Review of “Peer to Peer: The Commons Manifesto” of Michel Bauwens

In an unprecedented way Michel Bauwens hijacks the commons. While the commons practiced deliberative and participative democracy in the high middle ages, that weakened from the 16th century, we do not find any defense of alternatives for our faltering representative democracy in “Peer to Peer: The Commons Manifesto” of Michel Bauwens. No mentioning of the most recent experiments in deliberative democracy defended by David Van Reybroeck, applied in Ireland and Iceland. The “citizens’ assemblies” as proposed by Marcin Gerwin and adhered by Extinction Rebellion or “Red de Democratie” of Manu Claeys for the moderates do not figure in his picture of the future. P2P dominates his discourse.

One thing that strikes you when you start reading, is vagueness. Expressions as: “philosophers like Albert the Great and Thomas Aquinas”, “approach is related to the theorization of ‘revolutionary reforms’ by Andre Gorz”, “The State (capitalized) in the Hegelian notion is the guarantor of the common good”… He also refers to some authors that excel in vagueness themselves: David Boillier, De Angelis, Hardt and Negri and Hegel of course, the philosopher of absolute idealism.

The wide spectrum of authors referenced surprises. Bauwens worked as a cybrarian, this might explain it, but there are to many extremes. Maybe the author wants to hook on as many readers as possible, a kind of eclectic universalism. Mentioning does not necessarily mean he backs the many points of view he presents, though it is suggested and for all he is not clear about it. Karl Marx for the leftist (who didn’t read him), the Doninicans Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas for the Christian community, David Graeber for the anarchists, Schumpeter for the libertarians, Jeremy Rifkin for the utopians…

When Michel Bauwens refers to valuable research he mistreats the work of the researchers, cherry picking and stretching the meaning of concepts until they become meaningless.

He summarizes his entire program in four axioms:

“1. P2P is a type of social relations in human networks, where participants have maximum freedom to connect.

2. P2P is also a technological infrastructure that makes the generalization and scaling up of such relations possible.

3. P2P thus enables a new mode of production and property.

4. P2P creates the potential for a transition to an economy that can be generative towards people and nature.” (Michel Bauwens et al., 2019, p. 1)

In the first two axioms he puts the world upside down. In what sociological, psychological or communication theory is P2P a type of “social relations” in human networks? Only in Bauwen’s brand new theory, there is no other one. P2P is just an internet protocol that can be used to exchange files and data, like email is a protocol to exchange messages, computer mediated communication. Using the P2P protocol to exchange files you do not need to have any relation with nobody, just pick a file out of the computer generated list and you have it. That is the depersonalisation effect all kind of computer mediated communication has.

In point 2. he claims that P2P is also a technological infrastructure. It is not. Without internet there would not be P2P, Internet is the technological infrastructure that makes P2P possible. So we have two points with no meaning in the real world. Since point 3. and 4. are deducted from 1. and 2. The whole theory is pointless. It is not only pointless it also useless. The far most important argument which makes the “P2P turned into commons” exercise completely irrelevant is the need for f2f communication when building commons. Bauwens claims to rely on Ostroms theory of common pool resources and collective action, he just stretches it a little by making it open access. But talking about the empirical base of collective action Ostrom says:

“A behavioral commitment to theory grounded in empirically inquiry is essential to understand such basic questions as why face-to-face communication so consistently enhances cooperation in social dilemmas or how structural variables facilitate or impede effective collective action” (Elinor Ostrom, 1998, p.1)


“Yet, consistent, strong, and replicable findings are achieved when individuals are allowed to communicate face to face.” (Id. p. 6)

So computer mediated communication does not support building commons, only f2f communication. You can not build trust by computer mediated communiction, because you can not solve ambiguity without f2f communication (Daniël Verhoeven, 2006).

Formal model for rational choice theory of collective action, proposed by Elinor Ostrom (Elinor Ostrom, 1998, p. 15),.Copyright American Political Science Review, Copy for educational purposes only.

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Short history of the digital communication trap

Originally posted on commonworks

The invention of internet has been compared with Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press, turning the world upside down. But this comparison doesn’t take account of the context. The social economic context is an issue of main importance and influence. Internet’s unholy marriage to Capitalism in the nineties was a decisive turning point and it still shapes the internet today. Companies like Google, Facebook and Apple are bigger then some small states. The rate and degree of monopolization in this area is exceptional. Those who expected that internet would become a forum for democracy underestimated the resilience of the capitalist system. Today social bots mislead millions of people, political propaganda uses micro targeting to win elections. When leaving communication to machines we might completely loose all empathy, though empathy is one of the most important capacities that made humanity.

Un-inventing the printing press

Printing co-evolved on different places at different times. Woodblock printing originated in China 220 yrs before Christ. The world’s first movable type printing press technology was also developed in China by the Han Chinese printer Bi Sheng between the years 1041 and 1048. Though it didn’t become common as block printing did.

One wonders why the Chinese movable type printing press was not spread in China while it did in Europe. An explanation often offered is the large number of Chinese characters. But this is only half of the story. In the middle ages and before, the art of writing was practised by a class of clerks not being eager to render their knowledge and privileges. In fact also in Europe written language was mainly done in abbeys by monks [1] copying texts. But, the inventor of the printing press Johannes Gutenberg was not a monk, he was a craftsman. Having worked as a professional goldsmith, Gutenberg made skilful use of his knowledge of metals.

Guild signs of city of Ghent, Belgium

Guild signs of craftsmen in city of Ghent, Belgium

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Edward Snowden interview and the works of Laura Poitras

Virtual interview with Edward Snowden on 11/10/2014

Some quotes:

“When you say, ‘I have nothing to hide,’ you’re saying, ‘I don’t care about this right.’ You’re saying, ‘I don’t have this right, because I’ve got to the point where I have to justify it.’ The way rights work is, the government has to justify its intrusion into your rights.”

