Franz Nahrada / Workspace /
Rome Speech

Table of contents of this page
Editorial Note   
Speech outline   
Something entirely new is happening   
Free content is allready the lifeblood of businesses   
Consumers are increasingly becoming Creators   
networking and services stimulate community development   
businesses begin to engage creative communities to increase their reach and break information monopolies   
The four miracles of digital content and the copernican shift in culture and economy   
Why businesses need the support of creative communities   
Why creative communities need the support of businesses   
Examples of business opportunities in the world of virtual communities   
Existing ones   
Required Ones   
The real core question: An economic transition on the horizon   
New Work and the market for High Tech Self providing   
A vision: the mothercity and the global villages   

Editorial Note    

26th of April 2006

I have been invited to Rome to speak on the conference of Computer Measurement Group Europe organized by CMG Italia. This conference will happen between 8th and 10th of may and my speech will be on the Morning of the last day. I have been invited because I received the "best speakers award" at the Austrian CMG conference in 2005 in Vienna, but I was a little bit uncertain because allready at the Austrian conference my speech was completely out of the frame of technologically oriented speeches and I considered the very high approval rate almost improbable. I was reluctant to go but after the committee in Rome decided to give me a plenary session - so to say the "last day keynote speech" - I decided to meet the challenge.

Actually, the speech is a concatenation of two speeches I gave at the Austrian CMG event:

  • in 2004, my speech was called "Free contents generate business - mission impossible?" It was about the discussion between various factions in the computer industry whether content should be an object of transport or an object of trade and based on discussions with friends like Karl Bonomeo from -then- UTA about the future of broadband business.
  • in 2005, my awarded speech hat the title "New Forms of Work - The End of Business Processes"? in which I discussed the ideas of Shoshana Zuboff and Frithjof Bergmann and putting them together in a framework of a "New Work Support Economy".
(content of two speeches goes here).

Now I want to merge the ideas of these two speeches involving Yochai Benklers "Wealth of Networks" FranzNahrada/Workspace/Excerpts/Benkler

The bad thing: I have only 40 minutes time to talk!

Your Inputs are greatly valued

Latest news: I held the speech on 10th of may in the Residenca die Ripetta. The time in Rome was short, but great. More hopefully in my Blog. Franz from Rome.

Speech outline    

Good morning! My name is Franz Nahrada and I come from Vienna where I head an institute that is called GIVE or the Laboratory for the Global Villages. I am sociologist by education but GIVE is rather an interdisciplinary group that stimulates thoughts, brings together people and instigates technological developments. In the past we have created events like the Global Village Symposium or Cultural Heritage in the Global Village, where we brought together a rather colourful mixture of people to think about technological developments and to do them.

The speech that I will give today is not about any particular information technology, although if it succeeeds it will give recomendations and guidelines for technological developments of the future. It is more concerned about the conditions and the framework of technological development and a new opportunity that arises in this moment of history, fueled by the recent advances in computer technology and by communication technology.

I am always happy to come to Rome and to Italy because there is hardly any other place in the world where you can feel the power and the importance of culture better than here. The great works of the Renaiscance were the results of a successful interplay between power and art, between creativity, ingenuity and support. In a completely different setting, with some different parameters, we are at the brink of a possible new Renaiscance, but it depends very much on the interplay that I was mentioning before and this interplay will be my topic today.

I must say in advance that I do not want to focus on issues like software patents or copyright. You could ask yourself what would have happened to the Renaiscance if Leonardo da Vinci or others would have tried to patent the technique of the perspective. Maybe there would have been no Renaiscance at all? I think we agree that culture is based on free access to thoughts and ideas and in the freedom to modify, to reinvent, to combine them. Like Lawrence Lessig and many before him wrote, we all stand on the shoulders of giants and human progress is not possible without this ever-expanding heritage. What I want to show today is that we are on the brink of an incredible positive cultural explosion, but it will only come about if those who have the power and the competence also have a sense of responsibility and understand what is needed.

Something entirely new is happening    

I want to start with an observation, and this observation is backed up by a whole library of books like "The Third Wave" by Alvin and Heidi Toffler, "The Support Economy" by Shoshanna Zuboff, "The Wealth of Networks" by Yochai Benkler, "The Cultural Creatives" by Paul Rey and Sherry Anderson and many others.

