Report: Conference session - Europe: a future history


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.

The experiences

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.

super impressed

Needless to say, these are great critical summaries Patrick :slight_smile: when did you take all the notes?!

Thinking how to make sure everybody, as in EVERYBODY! sees these reports…  will spread the word on twitter/ fb and putting them in the new blog post… hoping to reach as many Edgeryders as possible. and will definitely go in the next newsletter for not so active people in the community.

As a side note, I’m worried that it’s precisely the apparently very simplistic ideas that may have not been fully understood. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough time to 1. really understand what is meant by less AND equally productive working hours and 2. even discuss the whole problem, see if indeed for most young people this is desirable or if they don’t see it as a problem… i know there were at least some opposing views in the room, maybe those would need to be fleshed out before assuming Edgeryders are positing anything. which is not the case yet.

Let’ s vote…

…here at edgeryders to see how many people would actually agree with the idea of less working hours/day. It would be really interesting to see the results.

I do believe the debate must indeed go on. There are many things to be discussed and explained.


Many Edgeryders do not work jobs, so for them the idea of fewer working hours does not really apply. Of course, if you are self-employed you can work less… but it remains to be seen if you can afford to do so.

True money is the problem

Very clear isn’t it, money is the problem, not resources, we are mismanaging reality in the service of the symbol, and this is a perfect analogy for our identity issue, our attachment to our symbolic selves rather than any lived experience of truth.

I agree with you all, but…

my question was: do we need to formulate something clearly or our experiences are self-explanatory and already useful enough to inform higher levels? The fact that many Edgeryders are not traditional working people doesn’t mean they couldn’t become ones or should not formulate a position regarding work and productivity… or that current standards don’t affect their work or relationship to work.

On the contrary, individual strategies to balance working life and personal life - like access resources differently than via monetary currencies in exchange for work as it is evaluated now - are responses to traditional work style that doesn’t feel rewarding, to say the least, aren’t they?

True but still …

The “can afford” has two sides: if one can’t afford to produce less money at the current level of consumption, maybe one can afford to lower that level, and then lower the working hours.

Personally I have a low-consumption lifestyle as a self-employed, allowing me to also do a bunch of non-commercial activity even in times where the self-employment does not work out too well. (And I can confirm what is said about money and happiness: there’s no strong link.)

But of course everybody chooses a consumption / free-time tradeoff also according to personal taste and lifestyle. No issue with that. While for myself, I’m willing to explore the extremes, I’d surely not propose everybody to experiment with fluid-heated clothing. (But for me: Why not? Got an overall and a jacket of these for 40 EUR on eBay, now trying to figure out how to connect it to the heating. Calculated it to need 150 W thermically during the winter, saving 93% compared to the average insulated, average size flat :smiley: )

For sure.

Yes agreed, I think. I recall Brtrand Russell having a very interesting essay in which he talks about this, he uses pin production as an analogy, technology means we can do in four hours what we used to do in eight and with many times the productive result…but the system remains as it is, we over produce and we waste while others go hungry and many that could be part of the solution are to wrapped up in the problem to have time to effect it.

The material from my talk:

I know that the heading of my talk is social business as a possible solution for europe . However in reality what I would like to do is to set the scene for this conversation so that we have a sensible background for the topic in the days ahead. There are many of you with more experience in this field. I would like to look at these following few issues.

1.Romulus and Remus and the story of expansion and the coercion of labour.

From agrarian to the labour society, the coercion of labor, the birth of Rome-, pax plus expansion of Romana, (catholic church, feudal system of royals across Europe), Brittanica, Americana. The limit of dominance and expansion has been reached. We now need to ask ourselves what a non expansional Pax Globalis looks like.

Story of the seeing the sculpture of Romulus and Remus, the Roma flag etc:

Charles Stuart Mill’s definition of slavery, the coercion of labour as the driving force of democratic capitalism, backtrack to Aristotle’s definition of rule. Self interest and the common good. Democracy, rule according to self interest, is founded on the coercion of labour, the alternative is a scenario in which people work from their own initiative, this is self-organizational. I am not implying an either or situation, this is not about one or the other but about both and…Can we create the tools for self-organizational development in europe.

Goal systems monetary reward and creativity, MIT study story. Result: creative intelligence is negated by monetary reward. What is creativity? How does this conflict with the coercion of labour? What are possible solutions to this conflict?

2.Information exchange and the conscious identity, making sense of the transition.

Premise: that the rate at which we exchange information is directly proportionate to the rate of change within our society and our consciousness. This change is influenced and facilitated by technological development, when with the horse, things changed slower than with the wheel

and they have been accelerating ever since. So far there have been two major shifts in information exchange since the development of language.

I’d like to speak about the first and its effects first.

Pre printing press in Ireland at least there was collective responsibility and the Brehan laws. 2D art, without depth.

