Category Archives: collaboration

Queer Economics And Love-Driven Politics

I’m feeling torn about this article. Although I posted it on Medium I never shared it really. I rewrote “fem” and “masc” to read “yin” and “yang”, but that doesn’t cut it either. There’s something in it, and it needs other people, conversation, to shape what can become, so I release it:

This is the story of a change of mind that came so sudden that I didn’t even had time to get nervous. It was the day I shared the stage with Yochai Benkler, which means I had a mad good audience. The OUIshareFest committee had asked me to talk about Poietic Co-Entrepreneurship, something I had R&D’ed for years. But just before the talk, I spontaneously decided to share something else instead, and said:

“This talk is about Androgyny, or the in-between, and how that relates to the way we work, talk and play.”

I handed out small tags and asked everyone in the audience to write down how they saw themselves on a scale between masculine and feminine. Say, I feel 70% feminine and 30% masculine. Then I asked them to flip that and listen to the talk from that perspective. Dear reader, you might want to do the same.

After we had gender-labelled ourselves sufficiently, I went on. Let’s assume we live in a patriarchal economy. That means that structures, symbolism, language as well as storytelling and sense-making mechanisms are largely masculine. There’s an emphasis on competition, argumentative communication, and a desire for definition, linearity, and focus.

At this point, I could hear shuffling feet in the audience and noticed intensive stares, but no one left.

To reveal patriarchal structures, I spoke about pyramids versus galaxies as symbols for the old and new economy. The pyramid is the old economy, a hierarchical system with a desire for security/control, winning, and stability. You set an aim, shoot the arrow and go for the kill. The galaxy is the new economy, and is made of many moving parts, which continuously change their relationship towards one another. Here, control is surrendered to organic movement. Stability is found in resilience: the ability to respond well to whatever curveball your environment serves you.

Emerging ways of working emphasise such traits. They are relational and integrative, not exclusive or competitive. Take commons-oriented peer production or design thinking, where pivoting and iterating are characterised by non-linear flows that embrace and integrate multiple potentialities.

By this stage, I felt heightened energy in the room and saw supportive nods. I went on pointing out that — while we’re religiously preaching design thinking — the method itself will not change current winner-takes-all practice unless we change the language that goes with it.

We’re still using war terminology: we talk about strategy and tactics and war rooms and combatting problems. Just to get a foot in the door, we marry design thinking with business speak. Speaking of imagination, joy, and playfulness is still frowned upon. Despite modern rhetoric, failing still has a stigma. Empathetic soft-spokenness is devalued as weak and indecisive. Saying “maybe” is seen as an invitation to be taken advantage of. What a shame! What I hear when I hear “maybe” is an invitation to build on someone’s thought. It’s not about arguing someone’s point. It’s about possibility. It’s about levelling up. Not beating down. And that’s way stronger than arguing a point. It is stronger, because you acknowledge that there is more than your viewpoint; it’s stronger, because you acknowledge that an opposing idea is still as true as yours; it’s stronger, because you can hold paradoxical ideas at once and still make sense; it’s stronger, because it’s non-linear multi-level sense-making. In the age of complexity, we may want to come to see that as an evolutionary advantage.

At this point, I had eased into my stream of consciousness. So, this is me with a limb out. I proposed that our storytelling is largely masculine, not just in terms of predominant characters in popular TV and cinema, but in terms of underlying structure. In the world of books and films, the typical linear story follows a three-act masculine orgasm: (1) foreplay, (2) climax, (3) sleep (forgive me, but it’s funny). With new technologies, though, we see non-linear narratives emerging. Stories take place on various platforms, such as film, app, graphic novels, instagram, games etc. Such roving stories have multiple orgasms: several releases in various places at once. I’m sure masculine types enjoy these, too.

This chart wasn’t part of my talk, but I got obsessed:


If the Western world is a stronghold of the masculine, how can we bring in the feminine without compromising the masculine altogether? It’s obvious that we have a liking for domination and “power over”. It’s also obvious that — to save our planet  — we need to shift our focus to nurturing and caring qualities; the ones that act from a deep-seated “power within”, a mature strength that leads by service, a confident wanderer that finds that the goal can be in the way.

In our upbringing, we have learned that masculine traits bring success, but we shouldn’t train ourselves to play the domination game. Instead, we should infuse our economy with love and care. Still, we need to realise that these traits bring success, too. And that means valuing and remunerating affective and emotional labour. That means recognizing that the feminine holds a wisdom that will only thrive if we allow the masculine to subside a bit. That doesn’t mean that we don’t need our masculinity. The opposite, we need both. We need the queerness of being both, of being in-between. We could re-marry the masculine and feminine; renew the vows and help both create the poetry of life by working hand in hand, by engaging in love-driven politics with each other, and with nature, by being alchemists.

