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last modified September 23, 2010 by strypey

Free to Know or Free to Own?
The Benefits of Free and Slow Culture in Environmental Regeneration and Community Development
by Danyl Strype

Version 1.0 (Sunday September 5, 2010)
CreativeCommons -Attribution-Share-Alike 3.0

Intro

With the free culture movement, we will focus on the ethics and tactics of free software, which revolve around a distributed development model for co-operative development of software, in which autonomous, self-selecting project teams work on discrete pieces which only become useful when combined with the work of many other teams. Within the permaculture movement, we will focus on the ethics and tactics of local food production, in which the design principles, working models, knowledge and skills taught in Permaculture Design Certificate courses are applied to the goal of feeding people while regenerating the environment.

Although there are also justifications based on supposed service to the common good (Fisher), these have more to do with the effects of copyright, patents, and other specific laws, than a defence of ideas, forms of symbols as "property".

Free software more clearly free to know. Couldn't confidently say slow food is free to grow, although it's fair to say they oppose mass corporatisation of farms, and the tyranny of the warehouse supermarket, and the burger franchise, which suppress the freedom to grow in the same way that dumping surplus food in developing countries suppresses their freedom to grow, by making the price lower than the cost]

Practical Applications


For example, the permaculture movement was founded on the training of designers. Developing course materials online as Open Education Resources,  under a libre license, could be highly beneficial to both trainers and learners of permaculture design. The sharing of teaching materials is common practice, but an example of something free culture advocate could offer is a concerted effort to teach permaculture trainers how to wiki, and connecting them with collaboration resouces like WikiVersity; and WikiEducator, who are already hosting materials from a short permaculture course at Otago Polytech.

Certification

Certification debates in Agile today resemble the difference of opinion between Mollison and Holmgren in the 70s (?) about the merits of Permaculture Design Certificate courses. I think permaculture is way ahead of agile in this area, and agile could learn a lot from the way permaculture certification has happened. Anyone who has completed a PDC can work as a certified permaculture designers, but they can also run a course and hand out PDC certificates. The theory behind PDC courses is that the student finds the teacher whose style as a designer and practitioner they feel most drawn to, and the value of the  certificate they receive is derived from the reputation of the teacher(s). Their reputations are derived from their work history as a designer, which in turn depends to some degree on the quality of the teaching they received in their PDC course.

Most importantly, a student only receives their PDC once they have completed a satisfactory design process, supervised by their teacher. The problem with Agile Scrum Master certification is that it is based on being exposed to the theory (Patton, Shore), but not having to demonstrate that they grasp how it works in practice. 

Values Added

by introducing all 5 tendancies, I've created some confusion for myself, because I wanted to be able to simplfy things down to geeks and greenies. Maybe reduce this down at the end of the values added section, of at the end of the intro? Maybe not, because some of the parallels are specific slow food/ slow culture - free software/ free culture, 12 principles of permaculture/ agile, but there aren't simple one-to-one mappings Agile is analagous to Transition in other ways

The Gnu and the Snail icons represent the values of their respective movements, stubborn determination to run with the mutual protection of the herd, and stubborn determination to go only as fast as is comfortable and take your home with you wherever you roam.

Slow Food Mission= Free Software Definition

Slow Food Int = Free Software Foundation

Defend Biodiversity (SFFforB) - Define Software Freedom, Defend License Conditions (SFLC)

Taste Education (UofGS) - Freedom Education (?):

FSF helps people rediscover the joys of computing and understand the importance of caring where their software comes from, who makes it and how it’s made. GNU Project introduce free code and developers to both members and non-members,...

Linking Producers and Co-producers = Linking Programmers and Co-programmers

LUGs, installfests, SFD events, hackfests, bar camps

Slow Food Convivium = Free Software GNU/LUG/ OSS/ FSF Europe

Perhaps something free software could learn from slow food, an international organisation with a well-defined branch structure, with a set of activities for the branch to get on with in their local area. CrisisCamps?

Hacking for Resilience

For example, the free software mission of adapting software and making it freely available as networked information tools,  and the permaculture and Transition goal of cultivating community resilience, both serve the creation of infrastructure that can help people survive and recover from disasters.

Property is Theory

Sticking to Your Knitting - Pattern Language

At the heart of the free software ideal is the belief of the way our environment is engineered or designed, determining how much freedom of action is available to a person living or working within that design. This idea goes back at least as far as the 'psychogeography' theories of the situationists, and can also be seen in the website for 'pattern language', a conceptual design framework that Transition founder Rob Hopkins has adapted for version 2.0 of the Transition Handbook, to replace the 12 steps (or ingredients).