According to Edward Snowden, people who care about their privacy should stay away from popular consumer Internet services like Dropbox, Facebook, and Google.

“We’re talking about encryption. We’re talking about dropping programs that are hostile to privacy. For example, SpiderOak? Get rid of Dropbox, it doesn’t support encryption, it doesn’t protect your private files. And use competitors like SpiderOak, that do the same exact service but they protect the content of what you’re sharing.”

About the government:

“We can have secret programs. You know, the American people don’t have to know the name of every individual that’s under investigation. We don’t need to know the technical details of absolutely every program in the intelligence community. But we do have to know the bare and broad outlines of the powers our government is claiming … and how they affect us and how they affect our relationships overseas. Because if we don’t, we are no longer citizens, we no longer have leaders. We’re subjects, and we have rulers.”

The works of Laura Poitras

Trailer of Citizenfour: Edward Snowden Documentary

You will find the other documantaries of Laura Poitras here

Over het Internet Ungovernance Forum in Istanbul

Auteur: Datapanik

Oorspronkelijk gepubliceerd op Permanent Ongecontroleerde Zones

“In an ideal world, governments would respect the free speech rights of their citizens enough to not filter their Internet communications. Sadly, we do not yet live in that world. Perhaps in time, governments will realize that the serious cybersecurity and foreign-surveillance threats posed by censorship equipment outweigh whatever supposed benefits of national stability and control that they bring.” – Edward Snowden in zijn tekst voor het Internet Ungovernance Forum


Van 2 tot 5 september vond in Istanbul het negende Internet Governance Forum (IGF) plaats. Plaats voor kritische stemmen was echter niet voorzien. Reden genoeg voor die critici om een paralelle event te organiseren, het Internet Ungovernance Forum (IUF). Op die agenda was wél plaats voor topics als censuur, surveillance, netneutraliteit en een voor iedereen toegankelijk internet.

EDRi-lid en co-organisator van het IUF Alternative Informatics Association zorgde voor een kort verslag. Maar hieronder nemen we een uitgebreider verslag over dat oorspronkelijk in het Engels verscheen op de blog van Reële Democratie Nu! – Gent.

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On the Internet Ungovernance Forum 4-5 september in Istanbul

Author: Daniël Verhoeven


Origin of the forum


For the first time since its establishment in 2006 the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) of ICANN [1] is paralleled with a protest forum, the Internet Ungovernance Forum.

Internet protests all over the world until now were addressed against national states and international organizations wanting to limit internet freedom and net neutrality or against those state and non-state services breaching privacy on the net, but this time a critique is formulated against the Internet governance itself by the Internet Ungovernance Forum. The announcement stated:

“We see that at IGF the most urgent problems of the Internet do not get the right attention. Due to the “multi-stakeholderism” format, the main perpetrators of many of the Internet’s problems, governments and corporations, are getting representation in IGF they don’t deserve. Given these circumstances, we decided to take initiative to defend the Internet as we know it and to create a space to raise the voices of civil society initiatives, activists and common people.”


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Is de toekomst van Internet community based?

Draadloze ‘community’ netwerken verbinden mensen met elkaar in plaats van ze op te hangen aan de gecentraliseerde servers van Facebook,  Yahoo, Google, Microsoft en Apple, die hun data verkopen aan marketeers en de NSA. Ze helpen ook bij het dichten van de digitale kloof, soms zijn ze levensnoodzakelijk zoals tijdens en na de orkaan Sandy. Ze zijn bottom up, ze zijn in het belang van de gemeenschap. Van 2 tot 4 oktober houden ze hun tiende internationale top in Berlijn.



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Confronting the social engineering of Zuckerberg and alike

Will Mark Zuckerberg run for President of the USA one day?

Will Mark Zuckerberg run for President of the USA one day? In a apologetic article in C|net about Dan Farber suggests: “Who knows, one day… Zuckerberg could try running a real country.” is the latest promotion campaign Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, and Qualcomm to connect every person in the world to the Internet. The group wants to bring Internet access to the roughly two-thirds of the world’s population who aren’t connected.

They show a lot of ambition but have no Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, nor Time-bound plan of realisation. Though this is what you would expect from engineers. Is this mere a reaction on Google’s blue-sky scheme, Project Loon, a plan to deploy Wi-Fi-transmitting balloons over the world’s most remote areas, as some say?  Of course competition plays a part, but there is more. It is about social engineering and it is about time people start to realise that.

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Antwoord op Zuckerberg’s missie

Brengt Mark Zuckerberg het ooit tot president van de Verenigde Staten?

Brengt Zuckerberg het ooit tot president van de Verenigde Staten? Dan Farber hoopt blijkbaar van wel. Hij sluit met deze suggestie een kritiekloos artikel af in Cnet over Dit laatste is een promotie initiatief van Facebook, Samsung, Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, en Qualcomm om toegang tot Internet te verlenen overal in de wereld.

Twee derden van de wereldburgers hebben momenteel geen toegang tot Internet. Door projecten op te zetten, kennis te delen, en regeringen en industriëlen te mobiliseren wil het partnerschap 5 miljard internetgebruikers extra creëren.  Binnen de tien jaar willen ze de kost voor mobiele internet-toegang brengen op 1% van de huidige kost.

Zuckerberg wil zich duidelijk profileren nadat Google al eerder een project opstarte met draadloze Internet toegang te experimenteren voor  ontwikkelingslanden door ballonnen in de stratosfeer in te zetten: het ‘balloon powered Internet for everyone’ project.

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