The Dawn of Everything (very short review)

So, I finished reading "The Dawn of Everything", the new book by David Graeber and David Wengrow. In many ways, it's the perfect book for our dark historical moment. It's all about historical possibilities, yet not in the future, but in the past. Thus, an escape and an inspiration. It's an amazing read, so full of detail that's impossible to summarize. You really should read it yourself.

I'll just focus on the structure here. The book aims to deconstruct the dominant linear narratives of human culture, in which the "agricultural revolution" (which wasn't a revolution in the sense of quick and radical change) and the emergence of cities (again, a multi-directional (back and forth), rather than linear development) inexorably lead to inequality, domination, and "the state". There are two conventional versions of this story: the loss of freedom/equality (Rousseau, Hariri, etc) or the gain of civilization (Hobbes, Diamond, etc). Graeber and Wengrow argue, in dizzying archeological and anthropological detail, that both are wrong and severely curtail our imagination of social potential. Their baseline assumption is that humans since the neolithic are our cognitive equals. No more, but also no less intelligent than we are, hence also no less capable of making decisions about their own lives, individually and collectively. So, no more treatment of foragers as semi-apes living in small bands, unable to overcome supposed constants like Dunbar's 150 people group threshold (if it gets larger than this social stratification sets in).

A "carnival parade" of social forms

Don't use "tragedy of the commons" to describe the failure to regulate CO2 emissions.

With all eyes on #COP26 I've seen the failure to regulate effectively CO2 emissions referred to as "tragedy of the commons" evoking Garret Hardin's (in)famous 1968 article of the same title. But don't do this.

I know it's suggestive. Because it seems to be pretty much the situation Hardin described: privatized gains and shared losses provide a strong incentive to overuse a resource, here the amount of CO2 that can be released in the atmosphere, to the point where the resource collapses and "brings ruin to all."

However, to call this the tragedy of the commons is completely misleading because Hardin's article was so deeply flawed.

First, commons are communal institutions to manage a shared resource for long-term use by its members (Elinor Ostrom won a (kind of) Nobel Price in Economics for showing this). What Hardin describes is the lack of a commons, not the failure of the commons. He makes this error strategically because he then proposes two solutions, state intervention or privatization.

Hence, the COP26 reveals is the failure to create institutions of shared stewardship, but there is no alternative because there is no "superstate" to intervene and the atmosphere has so far resisted attempts at privatization (though we might be getting there).

Hardin himself corrected his article 25 years laters, narrowing it half-heartedly to "The tragedy of the unmanaged commons" which makes as much sense as speaking of 'leaderless hierarchy' as commons are about communal management as much as hierarchies are about creating leaders.

Was liegt daran, wie gesprochen wird? Dividuelles Sprechen in Gerald Raunigs “Ungefüge”

Ungefüge_Cover“Was liegt daran, wer spricht?” Michel Foucault wollte bereits 1969 kein weiteres Mal das Verschwinden des/der Autor:in konstatieren, tat es dann aber doch wieder. Und etwa so lange dreht sich auch die Diskussion um Autor:innenschaft im Kreise, nicht zuletzt deshalb, weil auch die Kritik den/die Autor:in als Figur ins Zentrum stellt und wenn nur als Leerstelle, die es zu untersuchen gilt.

In einem der aussergewöhnlichsten Bücher der politischen Philosophie der letzten Jahre dreht Gerald Raunig Foucaults Frage um, ohne sie je direkt zu erwähnen. Als Problem erscheint nicht mehr der/die Sprechende, sondern die Sprache selbst. Denn es ist in der Sprache – als Struktur wie als Praxis – in der sich das Subjekt konstituiert. Dieses Subjekt ist heute dividuell, endlos teil- und wieder zusammensetzbar in der grossen Datenbanken der digitalen Konzerne, algorithmisch konstruiert, reibungslos und umfänglich verfügbar für smarte Strategien der Kontrolle und In-Wert-Setzung. Die hegemoniale Form, in der sich diesse Prozesse vollziehen, ist die Quantifizierung und das Ziel ist Optimierung.

Celebrating 25 Years of "Information Age" trilogy. A round table

A semi-virtual roundtable to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the publication of the first volume of Manuel Castells' The Information Age: Economy, Society and Culture. Castells, Professor of Sociology at the UOC, gave the opening lecture.

My contribution starts at 01:49:50. In it, I draw parallels between our current systemic blockages preventing necessary (ecological) transformations and those of the late Soviet Union blocking the adaption to informationalism. This argument is worked out more fully here.
My review of the trilogy from 1998 is here.

