Ruminations on #lote4 - Maria, Nadia, Jeff, Dorotea, Katalin

Everything is going to be a mistake. You fall into stuff that you weren’t looking for. Everyone’s head is full of ideas of what the lote4 is, but it’s in the things we say and do. Someone needs to make sense of what is there, reading and finding the invisible story that’s being written. Connecting the dots we sum up our thoughts. This is an experimental co-writing exercise to see how it can be done without burdening one person with telling the continuing story of how we are becoming a community, and how the different tools, technologies, projects, conversations and  events help us get there.

The original document can be read here.The text did not in fact become a floating narrative, just typed up thoughts, and lots of conversation which was unrecorded.

  1. We need a set of baseline goals for Edgeryders.

The Grand Plan:

“Changing the way we live and work. And WHY we work.”


What’s the enabler/ driver of the points/dramaturgy? Two different storytelling strands. What’s our story inwards:  our story for ourselves. And what’s our story(stories) outwards: for others who don’t use any of our words, concepts or share our values.

2. Edgeryders is ultimately a community. How does it work?

Community #1 (platform):

I personally think the platform works well for exposing projects and ideas. It is a good broadcasting tool and information pool. However my impression is that conversations are less likely to happen, mostly driven by the same people. Also a sense of “not listening”. It may be just me.

No it’s not just you: there is something about online  conversation that brings out the alpha streaks in a lot of us. Its much easier to listen when you feel you have time- someone , Jeff I think said something about there not being enough time to meet and learn from everyone…

Community #2 (the gathering):

At LOTE 4 For a brief moment…3 days, we discovered what it could feel like when we  are in deep community. We transcended distance and fast forwarded into connections that normally take years to build. People focused on the importance of face-to-face conversations. Maybe it’s also about listening to understand vs listening to reply? This time it felt like family… “like I already knew everyone there from online meetings.” someone remarked.

For me it’s like time stands still at LOTE events or this one. Total calm that I speak to whomever I speak to and we just take time to really meet one another and hangout. Like when we were kids, you could just hang without a mission. We need time for this and to give ourselves space to be able to make time for this. Rita asked: why dont you just have coffee with the people around, don’t you know nothing happens before you just spend time with people? But it’s the same question as why don’t you just spend time having coffee with people and not “do anything when you are home”. What does a week without a plan feel like?

I was able to get some answers. It seems like a general session of people presenting what edgeryders is to them and then to let people ask questions would make the process that I went through at LOTE more accessible.  I learned a lot about the economic and technical structures and history through the unconference component – in which we were able to propose sessions at the end of the weekend that addressed topics that emerged throughout the beginning of the weekend. I am not sure all people knew how to propose a session or get involved but once I did that I ended up presenting in several sessions without even planning for it.

LOTE was great because I felt there was exchange (listening as well as talking). And that created a basis for trust.

But when asked what we would take away, or change from the experience it seemed the answer was more, not less of anything.

Community #3 (feeling):

How can the  sense of community can be preserved after the conference. Also it seems  the key thing we had somehow underestimated in all the practicals is  this togetherness thing. What it means and why everything is so  different, better, when you are doing it with people you like.

Perhaps we are all a little disappointed because Utopia is so close.

We should identify ourselves by the way that we act not what we wear etc. We dont want to be superhumans, but a supercommunity. We’re all regular Clark Kents. Or Ubuntu. Survival of the animals with the best networks, best communication and collaborations. Strength of bonds.

Feeling part of a community, feeling safe and supported is an enabler for building visionary, and ambitious things together. Building deep relationships that we really can rely on versus inviting in new and more people. What are enablers? Why did having the building again feel so empowering and what enabling infrastructure do we need- physical, monetary and relational? Staying and leaving. Leadership and first follower.

how to start a dance party

  1. What are the things that are missing for the functioning of the community?


“The platform support talking but not listening.”


Listening takes time.

Aspects and the importance of time turned out to be one of the most important lessons: our relationship to it, deliverables etc, as being a key element. We have to think about.

