Thu 10 May 2018 7:45AM

Representations of commons organisation

M mike_hales Public Seen by 148

Turnout was small in the poll on Representations of commons organisation - 3 persons. But here's a thread anyway. I invite discussion of: ways of conceptualising commons organisation, forms of presentation of concepts (including diagrams and schemas as well as bullet-lists, essays and books) , and technologies for sharing, evolving and mobilising representations (Loomio, wiki, etc). Yes, I include the notorious pattern language! - where the model is a cute and challenging hybrid presentation of words and schematics, underpinned with powerful and practically-rooted but complex (even poetic) concepts . . . presented through a clunky old technology (?), the 200-page hard-copy book.

This is a L A R G E canvas. So I'm thinking about scope just now and expect to revise this context statement in due course - or maybe, split the thread. Please comment if you have thoughts on making the scope of the discussion manageable (by subdividing it? by ditching parts of it?), or pointers to locations where some of this ground has inevitably been turned over before.

For example, please make links to explorations of 'how to organise/produce a commons of kind 'x'. I don't mean abstract principles (eg Marjorie Kelly's 5 x 2 'patterns' of generative/extractive business conduct, which are very broad), I mean concrete, contextualised practices. I propose that 'organisation' in the title of this thread should be seen as activity-verb, rather than structure-noun. Although . . . maybe you feel that structure-pictures are essential tools? Has anyone ever seen a diagram of Dmytri Kleiner's venture commune?

Perhaps this thread might lead towards a library (or map) of links - Whole Earth Catalogue-wise - as distinct from a deep in-thread discussion of representations/conceptualisations, a bible?


mike_hales Sun 13 May 2018 7:56AM

I note the thread on P2P media that @strypey started here, which obviously runs parallel to the discussion I'm inviting here. I guess I see that thread as oriented to networks, networking platforms and the governance of said platforms? A central concern. Whereas, in this thread here, I'm concerned with a specific kind of media content that might travel those networks.


mike_hales Sun 13 May 2018 8:04AM

Just to get started at the easy end . . . would anyone like to share diagrams or visual schemas of forms of commons organisation?


mike_hales Sun 13 May 2018 8:27AM

Ignoring my own suggestion above to avoid structure diagrams , , , I attach a Venn diagram which is a problem rather than a solution. It's a sketch of sectors of the economy which locates 'the social economy' in relation to other coexisting modes. The schema is from an argument on 'the new social economy' by economist/social entrepreneur Robin Murray in a 2009 pamphlet Danger and opportunity - Crisis and the new social economy.

The area that he identifies as the grant economy (aka the voluntary sector) seems to be the only place in this map where commons can be located - and this obviously isn't right. But I'm not at all sure how to redraw this figure so that the commons-based economy does figure with appropriate prominence. Obviously the concepts here need some refining, and all of the 'economies' in the map are in fact a mixed bag (the State for example, is lots of different bits of the economy, doing different things). There are many different modes of commons economy too.

Whatever - does anyone have a suggestion how to redraw this diagram in a way that appropriately locates common-oriented economic activity? Might this be a well-formed conceptual tool, or is it just a bit of propaganda material? The aim of Murray's pamphlet is certainly to be conceptually rigorous. But he hasn't put P2P/commons production on this map, as 'a sector'.


Simon Grant Sun 13 May 2018 8:28AM

Hi Mike @mikeh8 as one of the three :nerd: my sense is that the best start would be to have extended one-to-one talks, and summarise points that come up here in the thread.

Personally, I'd like to know more about where you're coming from and what you would like to see us do, and (in a sense) why. I share a genuine interest in issues around representation -- to me it's applied philosophy. As philosophy, one major aim would be to help everyone think more clearly around a topic, which in turn means keeping in touch with what one could call "common philosophy": philosophy by commoners rather than about the commons -- though that too can be useful and interesting.

So, yes, while it might well turn out to be interesting to share diagrams or schemas, I'd like to talk more generally first.


Simon Grant Sun 13 May 2018 8:35AM

A parallel point: one thing that I do find really helpful is to agree on what kind of diagramming conventions are helpful between us, even before considering what kind of diagrams are best to communicate with a wider audience. One background I have is systems analysis and design, and I'm very happy to use concept maps, similar to entity-relationship type diagrams, (as in Cmaptools) and also data flow diagrams, if used carefully. I don't often find diagrams like the social economy one you give helpful, simply because there is nothing explaining what the lines joining the blobs represent. By default, they seem to mean "is connected or related in some way to", which to me is next to useless until supplemented by a clearer explanation.

But let me look at the Murray paper first, as maybe he gives the kind of meaning I am looking for.


mike_hales Sun 13 May 2018 9:17AM

Yes there's a distinction here, between diagramming methods that are sharp analytical tools with well defined symbolism and precisely defined content (entity-relationship diagrams, etc) and diagrams like I posted (a Venn diagram - a blob diagram) which represent relationships between categories (in strict mathematical use, between sets). The latter diagram, in its original context, is a visual aid attached to a verbal presentation, naming the main areas of reality that the argument is concerned with. I find such aids helpful as resources for talking-around within a conversation (as Murray does in his article) even though they don't do any very precise analytical work. In the article Murray does discuss the content of some links, but in fact this content is very diverse, and the sketch (and the longer verbal argument) is really just a prompt to do much more in-depth analysis. The diagram and the article are work in progress.

Other kinds of schema are used to represent organisations - I don't just mean conventional tree diagrams representing hierarchies. For example, as I mentioned in the thread context - I really would like to see a visual representation of the entities that make up Dmytri Kleiner's venture commons. I have a sense that there may just be three 'blobs' in it. But it would be good to be clear about this, and I would have found it helpful if Kleiner had in fact drawn a picture instead of staying entirely in words. A blob diagram would be an easy thing to carry about in the head, and to use for talking-around with others when it comes to understanding and agreeing what kinds of relationships and entities and distinctions and roles are involved in making a commons work. A simple blob diagram would by no means be an entity-relationship diagram, but could do a lot of useful work in supporting quite serious conversations and negotiations? In the hands of a rigorous user, the vagueness of the picture, in a sense, is what prompts the careful discussion, so that - as you wrote - it eventually becomes 'supplemented by a clearer explanation'.