The observation is, that there is an increasing duality between productive human activities spent within and outside the formal economic sector. Or, to render the image sharper: Whilst the worldwide potential of the formal economic sector to create employment and to sustain long term strategic endavours is shrinking - despite spectacular shifts of those activities away from the the old centres of production and the rise of new ones - we see a growing number of people using the power of computers and information technology to shape tools and products that never before could have been produced without large amounts of capital - for themselves, in community, openly.

These activities so far have largely been confined to the domain of immaterial production. But the results, so far, have been astounding and have generated products and results of unprecedented complexity, that compete with the worlds largest and most advanced commercial immaterial products:

  • Linux competing with Windows Operating Systems
  • Wikipedia competing with Encyclopedia Britannica
Increasingly, we see the emergence of a myriad of more or less organized online communities that do not simply want to discuss, but create something - not for the money, but for the joy and gratification of making things better. If one looks beyond the tip of the iceberg and does some research on the worldwide virtuel centers of this movement like Slashdot and Sourceforge, one will see that the number of smaller and less successful projects is by far higher.

Slahdot has about 1 million users and 100.000 projects. If you browse by cartogory you will find that a lot of those projects are actually stubs, one person projects which never made it to become a community.

In addition to this, the access and membership to such communities is not easy to achieve; communities like the ones of computer software programmers are still far away from systematically recruiting or educating people, they need to be found.

Free Software is often technically robust as long as you use command-line interfaces, but very opaque and user-unfriendly when it comes to the rest of us. Could it be that there is still the need for a corporation that does for communities what Apple did for the single user?

Free content is allready the lifeblood of businesses    

In a way, the increasing activities of communities have pretty much builded down a debate which was dividing the industry years ago into factions: the debate if all content should be paid for or not. The assumption that a closed block of content industries would vigorously try to copyright everything - with bloody teeth and "bill it or kill it!" as their battlecry - while an opposing broadband industry would favor flat fee models has been proven wrong - at least in those domains of content which are easily generateable by users.

The first and most paradigmatic success of free-content-based bussiness is Google, the search engine that changed our habits of working with information. Without questioning, the whole world - or lets rather say almost the whole online world - is happy having their context indexed by Google, and amazingly there is no contract needed to make that happen. Google is a business that simply does not need to ask for allowance to work with other peoples stuff, simply because it uses this content in a way that adds value to other peoples activities.

Other businesses have followed this patterns. Ebay is a company that was successful in supporting peoples activities in buying and selling things via an exciting online auctionplace, and it has become the role model for Shosanna Zuboffs "support economy". Amazon is not just an online bookstore, but a place that allows people to tell their reading experiences to other people - and it thrives on that talkative nature of customers almost as if it wanted to be modeled after the cluetrain manifesto. ("markets are getting smarter—and getting smarter faster than most companies: these markets are conversations")

The Internet, cheap processing power and consumer electronics have given an enormous productive potential into the hands of people. The millions of people that have downloaded SETI@HOME have created the worlds largest supercomputer with a combined processing power hardly available to any commercial or political entity, even though slow and complex. In the summer of 2005, CERN hosted the first “pangalactic workshop” on BOINC (Berkeley Open Interface for Network Computing). BOINC is now a common platform for many succesors of SETI@HOME. CERNS LHC@home has recently been delivering over 2 Teraflops, representing the computational power of over 1000 PCs to improve the design of the CERN LHC particle accelerator. As some of the other participants at the workshop were able to demonstrate, this is just the tip of the iceberg: recently published a study of climate models where over 90 000 public PCs were used and ther are a few more of its kind; Einstein@home has more than 50 000 active users to analyse data from the pulsar gravity wave detector LIGO. Predictor@home investigates protein-related diseases, Rosetta@home helps researchers develop cures for human diseases and the World Community Grid advances our knowledge of human disease. This list is far from complete.

No wonder the business world has come about the same way to harness the power in the hand of consumers. As Alvin Toffler has predicted, more and more business transactions are actively performed by the customers, from telebanking to booking a flight or a hotel.

