Ubiquitous Commons and Human Ecosystems at the STARTS program in Brussels

I think that more and more we all understand that innovation in the future will be on the intersection of arts and sciences. (video)
— Commissioner Carlos Moedas

Artistic creativity and critical thinking are essential for innovation in today’s digital world.  Already, highly innovative companies like Mercedes thrive on a strong link between artists and their engineers…The EU will support [such] multidisciplinary themes in H2020…
— Commissioner Günther Oettinger

On December 1st and 2nd 2015,  at the European Parliament and Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, in Brussels, Belgium, Human Ecosystems and Ubiquitous Commons will take part “Innovation at the intersection of Arts, Sciences and Technology” event, organized by the STARTS program.

We will present the Human Ecosystems and the Ubiquitous Commons cases as the opportunity for creating value and inclusiveradical innovation through the collaboration between sciences, technologies and the arts, creating impacts for society, administrations and businesses.

From the website of the event:

Today, it is recognised that the critical skills needed for innovation to happen and to be of value for society are – in addition to scientific and technological skills –skills such as creativity and capacity to involve all of society in the process of (open) innovation. In this context, the Arts are gaining prominence as a catalyst for an efficient conversion of S&T knowledge into novel products, services, and processes and as a catalyst of open approaches in society, research, and business.

This event will focus on innovation through crossovers from culture, in particular artistic practices, to innovation in technology, society, business and regional development. It will cover policy aspects as well as successful examples of crossovers from culture to industry and regional development. Artists will also contribute with their views.

The meeting is organised on invitation by Members of European Parliament from the Committees on Culture and Education (CULT) and Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE). The event will link directly regionally-embedded actors across Europe from private and public sectors.

More information here, including Program and location.

Watch out for updates on this website for the results of the event, and about our next initiatives.

UPDATE: here are the slides from our presentation

[slideshare id=56016489&doc=he-uc-brussels-02122015-151210135652]

Ubiquitous Commons: architecture and domain updates

Here are some updates about the evolutions of the Ubiquitous Commons platform and of the domains on which the project is focusing.

Protocol Positioning

Let’s start from positioning Ubiquitous Commons within the general technological scenario. Ubiquitous Commons operates on the general domain of the ubiquitous technologies, those devices, apparatuses, objects and processes which are disseminated and distributed in the environment and which are network connected, thus producing data through their functioning and the activities, interactions and behaviours of their users.

Ubiquitous Commons is a legal-technological protocol: it positions itself among the other technological protocols which operate at the level of networks and technologies and among their legal implications and the set of laws, regulations, standards and norms which regulate them. Ubiquitous Commons is an open protocol.

Ubiquitous Commons protocol layers
Ubiquitous Commons protocol layers

Ubiquitous Commons positions itself above the application protocol.

In the image above, we have operated a logical classification of currently available protocols:

  • physical (the ones which deal with the physical interactions which allow to transfer data and information, using electromagnetism, optic fiber, etc.);
  • network (the ones which deal with the logic of data transmission, such as routing, network identification, etc.);
  • cloud (which deals with the localization, whether physical or logical, of the storage, intelligence, processing power of the services and applications which we use, and which can vary from local up to the the effective cloud storage and processing services);
  • application (which deals with the experience connected to applications and services, their interfaces, service access points, sensorial experiences and more).

In this scheme, Ubiquitous Commons is positioned above the application protocol layer, allowing the users to manage (autonomously and by being interconnected with a society of peers) their interactions with applications and services, and the data which they produce through these interactions.

This positioning corresponds to a series of different scenario for positioning Ubiquitous Commons related infrastructure in the applications, services, devices and environment apparatuses which we use everyday. For example, Ubiquitous Commons can be enacted through add-ons or modifications to current web browsing technologies (for example browser plugins or extensions); as modifications to the hardware of devices and appliances; as the transformation of service access points; and more.

Currently two different types of implementations have been experimented: a browser plugin, allowing users to use Ubiquitous Commons in most of their user interactions with social networks, cloud services like Google mail, and more; a series of prototype firmware modifications for a number of wearable consumer devices (such as FitBit running wearables).

