[iDC] How does social media educate?

Michel Bauwens michelsub2004 at gmail.com
Mon Feb 12 00:21:24 EST 2007

Hi Ulises,

Thanks for that very interesting challenge.

I do not think it is a matter of idealizing peer governance. My stance is
the following: 1) first of all to simply observe that the distributed format
is emerging everywhere, very strongly, and may be poised for social
dominance; the empirical stance 2) to acknowledge that particular aspects of
peer production and peer governance represent social and political advances;
the value stance; 3) and that hence, it is valuable enough to be promoted,
the praxis for change.

All of that does not obviate the need for critical self-assessment, the
fourth, critical stance that you bring. This means that we acknowledge the
weaknesses of the new practices, its limitations, and the new problems it
creates while solving others.

Your challenge concerns the latter, and I think it is very valuable and
true. The danger of plural monocultures is indeed real, and this is why I
think, that we can not have a totalitarianism of the commons, but rather
need plural economies and political systems. The key issue is therefore
about the interfaces between peer producton and other economic forms, and
between peer governance and other political forms. Can we devise some
meta-regulation that allows society to intelligently choose between the
three modes of production, governance and property that are available to it
(as well as the fourth, i..e. traditional gift economies still surviving
that could be revamped).

Another thing I would add is the need to distinguish between decentralized
networks, where coercive power is still identifiable in the hubs; and
distributed networks, with voluntary hubs; where power is rather 'hidden' in
the design and protocof of the systems (Galloway). The question here is
whether we can design more effective for autonomy and diversity.

I think that nodocentrism, in the sense of self-selected nodes that could
tackle governance problems, is not bad by itself. It can be remedied by
making sure that the networks is diverse and participatory. Are you familiar
with approaches such as demarchy, as global solution, or sociocracy, as
local solution, to exclusivity problems? What I'm trying to say is that peer
governance is not such a blind promotion of network rule and formats, but
can be a critical research and advocacy combined, that is well aware of its

It's the kind of research we try to monitor at the topical pages here at


If peer governance refers to the way peer production is managed, what is
being *managed* as p2p networks interface with democracy? Surely, just
because peer governance is not representational in the way democracy
supposedly is, it does'nt mean it lacks a political character. In my own
work, I have tried to articulate a 'political' critique of the network as a
model for organizing social reality, specially as it concerns the mediation
of the relation with our immediate environments. I won't go into a lot of
detail here, but my critique concerns the 'nodocentrism' that eliminates the
value of anything that is not plugged in to the network (see for instance
http://ideant.typepad.com/ideant/2006/12/networked_proxi_1.html). My fear is
not that peer governance will replace representational democracy (as you
suggest, this is not likely to happen because we are talking about apples
and oranges here), but that it will influence 'democratic' governance by
introducing its own epistemological exclusivity in the form of nodocentrism.
Hence my concern about the affordances of the master's tools.
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