Contact Summit: “It’s time to take back the net”

by jonl

At the Contact Summit. Photo by Steven Brewer

At the Contact Summit. Photo by Steven Brewer

This week, on October 20, a diverse assortment of forward-thinking, Internet-savvy, solutions-oriented people gathered in New York City for Contact Summit, a project-focused event organized by Doug Rushkoff and Venessa Miemis. I was originally planning to attend, and was plugged into the small team of organizers. I couldn’t make the event, but have been available as a resource for organizers of related global Meetups, and will help sustain the converation following the event.

Doug had created a prologue video for the remote Meetups scheduled to occur synchronous with the main event. Here’s a summary of his comments in that video – this gives a good idea what the gathering was about:

It’s time to take back the net. Currently the Internet is much too concerned with marketing, IPOs, and the next killer app, and too little concerned with helping human beings get where we need to go. We want to use the Internet effectively to promote better ways of living, doing commerce, educating, making art, doing spirituality. To collaborate on ideas about how to use the net well. There are a lot of projects that need our assistance. From Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, people are rising up. We need solutions. Contact is about finding the others, and working and playing with them to find solutions to age-old problems. In New York on October 20th, we’re having unconference-style meetings plus a two hour bazaar where people will demo their projects. We’ll select projects that most need help, help them get funding and move forward. What it’s really about is planting a flag in the sand, saying the Internet is really about us, not about aiding the bottom line of a few corporations. This goes as deep and as far as we want to take it. The Summit is just a trigger point. It’s time to fold the fringes of the Internet back into the middle and re-ignite the passion and practicality of the Internet. If there were another name for Contact, I would call it “Occupy the Net.” We will collaborate to bring disparate projects with similar goals into harmony, so that anything we can dream will emerge.

Here’s a list of the winning projects from the Bazaar:

Here’s a list of winning sessions (selected by attendees):

Upgrading Democracy: Representation is a fundamental concept of our governance, but is encoded in the technology of the 18th century. The modern networked world enables a truer form of representation known variously under the names Dynamic Democracy, Liquid Democracy, and Delegable Proxy voting.

Local Foodsharing platform: I don’t have details on this yet

Kick-Stopper – Crowdsourced Unfunding: This group is dedicated to creating online organizing tools to organize large scale divestment and debt strike campaigns. Join here: http://groups.google.com/group/debt-strike-kick-stopper

Online General Assembly: This group folded itself into the Upgrade Democracy group, but has its own mandate: to create an online version of the General Assembly technique (as practiced by Occupy Wall Street) for consensus building.

Collaboration Matchmaking Application: The idea is to create an application that helps creators, particularly artists, find collaborators on projects. During the final session on this concept, participants decided that this project should grow at its own pace and with a relatively smaller circle.

DJ Lanphier shot video at the event, and has gradually been uploading those to http://www.youtube.com/contactsummit. Here’s an example, a video of Michel Bauwens of the P2P Foundation: “We are discovering together how we should be working.”

Photo by Steven Brewer.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam Rose October 22, 2011 at 10:23 pm

The food group resolved to create ways to facilitate activities around local foods with alternative currency transactions. We looked at ideas like a “rideshare for local produce”, sorting food for farmers in exchange for having access to blemished produce, turning waste into soil and soil back into food, and using alternative currency around those transactions.

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ale fernandez October 24, 2011 at 1:57 pm

Hi sam – If you could draw a map of all those transactions, outputs and conversions, it would make an excellent resource to help people figure out how they can contribute, or how it could be self sufficient. It could help to forecast the effects of shortages or other variations, and to let all the groups involved communicate amongst each other or even to enable them have a say in issues outside that circle or area. Cybersyn in 70s Chile did similar things with telex machines, and we can probably do the same with featurephones today. I guess we are at the point where community owned network infrastructure can enable something a lot cleverer and more participative than the economic and decision making system we have now.

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Sam Rose October 24, 2011 at 2:44 pm

Ale, I think we will produce what you are talking about soon (got some sessions coming up to work on this). I’ll report back here and on the contactcon forums about where we are going with all of this. Thanks for the suggestion!

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