The smart city and other ICT-led techno-imaginaries: Any room for dialogue with degrowth?

Abstract: The 21st century has been hailed as the urban century and one in which ICT-led transformations will shape urban responses to global environmental change. The Smart City encapsulates all the desires and prospects on the transformative and disruptive role technology will have in solving urban issues both in Global North and Global South cities. Critical scholarship has pointed out that private capital, with the blessing of technocratic elites, has found a techno-environmental fix to both reshuffle economic growth and prevent other alternative politico-ecological transitions to take root in urban systems. Against this bleak outlook, the paper argues that these technological assemblages might be compatible with alternative post-capitalist urban transformations aligned with Degrowth. Through a cross-reading of research on Smart Cities with theoretical perspectives drawn from the literature on Degrowth, I suggest that Degrowth should not refrain from engaging with urban technological imaginaries in a critical and selective way. As the paper shows through alternative uses of Smart technologies and digital open-source fabrication, the question is not so much around technology per se but around the wider politico-economic context into which these technological assemblages are embedded.

Journal of Cleaner Production, Volume 197 (part 2), October 2018, pp. 1694-1703

Die Welt reparieren – Open Source und Selbermachen als postkapitalistische Praxis

Weltweit entstehen immer mehr Initiativen des Selbermachens, in denen eine Vielfalt von Anliegen und Problemen kollektiv bearbeitet werden. In diesen – jenseits von Markt und Staat angesiedelten – kollaborativen Zusammenhängen wird ein basisdemokratisch orientiertes Verständnis von Zusammenleben und Urbanität erprobt und zugleich nach ökologisch und sozial sinnvollen Lösungen für grundlegende Formen der Versorgung mit Nahrungsmitteln, Energie sowie für alle zugängliche Technik gesucht. Dabei entstehen faszinierende neue Formen des gemeinsamen Produzierens, Reparierens und Tauschens von Dingen, die die industrielle Logik des 20. Jahrhunderts herausfordern und sogar auf den Kopf stellen.

Das Buch widmet sich der visionären Kraft dieser vielversprechenden innovativen Praxis und bietet zugleich eine gesellschaftliche Einordnung der neuen »Labore« gesellschaftlicher Transformation.
(Beschreibung des Verlags)

Das Buch kann auf der Internetseite des Verlags kostenlos vollständig heruntergeladen werden.

ISBN: 978-3-8376-3377-1

Framing the Privacy Debate and Big Data Governmentality in Degrowth Theory

Data surveillance by private companies and public intelligence agencies is intricated, and research has shown how citizens have become willing participants in their own surveillance. This brings forth a new type of governmentality that is legitimised by hegemonic imaginaries on “Big Data” and innovation which are closely related to the imaginary of technological growth.

The Snowden disclosures made this a topic of public debate.

Yet a review of Degrowth literature shows that while there is a rich theoric framework allowing us to think critically about technology, little has been written about privacy, data protection and data surveillance.

As was shown in France during the COP21 conference, the extension of the notion of terrorism to some categories of activists is a threat for the Degrowth movement itself. Furthermore, Quantified Self, Big Data and algorithmic surveillance fit into technical, managerial and social trends that are the continuation of the bureaucratic process of rationalising societies to promote productivity.

This paper first reviews existing Degrowth literature on information technology to analyse the technocapitalist imaginary on Big Data. It then explores the case of a “concrete utopia”, Free Software, in a critical perspective to see whether and how it could help Degrowth philosophy to shape alternative imaginaries and practices. It concludes that not only does Degrowth provide the ability to frame the debate on Privacy and technology in a way that challenges technocapitalist imaginaries on “Big Data”, but also sketches the outline of future research into alternatives in line with the principles of a future, desirable convivial society.

This media entry was a contribution to the special session „Framing the Privacy Debate and Big Data Governmentality in Degrowth Theory“ at the 5th International Degrowth Conference in Budapest in 2016.

