learn in multiple ways: by choosing a certain recipe (based on the reputation of its creator, or for some other reason); by choosing a certain course/lab/other offering; by joining into a project in which I would need to learn a certain thing or adopt a certain recipe.

Or I could even identify that no-one is currently offering a certain course/lab/training/other, and by using the social network/communities of practice/work teams to try to make it available (and this would also be an opportunity for someone to actually create the offering).

If all else fails, I could try to learn by myself in some way, and, maybe, even offer the course myself.

In all this, the usual mechanism applies: of all the contributions which I used (the course, lab, recipe or else) I would be able to assign K-Coins to attribute to them reputation, based on my perception of how they contributed to the well-being of the ecosystem and of the Knowledge Common.

Conclusions

We’re building all of this and, in the next few months, you will see much more happening.

As stated above: this process which we’re building is the first contribution to the Knowledge Common itself.

You all can (and should) contribute to it in any way you can: by participating, designing with us, helping us to communicate, to get in touch with people, groups, organisations, institutions who could be interested in these kinds of developments.

In four words: to make this happen.

More news really soon.

In the meanwhile follow us and join in like this:

Near Future Design at CyberResistance in Milan

AOS will be at CyberResistance, on April 3, 4 and 5 2014, in Milan, at the Cantiere, for a participatory conversation about Near Future Design, starting from the Near Future Design of the Education System which we are building with our students at ISIA in Florence.

Near Future Design, from our point of view, is the possibility to create powerful, strategic, coordinated transmedia narratives, realizing a simulacrum, a state of suspended disbelief whose objective is to shift people’s perception of what is real and possible, and engage them into a performance to create new, preferred, desirable futures.

We will start from the Near Future Education Lab which we are bringing up together with the students at ISIA Florence: the design of a commons-based, peer-to-peer, emergent, permeable model. This model will be started by founding a Foundation operating under wirearchical organizational models, through a crowd-funding campaign, by forming a wide network of international cooperants and by establishing a network of partnerships to access the funds for its implementation.

To learn more about our perspectives on Near Future Design, you can read this article: Near Future Design, the perception of a New Possible, and a novel role for Design.

You can look at the CyberResistance program here: http://www.cantiere.org/art-04368/cybres3v.html#plan

And here is the Wiki for the event: https://n-1.cc/dokuwiki/1487601/doku.php in which you can participate and take action.

cyberResistance-2014 flyer

cyberResistance-2014 flyer

Incautious Porn at SSN2014 in Barcelona

We’ll be attending SSN2014 (the 6th Biannual Surveillance and Society Conference) in Barcelona to present the outcomes of our Incautious Porn project: an anthropological experiment in blackmail and the perception of private/public space online.

From the conference site:

Contemporary surveillance is characterised by ambiguities and asymmetries. Surveillance results from different desires and rationales: control, governance, security, profit, efficiency but also care, empowerment, resistance and play. Surveillance is never neutral. Surveillance is always about power and that power is increasingly asymmetric. Surveillance practices are also changing and as ‘smart’ surveillance systems proliferate utilising and generating ‘Big Data’ new forms of ambiguity and asymmetry arise.

We will be presenting the Incautious Porn project:

Incautious Porn, an anthropological experiment in blackmail and the perception of private/public space online

 

“We have radically changed our perception of what is public and what is private.

 

While using social networks, search engines and websites determining who has access to our information, our personal details, our habits and preferences is often complex or not easily accessible.

 

Each person‘s information is sold hundreds of times each day, while surfing websites and social media sites, with information passing from one provider to the other in ways that are subtle and non-transparent: data collected on one site may be used on other sited to sell us advertisements or to investigate on our lives.

 

On top of that, most people tend to interpret social media sites as new forms of public spaces, and it is fundamental for service providers‘ strategies that this perception is maintained, to promote our full disclosure, allowing them to collect even more data about ourselves.

 

We used the project Incautious Porn to investigate on this scenario, to explore the shifting and blurring of the boundaries of what we perceive as our privacy and as our private and public spaces.

