Kultursymposium Weimar

Sharing and Exchange are basic human cultural practices. They play as big a role in poor countries as in affluent societies. But when do I share – and with whom? What social and cultural developments emerge from the various forms and manifestations of sharing and exchange? What is the meaning of trust in times of couch surfing and car sharing?

The Kultursymposium Weimar, themed: “The Sharing Game: Exchange in Culture and Society,” will be searching for answers to these questions. On June 1-3, 2016, it brings together artists, young scholars, and students with experts and thought leaders from around the world. Participants include Yochai Benkler (Harvard), Rachel Botsman (Sydney), Ute Frevert (Berlin), Eva Illouz (Jerusalem), Antonio Negri (Padua), Hartmut Rosa (Jena), Tomas Sedlacek (Prag), Joseph Vogl (Berlin), Jeremy Rifkin (Washington DC), and Ivana Muller (Paris).

In addition to classic formats such as lectures and panel discussions, the Kultursymposium also offers World Cafes and Fishbowls, exchange performances, and artistic interventions. The events take place at various venues across Weimar, including the Oberlichtsaal at Bauhaus University and E-Werk.

The Kultursymposium Weimar was an impressive feat, boasting more than 70 events, often held in parallel, in 3 days. The symposium focused in various aspects and realms of sharing and attended by various thought leaders and sharing practitioners around the world. Aside from the usual talk and discussion format, the Kultursymposium also provided various art performances, games, and other alternative formats. The lunch and dinner time was also very conducive for a discussion amongst various attendance. With this setup, the participants of the symposium were well immersed in the topic and would leave back home with a wider and deeper perspective about the meaning, the history, the issues, and the possibilities of sharing.

I was representing C2O Library and Collabtive as one of the speaker for the Sharing Ideas Session. There were 3 sharing ideas sessions that were held once a day during the Kultursymposium. Approximately 6 sharing practitioners around the world presented their practices of sharing during each session. Each presenter had a 10-minute duration to present their initiatives, followed with a 5-minute Questions and Answers session. Sharing Ideas is hosted by Future Perfect who collaborated with Goethe Institut to document various (sharing) initiatives currently happening in various parts of the world with the goal to inspire more discussions and initiatives for a better future.

My presentation started with a 2-minute video montage of activities in C2O Library & Collabtive followed with an explanation sharing and exchanging practices in C2O which has become a crucial aspect of how we operate and sustain throughout the years. I ended it with my thoughts on the important points that we have learned through our experiences to maintain a healthy and sustainable social platform. (Video and ppt of presentation will be attached together with this report).

After the presentation, there was a discussion of the role of government in Surabaya/Indonesia for this kind of initiatives (non-existent, or minimum funding), the fluid negotiable payment for renting C2O’s space (we listed our regular fee in the application form, but people can request for leniency by stating their purpose), the extent of our operation (not only space, but various programs) et cetera. Overall, the presentation and discussion went smoothly and received a good feedback. However, this kind of setup did not allow a lot of in depth conversation and discussion, just a brief overview of the initiative.

After the session, I had a good talk with the moderator from Future Perfect, who is impressed by the various initiatives in Indonesia and would love to highlight more sharing practices in Indonesia if chance permits.

Some recaps and thoughts on the events/things that I joined:

Opening Event

After the opening, Tomas Sedlacek gave a short talk followed with a panel discussion with Eva Illouz and Klaus Dieter Lehmann.

Tomas Sedlacek argued that there have always been non-monetary (non-exact) exchanges happening within family, friends and work colleagues. He emphasized that the human race survival strategy with the expense of others are no longer needed as we have entered a phase of abundance and he believed the future of human being is through co-operation.

The following conversation was about an intrusion of capitalism in almost every aspects of our lives; the ambiguous concept of sharing; how non-monetary exchange is not always good (housewife’s work is often underappreciated due to no exact (monetary) exchange); what does belong to commons (universal rights); the warning of a collective assumption that sharing is politically superior to not sharing, and many more.

It is an interesting choice for the opening since the discussion ended up focusing on how much capitalism has become the humankind logic. Capitalism has disembedded economic activity and social relationship. Sharing however is not always an act of altruism. It is the cultural norm of reciprocity, gift invites a counter gift, so there is a social bond of obligation and debt entails in non-monetary exchange. I do agree with Eva Illouz that the definition of sharing is too broad and therefore, sharing does not always mean more superior than not sharing.

