Viva Maria or understanding 1968

In an ongoing personal quest to figure out what to learn from the uprisings of 1968, I recently read two books by Rudi Dutschke, the German student leader. (I read Cohn-Bendit years ago, he didn’t give me any clues.)

Dutschke seems like a decent and dedicated guy, standing up against tendencies of dogmatism and sectarianism and thinking strategically about the role of the extra parliamentary left. He would probably be a positive influence on today’s left, would he not have been tragically shot by a right-wing extremist.

The thing is though, some of his analysis is totally off the rails if you read him now, fifty years later. His whole (rightful) critique of the economic and political system of the Soviet Union, East Germany and the rest of the East Bloc, which he calls “state slavery”, is based on the premise that the Russian revolution was influenced by Asian instead of European values and culture. This Eurocentrism and Orientalism seems so out of place for someone who was on the front lines of anti-imperialism and international solidarity at the time.

From a foreword to one of the books, by his wife Gretchen Dutschke-Klotz, I learn that a major inspiration for his international solidarity came from a film called “Viva Maria”.

“Viva Maria” was a film with Jeanne Moreau and Birgitte Bardot about the Mexican revolution. It had become a symbol for the big interest and participation in the liberation struggle of the Third World. Rudi watched the film at least five times, if not more. When he had the time to go to the cinema, which was rare, he would usually fall asleep after five minutes — but never at “Viva Maria”.
Rudi Dutschke, Gå upprätt, p 12, my translation

So this film… I’m not going to review it, but let’s just say that Dutschke’s generation didn’t have a scooby doo about what was happening in the rest of the world. And seeing it, I realised that 1) I shouldn’t be too hard on his Eurocentrism, he didn’t know better 2) I still don’t know what to make of 1968.

Plattformskooperativ utmanar internetjättarna

Idén till plattformskooperativ kommer ur insikten att det som vid första anblicken verkade vara ett praktiskt sätt att dela tjänster, så som AirBnb och Uber, spårat ur till vad som kallas plattformskapitalism.

Via sin digitala plattformar drar företagen in enorma pengar på folks vardagliga arbete, men ger väldigt lite tillbaka, både till lokalsamhällena och de som bidrar med sina tjänster. I ett plattformskooperativ är det istället de som hyr ut sin lägenhet eller skjutsar någon som gemensamt äger verksamheten, för att på så sätt skapa lösningar som är socialt hållbara och ekonomisk lönsamma för fler.

När vi tänker på konsumentkooperativ idag, alltså företag där konsumenterna gemensamt äger företaget, är det ofta stora etablerade företag som Coop och Folksam vi tänker på, där det kan vara svårt att se den ursprungliga tanken med den typen av organisation. Men när de traditionella kooperativen bildades var det ett sätt att bryta monopol, ta tillbaka kontrollen över en orättvis prissättning och se till att vinsten från verksamheten återinvesterades i bättre utbud och tjänster.

Med plattformskooperativen har vi möjlighet att bryta liknande monopolsituationer på nätet, och garantera att vinsterna av våra små arbetsinsatser med att köra taxi eller hyra ut en lägenhet inte automatiskt hamnar i Silicon Valley.

På internet betalar vi ofta inte i form av höga priser, som när Konsum utmanade lokala livsmedelsmonopol i början av 1900-talet, utan med vår arbetsinsats och vår personliga integritet. Dagens internetföretag kan göra mångdubbelt större vinster än traditionella företag, i förhållande till hur många anställda de har. Anledningen är det arbete vi som användare gör åt dem. Varje gång vi fyller i våra personuppgifter, gillar något eller kommunicerar med andra på deras plattformar, skapar vi värdefull data som kan säljas till annonsörer.

Genom att som kooperativ driva en egen molntjänst eller plattform kan vi utnyttja alla möjligheter och fördelar med decentraliserade plattformar utan att förlora kontrollen över vinsten eller vår personliga data.

En annan anledning till att organisera sig i kooperativ är att det ger konkreta praktiska fördelar att driva en verksamhet gemensamt. Det sparar kostnader och administration, och kan göra det möjligt att gemensamt anställa specialister för vissa arbetsuppgifter. Idag är bostadsföreningar och kooperativa förskolor småskaliga exempel på kooperativ organisering. Ett intressant historiskt exempel är de frysboxföreningar som var vanliga på 50-talet. Att ha en egen frys hemma var alldeles för dyrt, men genom att gå ihop med några familjer i en ekonomisk förening och dela på en frysbox blev det tillgängligt och prisvärt.

En modern variant på frysboxföreningen skulle kunna vara att gå samman för att driva en gemensamma server, för att få tillgång till krypterade och säkra alternativ till molntjänster som Google Drive, Dropbox och Messenger. Det kan göras i en relativt liten skala, men kräver att någon med teknisk kompetens finns tillgänglig för underhåll och är (precis som frysboxarna på 50-talet) dyrt att göra var och en för sig. Det finns redan många spännande exempel på det här, som kallas “Cloud Coops” och som är något jag tror att vi kommer att få se mycket mer av, ju mer vi ser konsekvenserna av att lämna vår personliga data i händerna på tvivelaktiga företag. I Sverige finns redan föreningen Fripost som driver en mail-server som en ideell förening och håller workshops i att lämna Googles tjänster.

På webbplatsen The Internet of Ownership finns en katalog över plattformskooperativ som tillämpar principen om gemensamt ägande av digitalt drivna verksamheter inom en mängd olika områden. Där finns till exempel Stocksy, ett slags Flickr som ägs av fotograferna; Fairmondo, ett Blocket ägt av säljarna och köparna och en lista på Cloud Coops för kooperativa molntjänster.

