unMonastery: The Year Ahead

Over the past 6 months the unMonastery has been going through a number of significant developments, explorations and experiments — these initiatives have had mixed results, some very successful and some borderline disastrous; the net effect has restricted our capacity to report back in our usual constant stream of communication (un)consciousness.

This post signals an initial effort towards opening out those activities by updating you on major developments, flagging plans for the year ahead and inviting people to play a greater role.

Key areas covered in this post are; the formation of a formal unMonastery organ(isnation), the ongoing development and creation of individual unMonastery nodes and our part in a very exciting H2020 consortium (focused on the development of localised community owned offline networks). Obviously there’s a lot to cover; so this post will for the most part serve as an index for a series of posts to be published over the next two months that go into greater detail on specific areas of exploration.

‘Waking the unMonastery Organ’

The flashy news is the formation of our formal organ: back in February of this year we hosted the first unMonastery unSummit in Berlin as part of Transmediale: Capture All (at which the majority of the core family were gathered). As part of this gathering we held a series of meetings and events, in which together we sought to identify what was essential to the ongoing development of unMonastery.

One of the central requirements identified during our circles, was the need to form an autonomous legal organ in order to establish clearer structures and models for participation, acknowledge the vast mix of contributions being made by individuals to unMonastery over time, decentralise tacit control within an accountable structure, and advance opportunities for resources to support the establishment of individual unMonastery nodes. This was particularly crucial given that over the past year the initiative and network had grown far beyond its early stage development within the EdgeRyders community.

During this meeting we hit upon an organisational model that we felt was both open and inclusive. Whilst light as a foundational starting point, the key invention for this was that membership can be claimed by all those who commit significant energy and time to the development of unMonastery. Thus The unMonastery Deep Time Bank was born.

Last day of the unMonastery unSumitt at Transmediale 2015

The unMonastery Deep Time Bank

As a decentralised membership steered organisation, we needed a criteria for inclusion. We settled upon a membership ‘fee’ of 100 hours of unpaid unMonastery labour as the marker for meaningful commitment, and — we sent out an invite to all those that had contributed this level of time to the initiative up until then. We then got deliciously sidetracked by field level developments in Athens. Now, finally back on track, this organisational document shouldoutline how we anticipate the organisational structure will work in practice as both a membership base, organisation forum and commitment management account. We are very happy to announce the composition of this new organisation of intrepid souls committed to the continuation of the unMonastery initiative:

If at this stage you would like to participate to a greater degree, or have been working in isolation on unMonastery related activity let us know (admin@unmonastery.org) and time permitting be sworn into the unOrder at the next annual general meeting.

If the model we’ve established is of interest to you and you’d like to help us to refine it further, use it for your own organisation or assist in the development of a complementary technology stack, drop into this thread on discourse.

Development of unMonastery Nodes

Since leaving Matera in October 2014 the majority of energy being injected into unMonastery activity has been focused on three key areas: the creation and release of a toolkit for establishing individual nodes (see unMonastery BIOS), scouting missions and site visits to offers of land and property for possible future unMonasteries, as well as supporting others who are interested to establish the model.

Image shared by BenB from a recent trip to a possible site in up state New York.

To give an overview of these activities, please find a brief list below.

  • New Lebanon, New York, USA — [In development] — Back in September BenB posted on the possibility of a unMonastery in upstate New York, in a very short time this has moved forward to sculpting a call for participants. (Point of contact is: BenB)
  • Athens, Greece — [In development] — Since March a mix of long time unMonasterians have been careening around Athens, building and supporting local projects, creating small scale shared living experiments with plans for a new test lab currently in development. (Points of contact: Katalin, Lauren and Jeff)
  • Berlin, Germany — [In development] — Amidst the city and greater Brandenburg area, distributed gathering sites will play host to the development of appropriate technology, resource distribution, and collective protocols, working towards the launch of an Open Source Observatory and a node of the Public School. (Point of contact: @keikreutler)
  • Alessandria, Italy — [Scoping] — Bembo and Kei recently embarked on a site visit to Alessandria to assess a reconfiguration of a mothballed municipal theatre as a community services hub, reported here. (Point of contact: Bembo)
  • Göhrde, Lower Saxony, Germany — [Scoping] — The unMonastery was contacted through several channels to investigate a unique resource in Lower Saxony. Göhrde. At the beginning of September Bembo, Katalin and Ben paid a site visit, loose plans are afoot for a potential summer school, site visit reported here. (Point of contact: Katalin)
  • Pessegueiro, Sines, Portugal — [Scoping] — An initial dialogue has revealed a promising possibility of a ‘creative immersion centre’ in a beautiful unFortress overlooking the sea 100 km south of Lisboa.