So I wonder:

  • How can we create malleable structures that enable and equally value both feminine and masculine expressions of individual and collective creativity?
  • How can we bring about a value system for a new economy that embraces the in-between – including its uncertainty, fuzziness, and tenderness – and fosters queerer and more caring modes of interaction?

In Paris, I ended my talk reading out this poem of mine.


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Permaculture for Business

In early 2015, I sent an email to the Michael Crouch Innovation Center at UNSW (back then just opening) and suggested an artist residency to do ethnographic research in a Permaculture community. My goal was to try and apply permaculture principles to the way we work and live in cities; to find new ideas how to transform or build businesses. I never heard back, so I kept working on existing projects.

2016-05-26 09.10.01Later in the year, I worked on an Earthship, together with a wonderful community of permaculturists and natural builders. I thought how useful would it be to bring entrepreneurship and business students out to the country, to work together in this way, hands on, thereby learning what entrepreneurship really is, before learning business modelling and financial planning.

When I returned to Sydney, I spoke to the head of the newly established Judith Neilson chair at UNSW (based in Architecture and Build Environment). The reaction was “intrigued” but we didn’t get anywhere.

One step closer. At least someone heard me.

I also spoke to people at the Hatchery and the business school at UTS. Interest but no budget and risky. If you know someone, who’d be excited to invest in such an experimental learning program, please get in touch.

LORE :: Androgyny

Over the course of a few years, I’ll tie different strands that I research together. I use LORE as a term for this package of research; LORE in the sense of “folklore” but also as “body of traditions” or (in)visible cultural norms we abide by. First, because everything I do places itself in storytelling. Also, because I live and die for a good faerytale. And lastly, because I was invited by an indigenous elder to learn with her. In Wirradjirri, the indigenous Australian Dreaming is referred to as LAW/LORE, which opened up a whole new way of thinking about culture and ethics as a way to “law”. The different strands that I collect under LORE are emerging as I evolve. The first theme that came to me was Androgyny, or generally everything that’s in-between.

To get my ethnography going I started a facebook group to start a conversation about the “in between” across many domains: sex (on being both masc/fem as male/female), politics (on binaries and unity), creativity (on being ambidextrous), mind (on reasoning and sensing), culture (on science and art), philosophy (on spirituality and logic). It’s about integration and remix and what it means when it gets jumbled in a body; how it (re)presents itself in the world; and about our agency. Something important is shifting globally and here’s a forum to move beyond binaries.

Soon after I had about 300 group members, I invited those based in Sydney to a local workshop, a playground to explore and make-do. We were about 20, meeting for 3h at Join the Dots, a workshop space in Marrickville. We had queers, cis, mums, dads, singles, Europeans, Australians, freelancers, artists, consultants, yoga teachers, designers, employees, entrepreneurs, writers, musicians, academics, artists, oh dear so many, all between the age of 5 to 50.

The main questions we asked when designing this playground were:
– How can we soften current labels around gender, queerness or heteronormativity?
– How can we soften ubiquitous divisive/competitive language (i.e in Business and Science) to a more androgynous/integrative one?
– How can we play in between binaries and make people comfortable with that fuzziness?

We started with a little identity change. We gave each participant a small tag. On the one side they first estimated their percentage of feminine and masculine traits. For example,  today I feel 70% feminine and 30% masculine in a female body. Then, we turned the tag around and wrote on the other side. This time, we would choose the opposite or a variation that is very alien to me. For example, I would now have a male body and feel 90% and 10% feminine. The idea was to tap into empathy. Once we had our characters, we all pledged to stay in character throughout the workshop. When we did this, Baran played the hang for us. The atmosphere was so joyful, chilled and energised. Loved it. 

Before the workshop we had asked everyone to bring three objects, ne that is masculine, one feminine and one neutral. We laid out a large butcher paper and everyone traced their object and took it away again. Just looking at the outlines, the group walked around and wrote adjectives next to the traces. This way, we collected impressions about shapes and outlines that hint on masculine and feminine, but we also gathered counterintuitive statements. Overall, we figured that objects were divided into fem, neutral or masc according to their function and/or shape. Very interesting was the 5-year-old, who couldn’t identify specific female objects, everything was male or neutral. Overall, we saw that everyone started from a different idea of what Androgyny is.