Consumers are increasingly becoming Creators    

The networked information economy improves individual autonomy in three ways. (the following observations partly quoted from Yochai Benkler)

  • First, it improves individuals’ capacities to do more for and by themselves. Take baking for example. The internet offers thousands of different recipes for apple pie. A first time baker no longer needs to buy a Betty Crocker cookbook, call his grandmother for a recipe, or enroll in a cooking class to learn how to bake a pie. All he needs to do is perform a Google search for the phrase “apple pie recipe” Likewise, someone skilled in the art of pie-making and with a wish to share his knowledge does not need technical expertise to share it: he could easily start a blog devoted to pie recipes.
  • Second, it improves individuals’ capacity to do more in loose affiliation with others in a non-market setting. Again, the results of the Google “apple pie recipe” search are an example of the success of this loose uncoordinated affiliation. Another one would be "peer to peer networks" with people exchanging their music collections or the SETI@home example. In this approach the critical issue is an architecture of participation - ‘inclusive defaults for aggregating user data and building value as a side-effect of ordinary use of the application’. Users do not have to positively act to contribute, their ordinary use of the application is structured so as to benefit others.
  • Three, the networked information society improves individuals’ capacity to corporate with others through formal or organized groups that operate outside the market sphere based on voluntary commitment and rules that keep individual contributions in line and workeable. Sometimes hierachies are involved. Wikipedia, the open source software movement,are all examples.
The fluidity and low level (both in terms of money and time) of commitment required for participation in these wide range of projects is just one of the ways in which the networked information economy has enhanced individuals’ autonomy. Eben where there are formal structures, cooperation can easily be broken by "taking the repository" and forking, which leads to much different leadership styles than in any other historical organisation.

networking and services stimulate community development    

Autonomy and Community are just two sides of the same process. The degree of community is a choice of the individual, it comes with a commitment. A commited individual expects commitment from partners.

Shoshanna Zuboff states: "People want to take their lives into their own hands and are ready to pay for the support and advocacy necessary to fulfill that yearning. The new model emphasizes the distribution, rather than the concentration, of assets. Economic value is now understood as distributed in the unmet needs of each individual: It is lodged in their hearts and minds, living rooms and kitchens. Value is "realized" in relationships of advocacy and trust. It's no longer adequate to think that value can be "created" inside factories or offices".

businesses begin to engage creative communities to increase their reach and break information monopolies    

- IBM - Linux example

The four miracles of digital content and the copernican shift in culture and economy    

Thesis: The digital medium is different from any medium that existed before; it is wholistic in its nature and vigourosly pushing into obsolescence any form of content that does not comply with this wholistic nature.

    • You can tell any story using more than one medium; the textual begets the visual, the visual begets the acoustic and so on. Thus every story is a universe of mutual interpretations.
    • There is no copy which cannot become a new original. Content can be multiplied and modified/mirrored algorithmically into eternity. Thus every content is potentially unvaluable.
    • There is no content that has enough context; content can be associated indefinitely and so the content of the digital medium is the continuum
    • There is increasingly no physical boundary to partcipate in the reception or production of digitised content. So anybody from any place at any time can potentially influence any content.
see this part more elaborated in my 2002 CULTH2 keynote

Why businesses need the support of creative communities    

  • saving productive resources in delivery and implementation of products (the Do it Yourself gain)
  • spreading the word (classical example Apple: every user is an evangelist)
  • providing mutual support and documentation
  • taking over the complex task of product development
Striking example - Slashdot (Owned by OSTG owned by VASoftware): "The FAQ (Frequently Asked Question) response to, "how do you verify the accuracy of Slashdot stories?" is revealing: "We don't. You do. If something seems outrageous, we might look for some corroboration, but as a rule, we regard this as the responsibility of the submitter and the audience. This is why it's important to read comments. You might find something that refutes, or supports, the story in the main." In other words, Slashdot very self-consciously is organized as a means of facilitating peer production of accreditation; it is at the comments stage that the story undergoes its most important form of accreditation--peer review ex-post. Filtering and accreditation of comments on Slashdot offer the most interesting case study of peer production of these functions." (Benkler page 77)

Why creative communities need the support of businesses    

  • Creation and Choice of Infrastructures and Tools
  • Reliability of Services
  • Doing repetitive things that are no fun
  • Keeping track and record activities
  • Storing and Keeping Availability of Results

