Medialab Prado


Roundtable: P2P Economies and Forms of Production

08.07.2009 17:00h - 20:00h

Place: Medialab Prado · Plaza de las Letras, C/ Alameda, 15 Madrid

Roundtable about P2P Economies and Forms of Production, moderated by Juan Freire. Participants: Gonzalo Martín, María Ptqk, Rubén Díaz, and Rubén Martínez, as part of the activities of the Seminar of the 4th Inclusiva-net Meeting: P2P Networks and Processes (July 6 - 10, 2009).


Juan Freire's approach -moderator-

Initial “provocations”

1) Let’s take a deliberately simplified, black and white approach where we examine two positions that are radically opposed, or at least seem to be, in relation to the economic and political meaning of forms of production based on the P2P model:

P2P as “pure markets”, with no type of intervention or regulation by authorities. These are markets in the broadest sense of the term, where exchanges are not always, or even mainly, monetary.
P2P as the “new Socialism”, but again, a "Socialism without the state" that does not transcend models based on a market economy (this position was defended recently by Kevin Kelly in an article in Wired [1], with a response and rebuttal by Lawrence Lessig [2]).

2) Let’s forget the "wishful thinking" that sees P2P and digital culture as new Utopias without considering the essential prior conditions needed for that type of transformation. Therefore, let’s ask what is needed to make those Utopias possible. Is P2P sustainable economically?, What are economically feasible strategies?, What structures and powers come into question and probably to an end by turning into declared “enemies” for the purpose of fighting for their survival?

3) Is there only one definition of P2P? and/or Is there such a thing as “P2P fundamentalism”?, Is it acceptable (necessary) to carry out adaptations in the basic or essential P2P concept to make it viable and operative? As examples, we have Medialab in its role as an organizing and facilitating intermediary in processes or the use of open APIs as “substitutes” for free software.

4) The danger of corporate appropriation of P2P production (P2P as a new form of bio-politics). Example: crowdsourcing.



Gonzalo Martín's approach

"I’m interested in making a distinction between the technical aspects of P2P—certain transmission protocols that users may or may not see—from the purely social effects of building distributed networks characterized by the phenomemon of sharing. I find it important to differentiate the results of the existence of communication protocols that enable file sharing from the mere fact that they exist, which has been taken to signify the breakdown of prevailing models of intellectual property law. In sum, we aim to speak not of piracy but instead of the existence of uncontrollable networks that make it possible to create temporary coalitions of individuals for a common purpose.”


María Ptqk's approach

What are the implications of P2P as a model of social organization?
Are there any intermediate or transversal models that go beyond the dichotomy of "P2P as pure markets" vs. "P2P as the new Socialism"?
What conditions make it possible to speak of equality, liberty, cooperation, participation and collective work in contemporary forms of production?
Is P2P a network organization?
What does building models mean?


Rubén Martínez's approach

"I’m not interested in the law or laws (the former is an empty concept and the latter, notions that act in complicity) or even rights—what interests me is jurisprudence".  Gilles Deleuze

Over the last few decades, culture and economics have been moving closer together. The concept of culture as knowledge and the value of cultural development have been put up against the wall, having been measured in terms of scale and significance via traditional economic indicators. Under the logic of cultural industries and their younger sisters, christened as “creative industries”, models of economic relations have been imposed based on competition and the reification of homo economicus in contexts where the majority of emergent practices of cooperation, collaboration and fairness are being gradually destroyed. This regime of government and the homogenization of culture as merchandise under discourses that equate social development with the free market (a pirouette that would be difficult to prove) have not taken place univocally. Although they comprise organizations that legislate and utilize repressive and monopolizing tactics, the scenario must be understood in a more complex way, where various bio-political and subjectivity production devices are at play. P2P networks bring up a transversal debate about this type of matter, emerging as a technological tool that results in other forms of economy that can be generated from bottom to top… or that can be legislated and handcuffed, reproducing in disguise the same governing tactics. Can P2P networks be an element that breaks into the current legislative reality and prevailing economic thought, generating a new paradigm? From this standpoint, I will aim to contribute a perspective that avoids black-and-white confrontation, but where there is no lack of knaves, enemies, or jesters.


Rubén Díaz's approach

Filesharing using P2P tools is an “out-of-place” practice. The intellectual property of these goods works according to mercantile property logic. And private property pertains to economic circles, in contrast to what is public, which belongs to individuals and free trade. This head-on clash with the logic of sharing what is private within a sharing economy produces chaos in established common sense (constructed as what lends meaning to power as opposed to a supposed minority that is identified and homogenized as “the Internet sector” or “P2P culture”). 

Engaging in a reflection on new economic policy programmes involves at least double the effort for users (citizens). Firstly, it means understanding that the current economic paradigm is still a convention. As Chomsky said in “Warning to Navigators” in 1998, “the chance to have these technological instruments” is in our hands, “instead of leaving them to large companies. To do so, there must be coordination among groups opposed to this monopolization, using technology with creativity, intelligence and initiative to foster education, for example”. Once we get over the shock, we are faced with a second effort that sounds even madder to many: one must dare to clarify the differences between a welfare state and a state of the commons, between a sensation of scarcity as opposed to one of abundance and satisfaction.

To reduce the fatigue caused by these efforts, we will need more mediators (and less media, thinking of Martín Barbero), "hubs" and human search engines (if we yield interpretation to Google we will not be fortunate), facilitators who know how to translate to a “moral majority”—to use Emmanuel Rodríguez’s term from "El gobierno imposible. Trabajo y fronteras en las metrópolis de la abundancia" (The Impossible Government: Work and Borders in the Metropolises of Abundance)--  the idea of a “new social contract” that, as users and citizens, makes us aware of the need to participate and reclaim the spaces of the commons, demanding an equitable redistribution of wealth, both material and immaterial, when faced with private transnational monopolies and other imperial interests that we see the State yield to in times of crisis in an obvious and blatant way.


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