Protocol Logics and Architecture

The general architecture is shown in the image below:

Ubiquitous Commons protocol architecture and process
Ubiquitous Commons protocol architecture and process

Here is a step-by-step explanation of the diagram:

When data is produced

  • in the Ubiquitous Commons environment, users can define a series of identities, which they hold and manage in what we have defined as their identity pool;
  • each identity corresponds to a digital certificate, composed by a private and public key;
  • identities can be of different types:
    • individual (e.g.: me, John Smith);
    • collective (e.g.: all the people in my neighbourhood, the citizens of Rome, the researchers of some institute);
    • anonymous (e.g.: an entity who can be addressed, but for whom the correspondence with their legal identity is unknown);
    • temporary (e.g.: an identity whose effectiveness is limited in time);
    • nomadic (e.g.: an identity which can be passed on from one legal-administrative identity to the other);
    • or a combination of the above (e.g.: for example, the people participating to a certain event could constitute a collective, temporary identity).
  • whenever a certain user generates data, this data is encrypted;
  • the encrypted data is coupled with an attribution, stating which Ubiquitous Commons identity generated it (from), and which Ubiquitous Commons identities can access the data (to);
    • this attribution is generated by the “from” identity;
  • the encrypted data goes on to the service or application for which it was generated for;
  • the attribution goes on to a peer-to-peer network or infrastructure  –currently the BlockChain – in which the identifiers of the content (data) and of the from-to identities are published;
  • in this way, the user can grant the availability and access to this data to the specified identities, determined autonomously.

When Data is accessed

  • a user who desires access to the data, executes a query onto the peer-to-peer infrastructure, asking whether data identifier X has been granted access to the user’s Ubiquitous Commons identity (the “to” identity in the attribution, picked from one of the identities in the accessing user’s identity pool) by the generating user (the “from” identity);
  • if the user turns out to be attributed with the possibility to access (the query returns a positive result), the user obtains the decryption mechanism (recomposing the private key necessary to decrypting the data);
  • the user uses the decryption mechanism to decrypt and access the data;
  • the transaction is logged onto the peer-to-peer network.

Possible Domains of Application

The protocol and its implementations, thus, enable users of the various types (the identity types) to autonomously express how they wish the data they produce to be used: the access control to data is externalized from applications and is hosted within a peer-to-peer infrastructure (which is used as a metaphor of society) and which is, thus, managed collectively; the process of ensuring that data is used in ways which are compatible with the ones which the identities producing that data have expressed, turns into a commons.

The research group, as indicated by the many updates from the previous months, are exploring a number of possible application scenarios, indicated in the image below. More scenarios are possible and some are coming up in the upcoming months (both coming from us and from other, independent, communities).

Current Ubiquitous Commons application scenarios
Current Ubiquitous Commons application scenarios

As described above, the emerging uses of Ubiquitous Commons fall within two main families, which can also be simultaneously present in the various scenarios: Internet of Things (IoT) and Digital Content. The first refer to the data produced by the enormous variety of network connected devices which markets are expressing. The second refer to the number of ways in which users generate digital data, information, knowledge and, in general, artefacts within their daily lives.

The main directions in which current Ubiquitous Commons applications are being explored are shown in the image above:

  • education;

Ubiquitous Commons can be effectively used in education scenarios. First of all, it can be used to define Knowledge Commons (and this is also valid for practically all of the other listed scenarios). By describing the individual, collective, anonymous, temporary, nomadic identities who can access knowledge it is possible to create knowledge environments in which knowledge is owned and managed by communities of users which can be inclusive as desired.

This notion is particularly valuable for education and research, where this process can be enacted to produce knowledge environments which can benefit wide areas of society which can access them by default, through the open protocol, achieving levels of radical, manageable, relational, inclusive, fine tuneable openness.

For example, this process can be enacted in regards to multimedia education materials, to students projects, to the results of production activities constructed within education processes, and more.

  • research;

The same can be said for scientific and humanistic research.

This goes in the direction of easy applicability and diffusion of Open Science processes, in which the results of research can be easily and conveniently disclosed and made available through the technological and legal protocol and its implications, including interoperability, computational accessibility and more.

This is valid for scientific publications, for example, and even more for data sets.

The implications are such to suggest the emergence of entirely new ways in which Intellectual Property (IP) can be managed, introducing new models oriented towards maximizing collaboration and the emergence of new socially conscious business models.