Hur ska föreningslivet förhålla sig till Facebook?

Efter den senaste tidens avslöjanden har det blivit uppenbart att Facebook inte är ett företag som värnar om demokrati, personlig integritet eller unga personers psykiska hälsa. Så hur kan föreningslivet förhålla sig till den här teknikjätten, som vi är så beroende av för att organisera oss och nå ut till medlemmar?

Foto av Shadowsun7

Vad vi vetat sedan tidigare är att Facebook samlar in all vår användardata för att sälja riktade annonser. Det kan låta harmlöst, men har till exempel använts för att sälja annonspaket som riktar sig specifikt till psykiskt instabila tonåringar.

Det nya som kommit fram de senaste veckorna är hur den sammantagna datan från miljontals användare använts för att påverka politiska val och folkomröstningar, utan användarnas godkännande och eventuellt i strid mot lagen.

För att ge en kort sammanfattning, så samlade tvivelaktiga forskare och företag 2014 in data från 50 miljoner ovetande användare. Baserat på den informationen skapade de ett system för “psykologisk profilering”, till exempel genom kartläggning av användarnas sexuella läggning, barndoms-trauman eller etnicitet. Det systemet användes sedan för att, ofta med skrämselpropaganda, skapa riktad annonsering för Trumps valkampanj och Brexit i Storbritannien. Facebook har känt till att användardatan missbrukats, men i princip inte gjort något alls för att stoppa det.

Hur kan demokratiska föreningar, speciellt föreningar för unga personer, förhålla sig till det här? Vi vet att många föreningar är beroende av Facebook för att nå ut till nya och gamla medlemmar, för att opinionsbilda, ordna event, diskutera och organisera sig internt.

Hur skyddar vi våra medlemmars personliga data från att missbrukas av skrupellösa företag eller xenofoba politiska kampanjer?

Är det överhuvudtaget förenligt med demokratiska värderingar att använda Facebook?

I Digidem Lab arbetar vi med att hitta och rekommendera säkra digitala verktyg för organisering för föreningslivet. Säkerhet är alltid relativt, och behöver ofta vägas mot användarvänlighet, effektivitet och förmåga att nå ut till många. Även om vi föredrar kryptering, öppen källkod och decentraliserade tjänster är det inte alltid praktiskt möjligt att använda den typen av tjänster.

Det finns ändå några saker som vi tycker att alla föreningar kan börja göra redan idag

  • Gör inte era medlemmar beroende av att skapa konton hos teknikjättar som Facebook och Google, som lever på att samla in och sälja personlig data. Det är en sak om medlemmar vill använda de tjänsterna privat, men som förening bör ni inte göra det valet åt dem. Se till att det finns fler ställen än Facebook för att hålla sig uppdaterad om vad som händer i föreningen.
  • Utforska alternativa tjänster för event-organisering, diskussioner, beslutsfattande och kommunikation i föreningen, för att successivt kunna byta till tjänster som respekterar demokrati och personlig integritet.
  • Flytta diskussioner och distansmöten mellan aktiva medlemmar till andra tjänster, även om ni fortsätter att använda Facebook för att nå ut till nya medlemmar.
  • Diskutera sociala medier med era medlemmar och vad det kan få för konsekvenser att dela personlig information och politiska åsikter.

I nästa blogginlägg kommer vi att rekommendera några säkrare digitala verktyg för föreningar.

No other country has seen a steeper fall — OECD reports about Sweden

Inequality

Sweden’s level of income inequality is low by international standards but has steadily increased since the mid-1980s, faster than in any other OECD country.

The long-term rise in income inequality was driven by widening gaps in market income, but also by weakening redistribution: tax rates fell and out-of-work benefits grew more slowly than wages.

http://www.oecd.org/sweden/sweden-achieving-greater-equality-of-opportunities-and-outcomes.pdf

Education

No other country taking part in PISA has seen a steeper fall.

http://www.oecd.org/sweden/sweden-should-urgently-reform-its-school-system-to-improve-quality-and-equity.htm

There are signs of growing inequalities in the distribution of learning outcomes in Sweden. The gap between the highest- and lowest-performing students has increased over the last decade and is now wider than the OECD average. The performance gap between socio-economically advantaged and disadvantaged students is also increasing.

http://www.oecd.org/sweden/PISA-2015-Sweden.pdf

Housing

The Survey points out that housing prices have soared, and are now among the highest in the 35-member OECD. Household indebtedness has risen in tandem, while the lack of affordable housing has worsened both inequality and labour mobility. A comprehensive reform package is therefore needed.

http://www.oecd.org/sweden/sweden-s-economy-is-resilient-and-growing-strongly-but-must-address-rising-challenges.htm

Daenerys as Lenin and John Snow as Fidel — the kings and queens of Game of Thrones as socialist…


Maybe it’s a stretch to call Daenerys a Leninist, but she has his strong sense of entitlement, of thinking that she knows what is best for the common people and how to liberate them. She rules together with a small vanguard of close advisers, who may not always agree on strategic considerations, but nevertheless are for ever loyal to their leader. Spending most of her days in exile, she gathers her forces and waits for the right moment to return to the motherland. Her righteousness can lead to unnecessary cruelty, even if the ambition of universal liberation is admirable.

Jon Snow combines Fidel Castro’s strategic mind in pulling together a populist alliance against “the enemy in the North” with Che’s bearded charisma as a fighter. He’s not the most democratic leader, and god knows what he’ll become if he gets complete power, but being in the front-line and earning his people’s trust are central to his brand of leadership. Presenting himself as a down to earth guy, he still has all the confidence of being from a “high born” family.