Mind Map zu Digitalität und Stadt

Die Student:innen des Studiengangs "Kultur der Metropole" der HafenCity Universität in Hamburg hatten mich zu einem Gastvortrag zur Digitalisierung und Stadt eingeladen. Während des Vortrags haben sie gemeinsam diese Mindmap erstellt. Ein sehr schönes Verfahren des gemeinsamen Notierens.

Lokale Kopie als PDF

Aesthetics of the Commons. New Book out!

We are very happy to publication of our book "Aesthetics of the Commons"

What do a feminist server, an art space located in a public park in North London, a ‘pirate’ library of high cultural value yet dubious legal status, and an art school that emphasizes collectivity have in common? They all demonstrate that art can play an important role in imagining and producing a real quite different from what is currently hegemonic; that art in the post-digital has the possibility to not only conceive or proclaim ideas in theory, but also to realize them materially. The underlying social imaginaries ascribe a new role to art in society and they envision an idea of culture beyond the individual and its possessions.

Digital Commons. Defining Concepts of the Digital Society (Internet Policy Review)


Commons are holistic social institutions to govern the (re)production of resources, articulated through interrelated legal, socio-cultural, economic and institutional dimensions. They represent a comprehensive and radical approach to organise collective action, placing it “beyond market and state” (Bollier & Helfrich, 2012). They form a third way of organising society and the economy that differs from both market-based approaches, with their orientation toward prices, and from bureaucratic forms of organisation, with their orientation toward hierarchies and commands. This governance model has been applied to tangible and intangible resources, to local initiatives (garden, educational material), and to resources governed by global politics (climate, internet infrastructure).

Digital commons are a subset of the commons, where the resources are data, information, culture and knowledge which are created and/or maintained online. The notion of the digital commons is an important concept for countering legal enclosure and fostering equitable access to these resources. This article presents the history of the movement of the digital commons, from free software, free culture, and public domain works, to open data and open access to science. It then analyses its foundational dimensions (licensing, authorship, peer production, governance) and finally studies newer forms of the digital commons, urban democratic participation and data commons.

Full text open access.

Dulong de Rosnay, M. & Stalder, F. (2020). Digital commons. Internet Policy Review, 9(4).

Mapping "Kultur der Digitalität"

Zwei sehr schöne Maps meines Buches "Kultur der Digitalität sind mir zu Gesicht gekommen!

Die erste von Adriano Montefusco, via Die zweite von Vinzenz Rast, handgezeichnet!


24/7. Algorithmic sovereignty. Anxiety. Artificial intelligence. Automation. Crowdfunding. Data extraction. Entreprecariat. Exploitation. Free labour. Free time. Gig working. Human-in-the-loop. Logistics. Machine vision. Man-machine complexity. Micro-labour. No future. Outsourcing. Peripheral work. Platform economy. Post-capitalism. Post-work. Procrastination. Quantification. Self-improvement. Social media fatigue. Time management. Unemployment. These are arguably just a few of the many keywords required to navigate our fragile, troubled, scattered present, in which the borders between life and work, home and office, sleep and wake, private and public, human and machine have faded, and in which the personal is not just political but economic.

Edited by Domenico Quaranta and Janez Janša, featuring words by !Mediengruppe Bitnik (Carmen Weisskopf and Domagoj Smoljo) and Felix Stalder, Silvio Lorusso, Luciana Parisi, and Domenico Quaranta and works by !Mediengruppe Bitnik, Danilo Correale, Elisa Giardina Papa, Sanela Jahić, Silvio Lorusso, Jonas Lund, Michael Mandiberg, Eva and Franco Mattes, Anna Ridler, Sebastian Schmieg, Sašo Sedlaček, and Guido Segni, Hyperemployment – Post-work, Online Labour and Automation is an attempt to scrutinise and explore some of these issues. A catchphrase borrowed from media theorist Ian Bogost, describing “the Exhausting Work of the Technology User,” hyperemployment allows us to grasp a situation which the current pandemic has turned endemic, to analyse the present and discuss possible futures.

The book is co-published by NERO and Aksioma

Format: 11 x 17 cm
Pages: 160
Language: EN
Year: 2020
ISBN: 978-88-8056-112-5

BUY IT HERE, 18,00€

Review: Re-enchanting the world: feminism and the politics of the commons by Silvia Federici

Federici, Silvia (2018): Re-enchanting the world: feminism and the politics of the commons (foreword by Peter Linebaugh), Kairos, Oakland, CA: PM Press.

federici book

This book is a collection of essays by Federici, with a new forward by Linebaugh. The majority of the essays is from the last 10 years, but a few date back to the early 1990s. The early essays have a new introduction to provide context and perspective.

In the following, I will not to review the essays per se, but read them with a focus on the definition of the commons itself and the role digital technology plays in creating new commons. This is slightly unfair because both of these issues are not really her concerns, but coming to terms with the role of technology strikes me as critical in any discussion of contemporary issues.

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