A journey to discover the people who change our world.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Peerage? The New Peer Age.

Since the beginning of this trip new ways of communicating and working together are becoming known to me; and the technology to enable it practically free.
I blog. I put images on Flickr. I use collaborative online networking site, like the Omidyar Network to help me track people down and find out about interesting projects. I use VoP software like google talk, skype to connect for free around the globe.

I think about it. Even five years ago a trip of this nature would have been a lot more labour intensive. It would have been harder to find the people and more expensive to contact them. What’s interesting me also is the possibility for collaboration with individuals which I otherwise would never have met had it not been for this technological development.

It’s a fascination shared my many it seems, none more so that Michel Bauwens who had set up the Peer to Peer (or P2P) foundation, a network driven organisation which aims to research, document and promote the emergence of such new networks.

I ‘met’ Michel first through Omidyar (surprise, surprise), but tracked him down in person in Chiang Mai, Northern Thailand, where he put me up for a few days and shared his insights and discoveries.

To Michel peer to peer is ‘a form of human network-based organisation with rest upon the few participation of equipotent partners, engaged in the production of common resources, without recourse to monetary compensation as a key motivation factor and not organised according to hierarchical methods of command and control’.

Phew. Complicated? Well if you are reading this online chances are that you have used or are right now using a product which is a result of such peer networks. If your computer is running on a Linux operating system you certainly are. If you have ever used the Mozilla Firefox internet browser, then you have. If you have look something up in Wikipedia, the online encyclopaedia, then yes again.

To Michel, these products indicate the potential of P2P to not only change the face of technology, but also radically alter work practices and global collaboration. They are indicators that people, by connecting in new ways, have the power to reshape the way society operates, for the better.

Michel is Belgian philosopher and internet pioneer. He is credited as setting up the first cyberlibrary while working as knowledge manager at BP. His life has taken him on many a shift and turn; as a documentary film maker looking at the relationship between spirituality and technology, as founder of a marketing company, as founder of a Belgian internet print magazine, and now working full time on P2P documentation and promotion. All the time learning to recreate himself along the way. He dispensed a some gems of wisdom which he has learned on this own journey, including;

-Don’t ask for permission! If you are trying something innovative, do it. When people see that you are doing it, and that you are successful, then they will support you.

I like it!!


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