And yes, Cersei certainly has an element of Stalinism to her. Being the ultimate real politician, there isn’t much room for ideology here, and any agreement or tactical alliance is okay as long as it consolidates her own power. Emerging from the shadows of seemingly more powerful people, she gradually extends her power by crushing one rival after another.

The guys who would rather die standing than live on their knees, aka the Wildlings, aka the Free Folk, are the anarchists of the realm. With a slight tendency to glorify violence and a deep mistrust of all kings and queens, they live by their own rules on the fringes of society. While democracy isn’t very highly regarded in the rest of the Seven Kingdoms, the Free Folk gets their general assembly together whenever it is decision making time. Mance Ryder is their Makhno or Durruti, someone who is looked up to not as a “rightful heir”, but for exceptional organising and fighting skills.

Making Madrid´s citizen platform accessible to a wider audience

Upcoming project at Medialab Prado’s Collective Intelligence 2017.

The citizen platform Consul is used by Madrid and over thirty other cities in Spain, as well as several cities in Latin America. In the last few months it has also been used by the social housing company of Paris for participatory budgeting and the British People’s Momentum for their annual meeting. This makes it one of the most interesting and well used open source projects for deliberative democracy right now.

Many of the organisations and social movements that we in Digidem Lab are in contact with are impressed by the possibilities of Consul. But it is also hard to demo the tool for them, and show them what their next step for implementing it would be.

Although a very useful tool with a wide range of use cases, the installation and setup process requires a lot from its administrators, and is something we believe is holding it back from being more widely used.


Adapting to new needs

With the new target audiences for Consul (cities abroad, NGO:s, different kind of participatory budgets), we need to look at the user journeys for adapting the tool for the different users and see how to best meet their needs and expectations.

This project is about finding the best ways to lower the threshold for the installation and setup process for these new target audiences. With an interdisciplinary team of marketers, developers and designers, we would be able to tackle many of the obstacles to wider implementation of Consul and provide a clear step by step process for any organisation interested in implementing and adapting it.

Any self hosted platform will of course have the problem of needing people with technical expertise. But some open source platforms, like for example Nextcloud, has shown an ability to meet their users half way by providing a range of options for installations, demo versions and documentation.

Finding the pain points

We will work in two phases, by first identifying new target audiences, their needs and pain points; then work iteratively on the setup process and documentation.

In the first phase we will get to know the users by defining target audiences, researching user experiences, defining personas and drawing user journeys.

Defining new target audiences: Which are the new groups using Consul, and how do we pinpoint and define these new users?

Researching user experiences: Interviewing for example Open Source Politics from France and Peoples Momentum from the UK about their experiences from using Consul in new contexts.

Personas and user journeys: Defining detailed profiles for our new personas. Creating user journeys for how the personas ideally would come to adopt Consul. Identifying pain points and obstacles where improvements in the documentation and installation process can be made.

Working on improvements in iterations

In the next stage, we work on improvements in iterations looking at for example automated installation options; a clearly designed installation guide; pre-configured installation profiles or demo versions based on the known user cases like citizen platforms, annual meetings, participatory budgeting.

Automated installation: Help the Consul development team with automated installation scripts for Ansible or Heroku. There are some progress in making Docker images that we could develop further.

Installation guide: There is a new drafted text from the Consul team. We could design and set up a manual in for example Read the docs or Hexo and work on the texts. Another option to explore is to make instruction videos for the different user cases.

Installation profiles and demo versions: The Consul team is working on a preconfigured setup file that we could extend to cover more cases that would be useful for demo versions.

Going worldwide

We are collaborating with the Consul development team to contribute to their work and base this development on their future needs. They are already making progress in these three areas, that we could feed into and develop further during the lab.

The overall theme is to make the installation and setup process easier and more accessible, to make it go worldwide! While these are general ideas about how to do it, the exact ways will depend on the identification of personas and user journeys, our contact with the Consul team, and the input and different skills that the working team contribute with during the lab.

The Jamie Oliver of anarchism

David Graeber is sort of the Jamie Oliver of anarchism: he demystifies the ideas and practices of modern activism and explains complex issues in a non academic language.

What makes him stand out as a left wing political thinker is also his actual experience of practical political organising, from the globalisation movement and Occupy Wall Street. That puts him in a special line of writers, like when Che writes about guerrilla warfare or Lenin about the state and the revolution. You don’t have to agree with these people to find their point of view relevant for discussion.

Unfortunately, this is also something that alienates him from “mainstream” Marxism. Most people in these circles base their ideas about organisation on the structure of the labour movement a hundred years ago. But lets face it, the organisational structure of the dominant protest movements of the last thirty years has been completely dominated by anarchist and feminist ideas.

Why not anxious?

I wonder how many percent of the population will have to suffer from anxiety before it stops getting treated as something caused by abnormal personal experiences. When you personalise a problem that effects a majority, you clearly must be missing the point.

My therapist sort of looked relieved when I said that I was brought up in the evangelical church — “there it is”. Yes, that probably contributed. But I also got anxious from the competitive grading system at school; the uncertainty of the job market when I left school; my growing student loan; the difficulty of finding a flat and the fifteen times I had to move in ten years; the police repression and vilification in media I got exposed to for being active against militarism and neo-liberalism; the prospect of climate chaos; living in a country with the fastest growing income equality in the western world; the rise of neo-fascism and the personal threat it poses to many of my friends; my dad’s early retirement for a rare disease, the lack of support from the healthcare system and ridiculously low pension he gets; the fact that most of my friends also have or have had mental health problems.

