First steps: what happened in the 1st of May meeting

Present: @anique.yael, @mariekebelle, @ireinga, @yannick (via Google Hangout), @nadia, myself.

1. Format

The format decision is difficult. If we want this thing to be accessible and financially sustainable (we do), we need many people to be able to access it. But if we want it to go deep (we do) we need some way to make sure it does not become a funfair.

So, our skeletal format is this:

  • At least two “big picture” lectures. Each lecture will explore a big vision for a possible alternative economy, as proposed by one author. It will feature one or more discussants, who might be economists or social scientists, but also entrepreneurs who are themselves experimenting with alternative economic models. These should last a good 2-3 hours each.
  • A number of seminars in which we go deep into side topics. Examples of seminar topics: (a) does reputation scoring build trust or does it incentivize participants to game the system? (b) the economics and technology of artificial scarcity (c) what we really know on universal basic income. The list could go on forever. We could have a call for talks, or something like that.
  • A dinner, or a party, or both.
  • Great documentation (an ethnography of utopia. We (Edgeryders) are quite experiences at good documentation of live events. We will make it great this time, and throw in an ethnography and semantic social network analysis.

2. Tentative date

February 2019?

3. Partnerships

We agreed we would love this thing to be in Brussels, as a way to give back to the city. Turns out there are quite a few festivals, events, organizations, even institutions we could partner up with, both in the city and in the rest of Belgium. We scout them out in the next few weeks.

4. Crowdfunding

A crowdfunding campaign is a great way to get the word out, as well as collect money for travel and fees for the speakers. We are inclined to do one.

5. Reading group

In the run-up to the event, we will run a reading group. It will have physical meetings (every 2-4 weeks), but also an online life here on the platform.

6. “A platform”

We are happy for people to build on top of this. Publications? Games? Film screenings? In general, we will treat the event as an open source project, and people will build what they build. However, we will make a commitment to building a kernel (see “Format” above, though we are not completely clear on the format yet), whatever other might or might not do.

7. What’s next

  1. Make a screening of Econ SF work. We build a small bibliography of the relevant books. We also better start to think of economists, sociologists and other intellectuals (or practitioners) that might act at discussants. This happens directly on the platform: reply to this topic or start one of your own. This doubles up as a list of material for the reading group. The reading group’s host will, initially, be @anique.yael.

  2. Make a screening of Brussels-, Belgium- and Planet Earth- based organizations that might be interested in partnering up with us. We will then invite everyone over for coffee, or talk to them one-on-one. The people best suited to do this in today’s meeting are @mariekebelle, @ireinga and @yannick. Again, let’s use the platform. Don’t worry too much where you put stuff initially, the platform is optimized to make it easy to reorganize content.

  3. Think of a name. “Econ-SF seminar” is not great. Again, you can suggest one in this very thread.

  4. Build the core group. We need volunteers! People to help with social media communication, the crowdfunding campaign, the partnerships, the program, the logistics… If you want to help, come forward. Again, use comments here to come forward, as others have done already (like @oliiive, @Azraq and @filip). For now, you can talk to me for any questions or if you simply want a side chat about this issue.


Thanks for the resume @alberto and for an interesting discussion @mariekebelle @ireinga and @yannick

Great to see the wiki of econ SF work started here. I’ll add to that myself over the coming little while.

What do we all think about aiming for a first reading group in July? Based on my experience what seems to work is a choice of either one text or a couple of texts in relation, and there is no facilitation but rather a close reading of them in dialogue. I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of many reading groups, and convened a series myself (incidentally related to econ SF in that it was exploring speculative philosophy and political economics, with a focus on alternate systems of value).

So for this first reading group, my inclination is to go with two key texts that can give us all an orientation to the field. I suggest we don’t go for reading anything longer than 60 pages in total so that it can be accessible to the diversity of backgrounds in the network and that we can all be confident in grasping foundational concepts. This will help us be on level ground to move forward.

People are welcome to skype in and those based in Brussels or surrounds gather at the reef in person.


60 pages? Are you thinking of reading aloud? Or is reading “homework”, and the convening is for discussing the material that we read at home?

Absolute max 60 pages (more like 40) read before the reading group gathers and then we discuss, unpack, reflect, speculate at the reading group.

40 pages every two months, so?

Yup, sounds good! Monthly may end up being an option closer to the seminar but let’s see how it goes yes?

Hmm… some overhead in choosing the 40 pages. How is it going to work? What about giving people an entire book, and then read all of it, or parts of it freestyling, as inclination allows? A book every two months does not seem like a huge commitment for a reading group…

I think it depends on the goal of the reading group, and while I have some thoughts around that I defer to the collective interest here… For this first series I understand we want to use the reading group as a means to be better versed on the Econ SF field so that when the seminar comes along we are equipped to really dive in, benefit and unleash potential ideas/ projects to follow. At the same time the idea behind the reading group is also to create momentum for the research network’s shared study, beyond what happens on the platform or in specific projects.

In any case, my experience is that even with two months people tend to leave the reading to the last minute and when I’ve held reading groups on a whole book I’m the only one that has actually read the whole thing. But it may be different here, especially if we use the platform as a means to communicate and self-motivate leading up to the actual gathering.

The more I reflect on it the more it makes sense that we read the works of the guests of the seminar (eg. Doctorow), with some key texts alongside to introduce those of to foundational concepts we’re not familiar with, and the odd short philosophical provocation thrown in for fun. As for overhead in choosing, I don’t mind curating the readings based on what interest is shared here and in reference to the seminar.