  • health;

The implications for health are evident. Whether we are dealing with biomedical devices, data, medical records, trials, wearable technologies or the many manifestations of digital data and content in hospitals, clinics, research and general medical practice, Ubiquitous Commons can suggest and enable ways in which digital information can be shared in inclusive and responsible ways, being able to describe precise, inclusive as needed communities who can access the data, potentially causing accelerations on scientific research, the possibility to share efforts, the possibilities coming from being able to access data which is produced by a number of different subjects computationally, through a peer-to-peer network infrastructure, and more.

As in other cases, this also produces the opportunity to create new forms of relationships and of shared perceptions of participation, collaboration, responsibility and objective with all of the involved stakeholders, for example between patients, doctors, researchers and medical institutions.

  • sensors;

Ubiquitous Commons enabled sensors can be used to explicitly express who the data they produce is available for, instantly enabling scientific and social practices, new business models, new alerting models, which can be designed to be shareable with a wide variety of subjects.

  • devices;

The same goes for devices, appliances and other forms of network connected objects, whose data production (automatic or in relation to user interactions) can be configured in similar ways (for example at the moment of purchase, or through an App) to enable pluggable service models, relations, user interactions, businesses, opportunities for science and for civic life.

  • rurality;

At Ubiquitous Commons we have been exploring the many possible usages of this kind of scenario for rural life. Countryside, agriculture and rural villages and areas are progressively generating growing amounts of data, through devices, sensors, digital tools, social networks, smart appliances, IoT and more. The possibility to create common resource pools from these data, and to describe their collaborative management within high quality relational environments creates immense opportunities for business, social innovation, sustainability, shared immagination, construction and valorization of social capital, creation of shared sense of meaning and of objective, and more.

Currently, this is one of the most active threads in which we are experimenting adoption of Ubiquitous Commons based models, thanks to the collaboration with RuralHub.

  • civic scenarios;

From energy to traffic; from participatory decision-making to sharing and recontextualizing spaces; from collaboration to safety; from notification of emergencies to participating to collaborative action and production; from not being alone to creating shared meanings. Multiple types of data can be shared and used to obtain these and more effects.

Ubiquitous Commons is being investigated to bring transformative practices to apartment buildings, neighbourhoods, spaces in the city and to the ways in which people understand how they can actively and meaningfully take part in collaborative processes, also transforming the roles of institutions, which can become effective, caring catalysts, enablers and facilitators of these processes.

  • consumer

The possibility to enable consumer devices, appliances and more to use Ubiquitous Commons opens up entirely new scenarios for exploration of consumer behaviour, both from the point of view of the protection of their privacy and intimacy, and from the one of being able to draw useful insights from people’s behavioural patterns, with enormous benefits for the environment, energy, education, research, policies and more.

  • social scenarios;

The myriads of digital expressions of citizens all over the world constitute an immense wealth which is usable to describe emotions, relations, behaviours, conflicts and emergence in cities. These can be used to collectively extract meaningful insights and valuable understandings of what drives us, what we imagine, the things we desire and expect, and to use all of these understandings to start wide participatory actions and performances to transform our lives, promoting well-being, inclusion, differences, cultures and general, inclusive development.

As of now, the possibility to collect all of this information is limited to a handful of large operators, secret services, marketing companies and other large operators, and is not producing wide social impacts. On top of that, it is also not crear (nor it can be) what data and information people and organizations produce, as algorithms and opaque practices arise and progressively control and orient our daily lives. On one side we cannot use this data; on the other side it is even complicated to understand what it is.

Ubiquitous Commons allows for attributing citizens control over the data which they produce, and also to generate shared, meaningful patterns of perceived sensibility and responsibility, by enabling novel reflections in terms of identity, relation and belonging.

These can be used to foster new practices in which a new concept of digital public space emerges, which is accessible and inclusive, and also respectful of people’s right to self-determination and self-representation and, thus, to be able to more freely express our subjectivities, as individuals and as participants to multiple relational networks, cultures, belief systems. From consensus to co-existence.

More applications and updates are coming up. Please refer to this blog and subscribe to the newsletter (on this website) to be notified of updates.


Ubiquitous Commons on Shareable: a p2p revolution in rural Italy?

