Peer-to-peer solutions to a complex world

Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 07:00 Hrs
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Bangalore: Michel Bauwens turned his back on a senior corporate position, and moved from his homeland of Belgium to another continent.... and a very different way of doing things. Today, researching the P2P movement worldwide is a virtual obsession.

Peer-to-peer (or P2P) functioning takes an idea from the world of computer science - a network that relies primarily on the computing power and bandwidth of the participants in the network rather than concentrating it in a relatively low number of servers - to apply it to social processes that encourage many people to contribute jointly in the building of ideas, concepts and more.

Said Bauwens: "The basic idea I had was that there's a new social movement emerging which is really about extending the realm of participation to the whole of life.

"We live in a representative democracy, which says you can vote every four years and choose which people will exercise power on your behalf. Now we're building tools and resources which say everybody needs to be involved."

This movement takes varied forms, and comes in different shapes. It basically has a free-and-open paradigm, which ensures that people can work together and create a pool of resources that they can use.

"There's the participatory process itself. There's peer production (working together). And there's peer governance (how you manage that kind of cooperation)," Bauwens, 48, told IANS in an interview.

"People in open politics, open money, participatory culture, participatory spirituality... they don't realise that they are doing something broadly similar and they can all reinforce each other," he argued.

So, via he is trying to link them all together.

"My goal is to document commons-related projects worldwide," he said. "Anything that is collaboratively produced in common - it could be from the realms of peer production, peer collaboration, peer governance."

The site hosts a P2P movements' directory, a webcast directory, a P2P encyclopaedia with about 800 terms - from concepts like the open car project, to open ecology.

Open car?

"Some people, including expert designers working with major corporations, are volunteering their time to design freely-sharable plans for a environmentally-friendly solar car project. The car isn't physically being made but it is part of the open design movement," he explained.

"You realise, when you do this work, how strong this movement is. Two years ago, the anti-globalisation movement didn't know it was connected to the free software movement. Now they know," he added.

Source: IANS
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