 

Incautious Porn uses the operations of a fake company systematically invading our privacy (even to the point of performing simulated forms of blackmail) to collect enormous amounts of information which we have used to analyze this scenario.

 

In Incautious Porn art acts both as a sensor on the transformation of human societies and as a tool for analyzing its effects.

 

The effects of the Incautious Porn project and communication campaign have been massive, bringing it to the attention of a large, global, audience and, thus, allowing the research team to benefit from a large data set.

 

Furthermore, the actions of the blackmailing fake-company have been led using an ethical approach: no money was taken from people, and all their personal data has been preserved, also using the initiative as a testing lab for novel privacy and security preservation techniques, and as a campaign for awareness about the transformation of people‘s perception of contemporary private/public spaces.”

On: 25th April 2014, at SSN2014, at the CCCB, street Montalegre 5

The performance of the Near Future of Education

This article was published on the Febrary 2nd edition of Nòva24, on Il Sole24Ore.

You can find the original article here: Il futuro scolastico è una performance

Here we give an expanded version of it, without length constraints.

testing out a kinect at ISIA

testing out a kinect at ISIA

 

Crisis and transformation are connected to each other.

This is what is happening at ISIA, Florence’s school of design, where the students are leading a disruptive effort to co-create the future of their own education system.

When faced with semi-bankruptcy originating from the financial cuts, and with the certainty of being thrown out from the buildings in which they reside because of the lack of government funds to pay for the rent, the teachers and students at ISIA Florence started a protest. Flash mobs, social network campaigns and city interventions were enacted to rebel against the probable closure of the school.

Soon enough it was clear that this was only the latest of a never ending series of states of emergency, and that dedicating all this effort towards resolving one problem, would not change anything for the future, that would still be characterised by a sequence of emergencies, one after the other.

Near Future of Education at ISIA

Near Future of Education at ISIA

As an example, it now seems that some financial backup has been obtained to meet the lease of the school’s venue, but even this potentially good news sits in a state of suspension, with no formal agreement and, more important, with no clue whatsoever about the future of the school, which remains fragile and precarious, in an unstable balance until the next emergency comes about.

We have been in a state of continuous emergency for too long.

In a world that is progressively encoded health, education, the environment and relations are increasingly becoming things which you “buy” (in the many ways in which it is possible to “buy” something in the era of digital technologies and social networks) rather than things you “do as a society”.

We have moved from one emergency to the other, without the time and possibility to imagine – and thus to desire and build – a world that is more just, inclusive, open, critical, civic, civil, ethical.

It is maybe more a crisis of the imaginaries and of desire, rather than a financial one. A crisis of thought and critique, and of the desire for both of them, while we struggle in the tight condition of being forced to focus on a continuous present, where the emergency happens.

In this scenario it is almost impossible to think, to learn from history, and to form new imaginaries about the future.

This condition, of course, starts from the education system.

In our case, it starts from ISIA, in Florence.

This wonderful school of design has been home for some of the most prestigious names in Italian industrial and communication design, and has a wide history of excellence and innovative practices. It is a public institute of higher education, in which all those who demonstrate their potential talent for design can gain access to an effective and innovative environment which also feels like a family: everyone knows each other’s name, professors don’t mind spending hours on students’ projects, and both students and professors actively harvest opportunities that can be accessed and shared by the whole school.

This is a peculiar model, and a really interesting one, which escapes from the model which sees design schools progressively becoming the places whose objective is to produce the next wave of chainworkers for the creative industry.

ISIA produces good designers who are able to think and to design, which in Italian is “progetto”, which literally means to “project”, to evaluate possible futures and to choose from them in ways that are aesthetic, functional, social, political, psychological, anthropological, poetic.

In the current scenario, paradoxically, this has become not competitive.

Everything points in this direction: from the financial cuts to public education; to the facilitations for private schools; to the recurring patterns in which private entities interact with schools; to the configuration of students’ curricula.