An article appeared today on Shareable: “Ubiquitous Commons Imagines a P2P Revolution in Italy

The article describes what happened during and after the Iperconnessioni Rurali workshop held at RuralHub, together with Nefula.

The outcomes of the process are contained in this PDF:


From the document:

“The objective of this publication is to describe in synthesis a transition scenario in which appropriate technologies are used to enact commons-based, peerto-peer organisational and operational models which are usable at local and trans-local levels, to the mutual benefit of communities and of networks of human beings and organisations.”

Ubiquitous Commons: the results of IperConnessioni Rurali: the p2p revolution for rural areas

Read more on Shareable: http://www.shareable.net/blog/ubiquitous-commons-imagines-a-p2p-revolution-in-rural-italy

Read about the Iperconnessioni Rurali workshop with RuralHub and Nefula, who created the Near Future Design scenarios.

Read the outcome report of IperConnessioni Rurali

Meet us at ICT2015 in Lisbon, where we’ll introduce many of these themes, and construct a community focused of using UC and similar techniques/technologies to perform disruptive innovation processes..

Indipendent Food: Ubiquitous Commons and rural innovation, again

A few days ago Ubiquitous Commons was invited at the MAXXI Museum in Rome for the Independent Food exhibit, curated by Giulia Ferracci and showcasing some of the principal independent operators dealing with innovation, creativity and critical approaches on rurality and nutrition.

Among them, was the Pollinaria project, a long-term residency and the work that the Futurefarmers are doing in it, mapping, preserving, archiving and exchanging ancient seeds.

Ancient seeds are a very interesting topic. Seeds are, to all effect, are a media: information, under the form of material form of the genetic information contained in seeds, is exchanged just like mp3 files for music, creating relationships, economies, knowledge.

Currently, seeds are going through a peculiar process, with practices that have been going on for thousands of years becoming subject to demanding legal, administrative and bureaucratic which have enormous impacts on the possibility for developing small businesses, and on the preservation of biodiversities, with a few major industrial operators being able to steer entire sectors of economy and culture through policies on intellectual property, on seed registries and other administrative obligations.

Seeds become information, protected by patents, licenses, intellectual property and more.

It is an enormous issue, determining not only the direction of entire economies and social ritualities, but also the possibility for the diffused presence of biodiversity (if a seed is not registered, it can turn out to be illegal), empowering a few industrial operators and inhibiting diffused economies and practices.

Within this important discussion we were called by Radio Instabile / Radio Papesse for a radio panel together with Guido Smorto and Tiziano Bonini for a discussion on the ways in which Ubiquitous Commons could play an important role in smart rurality.

For this, we referred to the many explorations on the theme which are becoming an important part of the project, for example with RuralHub, starting with the IperConnessioni Rurali workshop.

Data in rural area is produced in massive quantities and qualities and, if it becomes the focus of a high quality relational environment among all of the stakeholders, its transformation into a commons may lay down the possibility for enormous opportunities: for the development of multiple types of shared, inclusive economies; for the growth and improvement of social and relational capital; for biodiversity and well-being; and from a variety of additional points of view.

You can listen to the podcast for the rado show (in Italian), here: http://radiopapesse.org/w2d3/v3/view/radiopapesse/notizie–341/pop_ascolta.html?id=341&titolo=RADIOINSTABILE_4-SEED_AS_SOCIAL_MEDIA-BONINI-SMORTO-IACONESI-PERSICO.mp3

and you can read additional information here: http://radiopapesse.org/w2d3/v3/view/radiopapesse/notizie–341/index.html?area=7

Data Commons: Ubiquitous Commons at Smart City Exhibition 2015 in Bologna

Data as Commons. This will be the focus of our intervention at Smart City Exhibition 2015 in Bologna, on October 16th 2015, at 9:30.

What happens when data becomes a commons? How can we build the high quality relational environment which is needed for citizens to effectively manage commons? What data can become a commons? How can we create inclusive, collaborative economies of multiple types through data commons? What impacts can these kinds of processes have on a city and its community? How can the practices of daily life change through data commons?

