Tue 13 Nov 2018 10:46AM

Ecosystems for cities . . tooling-up smart citizens

M mike_hales Public Seen by 102

My impression is that the developments discussed here are for organisations - typically coops - and for systems of trading and supply more broadly. Or for freely associating individuals. Is there work directly for cities - the economics of cities (as distinct from coops), the polity of cities (as distinct from value chains)? I'd be glad to get a perspective on this. The urban ecology is such an important site for transition work . . it's where a majority of lives will be conducted in the future?


Patrick T Anderson Tue 13 Nov 2018 8:18PM

I wonder if the function of state and estate might blur as private cities become more popular, such as https://BlockChains.com , https://NEOM.com and some efforts from Gates and Zuck on hold for now.


Greg Cassel Wed 14 Nov 2018 2:33PM

Cities are communities, and I'm among many people in p2p theory & practice who focus on communities. Some related organisations are directly focused on cities; for example, I'm a steward of Library of the Commons which is emphatically focused on Metro Atlanta issues. Also, all municipal governments are organisations. So I see lots of overlap: I think that the organizing & design issues of all communities and all organisations are logically inherited by all cities.

Of course cities are communities with have special needs, because of physical population density & density of highly diversified activities. Urban design is a crucially important field. I doubt we'd need any apps (in an Open App Ecosystem) which are specially designed for cities; however, we certainly need communities & organisations which focus on urban design as well as specific cities.


mike_hales Wed 14 Nov 2018 2:47PM


I doubt we'd need any apps . . which are specially designed for cities

I get that. The question is more about the time and skill committed to putting ecologies of apps to work. Working with a coop, say, is not exactly the same as working with a geographical community, and the facilitation of practical development in a coop brings different demands (calls for different learning and work-patterns, if not skill?) than development in a district of a city, or a bioregion?

As @bobhaugen commented recently to @strypey in Mastodon, he and Lynn are not doing so much coding these days, but doing a lot more guidance on how to weave apps into the fabric of practice. Such weaving is pivotal stuff? Hence my query here . . how much of folks' time is going in at organisation level, and how much at district/city/region level? Relates also to @asimong question, in Commons Transition Loomio, regarding the relationship between tech development (eg apps & platforms) and local economic development?


Greg Cassel Wed 14 Nov 2018 3:47PM

Your question is unclear to me @mikeh8 , and this could relate to different perceptions & definitions of terms. The vast majority of my time spent directly for specific cities is through specific organisations, such as the aforementioned Library of the Commons. (However, most of my work is not through orgs; rather, it's open source resources.)

If you want to know what people are doing for specific districts/cities/regions outside of all organisations, well that seems a limited field to me, but maybe others will have relevant experience & want to discuss it.


mike_hales Wed 14 Nov 2018 4:26PM

In the thread header I meant to identify coops (or other individual economic organisations) and cities (or other geographical or cultural collectives). Yes, 'organisations' are involved across this whole range. Sorry to be unclear Greg.

I assume that activity in a 'cultural' organisation (like the Library?) or via municipal or community organisations (coop-development initiatives, solidarity-economy projects?) are quite different in some ways from direct operational involvement in employing-and-trading organisations (coops) - and have impacts of different kinds. So I'm interested to get a sense of where the balance-of-impact might lie, across folks in this OAE group.

I guess the FLOSS way to frame this would be in terms of 'use cases'? Trading-organisation use-cases, cultural-organisation use-cases, municipal-organisation use-cases. Etc? Maybe this is more complicated than I thought. Or maybe I'm just not writing clearly, pardon me.


Greg Cassel Wed 14 Nov 2018 8:48PM

Thanks Mike for additional explanation. FWIW I don't perceive any inherent separation of 'cultural' orgs and employing-and-trading orgs. Many cultural orgs have employees, and some trading/marketplace orgs have strong cultural missions. On a technical level, I see economic and political organising (including all employment and trade) as an extension of cultural organising, instead of separated. I see economics and politics as 'superstructure'; at a higher (not better) level of organising. I.e. I think there's cultural organising behind economic and political organising, even when it's implicit and can't be directly observed.