To go into the next exercise we asked everyone to choose an object and form groups around a certain object. The task was to create a story that incorporates the object and the gender swapped characters we were playing. For the next hour, groups drew story boards, build small objects and wrote various versions of character development. All this work was done on butchers paper.

To share their ideas, each group improvised a 5-minute performance with everyone on stage performing their character in drag. Giving everyone a counterintuitive role, our idea was to help people get into other people’s shoes. But what happened instead was that all our stories poised  at the edge of stereotyping. It was remarkable to see how we all exposed ourselves freely to how little we actually knew about what it really felt like for others. 

While listening to the stories, the audience would make notes on “Triggers and Thresholds”. Whenever they were triggered emotionally by something pleasing they would write down one word. And whenever they felt a reaction to a threshold, or a liminal space, that is threatening to them, they wrote down a keyword that popped up in that moment. All these keyword were noted on post-its.

On the wall we had created a matrix, on which we collected these statements to get an overview about feminine  and masculine gender ideas in the room. After each performance the whole group would run at the wall and place their triggers and thresholds along a horizontal line that ran from feminine to masculine, and a vertical line that ran from trigger to threshold. 

With such a short timeframe there was no more time to drill deeper into areas, such as the “in between”, transgender, orgasms, sexuality, politics, business, language, emancipation of gender, evolution, etc. We left knowing that there was great interest in a series of playgrounds around the topic.
More photos and details are here.

Group size:
Expected size of the group is 15 to 35.

Index Cards (6 x 9)
Post-it Notes
Butcher Paper
Masking Tape
Markers (3 different colours)

Room setup
3 tables
2 benches
floor space and cushions
three walls, one used for projection

Superhero Card Game

Play this game with a group as an icebreaker or as an energizer to make people talk casually and intimately to learn something about themselves and their peers.

GSuperpower card pic by student_croproup size: minimum 10 pax
Playtime: 5 Min intro, played across breaks, 10 min framing, ideally leads into a self-inquiry game (ask us)

The game objective is to give insight into our life journey and empower confidence in our personal capacity and creativity. Learn to be vulnerable and experience others’ openness.

Hand out  one card pp during a break and ask people to swap until they have their favourite. Back in the group ask who is ultimately happy with their card. Usually, a few are, but most are not. It’s an analogy to life. You cultivate talents and skills, but more often than not lose them to market demands. By retrieving our superpowers we can adjust our path as we go, contributing our best to the world.

Played at: University of Technology Sydney, SW/TCH Festival Sydney, re:publica Berlin, This is Not Art Newcastle, Parsons New School of Design NYC, OUI Share Paris

A Meta Look at Collaboration

Lance Weiler pinged me two days ago and asked if I’d have a chat with him about the MOOC we ran, why we design collaboration this way, what it takes to brave it, and what it means in terms of shifts in society. So we dived into the why and how and what of peer production. I had a stream of consciousness and Lance edited it quite nicely. I still need to learn to be more precise with language, but there are some gems in there. My part starts at minute 2:30. It’s a piece to lean back and let it wash over you, just see what comes up for you. Enjoy!