These are only some of the issues which we’ll confront with in Ubiquitous Commons‘ intervention at the Smart City Exhibition:


We will talk about them with Gianni Dominici (General Director of Forum PA), Andrea Borruso (Open Data Sicilia), Pina Civitella (Responsible for Information Systems Development at the City Administration of Bologna), Christian Iaione (LabGov), Bruno Monti (Manager of the GIS Unit at the City Administration in Milan), Ilaria Vitellio (CEO at Mappina).

This is a very important moment for the city of Bologna, and it is also the reason why having a discussion such as this one is of fundamental importance at this time.

After being the first city in the world to officially adopt a public regulation for the care and regeneration of the urban commons (more information here on LabGov and on the P2P Foundation Wiki), the city is progressively moving towards a full scale commoning process, Co-Bologna.

This commoning process will include both material and immaterial domains, including data, information and knowledge.

In current times, we generate data and information all the time: through smartphones, cameras, networks, devices, things in our homes, offices, schools, and even when we least realise it, unconsciously, by performing common gestures like flipping a light switch or walking on a CCTV infested sidewalk. Our bodies, relations, behaviours, expressions, actions, constantly generate data and information.

In this moment in history, there is a large unbalance between people (and, in general, data-subjects), and operators (from social networks, to IoT, wearables, biomedicals, domotics, sensors and the “smart-somethings” we are commonly starting to find disseminated in our environments).

On the one hand, it is impossible for subjects to understand what data/information is generated from our behaviours. Even a simple consideration about algorithms and data harvesting and processing procedures can make this thought self-evident.

If I am posting an image about my holidays at the beach on a social network, I am also generating information about the fact that I went on holiday, that the beach is among my preferences for consumption of touristic products, that I went to that specific beach (meaning a price range, a possible inferred level of revenue, a time in which other people, who I might not even know, were at that same beach at the same time…), and the list could go on forever.

It is, simply, not possible for subjects to know what data they generate, and for what purpose it is used.

On top of that, it is also impossible for people to express how they wish their data/information to be used.

If I speak about “pollution in my neighbourhood” on a social network, it is not possible for me to specify that this information should be used for civic purposes, or for governance purposes, or for my neighbours, so that we can maybe do something about it. Every one of these subjects would have to pay (in one way or another) the social network to collect this data, even if I specified that it was for them.

This type of process goes on for domotics, smartphones, wearables, sensors and all of the network-connected devices and ambient electronics through which we generate data and information, continuously, consciously or unconsciously.

There is no way in which we can express how we wish this data to be used.

Or, from another point of view, we currently have no way in which it is possible to create an high quality relational environment (between people, organisations, companies, institutions…) in which to establish our desires, visions, purposes and scopes regarding the usage of these enormous quantities of data/information which we generate, to govern it collaboratively, with all the agreements, differences, conflicts and imaginations which are typical of human beings and their cultures.

This is possibly the most important issue for a commoning process: the possibility for the creation of a high quality relational environment in which to live in the shared governance of the commons.

Publishing Open Data (whether generated from the public administration, or collected by citizens, or else) is useless if a relational environment of this kind is absent.

This is why we feel that initiatives like the Ubiquitous Commons are so important: they establish the legal and technical protocols through which such relational environments can be described and enacted, allowing subjects to define identities, participate to them, and express how they wish that immaterial resources should be used, in an ecosystemic way.

Bologna is the first city with which we are actually considering embracing Ubiquitous Commons, in its current version or in one of its (near) future evolutions, completely or progressively, and integrating it in some way (which will be partial, initially, for sure, but growing as the process and UC grows with it) into the commoning process.

Come to Smart City Exhibition in Bologna in October to know more, keep your eyes on the commoning process in the city of Bologna, and stay updated on the Ubiquitous Commons developments.

And contact us for more information, if you wish.

ICT2015: Ubiquitous Commons and the development of Communities for Disruptive Democratic Social Innovation

Ubiquitous Commons will be at ICT2015 in Lisbon, on 20-22 October 2015, for a Networking Session about the creation of a community for Disruptive Democratic Social Innovation.

From the Session’s description:

“This session wants to establish a Community nurturing ideas, policies and solutions for ICT-based tools detecting, monitoring, supporting and governing a specific sector of the Social Innovation, characterised by the capability to modify the market (Disruptive) by enabling people to freely act, react and participate in the innovation (Democratic).