Maybe the fundamental question should be: what kind of future do we want, do we need sharing to achieve that future, and if so what kind of sharing that we want/need?

Gustaff suggested a Sharing Manifesto to be created after the end of Kultursymposium. I think it would be a great achievement, although I am not sure if a manifesto could currently encompass the many ideas of sharing that people have.

The Role of Sharing in the Third Industrial Revolution

Jeremy Rifkin presented his vision of Zero Marginal Cost and Third Industrial Revolution through the digitalization of everything (communication, energy, and transport). Current inefficiency is due to our dependence on fossil fuels, and the Third Industrial Revolution would create a world with Zero Marginal Cost (increase productivity and reduce of ecological impact). A special caution of having an equal playing field and no monopoly of Big Data and cyber crime. He hopes of the increase of prosumer (producing and sharing at zero marginal cost) not only in the form of digital knowledge and information, but also with the rise of IoT in other aspects of our life.

He believes that in the future there will be both Capitalism and Sharing Economy. Sharing will become more structural due to ecological pressure, not economical pressure. He also puts great hopes in the millennial generation, noting their shift of preference from possession to access their consciousness of the need of sharing. “I love because I need to, not because I need you”.

An audience commented on his focus of Europe and China, and he replied by his belief that Africa will be a quick adaptor of Third Industrial Revolution due to the non-existing Second Industrial Revolution infrastructure. I think this situation might also be applicable to most area of Indonesia outside Java.

Rifkin gave a positive and hopeful vision of the future, even though he gave a disclaimer that we might not be able to achieve this before it’s too late. I do understand that Rifkin is considering things globally, but at the moment the shift of consciousness to sharing due to ecological pressure is more felt in the Europe and I wonder if Asia, and especially Indonesia can adopt sharing mindset due to ecological reason within near future.

I also think there should be more emphasis on the danger of monopolization of Big Data and cyber crime considering that they currently belong to the selected few and do not belong to the commons. I am also quite delighted with his cheery observation of the millennial generation and hope that his opinion is true eventhough I am a bit more pessimistic.

I think there is still a minimum conversation in Indonesia about how technology will change the future, starting from the digitalization of things, IoT (Internet of Things) and also AI. I think if there is more awareness about ecological issues and the possible changes of future due to technology, there would be a more urgent and effective conversation about future and sharing in Indonesia.

The Sharing Economy

Rachel Botsman noted how there is a confusion due to the many terms of Sharing Economy. She suggested Collaborative Economy: how to create new value from idling capacity in the form of physical assets, capital assets, and human assets. Through an efficient and trusty platform, connecting what one needs and what one have. Currently there is a wide range of collaborative economy and she believes that IoT will widen the application of collaborative economy. She believed that future will emphasized access over ownership,  reputation will be decentralized and will be an important currency. She also noted that there needs to be a safety net for the providers and a regulation that focuses on promotion fair play and a boost for microentrepreneurs.

Nishant Shah added another importance for regulation and legislation in Sharing Economy to prevent public political vigilante and the commodification of human asset. However, on another side, there is a concerning trend of government/corporate mandated sharing. He argued that there should be another term for mandated sharing for people to grasp the true implication of this type of sharing. In essence, he urged people to be more aware of what is being shared and who is controlling it.

I enjoyed this panel starting from the attempt to define Sharing/Collaborative Economy, the forecasting of future trends of Sharing Economy, the important role of regulation and legislation, and the urge for more discussion of what is being shared and who is controlling it. I think this topic can be presented in Indonesian for people to have a clear and brief overview about Sharing Economy.

Paradigms of Sharing

Eva Illouz introduced us to the paradigm transformation of union and sharing. Starting from the Dante and Beatrice era of love without sharing to the Victorian type of marriage where marriage is a subscription of social order/guideline to the modern union where there is emphasize in communication and sharing. These creates 2 paradoxes: 1) the hyperindividualization of individuals (I am special, funny, smart, etc) implies more difficulty to find commonalities with others, 2) No one can achieve full knowledge of another person, and one often compensate it with imagination. There is a shift from we can share to we should share in modern marriage.

I like how Eva defined that individuality in modern world is achieved through the arena of consumption (taste) and through the arena of spirituality, psychology, knowledge (mind). Modern world encourages a distinction not only as a member of class, but as an individual. This leads to the emphasize of marriage as an emotional sharing which leads to a lot of divorce.

Unfortunately, there was not enough time to talk more about the effect of love/friendship/social relationship in digital age. The discussion of this topic was not as in-depth and I think the topic is interesting enough to be discussed as another panel.