Examples of business opportunities in the world of virtual communities    

Existing ones    

  • CreativeCommons Legal and Media support for sharing approaches to all kinds of intellectual and artistic activities; nonprofit by its setup - built on sponsorhship and grants, but could be set up for collecting revenues like media license pools.
  • BeatPick - A FairPlay Music Label Working under the Creative Commons licensing system, the label splits the proceeds of each deal 50-50 with each selected musician and offers a combination of free full album streaming, low download prices, project collaborations and fast commercial music licensing. Non-commercial projects can use the music for free.
  • Book on Demand and similar services: bring digital content into "less digital form"
  • Amazons Mechanical Turk: Humans are much more effective than computers at solving some types of problems, like finding specific objects in pictures, evaluating beauty, or translating text. The Amazon Mechanical Turk web service gives developers a programmable interface to a network of humans to solve these kinds of problems and incorporate this human intelligence into their applications.
      • Quote from the website "HIT stands for Human Intelligence Task. These are tasks that people are willing to pay you to complete. For example a HIT might ask: "Is there a pizza parlour in this photograph?" Typically these tasks are extraordinarily difficult for computers, but simple for humans to answer."
  • Guidance Services rewards Guides that inform other users by giving them a platform and a way to make income from doing what they really like.
  • RECENTLY ANNOUNCED FON wireless backbone service

Required Ones    

  • Rewarding Systems - Channeling money to artists
    • "Art must be free - Artists must be paid"
  • Identity Service - Improving the process of building relations and communities without risking the loss of privacy
  • Reputation Service - Managing the reputation records on agreement, aggregating experiences of a community about people
  • Digital Storehouses and Repositories
    • preventing our stuff from getting lost
    • ability to find and get the right stuff at the right time
    • classifying content and match needs
  • Content Augmentation Services

The real core question: An economic transition on the horizon    

So far, we have still, in some way, not left completely the ground of traditional economics. Still the consumers or customers, ever if they act as communities, are supposed to be in possession of the material means to buy the goods and services that support their acting in and as a community. Which supposes that they have either a good job or wellrunning business to pay for goods and services.

We must, however, take into account that this is increasingly less true for larger and larger parts of the population. The acceleration of economy, global competition, the high pressures from capital markets and many other factors make it mandatory to produce more with less people. Which leaves an increasing number of people out of the game. Our economic system is comparable to a merry-go-round that is accelerated by a mad evildoer, throwing more and more children on the street.

We need not to search long for the facts. The father of Kybernetics, Norbert Wiener, has already made a forecast in the late forties of the past century, that the emerging technology will ruin the traditional base of life of people, that it will end up in a situation "here the average human being will have nothing to sell on which it can comfortably live".

New Work and the market for High Tech Self providing    

The logical consequence of this is that there needs to be an activation of productive community potential for self-providing. This is at least the position of Frithjof Bergmann and the New Work movement, which is active since the beginning of the global job crisis in the eighties and started up in Detroit and Flint, where General Motors began with big Layoffs in 1980.

Bergmann, a former professor of philosophy who wrote books about the nature of human freedom, grasped the opportunity to run practical experiments on combining the need for survival after job loss with the discovery of "what people really really want to do". Instead of getting depressed about the loss of employment, people could use this situation as a chance to discover the inner determination that was overshadowed by alienation, and combine their newly found energy with the progress in science and technology that allows them to use high technology for self-providing.

Although some people discussed Bergmanns work and there were some dedicated groups trying to practise his theories, only in the recent two years a veritable run on Bergmanns ideas has started; the government of South Africa even sponsors a large scale experiment on HTSP. Bergmann relates his ideas more and more to the fact that on the horizon of technology development we see flexible automation that can be compared to the versatility of a 2D printer. Rapid Prototyping leads to developments of smaller and smaller fabrication devices, that enable end users or local communities to start producing things they need in the shapes they want.

Bergmann is now focussing on building up a business coalition that he calls "New Work enterprises" and that is focussed on the idea of supporting such self-providing communities, making them consider just opening marginal fields of income to pay for the tools that render them immune of the threat of joblessness. While many doubt that the technology itself will come soon, they embrace the idea of organizing a high-level self sufficiency using tools and technologies available today as the appropriate answer to the job crisis.

A vision: the mothercity and the global villages    

We can only speculate what will be the results of a lifestyle emerging out of the perceptin that the internet is not only enabling people to voluntary associate, but also that those voluntary associations might end-up in cooperatively organized life maintainance. Maybe there will be an increased perception that there is a largely abandoned source of wealth, the rural areas of our planet, inviting for resettlement-

more resources:

the Salzburg speech 1998

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