How the relationships deepen and grow in time. If you had enough time, you would spend it with your family?

animation about time

@mariabyck, @Nadia, @Bezdomny, @Dorotea, please feel free to add and edit - I basically just created a structure around the different thoughts so they make more sense.


Ruminations on the ruminations

From the above notes it is not obvious, but most of the time we were talking about the unMonastery. Maybe it is important to point out  It seems to me  that in many ways people who were involved in the development of the unMonastery idea but did not participate in the Matera prototype (@Nadia, @Alberto, etc) have identical goals for Edgeryders and unMonastery. This is clear  This impression is based on the discussion around community.

However, Edgeryders is a large online platform of 2000+ members, a network of communities, with no specific commitment to an outside community and with no timeframe. At the same time, unMonastery was a tiny community which had to build functioning relationships within the house in a few days and with Matera in a matter of weeks. For a functioning prototype, very short term goals needed to be formulated and acted upon. These were obviously not the same as the Edgeryders’. Whether the unMonastery model will evolve to deliver the original vision of changing “how we work and live, forever”, remains to be seen.

The experiment produced some unexpected results, and these, instead of being a source of conflict and disappointment, need to be discussed. The active cooperation between host community and unMonastery, the culture of listening, and allowing things to evolve (trusting the process), are somewhat alien to the do-ocracy model of the Edgeryders.  Maybe a process of identifying trends and preparing a model that can react to change, adapt to different environments, solve different problems, and point to several different futures, is more in line with what the first prototype taught us. In my opinion, the unMonastery needs to be allowed to find its own way to act in the world, because it is designed to operate in a very different context from the Edgeryders community.



Hey Katalin,

Not sure how you arrived at the conclusion.In our conversation last night I was not talking about unMonastery but about Edgeryders as a community. unMonastery is an important shared community initiative but I think you can only draw definitive conclusions about unMonastery Matera from unMonastery Matera.

In Edgeryders we only speak for ourselves (i.e. self-represent) so I do not think that you can draw conclusions about what other people’s goals for any project or activity are based on what any individual says- they are as diverse as is this community. The beauty of this diversity and a permissive culture is that you do not have to agree on everything to be able to act in whatever ways you feel are relevant and necessary for your own objectives.

unMonastery Matera operated under constraints set by the arrangement under which the building and grants were made available. In that arrangement unMonastery was accountable to the city and its citizens. And in several cases it did succeed in meeting those goals, with clearly successful outcomes for the residents of Matera and for the people who drove those initiatives.

Coderdojo, Picanello, Kiderwind, Mimi’s Hydroponic garden monitoring system, LOTE4 public sessions in Italian (200 local residents came and stayed for over 2 hrs), Petroleum Management in Basilicata (the fact that a serious, constructive conversation was had on a really infected topic was quite an achievement), talent attraction to Matera etc. These are concrete, tangible outcomes (as percieved by some of the city’s inhabitants and the local administration).

Also on a professional development level my observation is that some people have developed new interests  and skillsets.

Let’s take documentation as an example.

After lote4 I noticed a shift where we all talk about great documentation and the need for it as a given. I recall a lot of resistance to documentation of the ongoing projects of some residents in the unMonastery prototype. Documentation is important because of accountability. But it is also powerful in helping you stand your ground if and when you or your projects come under attack by loud critical voices, especially when they are wrong. Because there is a trail showing what you have been doing, why and progress- it makes your work legible to others even if they only experience a snippet and you give those who like your work the means to defend it with you. The Pisolino Libero initiative is a perfect example. The data is available: 20k likes, international coverage, private cafe owners offering space to do it inside their property. It was however not aggregated in one place prior to the email from one person in the local administration. Had it been then others in the local administration would have had no problem telling them to back off because… evidence says the project is contributing towards achieving the goals of the candidacy, whether or not one person freaks out. Or even the whole administration.

The other thing documentation does is gives you freedom because anyone with experience of doing anything complex knows that plans and priorities change. You may discover that the initial project or question doesnt make sense or is never going to work. Maybe you see something much more immediately relevant and actionable and want to do that instead. With continuous documentation you can follow this development and it makes it easier to tell the story of what is happening and defend the process. I do not believe you will ever get away from the expectation of tangible/presentable outcomes/results- no matter if it is a gallerist, funder or client or the taxpayer, whoever is bankrolling the work you are doing. But I do believe this gives you maneuvering space.