Perhaps @asimong I'm more open to much looser forms of representation than you would want to work with? I'm broadly thinking of a conversational context, while maybe you're visualising a quite refined design context? Even in a design context, however, I have a hunch that a highly interpretative (verging on poetic) approach to representation - pattern language - is needed for the very rich things (communities, working lives, real economies, outcomes of labour, relationships with nature) that we would like to develop on the ground? Different modes of rigour are attached to the different forms of representation, and all (?) modes are valuable and necessary, as adjuncts to the practice? Seems to me, they all do different kinds of work, and we're not doing detail-design all the time?


Danyl Strype Sun 13 May 2018 2:18PM

I think I'm starting to get my head around the purpose of this thread. What we're talking about here is how to visually represent 'invisible structures' (as we call them in permaculture); relationships, organisations, networks, and so on, that allow for activities not supported by purely ad-hoc interactions. Is that right?

I'm much more of a aural learner/ communicator than a visual-spatial one. If you look at the Disintermedia blog and wiki, it's pretty much all walls of text, because those words paint all the pictures I need. But I get that this isn't true for everyone, and I'm learning to make more use of graphs, memes, and other illustrations that bring visual interest to my material. In fact, I'd really like to get a graphics person involved in Disintermedia to help me with this, but I digress.

Looking at the four domains in Murray's diagram, I actually see four different kind of commons governance.
* a state, especially when functioning as a 'partner state' (in P2PF/ CT parlance), can be seen as the site of governance for what we might call "national commons" or, as I prefer to call them, "public commons"; everything from national parks and electro-magnetic spectrum, to public health and education systems.
* a household is pretty obviously a (set of) commons governed at the level of the family or shared house (a "flat" in kiwi slang or even a squat); common kitchen, bathroom, living areas, perhaps outdoor recreation areas and gardens, sometimes a shared food supply, or even shared vehicles, and often a shared set of rules around cleaning and maintenance of those common facilities. Other commons exist as networks of households, such as the simple food coops where multiple households combine their purchases into a single, regular order from a bulk supplier, or babysitting clubs, and roster systems where groups of parents take turns driving kids to school or to sports events.
* a market can itself be a commons that supports win-win cooperation between competing businesses. The obvious model is the Farmers Market.
* grants tend to be given to people working in large, long-life entities like Foundations (in US legal jargon) and Trusts (in the UK and Commonwealth countries). These entities are (sets of) commons, that provide continuity, institutional memory, and financial services like receiving, dispersing, and reporting on grants.

Free code software is a pretty good example of a (set of) commons that straddles both the market and the grant economy. There are many examples of Foundations and Trusts that hold copyright over free code on behalf of consortia of businesses (eg the Liux Foundation and Ubuntu Foundation). Many commercial business produce free code (including Loomio), and also many free code projects receive grant funding. Although in most cases I'm aware of, the successful free code projects are the ones that are either started by a business that has a revenue model with legs (eg MySQL, Loomio), or have a cluster of businesses develop around them offering support services etc (eg Linux kernel, Koha). Most of the ones funded entirely by grants tend to break down in developer acrimony (eg Chandler) or just fizzle out when the funding runs out (eg Democracy Player/ Miro). My suspicion is that grants are like the software development equivalent of superphosphate fertilizer; they produce spurts of unsustainable growth, while starving the underlying ecosystem of the oxygen and space they need to create soil health and sustainable growth.

There's one domain that's completely missing from Murray's diagram though, and that's the volunteer economy, which is where the majority of my work takes place. Volunteers in community projects are, by definition, working outside the household economy, but also, by definition, not dependent on salaries covered by grants, and their participation is neither driven by the market nor funded or commanded by the state. This is, I believe, the other leg of the stool that makes for sustainable free code software projects, along with markets, and grants (when used to cover the costs of governance and coordination rather than development itself).


mike_hales Sun 13 May 2018 5:52PM

Going along for a moment with your digressing @strypey , yes, different people are reached by different modes of representation. I happen to perceive and to work with much stuff - even the most abstract conceptual stuff - in a kind of space which is like an extended body language, ‘moving’ around what is known, journeying through ‘landscapes’ (and telling travelogues), visiting ‘locations’ in a big warehouse to collect bits and pieces to work with, occupying locations in society, etc. Thus, for this kind of person, visual representations have a particular force.

That said, I’m ‘aural’ too - but in the sense of resonating to poetic qualities of language, rather than in the sense of being able to survive for more than a short time in an extended flow of spoken language, least of all, gossip or large-group interaction. So, yes, memes mean a lot to me as a mode of representation - but as powerful imagery, not as ‘what everybody is virally talking about right now’. Generally, I feel that if ‘everybody’ is talking about it (outside of a seminar room?) it’s probably off-beam in some way, and bespeaks some shared airheaded delusion! (OK, my problem as a melancholic!) But in the real world it may be necessary to speak that way even to get (mis)heard - soundbites, buzzwords, whatever.

The poetry thing is something to do with a deep sense of material order . . . as an engineer, I ‘see’ (and appreciate the fluid-mechanics forces underneath) the order in the alternating swirls of air at the trailing edge of of an airplane wing, or the spiral phyllotaxis in the spatially-iterated stems of a celery plant or the bumps on a pineapple. I guess, if we’re trying to find some kind of definition for this aspect of this topic, I would say it’s about representations of order. That connects in some way with your notion of ‘invisible structures’? For @asimong , I suspect that the representational means (graphic or wordy) used to communicate order (and ontology?) need to be quite formal?

D’you feel feel we might handle this kind of diversity here, if we’re aware of it? Different minds, different contexts?


mike_hales Sun 13 May 2018 6:08PM

@strypey Your suggestion of four different kinds of commons governance is nice, thanks, and your perspective of code commons as straddling market and grant economies (with some difficulties, which all the licensing initiative are testimony to?). I feel, though, that it’s only in the future that all four sectors might be seen as predominantly commons forms, so that the diagram at the present time - and applied on the scale of a national or regional or city economy - would have to be seen as a map of potential - differing, dynamically interacting - modes of commons economy? Perhaps in NZ it might apply to a whole real economy, in a small area - like maybe Wellington?