MAZI — Building offline networks together.

“We have this mode of thinking outside of the internet, of local networks for local interactions, this is a specific technology very popular for many years but mostly between hackers and activists, but it has not yet arrived for the mainstream.” — Interview with Panayotis Antoniadis’ during CAPS2015.

Earlier this year in the run up to CCC and Transmediale a number of those involved in unMonastery began to participate in the offline networks community, as part of the Transmediale we deployed a localised network for the Alpha release of the unMonastery BIOS. Following this gathering, Nethood (Ileana Apostol and Panayotis Antoniadis) set about bringing together a group under the banner MAZI (meaning “together” in Greek) that could develop specific tools, platforms and contexts with the objective of making DIY network’s more widely available and useful to more people. As part of this a consortium formed to apply for CAPS, building upon existing initiatives in the creation of community owned local wireless networks.

a meeting of the MAZI earlier this year

From the MAZI website:

“MAZI wishes to invest in an alternative technology, what we call Do-It-Yourself networking, a combination of wireless technology, low-cost hardware, and free/libre/open source software (FLOSS) applications, for building local networks, mostly known today as community wireless networks. By making this technology better understood, easily deployed, and configured based on a rich set of customization options and interdisciplinary knowledge, compiled as a toolkit, MAZI will empower citizens to build their own local networks for facilitating hybrid, virtual and physical, interactions, in ways that are respectful to their rights to privacy, freedom of expression and self-determination”

In September it was announced that the bid was successful, and we’re very excited to get started working with the incredible combination of partner organisations that make up MAZI, which includes the NITlab at the University of Thessaly, the Zurich-based non-profit organization NetHood, the Edinburgh Napier University, the Design Research Lab at the Berlin University of the Arts, the Open University, the INURA Zurich Institute, SPC in London and Prinzessinnengarten in Berlin

Over the course of the last months we’ve already begun to participate in and contribute to a number of related workshops including Networked Social Responsibility (Brussels), 2nd International Conference on Internet Science (Brussels), From Smart Cities to Engaged Citizens (Volos) and Hybrid City (Athens), our core role in MAZI will be as a use case in the deployment of this localised technology at specific unMonastery sites, which Katalin discusses here.

Future Gathering Points

From the unMonastery Atlas, Designed by Luisa Lappaciana

We would like to meet with you and ourselves face to face more often.

Despite our very distributed nature, we’ve found in recent months that working remotely and online has produced significant difficulties in maintaining alignment and ensuring an accessible model of participation. This has been under much debate and in a move to learn from Robin Hood Co-op’s recent establishment of ‘Open Offices’ and ‘Labs’, we’ve begun to formulate our own iteration, whilst we’ve yet to christen this with its own conceptual framing (although we hear murmurs of ‘General Chapter’ ) we have begun to set a series of future dates for possible meeting places. In the new year we will put forward a schedule for the year.

  • PreSummit Athens — Next week several of us will be gathering in Athens to spend time together, focus energy on working structures and join Robin Hood Co-op for their Lab.
  • Workshops and Open Dinner Berlin — 17th and 18th December — Kei, Ben and Ola will be workshopping the unMonastery BIOS and hosting dinner.
  • LOTE5: FAIL # UNFAIL — 25–28th February 2016 — Antiheroes and Edgeryders are teaming up to run this years annual Living on the Edge.
  • Nottingham Event — 28th-30th April 2016 — We’re currently plotting a collaborative event with Near Now in Nottingham, home of the luddites and robin hood which will be focused on civic tech, platform cooperativism and new organisational forms.
  • Annual unSummit, 2016 — Whilst the location is still in discussion, we have zoned in on the dates June 19th to July 3rd, with the intentions of developing a new slower format for our annual gatherings, that will allow us to spend meaningful time together, coupled with a more intense few days of your average unConference setup — if you have ideas do post on discourse.

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