Notes on the blockchain

I recently went to the Sydney Blockchain workshops and took some notes for beginners (like me). Overall it is about digitizing value transfer by cutting out the middle man, but new middle men already emerge (those who enable the blockchain).
  • two functions for blockchain: register ownership and rails for transfering items
  • function of smart contracts: machine 2 machine consensus protocol
  • economists have largely overlooked blockchain tech, BUT blockchain is not an info tech but a governance tech, fundamentally changing the nature of our economy by offering new coordination systems
  • tracking and ensuring providence, enabling makers to receive royalties from each step that their work gets passed on and/or remixed. I felt reminded of the academic referencing system, just in tech.
  • In order to implement trust into the technology, companies, such as ethereum provide “smart contracts”, which are programs/codes that rule/exercise which action can and cannot be performed with items on a specific blockchain. This reminded me of creative commons, just digital.
  • arguments are about open and closed ledgers (blockchains), close ledgers being referred to as the AOL of the blockchain.
  • debates around hacking and control, about repeating the same mistakes as with the internet when capitalist companies co-opt the technology (and we don’t have as much unattended time as we had with the internet, because big banks are already capitalising on the blockchain, reinventing their identity in order to become the new middle man). So, the audience was quite divided between coders/anarchists and managers/bankers.
  • no consensus yet how to scale
  • problems with efficiency versus capturing the actual complexity of an item (Joi Ito, MIT)
  • balance if inclusion and efficiency also relevant in terms of WHO and HOW MANY take part
  • blockchain as an opportunity to move away from basic double entry bookkeeping
  • too many laws still pre internet time
  • tussle between privacy and security, what are the relevant decisions and negotiations
  • ICANN for blockchain needed to counter Gov
  • very early stage still
  • blockchain as a way to consider context (smart contracts)
  • ethereum can create markets, these can then be markets in markets
  • offline and online economies can integrate (catallaxy)
  • ethics of autonomous systems a huge question (do devices have rights like companies? whats human responsibility?)
  • law is centralised at the moment, can smart contracts decentralise the law? (asks Ele)
  • beware of network imperialism, commones are selfish too
  • Merkle Tree interesting model to understand how blockchain can be politically and architecturally decentralised yet logically centralised
INSTITUTE FOR THE FUTURE – Bettina Warburg (Palo Alto)
The IFTF just announced the blockchain futures lab. Keyword Crypto economy. Research into Practical applications of blockchain principles with commercial value w/ Boston consulting. Viable experiments w corporate sector. Interested in universities.
ASCRIBE – Greg McMullen
Ascribe creates an ownership later of the Internet attempting to give IP back to digital creators. We could use their technology for emerging idea that staff worry about giving away. I know there are other platforms for this too. Ascribe also helps finding infringing copies of the registered IP. Imogen Heap tiny human is an example for how it works. License content on blockchain and invite people to remix. One can track derivative work. (Like academic peer review?)
Also monegraph a platform like this.PLANTOID – Filipa de Primavera (Harvard)
digital certificates a problem because international jurisdiction is different on what’s public domain and what can’t be. Individual can use blockchain as a registry to ascertain what other people have said what the legal status is. Blockchain enables tracking who is using your assets.
Ccrypto equity interesting keyword
“Pay for production not for consumption”PLANTOID is a platform for Blockchain-based art: people fund artists for a specific art piece, based on open source software, copyleft, another artist can remix the work and original author is rewarded and recognised. It’s not about IP protection but about maximise dissemination of artwork to be remixed because then more funds are collected. Royalties go back to original artists and new
is a collaboration platform based on a new business model or game principle of micro transactions or micro tipping, giving reward for contributions.

another platform that tries to improve trustless interactions by building on ethereum

The Tech Pentagram Collaboration Game

Group size: 40 – 200 pax

Playtime: 1h

2015-09-14 12.18.27The workshop is designed to give participants a visceral experience of just how quickly small teams of people can come up with world-changing ideas. It’s a possibility engine for your organisation.

This workshop explores and excavates the landscape of where technological innovation meets established industries such as media, manufacturing, energy and health. It’s a living, thinking event that uses game mechanics and future scenario design to unleash the imagination of its participants while teaching how to integrate concepts in relation to the systems they span.

2015-09-14 12.17.48We begin by giving a broad overview of the technological intersections and their potential impacts on a specific sector. Then the true fun and creativity starts! Up to 200 people from mixed sectors prototype some potential agents for change. In groups of 2 we dive into a technology of your choice. In groups of 4 we prioritise relevance of different aspects you discussed. In groups of 8 we begin integrating different technologies in order to come up with radical new possibilities. Throughout the workshop – like by magic – you will create a geometric shape containing the peaks of your thinking. In this workshop, expect spontaneity, bouncing messengers, human knots, inspiration, and mind expanding ideas.

Be. Poietic. Punks.

Yoke Magazine and SW/TCHFest recently published a little piece I wrote.


Yoke mag picWe are at a point of transition. Of many transitions. Global politics, business, and technologies are shifting shape. And we are shifting with them. The question is: do structures form us, or do we form structures? The Italian Operaismo movement of the 1960s believed that it’s ultimately the people who change systems. So, we should look at our own agency and wondering – how can we shape the world around us?

Understanding poiesis is key to influencing this global transition. Poiesis simply means “becoming” or “bringing forth.” It means to act from the heart – heroically even – to contribute to something larger than oneself. In philosophy, the concept describes the poetic and aesthetic realities that surface through human reflection and emotional expression. What comes about through poiesis are subjective truths that are ethical, humanistic, and spiritual. Being in poiesis can be a liberating, even ecstatic, sensation of congruence between body and mind. Imagine what the future of work would look like. A future in which you do what you love, with people you like, towards something meaningful that protects resources and ourselves.