Currently, states generally don’t run as commons - typically (neoliberal governments especially) they use their 'public' institutional status to enclose commons and hand them to privatised markets for extractive exploitation. So ‘the partner state’ is a hope and intention - and maybe a trend, if we’re optimistic - rather than a description of very much that is actual, at this point. Likewise, customary or informal markets may be close to commons, and Transition Towns can do a lot with regionalised uncapitalist markets running on uncapitalist forms of money. But the capital-powered extractive markets that dominate our lives are intrinsically anti-commons. The vision of widespread (generative) markets, currencies and forms of ownership and exchange that serve ordinary life and sustain the earth lies in the future. This is the way in which present-day states and markets are addressed by Robin Murray in his article - and he then uses the idea of an emerging social economy to pitch the contrasting commons versions, as a future form that need to be built through activism. However, back in 2009, he didn’t use commons language, which is unfortunate, since IMHO 'social economy' as a concept can't do the same kind of heavy lifting.

In fact, the volunteer economy isn’t ‘completely missing’ from Robin’s argument - it’s significantly present in the text. But the fact that this gets boiled down, in the diagram, to the catch-all term ‘grant economy’ is just testimony to the complexity of things, and to the fact that there are many diverse forms of practice and institutions within this ‘blob’. Real economies and social formations are a whole lot more complex than can be covered by five categories?

When I raised the question of ‘where to put the commons’ in this diagram, I was thinking of actually-existing commons economies. I guess, following your reasoning, the commons in this diagram is the same as ‘the social economy’ blob, just a whole lot smaller in scale at this point? I guess, also, I was holding a difference between
- activist movements that might see ‘social innovation’ as a 'regeneration' or 'job creation' or 'community care' development within the present mode of production (as maybe The Democracy Collaborative does, and The Preston Model tacitly seems to do) and
- other movements (represented by Kleiner’s Telekommunist Manifesto, say) that see the aim of P2P/commons production as taking away the space and the oxygen from all modes of capitalist economy (state, market, consumerist household, and dependent and tiny grant sector) and extending new commoning-relations of production across the whole field, creating an entirely new global mode of production and exchange.

Thus I kind-of pictured the latter activist formations as a ‘wedge’ in the present diagram, of limited scale, containing small present-day parts of all four major sectors, but aspiring to eat them all up? Perhaps this requires a different kind of diagram, which has time and process in it rather than just four static categories? Or possibly it just requires the diagram to be used carefully in ‘storytelling’ mode, with plenty of accompanying words - written or spoken - to spell all this out. IMHO a simple picture alongside a complex story is perhaps better than vice versa, given that many folks are not very concerned to interpret complex diagrams? But more powerful than words alone. Is this where we came in Strypey? Where does that leave you and me @asimong , who are diagramming nerds? :nerd:


Simon Grant Mon 14 May 2018 7:38AM

Thanks Mike @mikeh8 -- I'd just like to correct any mis-impression by anyone that I might be a formalism fetishist. For me, the value in a formally coherent approach is mainly in clarity of intended meaning. I also appreciate poetry, as a medium for conveying more personal meaning, which may indeed mean different things to different people. So it might be useful to reflect on one's purposes: where things need to be clear, use something more formal. For one thing, that's why people have laws, articles of association, etc. In contrast, where the intention of the communication is to open up the imagination, go creative. What I find unhelpful is an inadvertent mixture, where people are trying to convey something clear, but use ambiguous language or diagrams. Or vice versa, where people are trying to inspire, but use a representation that is lifeless and dry.

Here's a nice quote that may feel slightly relevant (I heard yesterday): "And the end of words is to bring [people] to the knowledge of things beyond what words can utter." (17thC, so original had "men")


Danyl Strype Tue 15 May 2018 5:02PM


Currently, states generally don’t run as commons

I agree with your overall point about the neo-liberal direction of travel, the push to convert the commons held in trust by states into social enterprises owned by the state as assets. One example that really angers me is the recent habit in my country (Aotearoa/ NZ) of fencing off the grounds of our publicly-owned and operated schools, and locking the gates outside school hours, as if they were private property. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. There are states where neo-liberalism hasn’t really taken hold (eg Finland) and despite decades of neo-liberal asset stripping in countries where it has, there are still plenty of non-commercial commons governed by states and/or local government; the public road networks are an obvious example, as are public parks (ironically, here in China the parks are heavily fenced, guarded, and locked after dark. An example of public ownership with special Chinese characteristics ;) ).

Like the neo-liberal state, or the USSR/ PRC style state (a state operated like a monopoly corporation with “the people” as the only customer), each of the four economies in Murray’s diagram (5 if we give the volunteer sector it’s own blob independent of the NGO-driven ‘grant economy’) also has extractive, propertarian modes. In the household, the propertarian mode is patriarchy, where the children perform chattel labour for the parents, and the wife for the husband, who claims ownership of all the goods produced by the household as his private wealth. In the market, as you say, it’s the corporation. In the grant economy, it’s the corporate-funded think tanks and “development” agencies; my friend Tazia Gaisford wrote Masters thesis proposing a hybrid of permaculture and anarchism, not as a form of “development”, but as a replacement for development.

What about the volunteer economy? I’m not aware of an extractive mode in this domain, but I think that’s a blind spot in my own thinking, resulting from my volunteerist biases. Love to hear any thoughts anyone else has on this subject (@asimong @liammurphy ?)

When I raised the question of ‘where to put the commons’ in this diagram, I was thinking of actually-existing commons economies.

Do you not agree that the example I gave for each of the four (or five) economies are actually-existing commons?
* state-governed commons: national parks and electro-magnetic spectrum, to public health and education systems.
* household-based commons: common kitchen, bathroom, living areas, and outdoor recreation areas and gardens, shared food supply, shared vehicles,  food coops, babysitting clubs
* market-based commons: farmers markets, social enterprises creating free code (eg MySQL, Loomio) or selling support for or products built around free code (eg Linux kernel, Koha), also credit unions, mutual assurance companies, and other cooperatives
* grant-based commons: foundations/ trusts, including those that govern development of free code software (Linux Foundation, Ubuntu Foundation) and other peer production projects (eg Wikimedia Foundation, OpenStreetMap Foundation, WikiHouse Foundation)
* volunteer+donation-based commons: informal free code projects. Hosting collectives like RiseUp.net. The Indymedia network (what’s left of it)

Maybe I still don't understand the question. Is it something to do with how these examples of commons connect up where the blobs overlap?


mike_hales Tue 15 May 2018 8:14PM

Thanks for stretching this out @strypey . Would like to pick it up but I've a busy few days ahead so will have to let it drop for now. Will come back and consider this probing though.