Each instance of any project will have its own constraints under which it operates and those will be tied to the deals you negotiate in the early phases of setting up anything really. What happens in other iterations will be determined by different sets of constraints. Which is why I believe it is important to to learn the practical details and skills for creating new conditions, physical, economic etc for doing anything. Only when you have that in place do you know what parameters you are operating under and how to navigate/hack them to achieve your objectives.


Hi, @Nadia, I put my opinion in the comment section exactly to be perceived as a comment, not part of the narrative we were talking about yesterday. Sorry if your views were misrepresented. I think though that it is an important part of communication, to reiterate what we hear, so we can get to see each other’s ways of thinking. Like Socrates does in the Plato dialogues.

The comment was to record an observation and point to the possible source of conflict between unMonastery Matera and Edgeryders. I remember that it was not clear in February how much we needed to focus on our responsibilities towards the community of Matera and how much on developing the in-a-box toolkit. I remember in fact being told it was not important. When I arrived back in April, the situation changed. I continue to perceive an unclarity around this.


“Ontology is overrated”

(As wise men say).

Is it so important to divide the world into “Edgeryders” and “unMonastery”? I can’t see how that helps in any way. Worse, it seems to point at potential conflict of “us” vs. “them”, rather than at the generative potential of diversity. But maybe I am wrong. Can you explain why it seems so attractive to you?

In return for your explanation, I can offer an alternative interpretation. It goes like this: at some point someone started an unMonastery prototype. People could choose whether to locate themselves deep inside, stay completely out or anything in between. Examples of in-between behaviour:

  • visit
  • participate in the online debate
  • buy a resident unMonasterian coffee/ice cream/a meal to cheer her/him up
  • help with admin/politics/fundraising
  • write an article/make a film about what is being done
  • various combinations of the above and more

People closest to the center have a greater stake; people further away a smaller one. This is not an ontology because it is flexible: people can adjust their position by getting more or less involved. No one is locked into a category. No one is completely dismissed, because even people who are not involved at all might decide to move towards the center, and they would be welcome to. I know you don’t like T-shirts, but there is a reason why the one I am wearing now says “Networks have no borders”!

Note that that does not mean everyone is the same: different nodes have different degrees of centrality (so this allows for who does the work calls the shots). But it does mean that the difference across people is one of gradient, not of nature. And that seems a more accurate description of reality. You once told me that you only heard of the residency a week before the deadline: if that week you had gone skiing, your strict ontology would classify you as “complete stranger” (you were not even Edgeryders then); my network thinking as “potential unMonasterian”.

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Hosts rather than Stewards?

In Edgeryders and unMonastery we are looking after what looks after the future and all of us - but doesn’t the title we attach to those ‘looking after’ roles very much shape how we act and respond? A Stewardship role implies the custodian, the caretaker, the overseer of direction and resources. By comparison, a Host suggests being more kindly to the community,brings everyone to the warmth of the fireside, the nourishment of the table, and provides a heartfelt reception to how participants are valued. Edgeryders being an on-line, thought-fuelled community who only meet face to face periodically, we very much need roles and titles that emphasise that we care for the community more than the collective commandments. Might the persuasively engaged Edgeryders who want the community to thrive find their hearts more immediately if they define themselves as Hosts (rather than Stewards)?

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not ontology

My perception is that due to its different position in the world, unMonasterians “do” mostly driven by listening, and Edgeryders “do” mostly by talking. I don’t mean empty talk - I think the platform is super important to make people and their activities visible. In Matera what we found is that unMonasterians cannot proceed by coming in as “I/we do this”. You have to arrive listening.

I don’t think it is an ontological difference. It is just how you approach your goals. I think both ways are important, and my primary aim is to figure out how the different approaches played their role in the prototype. (And, maybe, to make sure the difference is recorded.)

Tried that, did not work

Katalin, we did listen. That was what the 2013 workshops were for. When we listened, people came up with the challenges reviled in the Book of Mistakes. What gives?