Sharing Ideas

This is the session that we’re a part of. Compared to other sessions held during The Kultursymposium, this session had the advantage of being most practical and provided real depiction of scopes, challenges and benefits of sharing in real world. For practitioners, this is a good chance to meet and network and consult with other practitioners of same interests.

I personally learnt deeper about Library of Things, Urban Farming and Time Bank from listening to the presentation and talking directly to the practitioners about the how-tos, challenges, and tips on realizing these initiatives.

I also had a conversation with the moderator from Future Perfect and she thought that it would be more beneficial to have a discussion about sharing by first asking what kind of future that we want and how do we achieve that. I think this is a nice approach to have a more focused discussion about sharing.

Overall, this is a very good platform for networking and getting to know other forms of initiatives held elsewhere.

What are We Willing To Share

This panel discussed a very sensitive issue of immigration from the perspective of German and Cameron. Reinhard Merkel and probably most of the people who were in this panel believed that despite the many objection/issues surrounding immigration, Germany should still accept immigrants due to moral obligation.

One thing that struck me the most during this panel is Reinhard Merkel comment about how both sides (those who agree and disagree) usually are so persistent about their stance that they often dismiss any arguments from the other side, even if it’s grounded on statistics or other supporting evidence. He encouraged and believed a healthy open minded discussion is important and required to tackle complex issues. I find this to be quite universal and applicable in most situation.

Commons, Cooperation, and The Future of Capitalism

Yochai Benkler divided his lecture to 3 acts: 1) commons and cooperation in the networked environment, 2) the neoliberal moment & the great extraction, and 3) commons & cooperation, reembedding economy in society

There are a lot of information and arguments in this panel and most are better understand using his powerpoint presentation, however some notes are:

  • The rise of commons in networked environment which can be categorized 4 regions of decentralized market based, centralized market based, decentralized non market based and centralized non market based.
  • Neoliberalism which rose in the 1970s has brought the world into a situation where most growth goes to the top 1%
  • However previous collective action failed mostly due to the rigid form of governance which often lead to corruption and breakdown of trust
  • There is a diverse non separable motivations in human interaction (a mix of pro-social, self-interest and other intrinsic motives). Due to its uncertainty and complexity that cannot just be contained with prices and property, it is better to use commons based approach that is adaptive and evolving.
  • Commons based approach is an approach of either self or peer production in order to have less of our lives in market based.
  • Social embeddedness is the core of commons, while market/non-market is optional
  • Yochai Benkler believes of commons and capitalism working together, and the still important role of state/government to assist the commons
  • Eventhough there are more cultural awareness, he has not seen anny significant milestone of digital commons, instead more Venture Capitalist is performing extraction and pricing to sharing and collaboration form.
  • He is quite concerned with the future of commons and believed that there needs to be a continuous effort for commons based peer production and hope for more government support in this area.

The Semiotics of Human Exo-Evolution

A very interesting perspective of how science, ideas, and knowledge have been shared by humans over time, starting from the creation of language, to the development of means of recording the brain’s thoughts (conservation of human mind), to the current digital media form. Therefore the evolution of the humanity until the current state is based on the accumulation of humanity’s knowledge throughout the history. The current culture lies from the previous culture, and the future culture lies from the current culture. So, should humanity embrace the future of biotech as the next evolutionary leap? How about the nature destruction?

Reciprocity as a Fundamental Institution of Social Life and Ethics

It was just a joy to be able to meet Agnes Heller in person and she is a very spirited and engaging lecturer. Agnes believes that before, society defined the regulation of reciprocity. When you give something (object, thoughts, donation, greetings, etc), you always expect someone to return in a way that is define appropriate by the society. There is always the third party, called justice that guards the role of reciprocity and can be varied, either based on need, work, equal distribution, class, etc.

However, there is a change from an institutionalized form of reciprocity to personal reciprocity that is less defined by the social norm and more from personal expectation and term of happiness. Therefore in the current form of reciprocity, we should be more aware of what will bring happiness according to the term and happiness for others, not just our own notion of happiness.

I guess I should see this more from the perspective of social and collective behavior and tendencies, since I think happiness is both individual and yet affected by the society. I also noted how similar Agnes Miller’s and Eva Illouz’s conclusion.