Perhaps something I put into the last para of the 'park bench' comment below would give a sense of my perspective, concerning the enduring nature and broad multi-stakeholder governance of commons? On that basis I'm unsure whether some of your examples are commons - as distinct from things that we would want to be commons. Must go now!


Liam Murphy Thu 18 Jul 2019 6:51AM

HI @strypey - Sorry to miss you at Conway Hall and sorry it took so long to see this comment. Just in relation to extractivism in volunteer networks. I'm afraid I have seen this in Great Yarmouth - something like a 'sink town' as they've been called in the UK, where price rises have literally seen the poor 'traded out' to low rent areas. The use of 'volunteers' in this environment is often a way for competing 'trusts, foundations and usual suspects' to coral human capital as a trigger to releasing finance for socially financed projects of 'improvement'. The volunteers rarely see any of the financial resource, or make decisions about its distribution/use beyond carefully crafted 'consultation and evidence gathering' sessions. Its an art! I have circulated an open accounting document to all organisations and individuals concerned. All bar the library (bless 'em) have ignored it - despite its call for a distributed ledger of public moneys received and spent. They account inwardly, give future promises of social benefits and largely self evaluate. The moneys gained never find their way directly to the volunteerist communities they purport to help and a few organisations have grown into 'community oriented' great white sharks - chaperoning 'investment' which simply runs out and requires another round of funding. There have been some material gains - a theatre, some renovated properties etc - but there are no enlightened ownership models to make these anything other than part of the general extraction of public funds. I'd love to come here with a happy missive - but hopefully that speaks to the question! Liam


Danyl Strype Mon 14 May 2018 7:12AM

I find I'm very sensitive to "what works" in communication. I don't
really need diagrams and illustrations for my own understanding, and
often find them confusing at first, but I appreciate them very much as
tools that help me make sense to others, at times when my floods of
words leave people smiling and nodding, and backing away ;-P

I'm fascinating by your poetic descriptions of your cognitive modes.
They reminded me of a wonderful interactive sculpture garden opposite
the Arts Centre in Ōtautahi, Aotearoa (NZ), that attempts to communicate
the inner experiences of those with dyslexia to those that do not. Do
you identify with any of the common experiences of dyslexia by any
chance? No judgement implied, just curious:


mike_hales Tue 15 May 2018 7:56PM

'Poetic descriptions of cognitive modes' . . . the 'spatial' stuff feels damn near literal, inner and outer space continuous, the body having a kinaesthetic existence in both simultaneously, and experiences occurring within some kind of spatial field. Maybe this could be some kind of synesthesia (one sense mapped into another); but I would then say that synaesthesia maybe is nowhere near as rare as it's made out to be, and exists in all sorts of forms. There are lots of metaphors of mental 'space' and I guess I always take them as being more literal than metaphorical (and more whole-body than between-the-ears). Thinking is very much a kinaesthetic process.

Dyslexia . . no.


Liam Murphy Mon 14 May 2018 10:23AM

Please forgive scant attention to this thread which deserves careful study. I only had one thought: Diagrams which set out 'market, state, grant, households' etc as pillars around and through which commons/social activity flows seem useful for a broad understanding. But can they obfuscate clear eyed, simple questions of people trying to understand their potential roles as commoners - perhaps? The idea that, for example, 'the grant sector' is more 'social' than the 'market sector' isn't very helpful... I'm wondering if there is a modelling tool (for you system thinkers) for individual and specific common acts and deeds. Take for example, the common need for benches to sit/rest on in a town centre. All four sectors may collaborate or act individually to meet this need. But, is there a way of modelling this particular common, which might extend to other commons in relation to how its need is measured, who provides it, who has authority over it, how are each of the sectors paid for their provision/contribution to it? etc... No doubt there would be comparative models, but might this not enable people to begin to see commoning in a more applied, case-specific way, which they could more easily imagine themselves fitting into? Maybe this model already exists..? All best... LM


mike_hales Tue 15 May 2018 10:37AM

First thought @liammurphy regarding the ‘big blobs’ . . . If we go with the ‘big four’ sectors in Robin Murrays’ diagram, it’s obviously unhelpful, as you say, to then apply a stereotype such as “the grant sector’ is more ‘social’ than the ‘market sector”. What I now realise is, a diagram like the one I posted is a prompt to do further, more detailed analysis or conversation. What it actually represents is not discrete spheres of practice, but differing regimes of what, in my tradition of economic thinking, are called relations of production. The relations of production in the capitalist market (compulsion to engage in wage labour, private ownership of means of production, extraction of surplus value under private ownership, money-makes-money-makes-money) are different from relations of production in the collective of households (things like ‘gifting’, or ‘neighbourliness’ or ‘making the environment pleasing’ or simply ‘meeting immediate need with immediate action’; also power relations like ‘doing what your mother says because she’s boss’ etc).

There are kinds of business-in-the-market that are ‘social’ - called ‘social enterprise’, coops, etc - which succeed in shedding to some extent the dominant relations of the capitalist market (eg coops shed private ownership of means of production, replacing it with common ownership). An admittedly simple diagram like we’re talking about is then simply a set of prompts to dig down, and discover just what the relations of production are, in a present situation, and what we want them to be. The fifth ‘blob’ overlaid on the other four - labelled ‘social economy’ in Robin’s case (‘commons-based economy’ would carry us further) - is a prompt to identify just what the distinctive relations of production are, in a commons economy - the governance principles of this particular commons. And then to create enterprises (in a broadest sense) that are rigorously structured by them - drawing on the practice and resources of households, voluntary sector, firms, local government, whatever, in a specific way - and to escape or buffer or undercut the prevailing ones.