The Matrix of Convivial Technology?Assessing technologies for degrowth

Abstract: This article introduces the notion of convivial technology as a conceptual framework for technologies suitable for degrowth societies. This paper is inspired by Ivan Illich’s notion of convivial tools but reconsiders it in the light of current practices and discussions. Looking for a definition of convivial technologies it uses qualitative empirical research conducted with degrowth-oriented groups developing or adapting grassroots technologies like Open Source cargo bikes or composting toilets in Germany. The basic ethical values and design criteria that guide these different groups in relation to technology are summed up into five dimensions: relatedness, adaptability, accessibility, bio-interaction and appropriateness. These dimensions can be correlated with the four life-cycle levels material, production, use and infrastructure to form the Matrix for Convivial Technology (MCT). The MCT is a 20-field schema that can be filled in. Experiences with the tool in different fields are presented. The MCT is itself a convivial tool as it allows for degrowth-oriented groups to self-assess their work and products in a qualitative, context-sensitive and independent way. It is a normative schema that fosters discussion concerning degrowth technologies in contexts of political education. And it is a research method as it helps collecting data about underlying ethical assumptions and aspirations of individuals and groups engaged in developing technology.

Commons Transition and P2P: a primer

commonstransition.org: This short primer, co-published with the Transnational Institute explains the Commons and P2P, how they interrelate, their movements and trends, and how a Commons transition is poised to reinvigorate work, politics, production, and care, both interpersonal and environmental. Drawing from our ten year + history researching and advocating for P2P/Commons Alternatives, the Primer is structured in a Q&A format, providing answers to questions such as “What are the Commons, what is P2P and how do they relate together?” “What are P2P Economics?” “What are P2P Politics?” and, more important, how these different factors can combine together at higher levels of complexity to form a viable transition strategy to solid post-capitalist system that is respectful of people and planet.

Die teilende Gesellschaft

SWR2 Wissen: “Mein Haus, mein Auto …” – ist dieses Denken noch zeitgemäß? Das Image des Kapitalismus ist angeschlagen. Die soziale Schere driftet immer weiter auseinander. Das Ansammeln von Besitztümern zehrt an den ökologischen Ressourcen. Das Teilen etabliert sich als neue Form des Lebens und Wirtschaftens – und die Digitalisierung macht’s möglich. Menschen teilen sich Autos und Wohnungen, sie teilen Wissen und Kultur. Doch wächst dadurch wirklich der Gemeinsinn? Ist der Mensch zum Teilen geboren? Oder ist die “Sharing Society” am Ende nur eine große Illusion, die einige reich und viele ärmer macht?

Bike Kitchens – Spaces for convivial tools

Abstract: There is currently a marked interest in do-it-yourself culture and sharing of skills, tools and spaces, manifesting in maker spaces, tool libraries and open workshops for remaking furniture, electronics, bicycles or clothing. This paper explores the phenomenon of ‘Bike Kitchens’, do-it-yourself bicycle repair studios run on a non-profit basis. The Bike Kitchen in Malmö, Sweden, is used as a case study involving interviews with key persons and users of that Bicycle Kitchen and on-site observations. The exploration of the Bike Kitchen is situated in a wider theoretical discussion around technology in relation to degrowth. Two theoretical perspectives are used, firstly, Illich’s (1973) notion of tools for conviviality, meaning tools that enable citizens to reconquer practical knowledge for autonomy and creativity rather than being confined to commercial relations, and secondly, forms of non-capitalist relations. It is argued that the Bike Kitchen is an example of democratisation of technology in practice – a social innovation to make low-cost technology, tools and know-how easily available to anyone. The concept of the Bike Kitchen is a way to develop and cultivate conviviality, i.e. a social and spatial infrastructure – a space for convivial tools.

Journal of Cleaner Production, Available online 29 September 2016, In Press, Corrected Proof

The convergence of digital commons with local manufacturing from a degrowth perspective: Two illustrative cases

Abstract: The emerging discussion about the sustainability potential of distributed production is the starting point for this paper. The focus is on the “design global, manufacture local” model. This model builds on the conjunction of the digital commons of knowledge and design with desktop and benchtop manufacturing technologies (from three-dimensional printers and laser cutters to low-tech tools and crafts). Two case studies are presented to illustrate three interlocked practices of this model for degrowth. It is argued that a “design global, manufacture local” model, as exemplified by these case studies, seems to arise in a significantly different political economy from that of the conventional industrial model of mass production. “Design global, manufacture local” may be seen as a platform to bridge digital and knowledge commons with existing physical infrastructures and degrowth communities, in order to achieve distributed modes of collaborative production.

Journal of Cleaner Production Available online 14 September 2016
Part of a special issue on degrowth and technology

The Smart City and other ICT-led techno-imaginaries: Any room for dialogue with Degrowth?