The real question to me is “how did I not have anxiety problems for so may years?”.

I take the blame for the millennials

In ’97 I was a quinoa-eating, gender-confused, yoga practising vegan, buying second hand clothes and de-cluttering my room.

http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3v4fs1

Me and others like me took the fight for the kind of lifestyle that the millennials take for granted. We fought against parents, the school cafeteria and the general perception to normalise all these things that we thought constituted a better lifestyle.

I don’t regret any of these things, yoga really helps my back problems. The sadness in retrospect comes from knowing that all these things didn’t help create a demilitarised, direct democratic society with economic equality, which I also hoped for in 1997.

While the millennials have a wider range of options when it comes to a lot of important choices in life, they are much worse off than my generation when it comes to some of the basic conditions of life — they have more unemployment, more income inequality, less housing and more mental health issues.

And I take part of the blame for that. Capitalism has an astonishing ability to co-opt and commodify every subversive act that doesn’t directly threatens its existence. So while I think it can be a good thing to have an alternative culture and lifestyle, that culture also needs to take some swings at the people that benefit from the exploitation of most of us. And I don’t think we did that enough.

What start-ups can learn from affinity groups

The start-up world has come to the same conclusion as many social movements, that a small group of people working together make the most effective and creative choices.

A group of around seven people is recommended by both Google Venture’s “Design Sprint” method, as well as various activist guides to “affinity groups”.

The idea with affinity groups however, is not only to organise your part of an event or action, but also to be a part of a bigger horizontal structure of other groups working towards the same ends.

While the close-knit cooperation in a start-up is a good thing for creativity, it hits a wall when it comes to cooperation with others. The economic incentives doesn’t encourage that. In the rule book of capitalism you can do four things: you can compete, you can merge, you can buy or be bought. This creates a tribal culture were you only look after your own little group. The priority is your clan, not innovation, cooperation or the free flow of ideas.

A small group will be good at coming up with creative ideas, but not at solving large scale or long term problems. And the clan culture stops the kind of collective intelligence where a large group of people can create truly innovative solutions.

As this clan culture clearly stifles innovation, some alternative cultures arise, like co-working spaces, meet-ups and hackathons. But this still has limited effect. The culture of competition and only looking after your own needs to be more consciously broken if we want to see more large scale innovation and proliferation of good ideas. That requires not only a cultural shift, but also creating economic incentives for cooperation.

A structure for sharing ideas and profits between different worker-controlled companies through a horizontal network of start-ups could be one way. This kind of large scale horizontal coordinating is done all the time at large activist gatherings, so the methods are just there ready to be used by future minded entrepreneurs.

Are we safe yet?

https://www.flickr.com/photos/javajoba/4013349543

If you have been to cognitive behavioural therapy, which is pretty standard now if you go to a therapist, you will know that they will look at what kind of safety behaviours you do. These are behaviours that make us feel good in the short run, but sustain our problems in the long run, like for example drinking alcohol or overeating to deal with your anxiety. The kind of things that our mind tricks us into thinking will make the problem go away, when in reality it only makes things worse.

I think a lot about this when I’m at airports. Many of the tedious things we do before boarding a plane is explained to us as “security measures”: putting your deodorant in a little plastic bag, getting searched, answering questions about who packed your bag. A lot of these extra measures were introduces or strengthened as a part of the War on terror over fifteen years ago. So with all the effort, time and money going into security, we should all feel extremely safe by now.

Is it far fetched to think that there is a collective anxiety at play here, and that we in Europe and the US deal with it in any way possible that does not actually look at the causes of terrorism, immigration and war? That we rather go through another security check, put our liquids in a plastic bag and take off our shoes before we go through the metal detector, just to feel that quick fix of security?

Pirates as democratic role models

A cool thing about pirates, that I only learned just recently, (the other ones being obvious: a bad-ass flag etc etc) is that they were extremely democratic, both in political and economic matters.

By Jean Leon Gerome Ferris — http://www.neatorama.com/2007/10/22/pirate-lore-7-myths-and-trrrrruths-about-pirates/, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=8643114

The 17th century pirates, during the golden days of ship-robbing in the Caribbean, elected their captains and quarter masters (the person responsible for the staff) and divided their loot equally among the staff, with some extra stuff for the captain (a cooperative counselling company in my city does the same thing, equal pay for everyone but an “anxiety bonus” for the coordinator, who gets to deal with some of the more anxiety creating stuff, like managing the workforce. Fair enough. The captain had to lead the battles, which probably also kept him awake at night once in a while).

This is maybe not what you would expect from violent outlaws, especially at a time when the rest of society, and in particular the other ships, had strict and brutally enforced hierarchies with no room for voting or fair distribution of wealth.

The pirates had in one way or another fled that oppressive society, knowing that if they got caught they would face a certain death. They were good fighters with nothing to lose, which ultimately made them impossible to govern. A despotic or unpopular captain wouldn’t last long with them, and an unfair distribution of the loot would create a mutiny. There was only one way to run a ship with these kind of people — with a just and democratic system that everyone could agree on.

The public secret of anxiety

Only a small minority of people (13%) report living with high levels of good mental health.
 — Surviving or Thriving? The state of the UK’s mental health

Today’s public secret is that everyone is anxious.
 — We Are All Very Anxious, Plan C

It’s hard for me to think about anything more personal than my anxiety problems. Yet it’s becoming ridiculous to talk about mental health in any other way than as a problem that, in one way or another, effects us all. I just read in a magazine that three out of four bosses have sleeping problems. I can’t say I feel sorry for them. But it clearly means that you can’t buy your way out of all of the negative effects of this economic system any more.

