Participio Development Lab

I’ve been thinking recently about what the Participio project should ultimately result in. It has been launched with funding from the Swedish arts council fund Kulturbryggan to create open source software for participatory culture, and that’s what we’ll deliver in 2019. For those unfamiliar with the term, participatory culture includes events like The Borderland and Burning Man, immersive productions like Unknown 9 and You Me Bum Bum Train, live action role playing events like Blodsband Reloaded or games by @matteo_uguzzoni and Urban Games Factory.

Methods and software that fit the needs of fringe participatory culture today might very well be key pieces in future mainstream paradigms for a wide range of organizations. I make this prediction because these project are often immensely complex, produced on a relatively small budget by volunteers that can number in the hundreds or even thousands. Decisions are often made by a wide variety of participants asking for advice rather than permission, and the operations are based on trust rather than mandate by hierarchy. Organizations working in the participatory culture field are particularly interesting because they are well fitted to decentralized organizational structures. Decentralized decision making and co-creation is still in it’s early stages, but these concepts are hailed as the future paradigm by many. It’s likely that it will be increasingly popular in the mainstream world to organize in this swarm-like fashion.

Over the last few years working with the Borderland, we’ve found that deploying the right technological tools and methods at the right time can give big boosts to a participatory community and ease scaling of the organization and it’s projects. However, most tools that exist have been built with tech development projects in mind. A large reason for this is this that this is the market that the people building the tools understand, but also because this is a field that has been flooded with money in recent decades. It’s these companies and projects that have brought us technologies like revision control through Git, task management through Scrum methods and tools like Trello and Jira. However, tools for collaborative tech development are often a bit clumsy when used for other classes of projects.

At the Borderland, uptake of the Dreams platform had much to do that it had been designed exactly with that community in mind. This did require us to build things from scratch, though many design principles were inspired by existing technology. Dreams was inspired by services like Kickstarter. Realities is inspired by the task management cards and role assignment of Trello, the dependency terminology of Gantt charts and the graph data visualization of Kumu. In both cases, we’ve used language and concepts at the heart of the Borderland culture, rather than to force the Borderland to fit some predefined technical jargon. As a result, the Borderland is probably one of the most technically advanced participatory culture communities in the world.

So what’s the challenge? Creating software takes a lot of time, effort and specialized skills. And paying in full for custom software development for participatory culture organizations is out of the question, it would be prohibitively expensive. Furthermore, the job market for software developers is such today that it’s hard to motivate people to work for hours on an untested experiment. Most developers already have plenty of paid work and would like to spend their free away from the screen. However, paid meaningful and experimental work is rare, so many developers are willing to put in the hours for a fun project if they can just make ends meet.

This is the gap that Participio wants to bridge. We want to raise a pot of funding every year, find these paradigm-shifting challenges, and produce experimental but usable software to fit a specific case as a proof of concept. We will start with the arts and culture field in 2019 but move to other fields later. We will develop with an emphasis on fast iterations, and just enough polish to test the method and technology. We will document every step of the way, and make our code, documentation and research findings open source and freely available.

To reflect this, I’ve come up with a mission statement.

Edgeryders Participio Development Lab

Participio is a development lab within Edgeryders. Our purpose is to build experimental software and methodology for decentralized organizations and co-created culture. Everything built by Participio is open-source and free to use.

We explore what is ahead of the current paradigm. Our experiments might only fit 0.1% of all organizations today, but might fit 1% in a few years and 10% in a decade. We develop practical and groundbreaking software for real projects and organizations, but don’t build finished products or deliver packaged solutions.

Developers, researchers, artists and designers working on Participio projects coordinate their work on this platform. Feel free to make a post about your idea for Participio, or to get in touch with a developer who can help you get one of the tools we’ve developed up and running for your organization

Based on this, Participio has two goals for 2019. Our first goal is to deliver our first batch of experiments, research and documentation. We already know that the key client for these experiments is The Borderland and that we will do some work on Dreams and Realities. Our second goal is to raise funding for 2020 and define our future challenges.

We also know that Participio will have a physical home. Edgeryders is moving into the Blivande House in Stockholm in January, and those working on Participio and other Edgeryders projects will have a place at a desk there while they do so.

What do you think about this plan? Who should be involved? What challenges should we look at?

I’m starting this conversation here in Campfire so that more people can see it and get involved, and will later move it to the Participio category. @alberto, @matthias, @nadia, @anique.yael, please help me tag some people that could be interested.


Ping @Geminiimatt @eireann_leverett :slight_smile:

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That’s a good mission statement, and very clear about the licensing*. I like the idea, but my question after reading this is…what kind of software are you trying to create?

Distributed, yes, scalable, yes, but perhaps we could have some examples. I’m curious what kind of software other people want, even though I write it. I tend to write what interests me, but that is very different than satisfying a wider need of what kind of software is desired.

At this year’s NSPW there was a nice paper on using software licenses to limit usage patterns that involve killing other humans.

Their idea is a good one, but also needs nice place for software developers to hear about it.


Very cool, @hugi. How about we make this part of the company blog? All it needs is the #blog tag and a picture (instructions, in section “1.3. How to post to the official blog?”).

This is probably of interest to @patrick_andrews, who has worked before about new forms of human organizing.

