Since Edgeryders is first of all an experience-sharing platform, a session was devoted to show selected different projects from members of the community. From viewpoint-changing experiences in Iran to the use of the internet to organise protests in Poland, the diversity of profiles and interests of the community got to the fore, and did so in force, alongside with the community diversity.
Michał Wozniak - Participation reloaded: from anti-ACTA to citizen-institution collaboration
The experience presented by Michał was a light of hope for many of those present in the room, mainly those from countries where copyright laws and Internet control initiatives are being put in motion by governments no matter what. That is, most of Europe, in fact.
When the Polish government was going to sign ACTA, Internet freedom activists (already experienced with the campaign to stop SOPA-PIPA just a few hours before) allied with the general population thanks to the history of Poland (with its lack of freedom of expression since the end of World War II) and coordinated street protests all around the country.
And all this was done with the most basic tools current communications can provide: e-mail lists and phone numbers.
Finally the Prime Minister, against the position of the Minister of Culture, accepted that the government had made a mistake by supporting ACTA and put a stop to it.
This comes to show that social organization with new formats is possible (as was demonstrated in May 2011 as well by the #15M movement in Spain and later by the #occupy movements all around the world), and that governments are ill prepared for massive, coordinated but decentralized initiatives from the citizens. When there are no clear actors to negotiate with, nor representatives to bring to meetings, two outcomes are possible: either the government relents and cedes to the petitions (as long as they are kept clear and to the point) or commits political suicide and carries them out anyway against the will of an important segment of the population.
Ginevra Sanvitale - Building digital commons: Wiki loves monuments
The idea of an heritage photography contest is quite a given in most countries. However, using that photography contest to create creative commons licensed images to be used in any project, anywhere, is an initiative worth looking at.
The creation of such a contest had a clear goal: provide Wikipedia with useable images not subjected to a restrictive copyright, while at the same time creating an awareness on the good side of the commons. In that sense, the initiative is laudable, as countries have been using their cultural heritage as an income source (often in an abusive way) for a long time now, as can be observed in national museums (not taking into consideration the possible damages a flash-taken photo can do to archaeological pieces, the main goal is to sell the postcard).
With this contest, it is hoped the collection available to the public at large will increase massively, and reduce the stranglehold of copyright on creative people around the world. These kind of initiatives can be the basis of the emerging, commons-based economy, and indirectly a way to avoid the coming storm of intellectual property-based laws that will try to keep profits at all costs, culture itself if needed.
Brindusa Luciana Grosu - Broken dreams: Transition to family and working life seen from the trenches
From the apparently simple statement that work nowadays doesn’t leave enough free time for family life (a statement that may seem overly simplistic at first glance), Brindusa tackled a problem that has been present in fights all around the world, from unions to feminist collectives, for years. How can we conciliate our work lives with our actual lives?
The theories of sacrificing our own time for triumph in our work, with the current employment destruction all around the world, are losing their appeal. What was proposed here is a new type of contract: less working hours for a fuller life. While many will say that is unlikely to happen, and in fact the opposite is more likely in the near future, new job diversity and the almost mandatory need to become a freelance, depending on the area one works in, may see models emerge that manage this combination of personal-work lives far more efficiently than current 8-hour schedules, models of such variety that the only way to see them is to carry them out.
Idil Mohamed - Meaningful diversity: navigating the different spaces of modern-day social interaction
The management of social networks (physical as well as virtual and any mix thereof) is a worry for many today. It is fairly easy to collect hundreds of contacts and receive input from all of them, making social life a nightmare.
Idil’s proposal is to fine-tune the relationships, in order to keep diversity in one’s own networks while at the same time keeping in check the respective contacts according to one’s interests.
It is an interesting approach, although a controlling one, which is sure to find adepts around. Although many people prefer to keep things simple and control as little as possible their environments, and by extent their networks, the sense of chaos can be sometimes overwhelming. The sole problem with this approach is that it limits cross-pollination of diverse individuals and experiences using yourself as a conduit, which could lead to lost potential.
Ben Vickers - The graduate with no future: myth or reality?
In the changing environment of labour, it does seem that traditional venues for work life are not exactly thriving. So, someone developed a program at Brighton University students to realize how things are out of the classrooms, and to prepare them for the big world.
How is that done? For starters, forget about employment. The programme is designed to show examples of self-employed professionals and entrepreneurs for students to realize that there are several ways of making a living beyond the traditional job in a company.
It can be posed that believing that everyone can create their own companies is a mistake: although graduates are supposed to be more capable of setting up their own jobs, the truth is that the educational system is based on traditional values and tends to create workers, not entrepreneurs. This program might be a good start to change this trend, and the way the world is changing, it was about time someone thought about that.
Eimhin David - Social enterprise and social capital as a future solution for Europe
The homo globalis, the perennial idea that with technology humanity will evolve into a new paradigm that will let us become a more just society. The idea of a new society emerging from permanently connected human beings has been there since at least the cyberpunk literary movement, and is rapidly growing as, in fact, society is changing thanks to interconnectivity. Now, defining how the change will take place is quite another issue.
The fact is that connectivity is empowering, in a way. There can be as many venues to an evolved society as there are individuals in it, each choosing their own paths. Trying to articulate a system out of a mass of disparate individuals going their own way is a daunting task, and one probably doomed to fail. Still, modelling the future with predicted trends can help avoid, at least partially, the “future shock” in traditional structures as the new paradigm emerges. Of course, the survival of traditional structures in a new paradigm may or may not be desirable, and it remains to be seen if the modelling will actually help anyone understand what is going on.
Ásta Helgadóttir - Travelling through Iran: freedom as a virus
Using a travel experience as a conduit for thinking about freedom, Ásta’s talk revolved along some serious issues that are not yet overcome in Western society.
Going to a country where most freedoms, as they are understood in Western society, simply do not exist, can be a sobering experience. Iran is a country with a government diametrically opposite to regular European ruling systems, and it may come as a shock finding, for example, a specific body dedicated to “protect morality” by checking and policing clothing on the streets and make sure no religious rules are violated.
At the same time, getting to know the citizens of Iran (and, in fact, of almost every other country one can imagine) can tear down several barriers set up by mainstream media in Western countries. While all one sees in media is an oppressed people ruled by a tyrannical regime (and there certainly that is part of Iran), the people are living their lives with as much normality as possible, and over all want their voices to be heard. Tourism is one way of managing to bring those voices across borders, and is far less risky than using the highly controlled Internet channels.
As a sample of the Edgeryders voices, the session presented enough diversity of projects, experiences and thoughts to be quite representative. Several aspects that worry many people today, such as activism, the future of work and intercultural understanding were addressed by the seven cases shown.
The members of the community were shown to be idealistic, dedicated, conscious and most of all driven. Such passion combined with the chance to carry out the ideas and actions proposed could make society a fairer, better place to live in. Now, for that all that is needed it to drive the message home. Young people in Europe will not inherit the world. If the Edgeryder community is any indicator, they will change it.