Still, I find it hard to talk about my own anxiety in political terms. I’m in many aspects in a privileged position myself, as white, heterosexual, male and so on. And the way I was taught about activism is that your personal struggles only become something political if your part of an oppressed group. Which I’m not. But my anxiety, just like the bosses’ sleeping problems, is still caused by an oppressive and dysfunctional economic system.

Public secrets are typically personalised. The problem is only visible at an individual, psychological level; the social causes of the problem are concealed. Each phase [of capitalism] blames the system’s victims for the suffering that the system causes.
 — We Are All Very Anxious, Plan C

Work less, produce more

According to tradition, a programmer’s productivity was measured by “lines of code” in the old days. That is, the amount of code you wrote.

Anyone remotely interested in programming understands how crazy that is, because the less code you need to write to make something happen, the more talented programmer you are (if the code is documented, structured and can be understood by others).

The fact that this measurement was used isn’t that crazy though — that’s our economic system’s standard way of measuring work. We get rewarded for working hard, doing overtime, putting in the hours and so on. If I as an employee come up with a way to do my job in less hours, it’s not like I will be rewarded for it. Just imagine if I came up with a way of completely automating all of my assignments at work. I would probably lose my job.

So a lot of innovation when it comes to automation, which is what a lot of innovation is about, is hampered by how the economy is structured. There is simply no economic incentive for it.

As a result, a lot of amazing innovation comes from other incentives than economic ones. The autobiography of Linus Torvalds, the main guy behind Linux, is called “Just for fun”. That is also how he describes his motivation behind writing the operating system that powers most of the internet servers and supercomputers today. And that is how large sectors of the open source sector still works.

If we truly want an innovation driven economy though, we need to create more incentives for productivity and automation. For starters, collectively owned workplaces would help. That way you might actually benefit from automation and a rise in productivity. Sharing our results and ideas freely will also immensely benefit innovation. And last but not least, we need to get rid of the work ethos that are encouraging us to measure productivity in “lines of code”.

Att förstå Paradise Hotel med Hardt och Negri

Alexander D’Rosso vann förra årets säsong av dokusåpan Paradise Hotel. Han var också den första svensken som tog alla pokémons i Pokémon Go.

Uppenbarligen har D’Rosso en talang. En talang som är svårplacerad i den traditionella ekonomin och inte riktigt passar in i något politiskt system. Sovjet hade inte lyft fram honom som en mönsterarbetare. Amerikanska skolbarn kommer inte studera hans talang i klassrummen.

Men det D’Rosso gör, vad det nu är, är framgångsrikt. Och om vi förstår vad det är, får vi ett bättre grepp om hur vår ekonomi faktiskt fungerar.

Det är skillnad på kändisar och kändisar. Att ärva kändisskap och rikedom är bara att leva på andras arbete, som vilken företagsägare som helst. Men att arbeta sig till kändisskap betyder att många personer måste uppskatta eller vara intresserade av det du är bra på. Om leder till rikedom bygger inte den rikedomen på exploatering, utan säger något om vad vi kollektivt värderar. Att Zlatan är rik beror på att han är extremt skicklig på något som väldigt många människor är beredda att betala för att se. Detsamma gäller till exempel inte för prinsessan Madeleine.

Att bli framgångsrik genom att plocka pokémons och vinna dokusåpor är en lite mer diffus talang, men ändå något som bygger på den egna arbetsinsatsen. Antonio Negri och Michael Hardt beskriver en ny typ av arbete som “biopolitisk produktion” i boken Commonwealth. Det bygger på Foucaults idé om biopolitik, som inte är helt lättbegriplig. Jag kallar det hellre “reality work”. Här kommer en snabb och inte så exakt förklaring.

Reality work handlar om att skapa relationer och att skapa sig själv. D’Rosso arbetar säkert många timmar per vecka med att förbättra sin egen kropp. I Paradise Hotel behövde han jobba oavbrutet med att bygga upp rätt typer av relationer och nätverk för att komma vidare i tävlingen. En intressant sak med Paradise Hotel är nämligen att det handlar mer om att vara omtyckt och “tillföra något till gruppen” än att spela ut de andra. De som “spelar” för mycket röstas ut. Milleniegenerationens dokusåpor är mycket mer fokuserade på att bygga relationer, än äldre dokusåpor som Expedition Robinson.

Enligt Hardt och Negri är reality work centralt i den nya ekonomin, ungefär som industrialismen var central när Marx skrev Kapitalet på 1800-talet, även om den fortfarande var en ganska liten del av ekonomin. Och precis som proletariatet hade en speciell plats i industrialismen, är reality workers avgörande för den nätverksbaserade ekonomin.

Den goda nyheten är att, precis som proletärerna kunde ta över fabriker och driva dem själva, kan reality workers klara sig utan de traditionella ekonomiska strukturerna. Stämpelklockor, arbetstider, ja lönearbete över huvud taget begränsar bara deras arbete. Det är fortfarande andra som tjänar pengar på deras arbete, tv-stationer, tidningar mfl. Men ju mer de kan kontrollera sina egna kanaler, desto friare blir de. Den moderna reality workern kan skapa sig själv via Instagram eller Youtube och behöver inte gå vägen via dokusåpor, som för tio år sedan. Det skapar fortfarande vinster åt andra, men till sin natur spränger reality workers ramarna för traditionellt arbete, vilket gör dem mer och mer självständiga.