A picture is never ‘worth a thousand words’. But it can be the start of a thousand further more detailed and attentive conversations and explorations.


mike_hales Tue 15 May 2018 10:46AM

Second thought @liammurphy on ‘enabling people to begin to see commoning in a more applied, case-specific way’ and 'clear eyed, simple questions of people trying to understand their potential roles as commoners' . . . Yes, agree completely, this is at the heart of things, we have to live commons. I think that the park-bench-commons situation sits low down in a hierarchy of ‘design’ choices (which doesn’t make it unimportant, just very concrete, under the influence of many wider layers of economic and cultural organisation - including states, markets, neighbourhoods, etc).

There happen to be patterns bearing on the park-bench situation in Alexander’s architectural pattern language; for example 61 Small Public Squares/69 Public Room/176 Garden Seat. In a commoning pattern language there would be patterns of these kinds (perhaps actually adaptations of these same architectural patterns?). But - as in Alexander’s language - they get deployed under the umbrella of higher-level patterns (Pedestrian Street, Web of Shopping, Mix of Subcultures, City/Country Fingers, Independent Regions, Community of 7000, etc etc) which not only form part of the built environment (economic/cultural environment) but also are part of the (shared) literacy of the individual creative activist people who live there.

Thus, with a park bench (or policy on park benches?) the way of getting it done would depend on just what the local state was like (Partner State or not?), just what the local businesses and voluntary organisations were like (a Makerspace? a Men’s Shed? an old people’s Day Centre? a philanthropist? a wooden furniture-making company? a social enterprise to maintain public infrastructure?), etc. It would be achieved in a concrete way, as a concrete step to living in a commoned world, drawing on the movements towards commons-sensibility that were already present in the local economy and culture. A pattern language is systemic, which means that it's used for working 'backwards', 'up' the hierarchy of system layers into the 'big blobs' (for example, pulling the local State further into Partner State mode), as well as 'downwards', into details.And while there might be a generalised pattern for 'Places to sit in public', the way of putting the pattern to work in any actual setting would depend on what other patterns (commons-oriented and otherwise - perhaps 'public-private' infrastructure partnerships? bureaucratic local government?) that were in fact at work in that setting. And the chances of a person seeing the need for a park bench and setting out to get one in place would be conditioned by what other Commoning patterns were in the air, in the culture of that town or neighbourhood.

The park bench wouldn’t be a commons - as distinct from being a kind, public-spirited thing to do, which any casual passer-by could sit on - unless the commitments of resources were explicitly determined now and stewarded in future by an enduring collective of providers and beneficiaries, under enduring agreements. In a viable Commoning pattern language, these would be ‘cemented’ by higher-level patterns, also commoned, held in common, in common ‘literacy’. Lower-level patterns too, like Cleaning the Park Today. It’s a web of literate activist people, and material and legal resource commitments - and actual dispositions of stuff. right down to the street furniture.


Liam Murphy Tue 15 May 2018 11:09AM

This is very interesting Mike..

I can see a need for some pattern mapping (overlays if that makes sense) - eg, patterns of commoning and ‘models’ of ‘social enterprise ‘ .. I’ve done a bit of work with folk at Cambridge Uni on this and I’ll ask them for some source materials... not sure it’s in my remit at the moment but can see something very productive in doing it.

Cheers, Liam


mike_hales Thu 31 May 2018 5:47PM

Patterns in creating civil-society networks

In 2014 the TRANSIT EU-funded international research project (TRANSformative Social Innovation Theory) published its reports and a manifesto for Transformative Social innovation. The networks covered by case-study reports are listed here - 20 transnational networks, 25+ countries. You may want to check these out, they're quite diverse in content?

This is not the usual 'social innovation' hand-waving. Although academics and EU-funded, the researchers are oriented to 'regime change' (this is what the 'transformative' in TRANSIT means).However, not all of the networks studied are necessarily in quite the same place. AFAIK Impact Hubs, for example, are 'social innovators' and local enterprise startup hubs (as well as doing necessary kindness-and-survival stuff like operating food banks), rather than seeking to bring the walls down, or create islands of commoning.

Examining all twenty civil-society networks, the research generated a collection of 'grounded theory' tags. These might (question mark) be regarded as the beginnings of a pattern language - for civil-society networks intended to change social relations.What d'you make of 'em?


mike_hales Tue 5 Jun 2018 9:28AM

@michelbauwens1 Would you be able to meet up when you're in England for Open2018 in July? I'm convening a reading group 'Making the civil economy' and in that context too am coming up against questions of modelling/representing commoning - much broader than pattern language and pictures! And would be glad to discuss.

Reading group is picking up threads from economist/cooperator Robin Murray who died last year - you worked with him in the 2015 Democratic Money deep dive. Pat Conaty is in the group, Hilary Wainwright also.

As Loomio coordinator can you see a link in my profile to email me? DM me https://social.coop/@mike_hales in Mastodon? Best wishes

PS Remove double brackets in Mastodon address, Loomio put them there.


Michel Bauwens Tue 5 Jun 2018 12:53PM

we can meet the 25th, but as the details of my invitation are not fully solid, we'll have to wait before confirming,



mike_hales Tue 5 Jun 2018 1:02PM

excellent. I'll await further planning. thank you


Michel Bauwens Tue 5 Jun 2018 1:03PM


my email is michelsub2004 at gmail,



mike_hales Thu 5 Jul 2018 10:36AM

Beyond wiki

@michelbauwens1 A request for some contacts in the www/linked data/data analytics/pattern recognition field, if you can?

I'm still chewing on the issue of a pattern language for commoning - not commons organis*ation* (structure) but commons organis*ing* - a dynamic theory-of-practice. It'll be a little while yet before ready to start offering a framework but I'm beginning to understand what kind of architecture it needs to have. Not like Chris Alexander's (which is hierarchical - it needs to be dialectical) and not like Rob Hopkins' 'language' for Transition (which is a group organisers' to-do list, not a pattern language of reflective evolving everyday networked 'group mind' P2P practice and institutions).