I don't know that that formal perspective can help with whatever you wish to explore regarding the ecosystems of cities. Certainly I perceive ecosystems as being systems which include autonomous systems such as persons and organisations; and we can model, map, support, and distribute resources (such as open source media) to ecosystems without controlling them.


mike_hales Wed 14 Nov 2018 9:21PM

Thanks Greg. I'm with all that, conceptually. But do believe that the practices on the ground necessarily differ by 'sector', because the institutions that must be engaged with in the different real-world sectors are to some extent different. Skilful committed activist-developers can turn their hands to all sorts of things, we do it all the time. But the de facto politics - outcome, scope, affected demographic, cultural 'weightlifting' required, opponents & obstacles, etc - do mean travelling differing roads? I don't mean to have a theory debate here (quite close on this perhaps?), I'm interested in the institutional settings within which OAE development work is in fact taking place, and the kinds of real-world practices that are most directly impacted, most often. Call it an ad-hoc, voluntary, participant audit of use-cases?

Between the lines, I guess your own response to this might be 'mixed, variable'. Fair enough, we all go with the flow. But is there maybe a 'median user' or frequently occurring user-mix? Formal coop members - producing tangible goods, personal services, words & ideas, within a revenue flow, etc etc? Solidarity economy activists - working primarily in a town, in a state, across countries, resourced from 'free labour' or small grants, etc? Municipal officials or program managers, with tax dollars or philanthropic funds to commit? Etc etc. All of these, distinct landscapes, distinct challenges, distinct impacts, seems to me.


Greg Cassel Thu 15 Nov 2018 2:01PM

^ @mikeh8 I'd say "all of the above", but with two emphatic fields of focus: (1) developing better coops and federations (2) transforming government.

(1) Focus on innovative and practical (i.e. used) organising structure, including decision-making standards, in orgs which may be worker-consumer coops ("dogfooding" resources) on highly localized scales, but organise as federations on larger scales of society. Such federations could maintain limited centralized budgets for developing and monitoring systemic standards which support entire communities, such as metro areas.

(2) Simultaneously working compassionately and cooperatively--whenever that's appropriate, which is IMO usually the case-- with existing municipal & regional governments This political activism element requires participants who are well-oriented to local government structures and people. (And for big cities, this means specialized orientation to general big city problems and also to the specific problems in the city engaged.)

^ If #1 and #2 go well, and I think they ultimately will, then I think we'll see many important transitional public-private partnerships along the way, and transform society "from both ends" towards a shared destination of truly inclusive and distributed governance of all resources, with some functions emerging on all scales of society including planetary issues. Of course most actors wouldn't currently agree with me on the destination; and if I'm right, there will be much myth-busting about design, governance and leadership along the way.

I'm actually quite optimistic in developing such p2p organising, although I'm concerned about global collapse and I'm deeply disturbed by how much activity seems inefficient, irrelevant or counterproductive from my perspective.

Now what does this all have to do with Open App Ecosystem? A lot and a little IMO. I want to focus on general app standards and design for a global open app ecosystem; however, organisers pursuing #1 above would be key users and developers, and proper app development will IMO enable each collective (including ones focused on specific cities) to substantially customize app features and UI to their localized preference.


mike_hales Thu 15 Nov 2018 3:34PM

Thank you Greg, it's great to have all that expansion, thanks for being patient with my prodding.

Just to check one thing which is tacit . . Is it your assumption that coding 'in the local loop' is an intrinsic part of this strategy? To "substantially customize app features and U to localised preferenceI"? As distinct, for example, from utilising whatever tools are available, within a carefully considered and self-consciously designed collective practice. Even MS Word can be (politically, economically) useful, depending on the relations that exist between users?

Maybe its the relations of federation that are critical, and the federating apps (and under them, protocols) that equip the federating practice with tools?


Greg Cassel Sat 17 Nov 2018 7:15PM

@mikeh8 Many resources, such as highly customizable software, are desirable but not currently required. I currently recommend focusing on general-use software such as MS Word, GDocs, Github, Loomio etcetera and customizing most usage via community-specific (and specified!) practices.

Proper modular software design will ultimately make customized usage per agent and per community (including cities) much easier, and take excessively centralized decision process "off the plates" of software devs who already have way too much to think about.

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