Trapped between network and hierarchy

Technologically, we are headed for zero-priced goods, unmeasurable work, an exponential takeoff in productivity and the extensive automation of physical processes.

Socially, we are trapped in a world of monopolies, inefficiency, the ruins of a finance-dominated free market and a proliferation of ‘bullshit jobs’.

… everything is pervaded by a fight between network and hierarchy.

Paul Mason, PostCapitalism

Paul Mason sums up the conflict of systems on a societal level pretty well. The dying hierarchy and the emerging network. But what messes with you on a personal level is not just the hierarchy, but the fact that you’re constantly being trapped between the two systems.

Like when your boss finds your Instagram account where you make memes about your sexual identity and mental health issues. Which is really empowering on a personal level but not very good for your sales career. Or you are expected to check your work email when you are sunbathing on the Canary Islands. Which would be fine if all you ever did was chilling and checking the occasional email, but you’re trapped in an office most of your time, and your free time is precious as fuck. Or you’re unemployed and can’t pay your rent, cause thanks to automation we don’t have work that much. But it’s not like you’ll see the benefits of that.

The new celebrities of social media are the ones that supposedly have found a way of escaping the hierarchy altogether to only live in the network. My uneducated guess is that the people who pull that off are either:

  1. Exceptions, which are allowed in the hierarchy to make it look like there is an escape from the system if you’re lucky, talented or hard working.
  2. Really poor, but keeping up appearances.
  3. Selling the dream of living in the network to people who want to believe it. Like those inspirational speakers who talk about having a start-up, but make all their money from public speaking, not the actually start-up.

And no, having other people work for you is not a way out of the hierarchy, it’s a way of sustaining and prolonging an exploitative system.

I had a worker-owned cooperative for some years and thought that might be a way out, but it mostly just worked according to the same hierarchical logic, with the difference that we got to be our own exploiters.

There might be a forth way, and I’ll definitely do what I can to try to find it. Let me know if you have any ideas.

Algorithms are making internet into a small town

There is a sense of familiarity to how Facebook’s and other Internet giants’ algorithms are presuming what we want or don’t want to see. Having grown up in a small town in the 90’s I know what it is like when you only get exposed to cultural influences from the people in your immediate surrounding and with similar views and ideas.

As the Internet giants increasingly use algorithms to predict what we like and steer our preferences, what they really are doing is to replicate a small town.

What used to be so great about the Internet was that it offered a way out of this. You could explore political views, culture and ideas from anyone, anywhere, just based on what you searched for. Growing up without any other options that playing football, hockey or being a nerd it opened up immense possibilities to explore any subculture ever heard of.

The difference now is that Facebook rather wants me to see what people in my own area, with supposedly similar views, are up to. That sort of narrow-mindedness was the reason I moved to a bigger city when I was 18. Now I need to move to more open minded parts of the Internet.

Designing a guiding app for digital democracy

This is a description my project for as a part of the Collective Intelligence for Democracy workshop in November 2016 for MediaLab Prado Madrid.

In Sweden, more young people use Facebook every day than who voted in the last general election. This is an international trend, and most certainly does not come down to lack of interest in politics from young people, but from outdated and excluding tools and processes for democratic participation.

Digital tools open up completely new possibilities for instantaneous participation, discussions and decision making, without relying on geographical proximity. If traditional political instances and organisations do not adapt to new ways of working and thinking, they will keep losing trust and members. If they take advantage of the new possibilities of participation they will have enormous potential.

In the rest of Europe, we look up to you in Spain. You have found ways of implementing some interesting digital services in your local municipalities, political parties and NGO:s, and the rest of Europe has a lot to learn from you.

So we know that there are a lot of interesting tools already available, that needs to be tested and evaluated in local contexts.

In my organisations, Digidem Lab and ABF Göteborg, we are planning a long term project starting next year together with Sweden’s Local Municipalities, the Green Party, The National Council of Swedish Youth Organisations, Young People with Disabilities and Young Media. The project will research new ways for young people to get involved with digital democratic processes.

What we have seen in the run up to this project is that there is a demand for new technology, both in municipalities, parties and NGO:s. But also an urgent need for concrete examples of implementation, cost efficient solutions and practical guidance. And we think that this also is true in an international context.

Digidem Guide, the project that we will develop during this workshop, is an app guiding organisations to the digital tools that meet their specific needs for direct democratic participation via the Internet. The app will help organisations to find the right tools for digital democracy based on criteria like field of application, scope, need for security, technical knowledge and licensing.

The target group is decision makers in NGO:s, political parties and local municipalities. By developing it in an international context with all the valuable experiences from other team members, we will widen the reach to an international audience.

The project’s aim is to make existing tools available to a wider audience without technical knowledge or previous experience in the field. By broadening the user base we will also be able to get better feedback on the tools to help proceed the development further.

As a web strategist who has worked for NGO:s for about fifteen years, I know that it takes time to introduce new technologies and new ways of working. Having said that, there is often a willingness in organisations to find ways to get people involved and widen the reach of the organisation.

My experience is that usability is the key to succeeding in introducing new digital services. We need to be sure that the new tools and workflows that we introduce are as intuitive and user friendly as possible. To be honest, that is not always the case with open source applications. Therefore, to make the tools work for everyone, we need to involve people from all sorts of backgrounds and levels of technical experience who are willing to do user tests and evaluations, and help developers and designers in finding the right tools for the right task.

The development and design of the app will be focused on early user testing with the whole team, and I would therefore very much welcome the participation of activists, politicians and NGO representatives in the process.