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This year we’ll focus on tools and methods for participatory culture. One such tool is already being built, and its purpose is to be a sort of mix between an organisational chart, a task manager and a stakeholder mapping tool for those wanting to make a decision in a decentralised organisation or participatory event. It is called Realities, and it will be used to scale participation in governance and infrastructure work for the participatory event The Borderland in 2019. It’s live on a staging server in unfinished form here. Eventually it will share data with other systems used by the Borderland, including a web app called Dreams which we will also develop further in the project.

We have a few other projects um the pipes this year. One is a guide to mobile AR development by @jakobskote, detailing how he developed a digital mobile exhibition on hybrid animals for the Swedish Museum of National History.

More will be added. I’m talking to a friend of mine tomorrow about quoting snippets of audio seamlessly in online conversation, and keep getting put in touch with interesting people with ideas slightly outside of what’s marketable.

As Participio progresses, I’d love to host exploratory events where we invite developers with a hunger for experimentation and fun paid projects together with organisations with unconventional challenges and see what we can dream up.


ping @baptiste_labat and @marc

ping @HadeerGhareeb @sohaib

As one of the organizers of Kiez Burn, a 700-1000 people participatory event, inspired by the same principles as Borderland, I share the enthusiasm around this project. The platforms we use for event organization, not only support, but also shape our community, pushing us towards more or less participation and co-ownership. Participio’s vision-based approach is therefore a very welcome addition in enabling these community visions.

Feel free to include Kiez Burn in your roll-call. We are looking forward to test, co-create and implement.


I think I misunderstood at first. I thought the platform was for collaborative software development specifically (a community to make software projects), so my question was motivated with that in mind. I see now, it’s for participatory-collaborative anything, which makes sense. My input makes less sense now (licensing of software and such), so I’ll look through your works thus far, so I can ‘catch up’. Still if you are interested, there’s some cool new open source license ideas

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Hey Hugi and everyone. This is an idea I support 100%.

I think we may want to involve organisations like the International Scout Federation. Starting with the Scouts in the Netherlands that it seems their current CEO has a fairly tech-friendly approach - I think they were somehow involved in/supported the CCC summer camp in the Netherlands last year (SHA). I can check with someone I know who heavily involved in the organising team for the annual congress (might be worth going to for good contacts btw).

Tools for artistic collaboration/co-exploration/co-making I think may have different requirements than those for e.g software development and or collaboration around “getting things done”. When communication is happening in different channels: touch, smell, sound, movement etc.

Also they need to to be both concrete and leave a lot of space for interpretation and translation into different media, and forms of expression.

Then there is the looming issue of how to deal with issues of authorship e.g - in part it comes down to value systems, but there are practical constraints also .

At my end I am exploring art collectives and art movements both previous and contemporary to get a sense of how this could work in that context. Will update you on what I find…


Also, perhaps individuals working with disaster preparedness response and relief in general via e.g mayors? Im thinking here about the ones that know they are going to be especially hard hit by natural disasters (or already are). A good bet is Asian cities - so we could maybe reach out to groups already active. In japan e.g an interesting organisation to connect with could be Seikatsu Consumer Coop.

@matthias and @natalia_skoczylas have some experiences of this…
Many of the efforts are run in a decentralised way by volunteers e.g squats and informal clinics.

Another one could be people working with caring for homeless, refugees etc tied to churches? @alberto once made a joke about Monks being great opensource contributors for obvious reasons :slight_smile:

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This is super exciting @hugi et al!

I wonder whether could be part of this somehow?


Hey! Nice to see you here :slight_smile: Saw something about the space you got up and running. A visit may be due soon :))


Absolutely, that would fit perfectly. Let’s have a call soon, maybe this week?

8 posts were split to a new topic: Migport at Participio

I’m very interested. I run a volunteer community creating projects and mobilising people to create positive change where they live and bring a little more peace and well-being into this world.

Also realising the need to move away from Facebook in order to mobilise a community effectively, rather than just be followed, we began building our own platform 3 years ago (…well, 2 years in Blaze, then starting from scratch last year when Blaze kind of died).

We’ve finally reached the point where our community can begin transitioning away from Facebook, just a few weeks ago, and have been plugging Discourse into the platform to operate as the community building hub. In terms of project management we haven’t developed very far yet, basically just pulling in basic details from Trello, and then referring users there when they want to get active on project building. It’s not ideal, where would i find more info about Participio and is there a working model yet? it sounds like it might be exactly what we were planning to build for that part of the platform.

BTW, we’re also entirely volunteer. No funding, a few of the members chip in for hosting and everything else is entirely run on human kindness :slight_smile:

Cool, we re-purposed the platform i mentioned above for helping people who are homeless by strenthening community bonds, and providing access to effective ideas and free resources. Also disaster relief in the same way (disaster relief will only be targeted when the map print function is built).

perhaps there’s cross over an opportunities to work together


Participio is not a software platform. Rather, it’s a network of developers and the software they build for participatory movements. Currently, we’re mostly focusing on culture and art simply because that’s where most of the interest of our community lies, and it’s also the are in which we have currently have some funding for development.

It sounds like you’re on the right track with what you are doing. What are you looking for?