[FM Discuss] reflections on collaborative futures

Joshua Facemyer jfacemyer at gmail.com
Tue Jan 26 11:40:11 PST 2010

Just a quick response (there's so much to respond about!!):

I think that, no matter how "successful" the book-formation was, the 
sprint would have to be successful, being an opportunity to see how 
several different things work (both technical and collaborational).

I think what you did is phenomenal.  I wish I could have been there! 
Congrats to all who were involved!

Maybe, in the future, you could do some sort of video stream for 
booksprints.  That might really help improve real-time collaboration. 
And we can all "be there" :)


On 01/25/2010 02:43 PM, adam hyde wrote:
> hi,
> so, we locked 5 people in a room with aco and i and we wrote a book in 5
> days. it was an extremely interesting experiment. i am still recovering
> from it and i can not yet clearly think about the book, the process etc
> but i wanted to write a few things for the list....
> firstly, i admit to being scared about this project. to ask 5 people (+
> Aco) who don't know each other to come to berlin and write a book in 5
> days when all they have is the title...thats kinda scarey. i did not
> know if we would succeed or even what constituted success. failure to me
> was that those involved thought it was a waste of time. i had warned all
> involved that we might fail, including the transmediale festival that
> was funding the sprint.
> the thing that concerned me most was that we were embarking on an
> entirely new type of Book Sprint. Previous sprints had been about
> writing procedural documentation. Perhaps the only books deviating
> slightly from this might be the GSoC Mentoring guide and possibly parts
> of the CiviCRM manual.
> When I look at procedural documentation of free software I see it as a
> known - yes we can make excellent books in short time frames. when there
> is something concrete infront of you then it is possible to describe it,
> and it is also possible for others to describe the same thing and extend
> the text. there is a shared understanding of what it is you are writing
> about and we have developed a methodology to do this....however this
> sprint was directed by nothing other than the speculative title
> 'collaborative futures'. how do you get 5 people to share a vision about
> something so intangible? Collaboration itself is a abstract notion with
> very grey boundaries and a million different histories and
> contexts...adding 'the future' to this seemed to adjectify the already
> vague grounds into a barely visible haze
> tricky.
> additionally we did _no_ discussion before everyone entered the room on
> Monday morning (day 1). nothing discussed over email, no background
> reading. nothing. this was deliberate as i wanted to be hard about the
> 0->book in 5 days....to add more flavour to the event we were also using
> an alpha pre-release version of a new type of software and Aco was in
> the room with us building the software as we used it (happy to say that
> booki now seems pretty robust and is now starting to exceed the
> functionality of the FM tool set)...
> thankfully we had a good team and also a team that knew very well that
> this process was an experiment and it might fail. Those in attendance
> were Mushon Zer-Aviv, Michael Mandiberg, Mike Linksvayer, Marta Peirano,
> Alan Toner, Aleksandar Erkalovic (Aco) and me (facilitator). ..for those
> that don't know the line-up I have put their bios at the bottom of this
> email.
> the team was astonishing - a broad range of experiences and the feeling
> in the team was really amazing. very warm and friendly while at the time
> being open to challenge and straight talk.
> During the first day we relied heavily on traditional 'unconference'
> technologies – namely colored sticky notes. With reference to
> Unconferences we always need to tip the hat to Allen Gunn and Aspiration
> for their inspirational execution of this format. We took many ideas
> from Aspiration's Unconferences during the process of this sprint and we
> also brought much of what had been learned from previous Book Sprints to
> the table. First, before the introductions, we each wrote as many notes
> as we could about what we thought this book was going to be about. The
> list consists of the following:
>        * When Collaboration Breaks.
>        * Collaboration (super) Models.
>        * Plausible near and long term development of collaboration tech,
>          methods, etc. Social impact of the same. How social impact can
>          be made positive. Dangers to look out for.
>        * Licenses cannot go two ways.
>        * Incriminating Collaborations.
>        * In the future much of what is valuable will be made by
>          communities. What type of thing will they be? What rules will
>          they have for participation? What can the social political
>          consequences be?
>        * Sharing vs Collaboration.
>        * How to deconstruct and reassemble publishing?
>        * Collaboration and its relationship to FLOSS and GIT communities.
>        * What is collaboration? How does it differ from cooperation?
>        * What is the role of ego in collaboration?
>        * Attribution can kill collaboration as attribution = ownership.
>        * Sublimation of authorship and ego.
>        * Models of collaboration. Historical framework of collaboration.
>          Influence of technology enabling collaboration.
>        * Successful free culture economic models.
> Then each presented who they were and their ideas and projects as they
> are related to free culture, free software, and collaboration. The