I'm thinking about the representational form for this kind of conceptualising tool. It's something like a wiki (ie a hyperdocument). But even though a wiki evolves, the 'knowledge model' of a hyper*text* wiki is too didactic, universalist, uncontextualised. Something else is needed. My hunch is that the tool needs a #LinkedData back end, which will hold many diverse instances of historical/sectoral/regional practice, tagged with a dialectical lexicon (neural net?) of constructs. A specific enquiry would be conducted through a pattern-recognition front end of data-analytic algorithms that learn. The 'answer' is grounded in all the relavant instances. It's akin to the 'grounded theory' approach (Anselm Strauss) in anthropology. Sounds very Tim Berners-Lee to me :nerd: D'you have any connections in that area of science, who could get started on this problem? This kind of dynamic medium is where the future of wikis and platformed group mind must lie, I suspect. Global resources, local knowing. Resource globally, build locally.

Any ideas out there? @staccotroncoso @asimong @strypey @richarddbartlett @olisb


Michel Bauwens Thu 5 Jul 2018 12:19PM

perhaps Helene Finidori can help, I don't think I can

here some resources from our wiki section on the topic, https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/Category:Patterns

I also have 30 refs in my tag in diigo, see https://www.diigo.com/user/mbauwens/?query=%23Pattern-Languages

Pattern Languages for Social Change

Examples[edit ( https://wiki.p2pfoundation.net/index.php?title=Pattern_Languages_for_Social_Change&action=edit&section=1 )]

Provided by George Por:

URL = https://www.academia.edu/27465412/Patterns_that_Connect_Exploring_The_Potential_of_Patterns_and_Pattern_Languages_in_Systemic_Interventions_Towards_Realizing_Sustainable_Futures

Advanced Author Paper presented at the 60th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences - "Realizing Sustainable Futures" - University of Colorado – 23 - 30 July 2016

  • Book: Patterns in Network Architecture: A Return to Fundamentals, by John Day, ISBN-10: 0132252422, ISBN-13: 9780132252423, Prentice Hall, 2007.

URL = http://www.informit.com/store/product.aspx?isbn=0132252422


Darren Sun 8 Jul 2018 10:30PM

@mikeh8 I coukdnt totally understand you post about wikis and pattern language, but it made me think about federated wikis, which amusingly I also dont totally understand.
Perhaps you want to check them out?
Maybe this is a good place to start.


mike_hales Mon 9 Jul 2018 7:18AM

@darren4 thanks for this - it's a great place to start. Especially as the authors are Bollier & Helfrich. What I'm puzzling about in 'Beyond wiki' is something else, but I don't yet understand enough to pitch it properly. I think two things are involved, which may be contradictory. One is the semantic web. The other is the armoury of data-analytic pattern-recognition processing that is used in the back office in FaceBook, Google, etc. The former is about enabling 'us' to explicitly name, connect and share stuff, P2P. Great! Original free internet ideology. The latter is part of what the Tech Oligarchs (and psyops in the military) have innovated, to enclose the internet and 'farm' it. But the technology needs to be brought out into 'the front office' in apps that enable us (the public) to 'see' patterns in our own networking and relating which are tacit, complex and invisible to ourselves, adding to our collective capacity for knowing our collective Self.

I don't know how these join up. Or whether they're quite distinct. Anybody with leads (especially, who's doing what in the fediverse) . . . please chip in! @strypey @olisb


Michel Bauwens Mon 9 Jul 2018 7:23AM

I would love to connect the p2p wiki with a select few other wiki's similarly focused on the commons, like Remix the Commons and a few others,

actually Remix the Commons is the only time I have semantic applications that are actually useful ... and to not lead to an overabundance of links



mike_hales Mon 9 Jul 2018 7:25AM

Over-abundance of links is definitely something I can do without ;-) Brain-ache!


Michel Bauwens Mon 9 Jul 2018 7:26AM

yes, sometimes too much is worse than not enough

I am told this oftentimes for my own curation

but then again, for those that complain that 2 items per day on a blog is too much, the reality is that the popular blogs have all more than 10 per day ...


mike_hales Mon 9 Jul 2018 7:29AM

I would never complain about your curating! It's very valuable to have all these sources. But the labour of developing workable beneficial order in the world is considerable! Perhaps the work of learning not to strive too hard for order is even more important ;-)


Michel Bauwens Mon 9 Jul 2018 7:32AM

we work on consolidating the knowledge through our wiki sections, our regular research syntheses, and our books,

but intermediary solutions like a structured newsletter would really be useful, however, I don't have to time anymore to do more ...



Greg Cassel Fri 20 Jul 2018 4:25PM

I'm still chewing on the issue of a pattern language for commoning - not commons organis*ation* (structure) but commons organis*ing*

Hadn't followed this thread; @mikeh8 sorry... FYI one of my main work-in-progress models is a general P2PCI Modular Organizing Framework. I could describe this as a generic framework for "commons organising", because it's all about p2p organizing & developing communities which support commons.

That diagram is heavily hyperlinked & related to many other complex models. I haven't actively requested feedback on it yet from anyone other than my direct collaborators... however, it's open-sourced & publicly linked on big networks. (twitter and fb... Also Patchwork, though frankly I don't find time to engage with Patchwork community yet.)

Feel free to check out the open source diagram & links, to ask questions and use or adapt anything.


Michel Bauwens Sun 22 Jul 2018 9:00AM



mike_hales Sun 5 Aug 2018 1:43PM

Thanks for making this connection Greg. I'm reading your schema as a map of data tools and systems. Maybe social media too. With many hooks into open protocols. Is that right?

On that basis - although I find the schema hard to read - I get the relevance of what it represents. I'm aware of work-in-progress on ValueFlows/OpenApps etc, over in the Open Apps Loomio group and I see how these kinds of tools and distributed data systems form part of basic infrastructure for a use-value economy . . thus, a commons-based non-extractive economy and a future of commoning.

What I find harder to get my head round is the relationship between analysis at the data/systems/apps/protocols level and practical insight into development at the level of what it is that people are doing when they are commoning - as distinct from what the tool-systems are doing that may help them in this.I guess I'm saying that the challenge I find myself taken up with is to do with the culture dimensions of commoning - and within this, the feel (the way the heart moves, in the dance of commoning, in the face of extractive norms, temptations to take an easy route, etc) - as distinct from the tool apparatus? Being a melancholic person, I just can't take it for granted that it's 'natural' for folks to do the right thing! There are lots of cheapskate delusionary shortcuts, blindspots and temptations, and folks take them all the time?