Being Faust – Enter Mephisto

This is a game session developed by a Korean game developer, NOLGONG together with Goethe Institut. Game participants would experience the essence of Faust from this game. First, participants would need to identify their six desires prior to game. Participants would then  need to sell their friends to gain money that is needed to purchase quotes from Faust that relates to those desires. The more quotes bought, the more satisfaction points they will receive. The winner is the participant with the highest satisfaction point. A cheeky host would try to lure the participants to keep buying and buying throughout the game.

I think the game is interesting for its application of mobile phone apps and its effectiveness to introduce the concepts of Faust to the game participants. It was however a bit repetitive and too obvious in its intention. Overall though, a game, especially the one that quite relates to the main theme of a symposium/conference is a unique addition and would be a plus point, especially to attract general audience. The problem is, there were too many parallel events with great topics and speakers that one felt a lot of regret if not choosing the best event for that time slot.

Halfbread Technique

Interactive performance about the topic of sharing that makes us to question our motivation and willingness of sharing, concept of altruism, etc. Same as game, this is an interesting addition to a symposium.

What are important and what are you learning – how it could be applied in your organization?

Application in C2O Library & Collabtive:

  • Learnt and gained inspiration from the various practices of sharing elsewhere
  • Broadening perspective about sharing and obtained a better idea about the current state of practices, movements, and awareness of sharing
  • Networking

The organization and management of Kultursymposium:

  • Not only a good speaker, but a good facilitator/moderator that is knowledgeable about the topic is an important part of a good panel
  • Parallel events can be frustrating to the audience because of missed opportunity of seeing other panels, however it will be harder for people to dedicate their time for a longer conference time
  • Changes to the program can still happen until last minute, there might be some error in the catalog, encourage participants to check website for most updated news/program
  • Designated location and time for Lunch/Dinner as an informal way for conversation and networking amongst participants and speakers
  • Provide alternative sessions: games, exhibition, barter session, play performance, etc to give participants a break from intense lecture/discussion sessions
  • Cultural Tour is a nice option to provide for non-local participants

“Sharing and Exchanging” and thoughts for sharing session in Indonesia:

  • So far, most successful sharing platforms are owned by corporates funded by VCs. Throughout the symposium, I sensed there were a lot of concern about the lack of growth in co-operatives. Sharing should not just be of consumption, but also of production. Rachel Botsman, Yochai Benkler, and Jeremy Rifkin have high hopes for the growth of cooperatives and believe that government should assist them so that they can compete with big funded corporates. I think it is aligned with what C2O has learned that there needs to be more efforts (research/internal organization introspection/guideline) for making co-operatives work.
  • The two main reasons often mentioned by the proponents of sharing are normative reason, ecological reason, and lastly economical reason. I think it would be interesting to have a more alternative philosophical/point of view and reasoning for sharing. That’s why I highly enjoyed the Exo-Evolution session and regretted to miss the Practice of Sharing in the Muscogee Culture. I think Buddhism and Quantum Mechanics would also be a nice session to have in the symposium.
  • I really appreciate the diverse scope of the symposium and the opportunity to hear thoughts of sharing from thinkers and academics from different fields and focus. I think the opportunity to gather experts and practitioners from different fields to have an exchange and discussion of a specific theme is still very rare in Indonesia, while I think it is important to hear from different fields to have a better grasp of the specific subject.
  • Sharing contains a huge scope of meaning, definition, and activities. Sharing and exchanging is the fundamental aspect of human social life. Even transaction with money is also a part of sharing and exchanging. The symposium has taken an approach of being as diverse and inclusive as possible. For the sharing session in Indonesia, I think we first must agree what is the goal of the session. If we only have a short time for the sharing session in Indonesia, I think it would be beneficial if we can have a more focused discussion about sharing. It would be better too if there can be some outcomes/action plans after the sharing session.

Some topics that might be interesting/important to be discussed:

    • The history of sharing in human evolution and specifically in Indonesia
    • Capitalism vs Sharing/Collaborative Economy
    • The role of sharing in our future (Discussion about technology, ecology, and economy. What kind of future we want? What kind of sharing that can help to develop that future? How to achieve that? Etc…)

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graduated from University of Wisconsin – Madison with majors in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering. She worked as a Systems Analyst in Deloitte Consulting before she became a Chief Operating Officer in c2o library & collabtive, a Program Manager in Ayorek! and a monkey coder at Chimp Chomp Design. She loves traveling, taking lots of pictures, and sometimes experimenting (and/or creating explosion) in the kitchen. Holopis excites her in its exploration of local food as well as its aim to change urban lifestyle to be more healthy and appreciative of local food through fun and engaging methods.

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