Meta-Group Dispatch #1

…a first round of reflections from the meta-group.

The first Winter Camp plenary session took place on Tuesday evening. Everybody had a moment on stage, some already had an idea of how many networks were in the room, some were completely surprised by the size of this ‘network of networks’. About 180 people presenting themselves, is quite a names, faces and diversity overload. But also it gave people a sense of what it means to scale up – not just individual networks, but our ways of engaging in a conversation across networks. And while the question of translation was raised more than once, both as a practical concern and a possible model for collaboration, the English language is still dominant.

Winter Camp opening nightWinter Camp opening night

Urban space is a commodity whose value is rising as the information economy shifts to creativity as the next big thing. Gentrification accompanies the transformation of creativity from an experimental practice into the economic paradigm of policy frameworks. What this means concretely: it’s more expensive than ever to rent spaces to gather, to talk, to organize. Most of the Winter Camp budget is spent on rent. The venue for the opening night – a 70s-style cinema – shaped the plenary, for better or worse. Another part of the work of networking is of course the creation of spaces that are supportive of the networked condition, and of new forms of collaboration. Sometimes it’s merely the architecture that encourages us to maintain traditional forms of sociality and debate.

The networks attending range from the highly informal (Goto10) to the more formal (, for example) with participants mainly from Western Europe, North America, with a smattering of participants from other parts of the world (Mexico, El Salvador, Cameroon, for example) and a small core from New Zealand and Australia). With a few exceptions (notably FLOSS manuals), these groups were not all that trans-generational. Most participants are fairly young (18-35).

The Winter Camp meta-group is also doing interviews with a couple of members of each network with a focus on the following issues: conditions of birth, tension between informality and formality, financial and material resources, and working and political relationships to other networks and groups. While we are keeping the interviews to 20 minutes, it is clear already from the few that have been conducted that these conversations will provide a wealth of fascinating information about the constitution, transformation etc. of these organizations. It will provide a historical resource for these groups as well as for the meta-group for thinking comparatively and analytically about these networks.

The plenary sessions will be our main feedback channel during this event. Instead of thematic emphasis, we drew on the concepts, terms, and idioms of the texts submitted by each network – these are some of the terms groups use to describe their work, to situate themselves in the world of networks. We grouped the terms around three main phases each network goes through – the conditions of its emergence, the trials and challenges of being (and staying) active, and possible futures that may (or may not) call for collaborations beyond network boundaries. Please check the previous posting about the thematic clouds for the plenary sessions.

Please add to these themes and leave your comments if you want. We will be reworking them throughout the week, as new terms pop up in group meetings and interviews. Most likely these will end up in the wintercamp report, to be published later. Maybe they can serve as additional resource for whatever follow-up takes place in or across networks.