Transition can be understood as an effort  to mainstream permaculture design, applying it on a larger scale that private sites, and in existing settlements, with challenges of community building and retro-fitting not present in the wild margins, and greenfields eco-villages where permaculture theory and practice originated.

United Stations Eternal and Unlimited (USEU)

[note: USED Constitution - Used Sound Ecstatic Dance - The challenge is to create and maintain a working network of relationships, without collapsing into a fundamentalism, a false certainty that cannot adapt to a complex, and constantly shifiting economic,social, and ecological climate.]

FUD?

both are syncretic umbrella identities, under which social networks have clustered together for mutual defence against rapidlly globalising corporate empires. These entrenched structures see their their power and their profits being threatened by both peer-to-peer and face-to-face cultures, and engage states coercion and media propaganda against them, particularly in the form of the legal and ideological machinery of "intellectual property".

This corporate crusade is also directed against any institution that might become complicit in the dissent of the Slow or the Free. "The corporate university has been waging a battle for some years now against the remaining features of the public university", says Ian Angus. In the push for  vocational training to replace academic fellowship as the prime mover of the  higher education, universities forget they were founded as places to learn where the boundaries of human knowledge are, so they can be pushed, or dissolved, only to become part-time prisons, which cultivates a learned helplessness, so as to prepare its inmates for a life as wage slaves in corporate banana republics (Druve).]

Formless Culture

"This is called the Form of the Formless, and the Resemblance of the Invisible; this is called the Temporary and the Interminable." - Lao Tzu, Tao te Ching

What happens when you combine the slow with the free? You get tai chi, "the form of formlessness". Formless culture, defined by the participants, where all pre-existing forms are possible poses a person could choose to adopt, seeking without striving that which fits the state of the system, *now*!

Potlatch Culture

Input drives output. People who benefit from something, feel motivated to give back. At rainbow gatherings, people arrive expecting to passively consume entertainment, like they do at a festival, but after a few days or weeks of free food and co-created enjoyment they will want to get into the kitchen, or collect wood for fires, or donate to the magic hat. Where programmers benefit from reusing free code in their own software, they will eventually want to submit their own code back to the source pool. Where artists are inspired by remixing freely available bits and pieces into their own creations, they will eventually want to share their own original work in the CreativeCommons, so others can experience the same joy of remix.

State sector, private sector, civil society - another manifestation of the Wilbur's big 3?

Could be that I'm overextending the Big 3 to the point of numerology, but my first thoughts was that the CSOs (Civil Society Organisation) represent ethics. What about art and science? Perhaps the CSOs are actually art - internal individual? Perhaps the state is ethics, and the private sector is science?

Demozones: The Democracy of Zones

In permaculture design, zones are used to break up a site into areas that are visited at different frequencies, which in turn suggests what sort of land uses might be appropriate for different areas. Toby Heneman offers an innovative extension of zone theory, to suggest a way of thinking about the relationship between our cosy little permaculture site, and the wider world:

"Zone zero in this sense is our home and land. Zone one is our connection to other individuals and families, zone two to local commerce and activities in our neighborhood, zone three to regional businesses and organizations, zone four to larger and more distant enterprises."

I am reminded for some reason of the old anarchist saying about freedom, "my freedom to swing my fist ends where your face begins." In anarchology, democracy is understood not merely as a process of electing representatives, who effectively become temporary dictators without a well-defined and ongoing process for directing them from below, but as a system of relationships which ensure that people have control over the making of any decision, to the degree that it affects them.

The use of zones offers a way of defining the scope of a given decision. Something that only directly affects one individual is zone 0, and the final decision can be left to her. Something that affects a whole household is zone 1, and a process is needed by which those in the household can come to consensus. Zone 3 is the neighbourhood or village, which depending on the geography might be up to 150 people, who can all have at least a nodding aquaintance with each other. Zone 4 is the municipality, or the county, or to use UK terms, the city or the burrough, all those within a walkable or perhaps bikable distance. Zone 5

 

Digital Luddites



Slow and Free

In an attempt to ideologically vaccinate the public against the "tune in,
turn on, drop out" tactics of the 'back to the land' brigade of Slow
Culture, and the "jack in, turn on, drop in" tactics of the hackers,
pirates, and virtual court jesters of Free Culture. 

