This is a review of DGML, ‘physical’, ‘cosmo-local’ peer production; produced by the Source Network, (an online network bringing together academics, policy professionals and civil society organisers from across Europe created by the New Economics Foundation), written by Chris Giotitsas and Jose Ramos from the P2P Foundation/P2P Lab. Download the full report here: A New Model of Production for a New Economy.
Chris Giotitsas and Jose Ramos: “The basic features of DG-ML are based on the conjunction of open source / open design production logics at the global scale, which are coupled with local-network production at a regional scale. Traditionally corporate enterprises have solely owned the intellectual property (IP) they employ in the production of goods. They source the materials for the goods through national or global supply chains. They manufacture those goods using economies of scale in a set number of manufacturing centres, whereupon those finished goods are delivered nationally or globally. DG-ML is an inversion of this production logic. First of all, the IP is open, whether open source or creative commons or copyfair,3 so it can be used by anyone. Secondly, manufacturing and production can be done independently of the IP, by any community or enterprise around the world that wants to. The democratization of increasingly powerful precision manufacturing technologies, such as 3D printers, laser cutters, CNC routers and automated systems / robots potentiate this. This does not follow the logic of economies of scale (yet), rather it is focused on producing value for a critical reference group (CRG), a community who require such goods. Thirdly, distribution is localized to the CRG, or affiliates of the CRG.
DG-ML is not just the advent of new technologies that can be simply strapped on to the neoliberal globalization machine. DG-ML in fact represents the instantiation and operationalization of a new economic system that draws from an emerging worldview. Drawing from relationships and experiences with people involved in DG-ML, we believe it represents a substantive cultural shift in the orientation of material producers/consumers. It rejects the way in which industrialization has decontextualized inputs and outputs and associated externalities. It is thus allied to the vision for building circular economies, the idea being that the production materials used in a DG-ML process are sourced as locally as possible, with waste outputs utilized as inputs elsewhere, eliminating unnecessary supply chain associated costs and impacts. It is also connected to calls for a post-growth economic model, sustaining livelihoods based on measures of wellbeing rather than corporate / economic growth.10 It is interwoven with the open source movement, a vision for a digital commons where the legacy of human creativity is shareable. It draws from a planetary imaginary where local development work is responsive to the planetary challenges we face.11 It is in fact part of a movement to create an alternative globalization,12 and an expression of an emergent worldview: global ecological integrity versus overshoot, peer worker solidarity versus national competition, value pluralism versus the monoculture of GDP.”
From the conclusion: “These two cases provide a window into an emerging economic model that we are just beginning to understand. The cases demonstrate the peer production of shared value and common resources. However, unlike the open software movement, the mode of co-production within these cases are highly localized, members are collaboratively prototyping, designing and experimenting with machinery. These cases can be considered to be prefigurative, they are potential indicators of things to come. The logic of peer production has hit an important threshold, it is now instantiated through physical / material production. Yet the cases also demonstrate growing pains. For Farm Hack questions still remain concerning their financial viability and the challenges of sustaining the producing communities. Is a weak for-benefit organisation enough to facilitate the healthy growth of their network of peer producers? For L’Atelier Paysans, there are less problems with financing the operation, but more questions about how an entrepreneurial coalition is activated. Looking ahead, what might we take away from these case studies that may allow us to see the faint future outlines of an alternative political economy? The emergence of the network form and the logic of commoning embodied in DG-ML practices as demonstrated in these case studies, provide us with some of the seeds from which to begin to imagine an alternative future for political economy. DG-ML challenges the logic of zero sum competition, which is at the heart of our nationally based (and globally connected) capitalist systems. In the current system we are used to national governments supporting national industries to compete globally, win market share and take the lead in technology and innovation. The DG-ML model is part of the birth of a globally cooperative system, the design innovations from one community in one part of the world can be used and adapted for a community in a wholly different part of the world. Instead of systems of competitive advantage and capturing of market share, technological adaptation is community-based and meant to sustain the livelihoods of critical reference groups. While there is theoretical scope for larger industrial scale DG-ML which is able to produce for regional markets (cities of 4-20 million people for example), the examples in this report show a commitment to the adaptation of design and technology for local critical reference groups, rather than competitive marketing strategies.
This then can also help us to reconsider the role of the state with respect to industry and material production. If DG-ML helps regions to rupture from the zero-sum logic of competition, states may develop policies in which support is given to both scales of the DG-ML coproduction system – global and local. At the scale of the global, national policy can orient knowledge production to be open in a way that potentiates industry in material production society-wide and indeed worldwide. At the scale of the local state policy can support communities and local regions in bootstrapping enterprises and productive communities that can instantiate the potential and value of DG-ML processes, through participatory action research processes. This has been referred to as a partner state model.24Finally, because DG-ML is growing from within the dominant capitalist economy, it is important that the value of a global design commons is not simply captured by capitalist industry as a way to lower its operational costs, without having to reciprocate by entering into the coproduction of the commons. It’s important, therefore, to begin to consider how to create virtuous cycles in the value exchanges between different actors in the global DG-ML meta-system. Some ideas in this vein have may be the development of copyfair licences (commons-based reciprocity license),25 useful for trans-nationalizing a generative circulation of value across commons based initiatives – a form of open cooperativism,26 and through which the capitalist / corporate sector would need to concretely reciprocate into if it wants to draw upon it in the first place. This would conceivably require new global institutions that would be able to provide legal and administrative power in supporting, enacting and protecting an open cooperativist regime of knowledge and value exchange. The potential for DG-ML is to liberate the human heritage of knowledge and design, so that communities and people anywhere have the full array of technologies and capabilities to address their living economic and ecological challenges. If we want to accelerate the human capability to enact sustainable development strategies across the world, the right to global designs and concrete support for building local livelihoods are fundamental pillars. The case studied presented here provide hope grounded in practice. Building on these courageous pioneering efforts will be the next challenge.”