We find ourselves in a peculiar situation of synchronicity: the continuous emergency produces students who are not ready to deal with it, because they are cognitive chainworkers. They don’t know history, they have underdeveloped critical skills, and they don’t develop the capacity to “project” in critical ways. They are stuck into the continuous present, in the emergency (of finding a job, of creating a startup that will most likely fail in a few months, and so on).

It is the crisis preserving itself, through emergency.

In all this, roles are also quite encoded. Students protest. Education institutes beg for hearings and money. Governments give out uncertain streams of unstable pocket money. Private entities colonize, to produce chainworkers or startuppers.

In ISIA a decision was taken.

Starting from the Near Future Design course, and quickly spreading to the whole school, we decided to reinvent our reality with the most our powerful tool: the Design. We started building the Near Future Design of Education, to push a bit further people’s perception of what is possible, and using this shift to enact a performance, in which the design actually comes to life.

We have identified 11 axes onto which to imagine the transformation of the education system.

The action at ISIA is a performance. As in all performances, the objective is to create a state of suspension. A condition in which the possibility to discern between what is possible and impossible, allowed or forbidden, true or false, granted or denied, stops. And to use this state of suspension to push our perception of “what is possible” a bit further.

This action is not about “changing everything”. As it is not about complaining, populism or escape.

This action is about desire, imaginaries, access, language and, accordingly, about our possibility to perceive, think and, thus, construct.

To acquire a new language – a new tool – with which to think about the world, and to create it.

As in every performance, it is the audience who does the large part of the job. In performances, “passive” audiences do not exist. “Believing” in the performance – in that which happens – is an active, emergent operation: it deals with recognising a new language and, thus, a new possible “world”. It deals with assuming a new sensibility, which includes a new perception of the world, in which the performance is possible.

It deals with desiring that the performance be true. And, thus, with making it true, participating to the adoption of a new language.

This, in other words, is what Designers do. They build worlds. In which a certain “thing” (a chair, a service, an education system…) is not there in the beginning, but then materializes, thanks to the Design.

Good designers don’t work alone.

Good designers know that learning to become a vehicle for the points of view of historians, anthropologists, engineers, economists, sociologists, psychologists, researchers and people is of fundamental importance. Uniting all of these points of view to understand, first of all, which are the important questions to be asked.

Every designer knows that when “clients” ask for something, they really don’t know what they’re asking for. They have ideas. But single ideas are not such a big deal.

If, from an idea, we are able to derive well-placed questions and a process which is open to multiple points of view which are technical, social, political and poetical: there, here is a great thing to achieve. It is there that great projects start: from permeability, and from the possibility for participation.

They are not the product of the imaginaries of a few people, but, rather, the offspring of the possibility for expression of multiple perspectives, in a state of suspension, in which the Design (the “possible”) is not yet known. What it is known is that it is possible to participate to its definition.

The Design is a participatory, relational, performance, in which the world is created. The “Near Future” of the world.

The students are now in a constituent phase, in which they will unite into a Foundation – or other form of legal organization –, organized using Holacratic models. This new organism will enact the design, by changing the rules of the game. Stepping away from protest mode, and moving into the making mode by changing roles: from subjects begging their rulers to receive hearings and a few coins to survive, to partners, co-creators of the future of the education system.

From the point of view of the course, the story will have a peculiar twist. At the end of each academic year it is common practice for the students to produce a publication featuring their Near Future Designs and the methodologies and techniques used to conceive and implement them.

This year’s publication will assume a very distinctive form: a series of European projects – which will be actually presented – and an open toolkit (made from software, tools, information and opportunities for interaction and interconnection), to make the process replicable and scalable.

The story has just begun, and you will be able to follow and take active part in it on the physical and digital pages of Nòva24, on Il Sole24Ore, and on the many forms of presence which this wonderful group of students will be maintaining on social networks and in cities.

The future does not exist: it is a performance, which we enact with every single one of our decisions.

And, thus: let the Performance, and the Design, begin. You are all welcome.

Starting from the next few days on Nòva and right now on this Facebook Group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/NearFutureEducationLab/