> process was open to discussion and everyone was encouraged to write as
> many points, questions, statements, on sticky notes and put them on the
> wall. During this first day we wrote about 100 sticky notes with short
> statements like:
>        * "Art vs Collaboration"
>        * "Free Culture does not require maintenance"
>        * "Transparent premises"
>        * "Autonomy: better term than free/open?"
>        * "Centralised silos vs community"
>        * "Free Culture posturing"
> ...and other cryptic references to the thoughts of the day. We stuck
> these notes on a wall and after all of the presentations (and dinner) we
> grouped them under titles that seemed to act as appropriate meta tags.
> We then drew from these groups the 6 major themes. We finished at
> midnight. i was not sure if we had made enough ground.
> Day two – 10.00 kick off. I woke at 5am wondering how the hell we were
> going to make this work. I woke up Aco in the next room and ranted a bit
> about what we could try. We had breakfast, went to the venue and the
> strategy was that we simply each choose a sticky note from one of the
> major themes and started writing. It was important for us to just 'get
> in the flow' and hence we wrote for the rest of the day until dinner.
> Then we went to the Turkish markets for burek, coffee and fresh
> Pomegranates.
> The rest of the evening we re-aligned the index, smoothed it out, and
> identified a more linear structure. We finished up at about 23.00
> Day three – At 10.00 we started with a brief recap of the new index
> structure and then we also welcomed two new collaborators in the
> realspace – Mirko Lindner and Michelle Thorne. Later in the day, when
> Booki had been debugged a lot by Aco, we welcomed our first remote
> collaborator – Sophie Kampfrath. Then we wrote... at the end of the day
> we restructured the first two sections, did a word count (17,000 words)
> and made sushi.
> After sushi we argued about attribution and almost finished the first
> two sections. Closing time around midnight.
> Day four – A late start (11.00) and we are also joined by Ela Kagel, one
> of the curators from transmediale. Ela presented about herself and
> transmediale and then we discussed possible ways Ela could contribute
> and we also discussed the larger structure of the book. Later Sophie
> joined us in real space to help edit and also Jon Cohrs came at dinner
> time to see how he could contribute. Word count at sleep time (22.00):
> 27,000.
> Day five – The last day. We arrived at 10.00 and discussed the
> structure. Andrea Goetzke and Jon Cohrs joined us. We identified areas
> to be addressed, slightly altered the order of chapters, addressed the
> (now non-existent) processes section, and forged ahead. We finished 2200
> on the button. Objavi, the publishing engine for Booki, generated a
> book-formatted PDF in 2 minutes. Done. Word count ~33,000
> As I understand it transmediale will print between 200-500 copies of the
> book.
> so...what are my thoughts on the book? I find it very hard to reflect on
> its success 'as a book'. I see the experiment a success. i find the
> content and process has changed how i think about collaboration and
> provoked some questions about collaboration that i dont know how to
> answer. As for the book as a book - I think it has some major structural
> issues and i think its scope goes too far. However i think it still
> works. in all likelihood it will be used as a teaching resource in NYU,
> parsons, and Staten Island University since thats where 2 of the
> participants teach...so that is in itself a success. However I think we
> can do better. I remember the first procedural documentation book sprint
> (Inkscape) and I remember the weeks after that event thinking how we
> could have easily improved the process. We did improve it and I think
> our sprints have become better and better. I can already see that in
> sprints like this with a more speculative narrative we need to focus
> much more on structure and 'writing in support of a conclusion'....the
> methodologies still need to be worked out but i feel very positive about
> the future of this kind of sprint...also, I think if this book wasn't
> sooo extremely speculative much of these concerns would have been
> addressed...
> anyways...it was a fantastic experiment. i enjoyed it very much and i
> would be very interested in your thoughts on what i have written and the
> content of the book (http://www.booki.cc/collaborativefutures)
> ...until then, heres the bios of those involved:
> The starting 7 included:
> Mushon Zer-Aviv is a designer, an educator and a media activist from
> Tel-Aviv, based in NY. His work explores media in public space and the
> public space in media. In his creative research he focuses on the
> perception of territory and borders and the way they are shaped through
> politics, culture, networks and the World Wide Web. He is the co-founder
> of Shual.com – a foxy design studio; ShiftSpace.org – an open source
> layer above any website; YouAreNotHere.org – a dislocative tourism
> agency; Kriegspiel – a computer game based on Guy Debord’s Game of War;
> and the Tel Aviv node of the Upgrade international network. Mushon is an
> honorary resident at Eyebeam – an art and technology center in New York.
> He teaches new media research at NYU and open source design at Parsons
> the New School of Design.
> Mike Linksvayer is Vice President at Creative Commons, where he started
> as CTO in 2003. Previously he co-founded Bitzi, an early open data/open
> content/mass collaboration service, and worked as a web developer and