I'm exploring this relationship in a work in progress website FoP RoP - forces of production, relations of production. Pattern language comes under the 'commoning' tab. The distinction I'm drawing above is present there in the framing of three (interwoven) spheres of practice: material economy (tools, thermodynamics, space, bodies, etc etc), capability economy (skills, conceptualisations, narratives etc), moral economy (motivations, fixations, copycat reflexes, emotional literacy, equanimity, etc etc). Commoning calls for development across all three spheres? thus pattern language embraces patterns of differently cultivated feeling, radical cultural formations, etc. All of which call for other kinds of skill and 'building'. It's a complex dance and a complex language? Do comment on the above distinction (and the broader project) if it makes sense to you . . . or especially if it doesn't ;-)


Greg Cassel Tue 7 Aug 2018 4:01PM

The above distinction makes sense yes, although it's somewhat different (differently-factored) than any of the frameworks which I use. Thanks for sharing so much.

I'll comment here on the deep importance of culture and feelings, although I doubt that my quick reply will deeply address your concerns.

I think that what people are doing when they're commoning is, simply, creating and supporting community. And unfortunately I think we're all practically beginners in that, and all suffering badly (especially in large-scale processes) from our dependence on insufficient and deformed tools and techniques.

I develop tools and techniques, but everything in my conception is based on building community. This requires inclusive discussion of everyone's thoughts and feelings. Such human dimensions are deeply implicit in key models such as the Resource Development and Support System and Inclusive Design System linked in my model above. Such models can, I believe, help communities to identify pain points, and to focus together on resolving or transforming them.

Of course I'm (painfully!) aware tha most people don't want to consider most other people's pains, and I guess that p2p coordination & collaboration-- and collective intelligence-- will develop very slowly at first, as people learn to align their shared goals/ projects with the wants and needs of larger communities.

it's long slow work. i'm already way overworked with my clear and obvious design imperatives, plus all of the small-group co-authorship and conflict resolution processes which I inevitably seem to get caught up in. (So I really don't have much time to study approaches outside of my existing projects, which I'm always falling behind in.)


mike_hales Tue 7 Aug 2018 9:28PM

"Aligning shared goals/projects with the wants and needs of larger communities" . . "long slow work" . . "small-group co-authorship and conflict resolution" . . "considering other people's pains" . . etcetera. Yes, this is a long haul and a full day's work, for sure! I do get a little dismayed that there are so many ways that we (all of us) adopt for addressing 'feelings', and that there are so many ways of having feelings, which many folks tend to gloss over, I feel, unwilling to acknowledge and engage the degree of diversity that exists among people. No slick solutions, and a long march across cultures and generations?

Whatever . . it seems to me that patterns of emotion/affect/wanting/avoiding/etc etc are an essential part of a pattern language for any practice that intends to be liberating. Our species has a long way to evolve yet, from behaviours that may have made us dominant, but haven't yet made us wise. My best guess at a frame for this evolutionary labour is the dhamma of buddhist traditions - not as spirituality or religious faith, but as very shrewd and time-tested theory-of-mind.

Thanks for responding at length Greg. Best wishes


Greg Cassel Tue 7 Aug 2018 10:33PM

FYI I've identified directly with what I'd call "core Buddhist principles" since I was 16 (32 years ago). I've perceived those principles as the foundations for my later premises, theories and (hopefully, most of) my practices.


Michel Bauwens Wed 8 Aug 2018 2:06AM

I think there is space for more deep, and for more shallow organizational forms, between those who favour long inclusive processing, with the clear risk of going nowhere but in circles, and those that favour efficiency, with the risk of non-inclusive meritocracies ...

personally, I tend to the latter, as we are not just doing what we desire, but need to survive in a hostile environment, which sometimes require bold and fast action (ask the celts about the roman armies ), and I get occassionally quite disheartened by the 'therapy crowd' (probably because I've done my own a long time ago, outside of activism)



mike_hales Wed 8 Aug 2018 7:36AM

Michel I'm aware of your expectation of "more deep and more shallow organizational forms" and appreciate this as both a cultural frame and a frame for infrastructure/tools. A difficulty I personally find I must address is "crowds" - of any kind, therapy-addicted or whatever - and whether "a crowd" can ever be trusted to act in a beneficial way. Your case of bold and fast action needed by the Celts is a good one . . . Freedom is based at some level in fiat - the capacity and willingness to 'just do it', trusting the heart without any more consultation or dialogue, and see what happens - and then, take moral and material consequences as they come. Taking and holding of territory, denial of territory, ostracising, banishing, whatever - grim stuff. Aware that "the actor who makes half a revolution digs their own grave"!

What I hope for and work toward is the capacity of equanimity (dhamma term) that might enable a 'crowd' action on a mass scale to be wise rather than arising from adrenaline- and cortisol-powered, ‘Othering’, tribal "moral economy of the crowd" (C18 English term for riots and civil unrest in the face of agrarian capitalism). Bcos dhamma practice is skilful doing as distinct from talking, and a self 'therapy' rather than an other-dependent therapy, I find it fosters capabilities that typical therapies are unlikely to - facing up to the fiat issue and the cortisol issue, right-here and now, in this person, in this action.

Whatever the frame (the dhamma isn't the only one that works this way - serious question mark) I begin to wonder whether the potential world of #OpenApps - and perhaps especially emergent #holo infrastructure - may give us tool-based means for constructing feedbacks of "people's data-analytics" which enable us - individually and in mutually-recognising collectives - to see tacit pattern-consequence of actions in chaotic systems, and evolve wiser 'emotional institutions' and courses of action. This is why I feel that patterns of the heart-mind belong in a pattern language of commoning, and thence may inform the constructing of a material-cultural ecosystem of openapps that tool-up processes of open-hearted community self-development, as distinct from the bubbles and narrowcasting of tribal social media. Call me a dumb optimist. I'll answer to "skill-oriented literacy-cultivating infrastructuring pessimist"!


Greg Cassel Wed 8 Aug 2018 11:56AM

One organization can be bold and fast in some contexts and very slow, inclusive and indecisive in others, @michelbauwens1 , depending on how it's organized. (Indeed, even our standard modern governments such as USA intentionally built slow and fast features into their infrastructure-- but of course, based on 18th century technology and issues.)