The development of the app will kick off with an the initial workshop where we share ideas and visions for the project, after which we will all start researching and collecting tools to document in the app.

As I said earlier, focus then will be on creating an early prototype, with open source app frameworks, that can be tested by the whole team. We will prioritise the three most important improvements, and work on them until the next iteration of user testing and development. The process will be repeated three times, while we will also integrate a shiny user interface and a user friendly back-end for adding content. After that, we will be ready to launch the app as a web interface and eventually an Android and iPhone app!

I am very much looking forward to this workshop, as an opportunity to combine experiences from Sweden and the Spanish and international community, and to find ways of networking and collaborating on an international scale.

Modular and responsive design for Doctors Without Borders

This is a recap of a talk by Petter Joelson at Rabash’s Design Salon on February 19, 2015.

My agency Rabash was hired in 2014 to start redesigning Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF) Sweden’s website. The mission was to make the navigation intuitive, especially on smaller screens; optimise the donation interactions and enable moderators to create flexible campaign pages.

After the initial concept phase, I chose to start working on an early responsive prototype in html. Step by step, the prototype evolved to be equivalent to a full website. It might seem like a complicated process to make such vast prototypes in html, but I have learnt some tricks to make it quite easy. I have also seen three major advantages in this way of working, that I will walk you through one by one.

1. Responsive

Show the client how the website will look and behave.

Since responsive design came around a few years ago, I have worked according to the Mobile First-principle, and started the design process with wireframes for mobile screens. It is often an illustrative way of showing the client which priorities they have to make for the website to be easy to navigate. But it started to feel more and more impractical to show mockups of a page that does not look like the end result at all and can not be tested in its ”natural environment” which is the browser on a phone, tablet or desktop. This makes it unnecessary hard for the client, and even me as a designer, to envision the functionality and look of the final product.

Having to write complicated code just to show a quick idea for a client would not work for me. My first criteria for prototyping was that it should involve as little coding as possible. And even as front end development has become more and more specialised and complicated over the years, there are now more and more easy to use frameworks for building websites and other digital products.

A couple of years ago I started to experiment with simple prototypes in html. In the beginning it was just static pages built with Bootstrap. When I got the hang of it, I realised that it was actually as quick as drawing page by page in a wireframe app. For example: if I changed the height of an element at the top of the page, I did not have to move every other element; if I wanted to change the size of all headlines, I only had to do it once.

Now I use a combination of Bootstrap and Jekyll, with a few minor plugins that I install with Bower.

2. Modular

Give clients a custom design system with which they can modify, extend, and grow with into the future.

Brad Frost

A few years back, it was a really big deal when you every three to five years launched a new website. After the launch the sites became more and more out of date, until you did a complete redesign again. Most people understand now that their website has to be a living thing that evolves over time, in small adjustments, to stay relevant to users.

So how do we adapt to this workflow in the design process? Brad Frost advocates a method that he calls Atomic Design. He breaks down the design into smaller components to be able to present the client with a comprehensive design system, not just mockups for specific pages. Frost uses five levels for his design system:

  • Atoms: A single button or headline
  • Molecules: A search field with button and textfield; A byline for an article
  • Organisms: A campaign area, menu or list of news
  • Templates: The page template for news articles
  • Pages: Complete pages like About or Blog

To showcase the design system, Frost has developed something he calls Pattern Lab, that provides a kind of responsive style guide, documenting all parts of the website.

Inspired by Frost’s Pattern Lab, I developed a documentation for the different components of the website for Doctors Without Borders. It made it easier to explain to our AD which components needed graphic design, and the structure of the website became clearer for our developers.

For a vast project like this, it also made the whole workflow run smoother, as I could get an approval from the client for specific components, before the whole page template was done.

3. Content first

Separate content and presentation

A challenge with the new design was making huge amounts of information accessible on small screens. To achieve that, I needed to start with the content, and not make the mistake of building a perfect website, that get gets ”ruined” when the actual content is added.

The advantage of working with a system like Jekyll is that you can make a complete separation of design and content. The content files, using Markdown, are super simple text files that only defines the content, fields and template to use, nothing more.

That enables me to be able to work separately with the content, let a copy writer or the client go through the texts during the prototyping phase, and avoid surprises in later stages.

The prototype for Doctors Without Borders is nearly a complete version of the website, as I define templates in Jekyll and then only need to add ”raw” content.

From the prototype, I was able to generate a documentation page, that lists entry pages, types of articles, components and menu items.

To be able to make this separation of content and design is extremely valuable for responsive design. When the next gadget with a browser arrives (glasses, watches and so on), you will have the content files ready and can focus only on designing the presentation.

Next step: Integrating design and development

During this process, the prototyping has evolved parallell with the graphic design and the development of the final website. My aim for future projects is to better be able to integrate these processes, and be able to create both design and functionality in an iterative way and in dialoge with the client. When the CMSes become easier to work with, and the software for graphic design are better suited for responsive web it will of course get easier. But until then we need to experiment with ways of making the transitions between design and functionality as seamless as possible.

The time I almost shared a stage with Julian Assange, Slavoj Žižek and Yanis Varoufakis and the…

In a weird series of event in the last four months, I almost got to share a stage with Julian Assange, Slavoj Žižek and Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister.

Like many others, I was horrified by the treatment of the Greek people at the hands of creditors, bankers and European politicians.

To get the full story of what happened I started to follow the Greek finance minister’s blog, where he published transcripts from the Eurogroup meetings. A professor in economics, describing himself as an ”erratic marxist”, he shouldn’t really care about saving European capitalism, but did anyway. Because he thought that the alternative was going to be worse. He seemed like the most trustworthy person in the whole Euro circus.

