And so it begins. The first group of edgeryders is in Matera as I write this: [havartu], [Matthias], [Bembo Davies], [pacheca], [Noemi], [Rita O]… the list gets longer by the hour. Living On The Edge – the unPilgrimage is actually happening.
I am superhappy, and very much looking forward to it. I am also a little spooked: we built together this thing from the ground up over the last four months, working together with no budget, no command structure and in many cases without having ever met before. Please, take a moment to consider the awesomeness of this, and let it hit home.
What happened is essentially this: we went out and said “ok, let’s do this. We have nothing to offer except ourselves”. From then on, the whole event crystallized as if by magic around this initial commitment. The lovely Matera 2019 folks offered a venue; people came out of the woodwork to propose sessions, offer hospitality, negotiate deals and scholarships, map cheap flights and long-distance buses for the benefit of budget travellers. A program emerged, alongside with a welcome and hosting committee, a range of services including conference wi-fi, graphic materials and even physical activities such as morning yoga for unPilgrims. At some point along the way, the people of Matera began to treat LOTE3 as a venue to meet up and discuss what they are interested in doing, sharing it with friendly strangers from all over the world. I am especially looking forward to the meeting of the Edgeryders community with that of Matera 2019, working locally to make their city the European City of Culture in 2019 (see, it’s even got its own flyer!). Soon, action was being planned alongside talk, like in the Pasta Party (where we all, led by Materan cooking lore, make, cook and eat our own pasta), and in a guerrilla knitting attack (where we all cover a bridge in knitwork – wait, did I really just write “cover a bridge in knitwork”? ). As we worked, we improved our way of working by inventing new formats for collaboration, like the super-successful weekly community calls and the Twitterstorm.
I was involved from the very start, and still find it hard to wrap my head around it. I stood in the midst of it all and watched this strange, beautiful thing grow around me and get more complex and multifaceted by the day. I like to think I understand social dynamics leading to collective intelligence and all, but actually seeing it happen is an experience I will never forget. Each and every post, comment, tweet, phone call, design work, hour spent traveling has been a gift from one of us to all of us. The overall result is this: we have organized a killer conference without any organization. We have not bought it as a service, because we did not have any money. We built it ourselves. We own it in a way that normal people going to normal conferences never will. Plus, we have done this with incredible efficiency, getting a lot of mileage out of very little and even enjoying the luxury of not having to scramble at the last minute, because guess what? organizations break down, but we are a network, and networks simply re-route activities around the point of failure and carry on. This is common good production on an amazing scale, people. I am incredibly proud of us, and humbled by the generosity shown by each and every person: thank you all, from the deepest of my heart. And that includes all that will not make it to Matera, but helped in many ways those of us who will.
Whatever happens in Matera, we have made it this far. We have proven that networked humans can collaborate around real-life tasks, far outperforming both markets and hierarchies in terms of efficiency. We have proven that this generation can have a go at making society not only fairer, but more effective as well. Whatever happens in Matera, nobody can take this away from us. Have a great LOTE3, and see you there.
Living On The Edge – the unPilgrimage is dedicated to [Vidrij Da], who worked hard to make the event happen, left early to be in Matera and made it as far as Bari before being stopped by a health problem. That is fortunately solved now, but do visit his page and say hi – he’ll be pleased.