Social scientists know not to trust survey data (ask people questions and record their answer). Humans suffer from well-documented psychological biases that make them state falsehoods, often in perfectly good faith. So, the only way forward we have found is to ask, listen, reply back, etcetera, and engage in an open conversation that will lead somewhere. The distinction between speaking and listening seems to me not to hold much more water than the one between unMonasterians and Edgeryders.

Marc is the perfect example. He gets to Matera to build a solar tracker. The solar tracker is a specific thing, and local people engage better with it than they would with some generic concept (like “open hardware” or “social innovation”). So, Mimì asks him “Hey, since that thingy you have there can move the solar panel maybe it can also power a monitoring system for my hydroponic garden. Can it?” And sure enough, then the monitoring system is built. Later still, Francesco shows up and says “Solar? That’s lame. The action is in high-altitude wind. Join me in building Kiderwind!” Meanwhile, Piersoft shows up at the unMonastery to do the first Coderdojo prototype, and ends up with Marc deeply involved in Coderdojo Matera. There is listening in this story, but there is also speaking. The solar tracker is concrete enough – and fascinating  enough – to function as a conversation opener on renewable energies (Kiderwind), open data and sustainability (open energy monitor), open hardware (hydroponic garden monitor) and digital literacy (CoderDojo).

In other words, the time-honored way to engage a local community is not as an all-purpose troubleshooter (brings out psychological biases as you ask people “what do you need?”), but as just another person, with her own set of skills, obsessions and weaknesses. The engine for making progress is not that the newcomer is “better” than the local: it is the diversity between the two. In this process some unMonasterians got further than others (and that is human too), but everyone can claim at least some credit for the good things that happened.

Doers/Listeners.Inner vs Outer Narrative type misunderstandings?

Thanks all. This, to me, is a great conversation (and example) of some different approaches to work and how we prefer to be in the world…eg. the difference between those who’s desire it is to move slower, take time to observe, listen and those who’s desire it is to execute, act, finalise or somehow always have a word or some formula, conclusion at hand…


That, @Alberto, is a really good point. Listening is inefficient, time-consuming, and tends to encourage complaining. However, this whole diversity idea is based on patiently sitting around, listen and talk and try to understand each other until we find interesting stuff to do, or solutions together. You probably heard the Bruce Sterling video in support of Matera’s candidacy. He talks about how it is time for the internet-style “fake” universality of the Open Source movement to find the aspect its missing, the local. “OS in pursuit of the super local”, to reveal what’s going on in other places, to get people involved in the process of making by making it accessible, exciting and participatory.  Reaching the “local” requires listening and a sensibility to what is “there”, in order to make it interesting and graspable, not only accessible, participatory, etc. I think that is what unMonastery does (and ER does not, because it cannot it is not its function, it is a network of networks).

Marc lived in other places before where he did not get involved in any of the things that makes him so important in Matera. It was the circumstance of the unMonastery that turned him from a classic tech guy, with a passion for open source (and a resistance to DIY) with a single project, into an open and sociable educator and inventor of technology. The unMon brought a community around for all of us. The frustrating impass of the first 3 months, the impossibility to get the solar panel project off the ground was also part of it. Marc, like others, was solely focused on his project, and did not have the desire to hang out with people casually in the community. But he found himself in a situation where he could not do anything else but kind of listen and offer help with other people’s projects, or go home. The “culture” bit is inefficient and banal but it connects the tech people to the super local, in several different ways (insisting on respect and commitment, parties, participating in local culture, etc).

I doubt it is possible to get an unMonastery going without some kind of firm statement, along the lines of “we are here to do this”. But then it has to be brought onto the ground, to interact with the super local, so whatever arrives with the unMonastery becomes what Sterling described: accessible, participatory and gets people engrossed in the process of making (making tech, culture, objects, institutions, whatever), instead of throwing “solutions” at the town, like unGuide. I did what I said I would do, but because the process of making it was so little embedded in the community, it is now just sitting in virtual space.


I would leave it to the person or persons themselves if and how they want to describe their own inner experience. Please remember this is a public space and remove the part about someone’s psychosocial situation thanks.