 

12 Step Programs

12 principles of permaculture design, 12

 

Permaculture is equivalent to Agile Development

Just as an agile development methodology can be applied to any software project, regardless of the license it will be published under, or whether it will be published at all, permaculture design can be applied to either proprietary projects that apply only to the exclusive property of one person, or group of people, or free projects such as Transition plans.

"Lots of dysfunctional process emerges from us valuing personal competence at the expense of overall group success." - Jeff Patton

"Do the simplest thing that could possibly work."Jeff Patton

Certification debates in Agile today resemble the difference of opinion between Mollison and Holmgren in the 70s (?) about the merits of Permaculture Design Certificate courses. I think permaculture is way ahead of agile in this area, and agile could learn a lot from the way permaculture certification has happened. Anyone who has completed a PDC can work as a certified permaculture designers, but they can also run a course and hand out PDC certificates. The theory behind PDC courses is that the student finds the teacher whose style as a designer and practitioner they feel most drawn to, and the value of the  certificate they receive is derived from the reputation of the teacher(s). Their reputations are derived from their work history as a designer, which in turn depends to some degree on the quality of the teaching they received in their PDC course.

Most importantly, a student only receives their PDC once they have completed a satisfactory design process, supervised by their teacher. The problem with Agile Scrum Master certification is that it is based on being exposed to the theory (Patton, Shore), but not having to demonstrate that they grasp how it works in practice.

"There is still a deep prejudice in permaculture, as websites and emails show, that doing it all ourselves, and on our own land, is the most noble path. And insofar as our skills make us less dependent on corporate monopolies, developing the abilities that we think of as self-reliant is worth doing." - Toby Hemenway


[this whole section becomes problematic because I have changed the way I am matching up the parallels here

free software - slow food (values over efficiency)

organic - open source (not just business-friendly but corporate-friendly)

Agile - permaculture

Bright Green - Transition?

Overlaps both vitual and real world development. Unlike permaculture which has come to ICT as an afterthought, software and internet projects are just as much part of the Transition practice as land cultivation, food distribution, or community currency. Could my thesis be that transition is an application both permaculture and agile to total worldchanging? Speaking of which, could I bring the Bright Green movement into this,

So what's the relationship between organics and slow food? ]


Challenge - The relationship between organics and permaculture is not
one of either being simply a subset of the other. Permaculture is not
just a subset of organics, because organics only covers production of
crops, whereas permaculture also covers housing, energy,
community-building etc. Neither is organics just a subset of
permaculture, as there are now large scale organic operations,
creating crops for export (food miles, carbon emissions, using
non-renewable energy), tied into the same corporate-scale distribution
chains that corrupted food in the first place [Pollan], organic certification,
fair trade, and cruelty-free logos notwithstanding.

Where does Agile fit in with FOSS debates? Arguably, despite Stallman's view of OS as a hijack of the FSF, it was really an attempt to forge unity with programmers and projects who agree with source sharing and collaborative development, even if they didn't meet Stallman's criteria for 'free'. Stallman and FSF prioritise freedoms of user/ hacker as if there is no distinction between the two, paying no attention to the fact that what makes free software 'inconvenient' to a hacker, makes it literally unusable by a newbie. Where freedom is 'inconvenient' in this sense, it is a luxury.

So what is Agile? Perhaps an even broader unification? One that expands on the basic freedoms of the FSD, and looks at how to systematically integrate the practice of those freedoms into the way software companies work? Note that Agile and Open Source have made contact, in the sense that one of the Agile founders was an open source company (Thoughtworks) but their article makes it clear that the practices of open source and those of Agile are by no means identical.

[perhaps the problem is that I am overstretching the analagies I am drawing? Certain parallels shed light. That doesn't mean that I ]

The relationship between open source and free software is similarly
problematic. Blurring the distinctions for the sake of false unity by
using broad brush acronyms (FOSS/ FLOSS), or talking about 'libre
software', doesn't solve the problem any more than talking about 'slow
food' sheds any light on the distinction between organics and
permaculture. Again, one is not a subset of the other. Open source
includes many things that are free software, as well as things that
are not - even though the source code is available and re-use is
allowed, the share-alike condition that ensure the freedom propogates
along with the code is not. Arguably free software includes things
that open source doesn't, for one thing because the share-alike
conditions guaratees that a user can always run the code, and anything
that includes it, gratis, and that anyone who wants to sell the code
has to add value over and above their modifications to the code.
Another difference is that while free software projects usually begin
as proposals to the community of developers, equivalent to the RFCs
(Request For Comments) that lead to internet protocols, open source
projects usually begin when a commerciallly developed proprietary
codebase is released into the wild.

