RE: [-empyre-] Cooperation

There are very many interesting questions here. 

Of all of the potential conversations to start I am most interested in
the one regarding temporary alliances -- It seems to me that _all_
cooperation, community, and collaboration is bounded by time - they are
all temporary alliances- nothing fixed about them. So I wonder what the
possibilities are for explicitly temporary alliances -- what the
implications are ( for a "group", for an individual's commitment and
motivation to contribute) of accepting this temporality as a starting
point and a necessary condition of collaboration and cooperation. 

I wonder how explicit temporality can avoid being a casualness of
committment on the part of all members -- i.e. we begin
cooperation/collaboration with an understanding that we are a temporary
convergence - how can we still be accountable to each other and to the
group-in-formation that will soon dissolve?

looking forward to hearing where the discussion goes this month,

-----Original Message-----
[] On Behalf Of Trebor
Sent: Thursday, February 05, 2004 12:57 PM
To: empyre (to post)
Subject: [-empyre-] Cooperation 

members of empyre:

For April 24/ 25 Geert Lovink and I organize a two-day conference:
"networks, art, & collaboration" to be held at the Department of Media
Study, SUNY at Buffalo. The city of Buffalo as context for this event
has a rich history of collaborations in emerging media. The expressed
focus of the event is on (online) collaboration and we will experiment
with conference formats (ie. no lectures).

On -empyre- each week, until the end of February I will post thoughts
taken from a longer text that I wrote outlining issues in cooperation
that made this a worthy focus for us. After each introduction is posted,
Geert Lovink and I will both respond to your comments and questions.

Trebor Scholz

I start here with some questions. They are not answered in the fragment
of the text that follows but they can serve as an entry point to a
discussion. We hope these topics will find the interest of empyre

 Is fear in the face of terrorism in all its variations the reason for
the renewed attention to collaborative efforts of the 1960s, which were
often seen as models for social change (Cotter)? Looking back to Fluxus,
play theory of the 1960s, networked art, and micro radio -- what can we
learn for our cooperations in new social network architectures such as
collaborative weblogs or wikis? How real or imagined is the potential of
these open content formats for social change?

Participatory online cultures allow for shared information systems,
development and knowledge representation. Is this the end of the
university as we know it? Will open source software become the new
weapon of mass instruction (Lovink)? How do these new contexts change
the way we learn, or distribute knowledge? Which of these open source
tools are in our reach right now and where can we download them? How
does the miniaturization of databases impact cooperative efforts? How do
we best balance working together chest to chest with collaborating

 Can the term Free Cooperation become useful as it points to a
particular setting of collaboration? Do we need collective leadership
(what about the German saying "too many cooks don't make for a good
pie")? How can we be "free" in a cooperation? Who gets the credit? What
are the rules of a given cooperation and how can we re-negotiate them?
Whose labor remains invisible? What about competition, self-sacrifice
and individual gain? What should be part of an ABC of free cooperation?
What did we learn about gender dynamics in cooperations (man/ man,
woman/ woman, woman/ man)?

-- The Collaborator
Collaboration is a hot buzzword today. The use of terms like
collaboration, solidarity, friendship, we-ness, network, interaction,
community, alliance, collectivity, and more recently, free cooperation
varies widely depending on the agenda of the person using it.
"Collaborator" in many languages stands for a sympathizer with Fascists
in Germany.

In post-WWII times, for instance, Slovenians and Croatians were shown on
Serbian Television broadcasts as Nazi sympathizers. Today, the Slovenian
group "Laibach" provokes the audience with references to these
historical traumas with post-industrial music. I grew up under socialism
in East Germany and there a substantial part of the population consisted
of what we called "Stasi collaborators." To this day "collaborator" is a
word with heavy connotations.

By definition collaboration implies "to work together, especially in an
intellectual pursuit." The term "collaboration" suggests that we cannot
achieve the same goal on our own. It assumed that there is a common goal
and that people in the group share responsibility in achieving this

-- Free Cooperation
Collaboration and cooperation must be free, very much in opposite to the
forced collaborations in the creative industries. Freedom always means
the freedom of those who think differently from us (Luxemburg).

 Cooperation commonly means that people assist each other to reach the
same end. In cooperation people walk in parallels. Each participant is
in it for herself, motivated by egoistic "micro-motivation"? (Tuomela)
or altruistic collective reasons. Free Cooperation, with the German
critic Christoph Spehr in "Gleicher als der Andere," emphasizes that
everybody can freely leave the cooperation at any time taking with them
what they put in. Free cooperation needs to pay off. If there are
disagreements the cooperation needs to remain workable. There is no
cooperation in which nobody is taken advantage off, in which everything
is ideal. There is no such thing as a pure and perfect cooperation.

-- Cooperation and Open Content Models
Cooperative group models in the urban United States, include models such
as Reclaim the Streets, and Critical Mass. During the anti-war protests
of 1993 bicyclers in San Francisco blocked major urban intersections and
highways with hundreds of bikes as part of "Critical Mass." This was
initiated by leafleting in neighborhoods with times and dates of such
actions without any central leadership. "Reclaim the Streets" is a
similarly decentralized model of taking back the public sphere. Other
ways of organizing community include broadcasting free radio, graffiti,
and street parties. Jeff Ferrell points especially to Radio Free ACTUP,
The Micro-Radio Empowerment Coalition, and Slave Revolt Radio.

 In German "Kinderläden" parents rotate their child care in a rented
store or flat. In San Francisco, a similar, less formalized small-scale
model exists in which parents in a given neighborhood trade their time
watching over the children. Each time you put in time you receive a
token giving you the right to claim that same amount of hours from the
cooperative network. Once you run out of tokens you have no right to
benefit from this cooperation anymore. Only up to ten such tokens are
given out at a time.

In the Internet, The University of Openness' "Distributed Library
( is "a shared library catalogue and borrowing
system for people's books and videos. There is no reason the dlp
shouldn't be used to share other resources too, which is one of the
development aims of this project." Users of the open source software
locate fellow "librarians" in their vicinity and share with them
whatever their local library would not have. This is only one example of
cooperative networks. I will come back to more examples of open, shared
and free networks later.

-- Temporary Alliances
Chantal Mouffe and Ernesto Laclau use the term "radical and pluralist
democratic" discourse to describe a project that creates links among
multiple struggles against subordination and domination. No one subject
position, be it defined by class, race, or gender functions as central
identifier for a given temporary alliance. People of different
backgrounds come together focusing on one single issue. One example is
the green movement. To solve global ecological problems Buckminster
Fuller envisioned an international cooperative effort that would create
"some artifact, some tool or invention."

As the creation of technology-based artworks requires increasingly
deeper levels of specialization and collaboration between the
technological and conceptual components. Collaborations between artists
and programmers are the subject of many conferences such as "The Beauty
of Collaboration," in March 2003 at The Banff Centre in Canada. Also the
last issue of Mute features articles about the radical political
potential of  open content formats, and the changes of learning as we
know it.

-- ...

empyre forum

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