July 24, 2019

Rage Against the Machine and Science Friction: a video introduction to DisCOs

DisCO is a project I’ve been working on with my colleagues in Guerrilla Translation for the better part of a year. It all started with our 2018 Guerrilla Translation “Punk Elegance” meeting, where we invited specific colleagues to help us re-envision the project. Since then, it has blossomed into a comprehensive framework integrating elements from some of our favorite movements, including the Commons and P2P, Open Cooperativism, Open Value Accounting and Feminist Economics. 

DisCO stands for “Distributed Cooperative Organization” and it’s a friendly, yet challenging, critique of DisCOs older cousin, the Decentralised Autonomous Organization or DAO. All we had to do was come up with a better name!

Seriously, although the project is presently being developed, little has been shared publicly until recently (except for one previous talk and workshop). In May of this year, I was invited to give a presentation at the Sharing Society conference in Bilbao (Spain). This was one of the first public outings of DisCO and it was met with enthusiasm. The crowd couldn’t have been more appropriate, as there were many experts on the commons and feminism among the panelists, organizers and attendees. I also felt privileged at having the opportunity to speak after some of my most esteemed colleagues in the Commons movement, such as Mayo Fuster Morell and David Bollier. David Bollier has written his own impressions about this event in his blog. Here is an excerpt:

The May 23-24 event brought together a wide variety of international scholars, practitioners and activists who care about cooperation in its many permutations – commons, open source software, care work, citizen-science, makerspaces, urban collaborations, and many other forms.

There was no privileged discourse or correct point of view at this conference – just a fantastic mix of explorers trying to understand “the characteristics, trajectory and impact of collaborative collective actions.” The focus was on social phenomena in Europe and North America, especially as affected by today’s political economy, but the event ventured into such unexpected zones as refugee resettlement, the circular economy in fashion, and participatory governance in a Cairo neighborhood. Wow!

Bollier continues:

I was pleased to encounter this fledgling forum and network because I think academics and activists generally don’t mix it up enough. So it was refreshing to move into this welcoming space for open minds and methodologies to study cooperation in its many varieties. We all need serious academic studies that burrow into the hidden experiences of practitioners while avoiding the perils of ivory-tower theories. And commoners, for their part, often need to take a broader, more rigorous perspective on their own work. History, political economy, and social theory can be very helpful.

You can watch the other videos from the conference here. Sharing Society has also recently started a network to take these experiences forward.

So back to DisCO. This public outing was followed by a hands on workshop at Berlin’s Supermarkt, which brought further conversations and ideas. Now, after many months of chipping away, we are ready to start sharing components of the DisCO vision publicly. The video above (from the Bilbao conference) is a thorough overview, but a short summary of the framework will be published in the following days. This will be followed by the publication of If I Only had a Heart: a DisCO manifesto in autumn 2019. A short booklet with a much more in-depth overview of DisCO, its genealogy, defining characteristics and prospects. 

We are planning more events and materials to share the DisCO Manifesto, and our team is growing, now including colleagues such as Ruth Catlow (Furtherfield), Ela Kagel (Supermarkt Berlin), Irene López Vallejo (AIOTI, Ocean Protocol), Phoebe Tickell (DGov Foundation, Enspiral) among others.

You can also listen to my talk as an audio file by clicking on the player below:

Lead image by id iom