I'm not implying that all big organizations or projects should include both features. I would however guess that it's the ultimate emergent result for any complexly adaptive organization which includes many people and multiple goals.


Michel Bauwens Wed 8 Aug 2018 12:02PM

that is a very good point, and from some anthropological reading, I have learned that this was a feature of indigenous societies, i.e in times of war or raids, the war chief would take over, but once the campaign was over, he would return to his ordinary status and to the authority of the elders and village chief,

class societies emerge once the war chiefs refuse to hand power back at the end of conflicts,



mike_hales Wed 8 Aug 2018 12:30PM

"in times of war or raid . . once the campaign was over . . return to the authority of elders/village chief." Now, that would be a GOOD trick to learn!

Guy Dauncey has a story about these as evolutionary traits . . . "the non-alphas resented being dominated". But seems to me he tells it like a fairy story, in which the silent non-alpha majority rides up on a white horse and everybody lives comfortably ever after. IMHO alphas (and subservient others) are not leaving the planet for some time yet, so Michel's sense of surviving in a hostile environment (possibly within our own communities and organisation) is appropriate? So yes, the 'temporary chief' turnaround would be a great trick to learn.


Michel Bauwens Wed 8 Aug 2018 12:36PM

an interesting book to read is 'the hierarchy of the forest' which says that hunter-gathering egalitarianism was a reverse hierarchy, a alliance between beta males and women, against the power grabbing of alpha males; it represented a revolution against animality; equality requires constant protection against concentration


mike_hales Tue 18 Sep 2018 8:41PM

I'm heading of on another tangent here - but this seems to be a thread of tangents . . . In the past couple of months I've opened up a website of work in progress, in which a 'pattern language' of commoning is one of the central threads (sadly, not moving as fast as I would wish it to). Hence, this comment in this thread here. But other work has triggered slightly tangential thoughts on how the movement for P2P-commons sits, in relation to a couple of generations of 'radical science' activism. I'm mentioning this here - rather than starting another thread - because it seems to me that the development of Fordism/post-Fordism since WWII underlies these movements, and this in turn needs to be part of the historical patterning that a pattern language for commoning must digest, if it's to be truly useful as a support for contextualised, epoch-making activism. There's a blog post on this here which I hope seems interesting? Given the orientation to 'organising' maybe @staccotroncoso and @annmarie would be interested, along with the usual suspects in this thread?


Michel Bauwens Wed 19 Sep 2018 4:50AM

will check out your suggested links, dear Mike!


The hOEP Project Mon 17 Jun 2019 4:10PM

Not sure if this is what you want. But the hEOP project is a reference implementation example for a new method of commons production and organization. It's pretty far outside the box and might not be recognizable as what you expect, but it works to achieve the goals of a new form of production, organization, and distribution. The hOEP project has some diagrams, but mostly it's an example of crowdsourced production that doesn't get into detail about how it works with diagrams and just works as a functional example. The basic idea for the project, from your perspective is that it functions by allowing buyers and sellers in a free market to crowdsource the price of things similar to how the free market works to crowsource the price of things using purchased with money using supply and demand economics. The hOEP project helps people crowdsource and purchase things with their personal time or the community reputation or other things of that nature besides dollars. So if you think dollars function to crowdsource building of a large thing like a bridge or human genome project, then hOEP does the same thing only better because it uses personal time contributed as a metric in addition to personal dollars contributed to a cause or project. I guess as a diagram you would show a venn diagram with the dollar economy in one circle and several other non-dollar economies trading in units of time or social credit, or other units overlapping the free market economic circle. The point being that this is an integration technology that combines shopping and price setting with commons production or other social credit system. If you're interested in this more, my website is at https://sites.google.com/view/the-hoep-project and here's a relevant quote.

"hOEP♥ (hOEP < 3, hOEP Heart, hOurs Equals Price ) is a novel price discount system and human value exchange communications protocol for sellers and consumers to love and profit from. hOEP♥ allows any retailer or seller to make more profit by giving poor, and wonderful, and deserving people price discounts. The more sellers discount price for deserving, poor, or wonderful customers, then the more profit a retailer can make. hOEP Heart is expected to produce an exponential increase to the productive efficiency and distribution efficiency of any market place or market economy. With repeated use by consumers and retailers, it will produce a fractal patterned egalitarian distribution of wealth and resources in the customer demand base. Inequality will be drained from the market places by sellers seeking profit first. hOEP♥ technology, designs, and research is offered freely to all.

MOAP>3 (Multi-factor Open Access Price, more then free) is a novel price discount communications protocol system for sellers and consumers to love and profit from. MOAP>3 allows any retailer to enable convenient and negotiable group purchasing and provisional purchasing. MOAP>3 is ideally suited for profitably purchasing large and extremely large ticket sale items such as a new home, city infrastructure or HyperLoop, or civilization scale projects such as an artificial magnetic shield for Mars or Human Genome Project. New Features include changes to encourage rapid and extremely rapid mobilization of very large scale resource and human time intensive multi-disciplinary research and development projects of a civilization scale price and value. Also added is extensible architecture with wisdom compartmentalization features for Pluralist Economies and more robust Universal Continuity of market operations in unusually diverse or adverse environments. Focused use of economic nudge price formula convert panic, discontent, unrest, and other powerful motivational metric factors such as love and hope into positive actions with verifiable results at a large profit for all. MOAP>3 envisions a system of price discounts for whatever behavior results in net benefits to others. Whatever behavior or person who generates the greatest net benefits (benefits minus harms) gets the greatest price discounts. Government can profitably transition into a smaller role of being the dominant and default price tag formulae and solutions provider for purchase of national security products and in geopolitical security related market places. Geo-political inequality will be drained from the market places by sellers and buyers seeking profit first and demand for a price formula that outcompetes and out performs status quo government solutions. "MOAP, more then free" delivers on the promise of smart discount coupon and price tag technology AI and is being developed by affiliates and expected to be offered freely to poor and wonderful and deserving people and business and governments on a sliding price scale."

Thanks for your time and interests. hope what I contributed helps. If not let me know and I can delete it or go away.


Michel Bauwens Thu 18 Jul 2019 10:47PM

Thanks for these details. I will create a wiki entry for the project already,