Abstract: The 21st century has been hailed as the urban century and one in which ICT-led transformations will shape urban responses to global environmental change. The Smart City encapsulates all the desires and prospects on the transformative and disruptive role technology will have in solving urban issues both in Global North and Global South cities. Critical scholarship has pointed out that private capital, with the blessing of technocratic elites, has found a techno-environmental fix to both reshuffle economic growth and prevent other alternative politico-ecological transitions to take root in urban systems. Against this bleak outlook, the paper argues that these technological assemblages might be compatible with alternative post-capitalist urban transformations aligned with Degrowth. Through a cross-reading of research on Smart Cities with theoretical perspectives drawn from the literature on Degrowth, I suggest that Degrowth should not refrain from engaging with urban technological imaginaries in a critical and selective way. As the paper shows through alternative uses of Smart technologies and digital open-source fabrication, the question is not so much around technology per se but around the wider politico-economic context into which these technological assemblages are embedded.

Journal of Cleaner Production; Available online 20 September 2016
Part of a special issue on degrowth and technology

The inspiring success of Free/Libre/Open Source Software

Transcription of an poster session by Claudio Vitari at the Second International Conference on Economic Degrowth for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Barcelona with the title “The inspiring success of Free/Libre/Open Source Software”.

A radical political-ecological view on Jeremy Rifkin’s ‘Third Industrial Revolution’, five years later

“The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication revolutions merge with new energy regimes”. This is the beginning of an article by Jeremy Rifkin in the Guardian back in 2011, echoing the promise he laid out in his then newly written book The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and World. The book claims, in short, that the world is entering the third and final stage of the industrial enterprise, a stage in which renewable energy is merging with information and communication technologies, and leading humanity into an era of wealth and harmony.”

Blog article on Degrowth.de, published in April 2016

RepairKids Manual – Reparatur im Bildungskontext

reparatur-initiativen.de: RepairKids ist ein Leitfaden für alle Reparatur-Initiativen und Interessierte, die ihr Tätigkeitsfeld gern erweitern möchten und mit Kindern und Jugendlichen zusammen reparieren wollen. Kristina Deselaers, Initiatorin von RepairKids und Repair Café Sasel, hat ihre Erfahrungen in diesem Manual verschriftlicht und wir laden nun gemeinsam ein, das Konzept RepairKids zu erproben und weiterzudenken.

Reparieren: Projekte, Orte und Akteure einer Bewegung

Eine Broschüre über Offene Werkstätten in der unter anderem die Gesellschaftliche Bedeutung der Werkstätten diskutiert wird. Außerdem gibt es kurze Texte von verschiedenen Experten wie Niko Paech, Christine Ax und Stefan Schridde und es werden einzelne Werkstatt Initiativen vorgestellt.

Virtual gardens / Real gardens

From the text: Web 2.0 at the service of horticulture: can a virtual garden help us grow a real garden and feed a family or sell produce in a neighbourhood market? Can a site teach the secrets of fruit and vegetable growing and train users to produce food by themselves? Can it reinvent and (re)launch a social version of bartering, the oldest form of trade of all? Is it possible for people to grow a garden using a computer, recover ancient knowledge and spread it across the web?

Contribution to the 3rd International Degrowth Conference for Ecological Sustainability and Social Equity in Venice in 2012.

No paper available

Italian abstract below

Wer kann die neue Zukunft machen?

Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung: Commons, Share-Economy und 4in1 – Alternativen zum Kapitalismus. Eine politische Debatte, moderiert von Katja Kipping. Sie diskutiert mit Evgeny Morozov, Frigga Haug und Anke Domscheit-Berg.
Dass «jede alte Gesellschaft mit einer neuen schwanger geht» wusste schon Marx. Was das heute – nach dem Scheitern von Staatsozialismus und neoliberalem Kapitalismus – genau bedeutet, wissen wir noch nicht. Zwar ist vielen Menschen angesichts der sozialen und ökologischen Krisen klar, dass es so, wie bisher, nicht mehr weitergehen kann. Doch wie eine emanzipatorische Überwindung des Krisenkapitalismus aussehen und woran sie konkret anknüpfen kann, wird heiß diskutiert. Vor diesem Hintergrund wollen wir verschiedene Ansätze zur Neubegründung grundlegender gesellschaftlicher Veränderung diskutieren.