> software engineer. In 1993 he published one of the first interviews with
> Linus Torvalds, creator of Linux. He is a co-founder and currently
> active in Autonomo.us, which investigates and works to further the role
> of free software, culture, and data in an era of software-as-a-service
> and cloud computing. His chapter on "Free Culture in Relation to
> Software Freedom" was published in FREE BEER, a book written by speakers
> at FSCONS 2008. Linksvayer holds a degree from the University of
> Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in economics, a field which continues to
> strongly inform his approach. He lives in Oakland, California.
> Michael Mandiberg is known for selling all of his possessions online on
> Shop Mandiberg, making perfect copies of copies on
> AfterSherrieLevine.com, and creating Firefox plugins that highlight the
> real environmental costs of a global economy on TheRealCosts.com. His
> current projects include the co-authored groundbreaking Creative Commons
> licensed textbook "Digital Foundations: an Intro to Media Design" that
> teaches Bauhaus visual principles through design software;
> HowMuchItCosts.us, a car direction site that incorporates the financial
> and carbon cost of driving; and Bright Bike, a retro-reflective bicycle
> praised by treehugger.com as “obnoxiously bright.” He is a Senior Fellow
> at Eyebeam, and an Assistant Professor at the College of Staten
> Island/CUNY. He lives in, and rides his bicycle around, Brooklyn. His
> work lives at Mandiberg.com.
> Marta Peirano writes about culture, science and technology for the
> Spanish media, encompassing newspapers, online journals and printed
> magazines. She is a long term contributor and founder of the online
> media arts journal Elástico and is the author of "La Petite Claudine", a
> widely read blog in the Spanish language about art, literature, free
> culture, pornography (and everything in between). In 2003 and 2004 she
> directed the Copyfight Festivals in Spain (CCCB, Santa Mónica) with her
> collective Elástico, a symposium and exhibition that investigated
> alternative models of intellectual property. Marta has given numerous
> lectures and workshops on free culture, digital publishing tools and
> journalism at festivals and universities. She recently published "El
> Rival de Prometeo", a book about Automatas and the engineering of the
> Enlightenment. She currently lives in Berlin and is working on a second
> book.
> Alan Toner was born in Dublin and studied law in Trinity College Dublin
> and NYU Law School, where he was later a fellow in the Information Law
> Institute and the Engelberg Center on Law and Innovation. His research
> is focused on the  countervailing impact of peer processes and
> information enclosure on cultural production and social life. In 2003 he
> worked on the grassroots campaign 'We Seize!' challenging the UN World
> Summit on the Information Society; he has participated extensively in
> grassroots media and information freedom movements. Since 2006 he has
> also worked in documentary film, including co-writing and co-producing
> "Steal This Film 2" (2007). In 2008 he co-created the archival site
> http://footage.stealthisfilm.com/. Currently he's writing a book on the
> history of economic and technological control in the film industry.
> Sometimes he can be found near Alexanderplatz, and at
> http://knowfuture.wordpress.com/.
> Aleksandar Erkalovic is reknowned internationally in the new media arts
> and activist circles for the software he has developed. He used to work
> in Multimedia institute in Croatia, where he was the lead developer of a
> popular NGO web publishing system (TamTam). Aleksander has a broad
> spectrum of programming experience having worked on many projects from
> multiplayer games, library software, financial applications, artistic
> projects, and web site analysis applications, to building systems for
> managing domain registration. Aleksander was for a long time the sole
> programmer for FLOSS Manuals and is now leading the development
> (together with Adam Hyde and Douglas Bagnall) of a new GPL-licensed type
> of collaborative authoring and publishing platform called 'Booki'.
> Aleksander's new media artistic collaborations have won many awards, as
> well as being extensively exhibited internationally. Aleksander also
> organises creative and educative workshops directed to young people,
> experts, and amateurs that are interested in the software he has
> developed and free software in general. He is currently also employed by
> Informix in Zagreb, Croatia.
> Adam Hyde was for many years a digital artist primarily exploring
> digital-analog hybrid broadcast systems. These projects included The
> Frequency Clock, Polar Radio, Radio-Astronomy, net.congestion, re:mote,
> Free Radio Linux, Wifio, Paper Cup Telephone Network, Mobicasting,
> Silent TV and others. Many of these projects have won awards and have
> been widely exhibited internationally. Since returning from a residency
> in Antartica in 2007 Adam founded FLOSS Manuals and has been focused on
> increasing the quantity and quality of free documentation about free
> software through FLOSS Manuals, exploring emerging methodologies for
> collaborative book production (Book Sprints), and developing Booki with
> Aleksander and Douglas. Adam has facilitated over 16 Book Sprints, is
> also the co-founder (with Eric Kluitenberg) of the forthcoming
> Electrosmog Festival for Sustainable Immobility and facilitator of the
> forthcoming Arctic Perspectives technology cahier.
> adam

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