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  • Ideas for a collaborative cultural management
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    Some ideas to facilitate the collective development of common goods from institutions and cultural and educative collectives

    Comunes Colective

    version 2.0

    We are trying in this text to describe our perspective about which tools and strategies would facilitate the collaborative creation and development from cultural and educational institutions (even though many also apply to the private cultural and educational sector).

    The Free Software, beyond it’s theoric, philosophic, and legal tools, it’s developed thanks to some technical tools (project managers, version controls, wikis, mail lists, bug or error managers, etc) that make easier the simultaneous and delocalized collaboration and the coordination of its members.

    The same would happen with the Free Culture. It is very clear to us which is the theorical, philosophical and legislative framework of the Free Culture, our tesis is we think is necessary to facilitate the technical tools for the collaborative development of Free Culture.

    With a speech and a legislative framework is not enough. Is the same as when the lisences like Creative Commons didn’t exist yet. Each initiative was creating it’s own free lisences more or less valid, but it was an effort that wasn’t affordable by everyone. Not everyone could do at time as a lawyer, nether the lawyers pretend we were. Creative Commons facilitated us the law framework.

    Let’s say that we have to think and put into practice dynamics that extrapolate this way of collaborative work     that has allowed to create such complex things as our free operative systems or to manage Internet, to a wider ambit such as the Culture and to other pucblic not necessarily specialized on ICT’s.

    Some ideas that are important for us:

    Creation vs Communication: The tools for communication and diffusion (lists, forums, chats, micoblogging) are necessary but not enough. There also must make available tools for creating and building (collaborative edition, files repository, coordination and management of tasks, etc). The same with efforts focused on communication (conferences, talks, lunches, forums) in contrast to those of building, that “leave” something else (workshops, commune collaboration, calls to action, document construction or collective tools…).

    With only one tool is not enough: Building free projects with only one tool (a wiki or one only blog, etc) is an inconvenience. Is like trying to build a house by using only a shovel. On the other hand, there should be offered an open range of tools in a way that each initiative or group of work could choose in each moment (present or future) in base of it’s needs. For example, the Wikipedia mostly uses the wiki as tool and it uses it even for discussions, communications, etc. this results in many cases very forced (and not usable).

    Usability, usability, usability: Or what is the same, you can’t construct buildings with one meter high steps, for later, having to do courses for teaching how to climb them and expect everybody to be a climber or parkour (or what is the same techie). If we really want make easier the creation of the Free Culture we can’t build web tools with big architectural barriers. We have to build them with a reasonable length  steps and even with ramps so could facilitate the public participation. Each person is an expert in it’s subject and we can’t pretend everyone to have the technical skills in the ICT’s (or being layers and do their own licenses). At the end, facilitate.

    The same kind of problems are repeated here and there: and as Eric Raymond said “Any problem should not be repeated twice”. In this way, it has to be made easier with these tools the diffusion of this works, the multi language, the adaptation to other environments and local realities, the reproducibility, the fork (the derived creation).

    Prosumers: The tools have to make easier the participation of any person interested on doing it and not limit themselves to be simple cultural or educational portals (in one only sense producers -> consumers), just portals of shared creation that let any interested person be presumer. A good example of it are the Brazilian Free Culture Points.

    Not all the participation is welcome: This means, not all the contribution is worth while, also because we have to think on the bad uses (spammers, trolls, etc) that there are. Inside of the Free Software like to exist two different contribution velocities. Those who create a free project and usually have all the administrative control of it and then start giving permises to other people that come closer to collaborate. Resuming, there exist three basic roles:

    The administrators that create the iniitative (or work group) within other administrators that will be chose long while. They usually have more load of the project management.

    The collaborators that are interested on taking part on the initiative who’s permissions are managed by the administrators.

    The general public that enter, but also valuate, catalog, “tags”, interacts and comments (if it’s permitted) the public contents created by the groups mentioned before. We don’t have to build large barricades so the public can have access to, in other words, the initiatives have to have public showcases, and not so much of doors (registers and passwords) and other inconvenients for logging in. This at the same time would make easier that this public was converted into prosumers in a future. And the contrary, in this enviroments the creation of non public contents has to be allowed (not everything is interesting for the general public).

    The bifurcation, the fork , is sometimes the best of the ways: When there is a work group where there are strong differences of perspectives, of work, etc, that are difficult to reconcile, sometimes the fact of taking two different ways (something that is facilitated by reusing the previous work that is already free) is the most advisable thing. It is something that happens commonly in the Free Software projects, what are called forks and this sometimes is the most healthy thing to do so an initiative doesn’t relate. Also their paths can cross again in the future.

    Facilitate hackthons about any theme: Either calls of concourses, challenges, etc. In these, the participants are centered during a period of time in the joint resolution of a determined problematic in a concrete group of work. Not only creating a diffusion of initiatives, more like events of collective creation. We are on an era where more than ever our collective creativity is needed to solve the big goals that are presented to us as society.

    The “synchronity” mental-space-temporal usually is very complicated: In other words, the meeting on events is too brief and we can’t be limited to that, so this tools should supply asynchronous dynamics to facilitate other people, in other places and in a future enter and interact with the created contents by these groups (either they are multimedia, acts, talk transcriptions, resumes, aggregations, documents, etc). If also this task can be done in cooperation (for example, some people editing an act, synthesizing talks, etc) with simple tools that are available, so much the better.

