I am still digesting the Contact Summit, a conference with the tagline “the evolution will be social”. The conference was announced as:
The net is more than a marketing platform. Connect with the people who are building what comes next, and celebrate the potential of networking to transform commerce, learning, and society.
The conference was held in a fantastic location: the Angel Orensanz Foundation, the oldest surviving synagogue building in New York.
The day started with some short 2-3 minutes statements by “provocateurs”. People like Steven Johnson, R.U.SIRIUS, and all sort of activists from early and current internet days. It was clear upfront that the event would be highly influenced by the OccupyWallstreet protests going on a couple of blocks away from the event.
In essence, the event was one big un-conference, but one of the most chaotic ones i ever experienced. And there was also a sort of start-up competition going on, with three 10K$ prices for the winners, sponsored by PepsiCo.
The audience was a mix of activists, revolutionaries, alternatives, lots of young people, but also some older faces, and also some big thinkers like Nigel Cameron, Michel Bauwens, Jennifer Sertl, and many others.
This was inspiring and confusing at the same time for me, and i tweeted about my confusion.
In a subsequent tweet-conversation i clarified my confusion: i was missing some overarching theme, the glue that was keeping together all this energy. By the end of the day, when the winners were announced the glue became clear for me.
There were also so many messages and tweets that it was difficult for me to see the forest through the trees. Check out the #contactcon twitter stream to embed yourself a little bit in what was going on…
Douglas Rushkoff opened strong with announcing the objective of this day:
What concrete steps can we take to realize the true potential of the network era?
It was heartwarming to see how Doug was pushing the audience to come to concrete steps. There was at times a stunning lack of people able to articulate what they will do concretely. Many voiced very broad ideas, they really need to focus, to scope them,..
A lot of people just wanted to have a chat, do a talk, have a brainstorm. Rushkoff insisted:
“We are here to DO stuff, to BUILD stuff, specific concrete ideas you want to MAKE.
It is NOT for discussion here, we have the internet for that!”
The list of ideas was a mix of #occupy supporting ideas, anti bank initiatives, alternative facebooks, public ownership of (internet replacing) infrastructures, build a currency for #occupy. I took some pictures of the idea-tiles on the un-conference agenda and made a collage of it, so you get a better idea of the sort of ideas.
Read with me: Reputation Economics, Hacking the Banking System > Credit Union 2.0, Specify a protocol for objects that pre-supposes co-ownership, Re-decentralize the internet, How to create a new P2P social safety net in the age of austerity, how to better document the #occupy movement, designing for/with the 99%, using the net to escape the traditional currencies, Collaborative tools, co-ownership of the physical infrastructure, organizing a massive debt strike attack against the banks, developing alternatives to acquisition,…. and this is just a snapshot!
I had a chat with one of the debt-strike guys, and asked with open mind what they tried to achieve. The answer was astonishing: “a debt-free society”. And he recommended me to read “Debt, the first 5,000 years” by David Graeber. (Amazon Affiliates link), apparently a book that is very influential to this movement.
A lot of the ideas nominated were about being AGAINST something… Debt-strike, OWS support, general assembly software for OWS, see the list above. The only positive one nominated was about creating a VEN-COOP, a sort of cooperative VC based on VEN currency.
An image that remains burned in my memory is that of the Freedom Tower
The Freedom Tower is the work of The Free Network Foundation. What they try to do? I copied the following from their website:
- We envision communications infrastructure that is owned and operated cooperatively, by the whole of humanity, rather than by corporations and states.
- We are using the power of peer-to-peer technologies to create a global network which is immune to censorship andresistant to breakdown.
- We promote freedoms, support innovations and advocate technologies that enhance and enable digital self-determination.