The invention of the printing press, information distribution, generates a swift change in people’s behavior. The renaissance saw the birth of individual self: Printing press, authorship, scientific evolution of journals, Descartes, cogito, 3d point, identity, signing of paintings.

1745 the freedom and equality of man, (empathy grows as people read about the suffering of others) scientific development due to the exchange of scientific journals and the scientific method by which analyses of information and process is proven by individual experience. These processes birth the scientific evolution, the industrial evolution, the technical evolution and the value evolution at roughly 100 year intervals. Along with this centralization of perspective of the individual there is a material analysis and an attachment through personal identity to the fruits of this analysis. In academia there is the division of the houses of learning by specialization. In general there was a consequent centralization of economic process, educational processes. In short, there is wholesale centralization of material and metaphysical processes.

So what do we mean when we speak about the transition? As far as I can see we are moving away from a centralized individual identity , away from homo-specialis toward the birth of a homo-Globalis.

3.From capitalism to social capital.

Individual wealth based on selfishness, the I! Me and mine! Are giving way to a collective shared experience of we, us and ours. Through this inner transition we are developing outer mechanisms in this image. Social practice, social enterprise and social business are pulling the heart back into business.

We are moving away from ‘business as usual’ into a pleasantly unusual form of business. The infrastructure of the economic world is undergoing a radical shift yet our policies and legal frameworks are not sufficiently wide to accommodate this new scope. In Japan there is a third term to the usual yes no duality, this is called mu. If one answers mu to a proposed

question this implies that the limited nature of the question does not permit a true response and so the question must be enlarged. We are living in a mu situation.

Fiduciary duty legally binds company executives to act ‘in the best interest’ of their shareholders. According to economics 101 this is maximum profit in the shortest possible term. As a result we have a host of businesses making ethically impoverished decisions that effectively ruin the lives and cultures of countless people around the world. We educate our economists with hogwash misinterpret ions of Chinese characters equating crisis with opportunity so that these people try to maximize profits in down turning markets. This practice is ludicrous, especially given the true

nature of the character in question wei-ji which in truth means danger and pivotal moment. Imagine a glass on a table’s edge in an impossible balance, in one situation it could return to stability, in the other the glass smashes spilling its contents amidst shards of glass on the floor. We are in this kind of crisis, and those who seek opportunity in what is really a pivotal moment are contributing to an unconscious creation of cataclysm.

There is a new understanding of what it means to be a human being. If you type interest into google the first return you will get will be that of a banking based interpretation. Yet if you look up the etymology of the word you will find something very interesting, inter in latin means ‘between’,

and esse means ‘beings’. Alan Greenspan, when called before the supreme court to play the blame game during America’s recession looked as though his life’s justifying philosophy had been pulled as a rug from beneath him. When he was asked what happened he replied that for 40 years he had seen the capitalist model work seamlessly by virtue of the ‘self interest’ of

financial institutions being sufficient to regulate the economy. Something had changed and he had no idea of what that could be. He raised the possibility that self interested managers and executives may be to blame for making poor decisions. This seems like a contradiction but it points to a revealing truth. That is, when the self interest of the part acts against the self interest of the whole to which it belongs, the system at fault breaks down. This is selfinterest as holarchy.

We have entered the anthroposcene, a time characterized by the human presence on earth, and we are at a pivotal moment. We are required to rethink our motivations, and most importantly our identity. In terms of business this will be characterized by the creation of new policies thatcreate favorable conditions for social enterprise, making profit through doing good and reinvesting that profit in doing more good. This model is governed by a new interpretation of the old model of ‘self interest’ according to its true meaning of a shared existence as one Self inter esse, or one self between beings. In the new paradigm of economics the champions of Social Enterprise will be figures such as Mohamed Yunus and Premal Shah, figures that pave the way and create models that prove the fibre of the times.

Grameen bank didn’t take any hit during the recession, Kiva still has the highest repayment rate in the world of finance at 98.7% while it loans out over 2 million per week. These facts coupled with the general rise of social entrepreneurship, social business, open enterprise, and the crowd

sourcing model are all testament to the change in our nature and the nature of the times.

20th century capitalism worked according to the myth of the fit in which Darwin’s maxim was taken to mean that the stronger survives. I am still surprised at how few realize that the term fittest as used by Darwin was meant in reference to adaptation and really implies that those who can fit into their environment by virtue of adaptation will survive. Fittest is true in the sense of the fitness of a jigsaw piece to its surroundings. I study project development with the EPA and reading through the literature of the EU it is clear that the European bureaucracy hinged on notions of ‘competitiveness’. This kind of thinking will not get us anywhere, except perhaps into a fight. It is time that we live up to all we have learned in our 400 years as analytical individuals and start using the reason we have developed.

Times change and we have to be prepared to change with them, to resist the change is to resist life.