Democratic Innovation is a mandatory approach, taking into account the growing importance of citizens‘ role in decision making and policy shaping processes, and the need to provide more inclusive and cross-cultural modalities for innovation to take place. This theme will be addressed by envisioning and planning deployment of dedicated ICT solutions, and also by adoption and integration of techniques which are able to create effective cultural impacts, such as the arts and creativity, in syncretic collaboration with sciences and technologies. The result will be to extend opportunities for breakthrough innovation which are closer to people.

A first set of tools, collected through a public call for ideas and shared by the organisers, will create the ground for an open debate during the session, enabling the Community to kick-start the activities.”

The session is organised by Impact Hub, Art is Open Source, and NET-EUCEN.

You can:

In particular, it is very important that you propose your idea (for example it could use Ubiquitous Commons in a specific way, or it could include other technologies and methods), as we will make every effort to engage a wide, targeted, focused community into discussing your proposal, combining it with others and to potentially start their development.

Ubiquitous Commons at Hybrid City conference in Athens: Data to the People

Ubiquitous Commons and Human Ecosystems will be at the “Hybrid City III: Data to the People” conference in Athens, on September 17-19, organised by the University Research Institute of Applied Communication (URIAC), in collaboration with New Technologies Laboratory, of the Faculty of Communication and Media Studies, of the University of Athens.

The paper “Data and the City: moving from surveillance and control to the Ubiquitous Commons” will be presented there.

The paper will be available on the conference proceedings, and here on this website.

Here is the abstract:

Social networks and ubiquitous technologies have transformed the ways in which we communicate, learn, work, consume, express emotions, relate to each other, create and share information and knowledge.

Major operators create digitally mediated public and private spaces using hardware and software user interfaces, iconic and symbolic architectures, communication strategies and patterns.

This scenario creates private/public spheres in which users leave digital traces which are used to commoditise human behaviour and expression: for marketing, surveillance, social experiments and more, all without explicit participant consent: current modalities are not sufficient in enabling users to control the ways in which their data is used.

Algorithmic production of information is yet another space in which confusion and opacity are created in people’s perception of how their information will be used: they are not transparent and accountable, and laws, regulations and habits are not structurally able to confront with their continuous, fluid evolution.
This results in the systematic transgression of multiple human rights and expectations. This scenario describes a critical situation which must be confronted with.

In this article we propose a two-phase methodology whose objective is to find resolutive solutions for the presented context, starting from a focus on major social networks (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram).

The first phase is exemplified through a city-based project called Human Ecosystems which, at the time of writing, has been started in multiple cities (Rome, Sao Paulo, Montreal, New Haven, among others).

The project has four steps: re-appropriation; sharing; education; performance.
In the re-appropriation step, public data generated by users on major social networks is harvested and processed, to understand the Relational Ecosystems of the city, and the topic/emotion networks which are expressed by city-dwellers, thus being able to describe information and knowledge flows across communities.

In the sharing stage, all of the harvested and processed information is made available under the form of a source of real-time open data, released under with a peer-production license.

In the education stage, widely accessible workshops are used to engage the population in the understanding of the implications generated by the availability of such data, and of how this data can be used for citizens’ self-organisation, civic action, to understand the cities’ cultures and communities, and for participatory decision-making processes.

In the performance stage, an inclusive laboratory is created in the city in which students, researchers, public administrators, designers, artists and organisations receive support in building these scenarios, understanding them and their critical implications.

In the second phase of the methodology is the Ubiquitous Commons are defined. They come under the form of legal and technological toolkits which describe a “protocol” used to declare the intended use of element of ubiquitous information generated by users. It is an evolution of the concept of the Creative Commons, in the era ubiquitous information and dealing with the qualitative, quantitative, technical, technological and legal implications of these new forms of data.

Ubiquitous Commons at Ars Electronica 2015: Myriads

This year, Art is Open Source, Human Ecosystems and Ubiquitous Commons will be featured at Ars Electronica, as part of the Post City Kit exhibition, with the Myriads project (part of the wider Ubiquitous Infoscapes project).

Read more information HERE on Art is Open Source.

From Ars Electronica’s website:

Post City Kit is a toolkit of ideas, strategies, devices and prototypes for the city of the future. The city is – and will remain – a scene of a permanent human life and survival experiment. In condensed form here culture(s), social systems and economic and political policies of their time are coming to light. The Post City Kit Exhibition shows with numerous prototypes and project presentations possible development directions towards the urban habitats for the upcoming human generations.