After the Greek defeat, Yanis started a tour of Europe to get his story out and form what seemed like a all-star network of European leftists.

I was on parental leave at the time, maybe a little bit restless. And I’ve been involved in struggles against powerful institutions in the past, so in October last year I spontaneously sent him an email:

I saw the interview with Aaron Bastani where you were calling for mass civil disobedience to democratize Europe! I’ve been involved in various European action groups (mainly NATO- and nuclear weapons related) and would be happy to help setting something up through contacts in different parts of Europe, maybe as a part of this network you’re organising?

The reply came after exactly one hour:

Excellent. Will be in touch.

My first email wasn’t that thought through, and I didn’t really expect an answer. But now I was apparently in on something! I got some contacts together and sent over, and eventually got a reply that he was busy working on a manifesto for the network. I got an early copy of it to comment on, which felt cool.

Not much happened after that, until suddenly on Christmas Eve (not a holiday for revolutionaries), I got an invitation for the launch of the new network, Democracy in Europe Movement (DiEM).

After reading the email five times — Yanis style of writing is long-winding and dramatic to say the least — have a look at the long version of the manifesto at the DiEM website and you will know what I mean — I still wasn’t sure if I had become some kind of central figure in this thing and what was expected from me now. But it seemed like I was going to give a speech in Berlin on the 9th of February.

The launch is scheduled for Tuesday 9th of February. During that day, two important meetings will take place:

1. A public meeting in the main theatre that will feature a short video … a short presentation … followed by short speeches from central figures in this (you would be one, if you care to join).

2. A private meeting of the central figures (to plan the next steps), and, separately, of volunteers who will be (wo)manning the organisation.

This raised a lot of questions. None of which I would manage to get answers to from Yanis or his assistant. Either way, I didn’t want to miss out, so me and my partner took some days of from work and got plane tickets for us and our one year old to go to Berlin for an event on a Tuesday night.

My parental leave came to an end and it was time for me to start working and for my son to start kindergarten, so not much time to think about the future of Europe. When I finally got around to sending my comments to the last version of the manifesto, they had just finished it. But they used my suggestion and made a last minute addition:

A Peaceful Europe that deescalates tensions with its neighbours to the east and around the Mediterranean, and stands as an alternative to the militaristic expansionists ambitions of NATO.

In Yanis-manifesto-speak it reads:

A Peaceful Europe de-escalating tensions in the East and in the Mediterranean, acting as a bulwark against the sirens of militarism and expansionism.

Good times! I was in on this again! Still no answers about the event in Berlin though. Were I and my partner in the planning group? Was a supposed to give a speech? When, where and how?

And we never found out. Luckily my brother-in-law lives in Berlin, so we went to stay with him for a few days, that we spent trying to get hold of someone who knew if we had tickets to the event, and what to expect from it. At one o’clock the same day as the launch, we found out that we would have tickets for hanging out in the hallway at to the launch. In the evening, we found out that the planning meetings had been earlier in the day.

It is a weird feeling to be deprived of something that was way more than you expected in the first place. I was super annoyed the whole first hour of the launching event, before I came to terms with it being a great event with fantastic speakers.

What the f**k would I do there on stage with philosophers, economists and European parliamentarians? Probably being to nervous to make any sense at all.

That being said, I do have some concerns about the strategy for DiEM, and because of the vague but still flattering first invitation, I did prepare some things to say that maybe could add a perspective to those of the professional thinkers and talkers on stage last Tuesday. Also, it is about the risk of being ignored, which seems fitting 🙂

Thank you Yanis, for a bold and wonderful initiative and a magic opening night in Berlin. Here is my half finished short speech:


Thank you so much for the opportunity to be a part of this.

The thing I really like about this initiative is that it knows who it is up against and has a plan to succeed.

Many campaigns for social change, be it by NGO:s, leftwing parties or anarchist networks, sadly don’t win. But the even sadder part is that they don’t even plan to win. They plan to influence, raise awareness, ”be part of the solution” or in successful cases win over a majority of the population. And on an individual level feel good about themselves or be part of a team or subculture that they like. That’s okay. But it will not win campaigns.

My hardest lesson as an activist comes from the mobilisation against the war on Iraq. We had all the facts on our side. We organised the biggest global demonstrations in history. But we didn’t win. Why? Because being right and having the majority on your side isn’t always enough.

We saw the same thing in Greece this summer. A majority wasn’t enough win the fight against the powers of Europe.

The reason is simple. Being in power basically means having the power to ignore other people.

That is why every movement that wants to fundamentally challenge power structures in society has to have some kind of leverage.

The labour movement had the capacity of shutting down the production. The suffragettes to disrupt the political process.

The greatest threat to our movement is not that they crush us, but that they simply ignore us.

And we need to find ways to make that impossible.

The good news is that other movements has paved the way for us. We can’t simply copy their methods, but we can build on experiences of successful campaigns for social change by:

  • Setting up parallel institutions that can’t be ignored
  • Disobeying their laws and regulations and
  • Stopping their oppressive practices

Stopping things can be done in many ways, and together we need to plan for actions that corresponds with our aims and goals. Some general ideas are to:

  • Physically blockade their institutions
  • Occupy their centres of power and
  • Hack their secret documents and make them public

In short, to paraphrase the Occupy Wall Street activist David Graeber:

”Acting as is if we were already free”.

I think this gathering is a first promising step in the direction of freedom.

Now lets take the next step and make our demands impossible to ignore.