    “AND” vs “OR”: We are in the “era of the “AND”, like Gilbert Gil said. Either, we don’t have to choose between one technology or the other, between the virtual space or the physical space, between the digital and the analogic, etc, just try to use all the possible ways in function of the supplies and needs of each initiative.

    Facilitate the building across the time: Many of our creation efforts are processes that can require a continued effort, maybe during years. Not stay in a punctual effort (the “event”) go further, and for that be able to manage a two way traffic of collaborators and collaborations along the time so that we can take on previous works and efforts. For example, “alive” works that are taken again each course by different students in educative environments, etc.

    Orphan projects: I n certain moment, these groups, these initiatives can become orphans, in other words, without participation. This doesn’t mean that the initiative is dead and that has to disappear. That project (even is not active) can continue being useful to the general public, and even can be interesting, in a future can be taken again, updated and improved by other people, with other realities.

    Ideas and initiative banks: in the same way it’s interesting to suggest to people possible ideas and initiatives to be created (if they are new) or returned (like when orphan projects) or just for participating (initiatives already running). Many times happens that people are looking for initiatives to collaborate and don’t know where.

    Lists of tasks or how to facilitate a more detailed collaboration: Once somebody decides to participate in an initiative, appears to be difficult, to know in what to participate concretely. A detailed public description (and commented) about the tasks is a way to promote the collaboration, the crowdsourcung. Also allows to return some tasks that haven’t been fully completed, seeing the state of these tasks, can even help to resolve tasks to other groups in the future. It will be the equivalent to what in the Free Software is known as bugs, tickets or issues but adapted to other areas (for example without technicisms).

    “My own image” is important (Facebook style vs my own style). It has to be facilitated that each initiative can have it’s own image in these creation networks, allowing in an easy way the adaptation of it’s image, logo, domain, style, etc in the offered tools. If we want to make the participation a success, we have to allow that the individuals and groups that use these spaces feel them as theirs. On the contrary, initiatives as Facebook, for example, make everyone sadly monotonous. Focus on pushing forward the contents of these networks, not the packaging.

    Appreciation: In the same way, to make the participation easier, is important to see “who does what” on each initiative if their participants like to do so. Also there would be initiatives, that are, more anonymous, or more private, where their members wouldn’t like to be made visible, for one reason or another.

    Facilitate in these initiatives other economies like the crowdfunding, the don economies, the barter, etc.

    Support the physical and/or virtual meetings: the use of collective agendas (for initiatives) that make visible the events, meetings, workshops, etc. To make them public to help organizing the face to face meetings.

    In “Real-time” : we are entering on the simultaneous interaction and building on real time era and this will develop everything our collective imagination brings about.

    Not centralization, Alexandria’s library vs distributed libraries: to allow a sustainable environment of initiatives and similar groups that inter actuate in net from different institutions, organizations, collectives, work groups…

    At the momment, is not the time to do whatever: If we have resources today, we should try to focus them as sustainable for long term and useful for society. Specially thinking that in medium term the context can be much more aggresive, with lack resources or higher complications (repression…).

    Support alternatives: In each field, there exist many projects that are developing “alternatives” to the mainstream aproach. Ideally, the institutions, apart of developing their own projects in that way, they should foment all the other intern dynamics that could retroalimentate this alternatives (from using free software or organic local food, to ways of alternative organization and financing…). Sometimes a boost is what they need to consolidate and get to a critical mass.

    Strengthen the cooperations,

    alliances, federations and big scale collaborations between related initiatives. Unfortunately, these are very rare, and we usually try to “survive” too much by our own.

    Not to elityze: try as far as possible to maximize the accessibility in all the activities, generalize the knowledge and not to put linguistic, technical or structural barriers… in a way that any interested person that doesn’t pertain to the specialized collective (technicians, philosophers, artists, scientists) can attend, understand, participate, suggest…

    Transparency: Is a tendency that the organizations become withdrawn… to avoid it, promote the open meetings, communicate the meetings and the conclusions. Communicate the expenses, the future projects, justify the public taken decisions, allow a way for the feedback and the external critique.

    Some, more obvious ideas:

    Public issues need to be kept public: Anything funded with public money should be licensed in a way that the result is maintained on the common property. This doesn’t mean that a project is against it’s financing, it means it has to search for other ways of financiation beyond privatizing the public issues, building tolls and creating fake shortage in environments of wealth/abundance as Internet is.

    Formats and free standards: The content formats that are shared must be as far as possible free (there are areas, like the ones about architecture, where there is still a lot of work to do and this is not fully possible). In the same way with the technologies and standards that we use. This would facilitate the creation without depending on privative tools.

    From the Comunes Colective we develop tools with this focus as:

    Kune: Many of these dynamics and ideas described above are already implemented (or in process) in our software Kune and are as a result of our experience (and mistakes) during these last ten years with

    ourproject.org , with a very similar objective: create, build and share free knowledge in collaboration, join efforts, resolve joint problems, etc.

    Move Commons: Beyond trying to facilitate some dynamics about the common in the web tools that are developed by us, we also try to spread these perspectives to other initiatives and collectives. This is one of the objectives and implication of Move Commons, help the collectives to represent themselves in this sense.

    Move Commons: Beyond trying to facilitate some dynamics about the common in the web tools that are developed by us, we also try to spread these perspectives to other initiatives and collectives. This is one of the objectives and implication of Move Commons, help the collectives to represent themselves in this sense.We also develop other smaller in size tools, focused on the bartering, the reputation, the decentralized call of meetings, etc.(c) 2011 Copyleft Comunes Collective, cc-by-sa

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