'Open source' was coined as a buzz phrase in an attempt to avoid the confusion created by the two possible meanings of free (gratis vs. libre), and the common misinterpretation that free software was the opposite of commercial software, rather than the opposite of proprietary software. However, the phrase open source creates its own problems. A 2009 article on LinuxInsider, 'Open Core Debate: The Battle for a Business Model", illustrates the woolly thinking made possible by substituting the term 'open source' for 'free software'.

"There are very few purist open source companies of any meaningful size. The concept is almost a religion for some instead of focusing on the money angle," Ingres CEO Tom Berquist said. Substitute 'free workers' for 'free software', or in this case 'open source' in discussions like this, and 'slave' for 'proprietary software'. Would Berquist accuse people of religious puritanism for defending the employment of free workers, rather than slaves, as a non-negotiable principle? Or would he advocate "focusing on the money angle", and treating workers as free or slaves according to whever business model is most efficiant or profitable?

"At the same time, you essentially cede control of the platform to the community, so that the actual direction of your product is no longer under your control and therefore not predictable. That's where pure open source falls short of being a truly valid business model, which we're seeing with Red Hat," says marketing "developer" Michael Krotscheck. Why this fear of developers and users driving decision-making on architecture and priorities, as if being successful in business is somehow incompatible with democracy?


[note: beginning of the draft from the blog] 

To most people, growing food and computer programming are worlds apart. However, like the double helix of the DNA molecule, both these sectors have undergone parallel changes as we moved through the late twentieth century of the Gregorian calendar, and into the twenty-first. Patterns of information including the genome behind food plants, and the source code behind software, are no longer merely a means of generating products and services to be sold to customers. They are increasingly being claimed as "intellectual property", which they can sell over and over again without ever losing ownership, through the licensing of limited and temporary rights to whatever number of customers turns the most profit (Levine, Boldrin).

This paper describes some of the changes in the social, economic and technological organisation of farming and software development that led to this misleading property claim, and discusses some ways that communities of growers and programmers are resisting the commodification of knowledge, ideas and information by monopolistic corporations, seeking to entrench the private ownership of information.

Source of Conflict

A seed can be thought of as a recipe, a sets of DNA instructions for combining the available resources of the growing environment - water, air, soil and sunlight - into a viable plant. A 'source code' is also a recipe, a set of digital instructions for combining the resources of a computing environment including hardware, operating system and other software into a useful computer program.

Just as cooks often share recipes, many keen growers collect seeds or share cuttings of particularly useful plants. Not only can people benefit from each others experimentation, but those useful qualities are dispersed widely through the gene pool when adult plants release pollen, increasing their chances of survival. Projects like Koanga Gardens, a 'seed bank' in the Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) region of Aotearoa (NZ), ensure the continued propagation of heirloom plant varieties and the genetic legacy they carry, sending it their preserved seed stock to gardeners around the country, who plant them, and send back new seed. There are obvious public benefits to preserving the diversity of food plants, to ensure a nutritionally complete range of food is available, and to protect crops against diseases, genetic defects, and other problems which can be catastrophic if we rely on too few varieties of only a few popular foods.

Some computer programmers also like to share their recipes - the source code of the software they write. This way other software developers can incorporate existing code into their programs instead of having to write new code from scratch to do the same job. Also, improvements made to the shared code by these developers can be submitted back to the 'source pool' which benefits the original programmers and the computer-using community in general. This source-sharing practice was standard in the early days of programming, and today Internet accessible hosting services like Sourceforge.net, Savannah, and GitHub, function as 'code banks', providing repositories for shared code and collaboration tools to assist development. Again, there are obvious benefits, in speeding up the overall development of software functionality and quality, and giving programmers the freedom to easily audit each others code, for example to check for malware - software which can hijack the computer running it for purposes that range from the annoying to the nefarious.

 

Lingua Franca

Both the free software and permaculture movements include thinkers who are aware of the way language can be used to frame a discussion, presupposing certain conclusions. Richard Stallman is famous for his pedantic refusal to talk about "intellectual property", "open source software", or software being "closed" or "commercial" as opposed to "proprietary". Permaculture advocates are careful to refer to chemical and machine driven farming as "industrial" or at least "intensive", rather than "conventional", and prefer to talk about "food cultivation", rather than food production. They have resisted attempt to normalise watered down organic standards driven by the biotech industry, which would have allowed GMOs to be labeled as "organic".


Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt

[note; start with discussion of legal action, Schmeizer case, SCO case etc)

Along with politically-charged legal action, both open source and organic farming have been the subject of disinformation campaigns, which seek to manufacture a media consensus that they don't match up to the capabilities of their corporate-driven counterparts. A classic example of the proliferation of articles misrepresenting both research and reality is a piece by Guy Dixon, currently employed as Press Officer at the University of Leeds. His article, which appears on the university website, as well as Futurity.org, reviewed the results of a study from the journal Ecology Letters, which compared biodiversity on intensive and organic farms , and concluded that while large clusters of organic farms showed more biodiversity gains than small parcels of organically farmed land surrounded by industrial farming, there were some gains on all organically farmed land studied when compared to similar scale intensively farmed land. Dixon spun this into a tale of minimal biodiversity gains and massive drops in yield, entitled "Organic Farming no Boon for Biodiversity".

Not only did his claims not match the results of the article he was reviewing, but they also contradict consistent results across a range of studies showing the biodiversity benefits of organic land use practices, especially those favoured by permaculturists (mixed cropping, food forests, smaller fields, incorporating wildlife corridors and reserves etc). Relative yields weren't even mentioned in the study he was reviewing.

Negative yield comparisons for organic compared with intensive were regularly hyped up at the height of the campaign over GM food, with GMOs pitched as offering even greater yields, a claim which is at best a hopeful exaggeration [need to cite counter-evidence]. This is just one of a set of key messages which biotech companies like Monsanto continue to push out through their PR operations. The complete set can be seen in this article by Mary Spiro (2009), like Dixon, an embedded staff writer at a range of institutions (LinkedIn).

This tactic by the GM companies, although usually conducted at arm's length by funding private research institutes and PR companies, can be compared to the FUD campaign against the products of a number of open source development project, for example GNU/ Linux which claimed the Total Cost of Ownership was less for a Windows PC.

 [note: find some more examples of anti-open-source FUD]

[note: Green Wizard Greer vs. Transition Towns Hopkins parallels Geek Wizard Stallman and Open Source Raymond?]

Practical Applications

In 2003, when I began meeting with activists around the country to promote the open-publishing website Aotearoa Indymedia, I quickly realised that asking people to read the website was not going to work. Activists had begun to colonise the web in large numbers, and they were swimming in information overload. The last thing they needed was another website to read,  particularly one with such a broad and ill-defined subject matter. However it was just as obvious that they could see the  power of the web as a form or speech, and they wanted to be able to speak in that form, without having to become programmers first. So, what I started to do was, to invite and encourage activists to publish news stories about their issues of concern, and their activities, and where possible, walked them through publishing their first story. Then, while they were using the site to publish, they would also tend to have a browse over the front page, maybe read some articles, and make some comments.

The implication of this story in relation to the discussion of free culture and permaculture is that free culture advocates need to pitch to permaculturists about what the tools of free culture can do for them, and vice versa. For example, the permaculture movement was founded on the training of designers. Developing course materials online as Open Education Resources,  under a libre license, could be highly beneficial to both trainers and learners of permaculture design. The sharing of teaching materials is common practice, but an example of something free culture advocate could offer is a concerted effort to teach permaculture trainers how to wiki, and connecting them with collaboration resouces like WikiVersity; and WikiEducator, who are already hosting materials from a short permaculture course at Otago Polytech.

[It's the network, not the name or the logo that matters. First steps for forming a network.

1) Make contact: Decide who you think would add value to/ benefit from being connected to the network, and send out an invite to join the conversation

2) Agreeing on 'handshaking protocols': Discuss how you will communicate, and whether/ how you will make decisions

3) What kind of 'packets' are we sharing: The difference between an organisation and a network is that in a network the role of the member is to give/ receive information with other members, and use this information to guide their personal decision and actions, so as to create a co-ordinated response with top-down 'command and control'. A network is only useful if the prospective members know what they want to co-ordinate, and what kind of information will need to be shared to achieve that.

 4) Agreeing on topology and media: The shape and behaviour of the network will depend on who is involved, and what it's goals are. In some cases a star network with one person or group in a 'server' (co-ordinator) role might be adequate, and the media might be a print or email newsletter. In other cases a mesh network, with or without 'supernodes' (facilitators) might be appropriate, in which case a phone tree, email list, online forum, wiki, microblogs etc might be used as media.

   * possibilities for future research, 'free, open, and slow' an examination of why different people are attracted to these different words, even in the same field eg software