Sound like a fantasy? As a design ethnographer I have dedicated countless hours to exploring poiesis and social innovation through storytelling, collaboration and hands-on education. As part of my PhD, I co-founded a collective called Learn Do Share, a group of collaborators sharing their minds, hearts, and hands to invent new ways of working and learning. The collective’s poietic work has gained momentum and attention from people and organisations wanting to join the movement. We have worked with the United Nations, UNICEF, Columbia University, and Google Creative Labs, and recently ran games at OUIShare Paris and Re:publica Berlin., some of us developed Be.Poietic.Punks, an anarchic game all about exploring poiesis. This culture hacking game is designed to give people an experience of their political agency with the aim to elicit associative ways of co-creation. Part 1 is a sci-fi card game employing anarchic collective problem solving fusing sci-fi storytelling, speculative design and rapid prototyping. In part 2, participants create an “exquisite corpse” style wall carpet, representing a remixed story of the project that was prototyped in part 1 of the game. At the end, dancers and musicians perform an ad-hoc choreography based on the wall carpet story. The process throws everyone into disorientation, intense time boxing, and lots of laughter. We simulate process as something largely unplannable, and I’m interested in testing how people react to embracing such chaos, giving up their instinct to control the environment. The whole game is a mad challenge to trust intuition and associative reasoning.

MOOC_PosterAnother project is called Sherlock Holmes and the Internet of Things (IoT). This MOOC (which we call a Massive Online Offline Collaboration) is an ongoing prototype developed and run by Learn Do Share at Columbia University. With meet-ups in close to 20 cities, 1000+ collaborators from over 60 countries, the pilot MOOC creates a massive connected crime scene consisting of smart storytelling objects. Teams take on roles from the novel to create, design, build and test prototypes in local and global groups. They explore the ethical and political implications of IoT. By creating shared assets collaborators raise questions on shared authorship and ownership, which ultimately leads them to engage with new concepts. A transition to the commons as a way of exchange is one example.

Termed “commons transition”, the concept is associated with a movement and policy proposals aimed toward achieving a more humane and environmentally grounded mode of societal organisation. Business and social researchers alike articulate what such an economy would look like and which policy recommendations would be required. These ideas of a “social knowledge economy” is based on free an open access to knowledge as well as circular modes of exchange. Our goal with Sherlock is to introduce as many people as possible to options that help them rethink their Ayn Randian neoliberal parameters.

All this may sound a bit unattainable, but as Margaret Mead famously said: 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”


On Commons Transition and Mutual Value

For the MOOC that I lecture in (Sherlock and the Internet of Things) I created two short vids. The focus is on a few interrelated topics I have been researching for a while. Here’s the second vid and a short intro below.

In our Sherlock MOOC, we create shared assets and raise questions about shared authorship and ownership. That means we’re dealing new concepts of society, such as creative commons.

In this clip I briefly introduce the underlying concept: the commons. It has a long history, meaning public owning and sharing, and it has often been deemed as tragedy. I explain why that is and give some aspirational reminders what it takes to overcome this obstacle. My main point is that the key to success lies within everyone themselves as much as in between two or more people. To consider someone else’s interest as much as your own is not altruism but a smart way to accomplish a life of poiesis, which we talked about in session 1.

The term “commons transition” is associated with a movement and policy proposals aimed toward achieving a more humane and environmentally grounded mode of societal organization. Business and commons researchers alike articulate what such an economy would look like and which policy recommendations would be required. These ideas of a “social knowledge economy” is based on free an open access to knowledge as well as circular modes of exchange. Sherlock wants to train as many people as possible to rethink their Ayn Randian neoliberal parameters. This transition is tricky, because we’re doing “poiesis” which is easily confused as Randian, so we need to clarify how these two work together.

On Poiesis and Collaborative Spaces

For the MOOC that I lecture in (Sherlock and the Internet of Things) I created two short vids. The focus is on a few interrelated topics I have been researching for a while. Here’s the first vid.

In this part of our Sherlock lecture, I provide a meta reflection on the way we collaborate. One goal of Sherlock is to remind us of our political agency and to elicit associative ways of co-creation. In this MOOC we ask you to bring yourself into the process, your individual talents, skills and wishes. And we ask you to find ways to realise your own d through finding mutual benefit.

Why is this important? Global politics, business and technologies are shifting shape. And we are shifting with them. The question is: do structures form us, or do we form structures? The Italian Operaismo movement of the 1960s believed that it’s ultimately the people who change systems. So, we are looking at our own agency and wonder – how can we innovate the world around us? This is poiesis. My philosophical introduction to poiesis explains the concept in more detail, and how we can actualise it in collaborative spaces.

See second vid here.