Ubiquitous Commons updated, and the Societing Summer School at RuralHub

For a series of reasons, we were not able to attend the Societing Summer School 2015 held at the RuralHub, in Calvanico. But we still wanted to contribute some thoughts about the important role that technologies such as the BlockChain, p2p infrastructures and, in the specifics of our initiative, the Ubiquitous Commons can play in the creation of innovative scenarios for the years to come.

Basically it comes down to this: in the double transition which we are living (from scarcity to abundance; from the physical, situated, relational environment to the ubiquitous one, enacted through data, information and knowledge exchange, among human beings and devices, services and other forms of non-human entities, such as organizations, companies, institutions, etc.) it is not sufficient anymore to create innovative services or platforms. What is necessary for all enhancements for human life is the creation of the possibility of high quality relational environments.

The commons approach is progressively becoming a recognized key to foster the opportunities for positive innovation in this age of transition and of transformation.

Ideally, the commons emerge in local communities, facilitated by a Common Pool Resources (CPR) whose boundaries are well defined, sustained by a relational environment (allowing to self-organize dynamically and emergently adaptive forms of governance, as well as cheap and easily accessible forms of conflict resolution), supported by the effective supervising possibilities of monitors who are part of (or accountable to) the commoners, and with minimal interference of the institutional actors.

If the traditional commons depict the strong relation between the material CPR and the High Quality Relational Environment (HQRE) which is needed for them to be fruitfully managed, to the benefit of the whole society, the UC highlight the strong relation between the immaterial CPR and the HQRE created by establishing a peer-to-peer network (P2P).

It is here, in the P2P network, that the purpose of social conscience, imagination and sense of responsibility – which are typical of the HQRE – are enacted, and here is the place where they form the feedback loop to P2P network itself, constituting a second-order cybernetic system.

It is here that the identities can be expressed, in multiple forms (anonymous, individual, collective, nomadic, temporary).

It is here that all of these identities can express their will and desires.

It is here that access and experience do start.

The actors can take the form of one of the possible UC types of identities:

anonymous: a participant to the P2P network whose identity may be undisclosed for particular reasons;

  • individual: a participant whose identity is associated to the one of a certain, single, legal person (e.g.: John Smith, or ABC Ltd.);
  • collective: a participant whose identity is associated to a concept describing a set of subjects (e.g.: farmers, citizens of town X, the people associated to the Y association) or a goal (e.g.: civic action, ethical scientific research, ancient seeds cultivation);
  • nomadic: a participant whose identity is associated to a shifting set of legal persons, one at the time, for particular reasons (e.g.: first it is John Smith, then John Smith passes it on to Mark White, then Mark White passes it on to ABC ltd, etc.);
  • temporary: a participant (of the anonymous, individual, collective, or nomadic types) whose identity is limited in time, for particular reasons (e.g.: for an event, for a project).

Each identity corresponds to a public/private crypto-key:

  • the members of the identity have the private key (whether it is the single member of the individual identity, or the multiple members of a collective identity);
  • it is up to the responsibility of the members of a collective identity to keep, share or manage their collective private key.

These subjects enter the P2P network through a trust mechanism creating that sense of responsibility that fuels the entire relational environment:

  • the trust mechanism can be enacted in multiple ways, for example by direct inclusion, through reputation mechanisms, through “citizenship” mechanisms (e.g.: each new citizen receives the “private crypto-key to the city”, thus becoming effective part of the collective identity of the citizens), and more;
  • these actors are related through a set of relationships that express, for the scope of the P2P network, one or more purposes or goals (e.g.: collaboration, research, business, consumption); goals can evolve and change over time;
  • these actors generate or access a variety of types of immaterial products: data, information, knowledge, networks, processes, recipes, insights, wisdom;
    • these immaterial products can be produced/ expressed through a variety of means and media, including social networks, databases, transactions, sensors, IoT, network connected devices, smartphones, biometrics, and more;
  • these types of immaterial products, when produced, are shared on UC together with one or more “relation”, which also indicates a scope and a purpose (for example, I could share my data of type X with individual identity Y, with the collective identity “citizens of my city” or “Innovative Farmers X”, with a temporary identity for a certain event, etc.);
    • using the UC mechanisms, the actors indicated would be the only ones to be able to access the information;
    • if any improper use was made, it would be up to the quality of the relational environment to handle the situation, and to solve the conflict;
    • this is one of the parts of the model where the HRQE becomes evident and needed, highlighting the dependence of any commons-based model on it;
  • so, immaterial products are shared through the Block Chain and self-governed through the P2P network;
  • immaterial products become accessible and usable, in this way, for several scopes and relations, and can be harvested (in realtime or offline, as needed) through the Human Ecosystems – HE (for example, the mayor of a city could use HE to fetch through UC “all of the civic relevant messages shared on social networks by the members of citizens of city X collective identity, shared for this purpose”, without having to pay social network providers and suffer their limitations, and reclaiming the data/information which was generated for public/civic purposes);
  • all of these immaterial products therefore, can be used to create Apps, visualizations, maps, services, gadgets, artworks, designs, games, education processes, researches, public screens or anything respecting the expressed purpose;
    • on the Block Chain every transaction would be logged, so that it could become fairly easy to track down any improper use of it;
    • the transactions can also have validity as micro contracts, since they are certified and encrypted through strong crypto-keys;
    • since the transactions live on the Block Chain, which is also the P2P infrastructure meant to handle Bitcoin transactions and providing the possibility for paid transactions, the whole system would be fairly easy and direct (e.g.: “free for collective identity citizens of city X, paid 0.005 bitcoins for all the rest.”).

This model can be instanced in multiple ways. It can be specified and designed for:

  • a series of types of actors/participants of the P2P network
  • their relations and purposes
  • the types of immaterial products they produce/experience, and where they are found (social networks, databases, IoT, Apps, devices, networks, processes..);
  • the logics (relations + purposes + flows) according to which these immaterial products are shared in the commons;
  • the description of the outputs of the process, and how they are used (an App? a service? a visualization? a process? an action? an event? …).

In the Ubiquitous Commons project, we are working on these issues, creating working prototypes which act on social networks, network-connected devices, smartphones, domotics, wearables and, in general, several cases of Internet of Things scenarios, going from smart kitchens, to IoT automobiles, medical devices and more.

Each of these represents a challenge which is not only technological, but also legal and, most important of all, anthropological.

In this sense, the collaboration with rural areas, for example with the RuralHub, are truly important. Rurality is far from the city, but not so far, as the scenario of rurality in the connected age is complex beyond imagination, with multiple types of permanent, but also temporary, migrations, even daily or hourly ones, at physical, communicational and mental levels, with people imagining their escape routes from “the city” (and all it represents) towards rural settings. And rurality is the place where the connectedness with the environment has been preserved and nourished, together with the recognition of its limitedness; the preciousness and volatility of knowledge (and the necessity to preserve it and promote it, see traditional knowledge); and the evidence of the possibility of truly different, relations-based options for brining up better societies.

In these times, rurality is finding its new ways. These ways include technologies and hyperconnectivity, and all the good and bad which comes with it. This reinvention is a blank slate – but one with a powerful background, history and knowledge – in which we can experiment, in multiple ways, getting the people involved, with their mindsets, cultures, opinions and desires and expectations.


Iperconnessioni Rurali at Commons Camp 2015

UC – Ubiquitous Commons will contribute to the Common Camp experience with a plenary session dedicated to the introduction and discussion of the pamphlet “Iperconnessioni Rurali“.

“Iperconnessioni Rurali” and the Ubiquitous Commons Project – Plenary Session

6th July 2015

Adam Arvidsson, Alex Giordano, Salvatore Iaconesi, Oriana Persico

curated by:
Rural Hub and Art Is Open Source

Iperconnessioni Rurali workshop,  held in April 2015 at Rural Hub, is the very first first attempt to apply the methodological and conceptual UC frame to rural contexts.

As a result of the workshop, together with the group of participants we edited the homonymous pamphlet “Iperconnessioni Rurali”, which will be presented and discussed for the first time during the plenary session of Common Camp, on July 6th 2015 in Calvanico (Salerno, Italy).

Designed by Nefula, the pamphlet will be soon released and available online.