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Free Networks Operating in Networks

terça-feira 13 de março de 2012, por Michele Torinelli , Michele Torinelli

Todas as versões desta matéria: [English] [Português do Brasil]

Organizations develop a proposal for a free network protocol at the Third Free Media Forum

Translation: Diane Garceau

How does one include the excluded, in such a way that they are the protagonists of their creative and productive processes? How does one consolidate the potential of communication to be an instrument of empowerment for all? With these thought-provoking questions, at the Third Free Media Forum on the 27th, Alfonso Molina, scientific director of the Mondo Digitale Foundation in Italy, commenced the debate on joining together various networks of networks.

“The issue has already been discussed in person and on email lists, we had a conversation on Wednesday the 25th about it, this is a demand of the International Council of the World Social Forum – ie, it is a big debate for 2012,” explains Marco Amarelo, member of the Soylocoporti Collective which mediated the meeting. The objective is to reach an agreement on principles and practices that allow various networks to dialogue and create an interchange which is broad, pluralistic and decentralized, hence the term “network of networks”.

In this sense, Alfonso believes that we need to promote alliances between movements, NGOs, governments and citizens, to bring out our multidimensionality and create processes that allow us to change the world – not in a year or two, perhaps in a decade, possibly this century. “We must learn to govern in the best and most democratic way possible, and communication is essential in this regard, to foster dialogue to concrete problems,” added Alfonso.

Networks in networks

One concern is the construction of alternative communication so that we do not continue to be dependent upon proprietary social networks, keeping in mind that we give up to their owners the rights to all content we publish in them. There are cases in which private user information has been sold, and news related to social movements has been censored – hence free networks have emerged.

Rodrigo Nunes Souto, of Coolivre – a Bahian free software cooperative that also operates with solidarity economy – stressed the importance of the strengthening that the virtual environment has provided to the real environment. “Yes, we are utilizing social networks to mobilize our real movements, but we end up becoming dependent on ’Twitters’ and ’Facebooks’.”

He argues that the big picture would be to create common protocols, agreements between networks which enable communication between various initiatives, which do not create dependence on a single platform but promote a dialogue between the diverse networks. “More important than discussing the tool is to think of the protocol, the common practices, which will allow us to communicate,” he adds.

It is necessary to confederate, and not federate, because it is a question of joining, not of creating a new structure that will stand above the others,” argues Francois Soulard, of Coreden, an international network for popular communication and the development of new democratic practices. The confederation of networks in France was consolidated at a meeting between various groups which concluded with a draft of principles, objectives and actions, creating a content aggregator.

“These protocols can be both technological and political,” warns Thiago Skarnio of Alquimidia. The idea is, by means of various experiments, to reach the common denominators of the political principles that will guide this confederation. “The movements end up being various islands, but our cause is a common one, we can see this here in our Forum, for this reason, the integration between various networks is important,” states Rafael Reinehr, of the Catarinese cooperative Coolmeia. He argues that the convergence of networks would be a real social currency because the benefits would be common.

“The big difference in this network which is being built is that the participants are as much producers as they are consumers of content, breaking down the barrier between sender and receiver,” argues Helio Paz, Professor of Digital Communication at Unisinos.

Starting Points

Noosfero, utilized by the Brazilian Solidary Economy Network, is among the many network platforms that have been consolidated. Braulio Barros de Oliveira, from the Eita Collective – Education, Inclusion and Technology for Self-Management, is a programmer for socially-related technologies and participates in the development of Noosfero. Noosfero is a social and economic network serving as a showcase for products and a vehicle for commerce. It is also possible to have blogs and to post documents on Noosfero.

“There are many ’Noosferos’ which are isolated – networks like that of the Free Software Movement, Cirandas and Fora do Eixo. The challenge that arises is how to connect these ‘various Noosferos’, including even ’Facebooks’ and ’Twitters’, providing alternative social networks,” says Braulio. One way is to confederate the initiatives, so that the same login can be used to access various networks, and one pulls from the content of another, creating a web of free networks.

Eita is working on other implementations of the platform, which respond to the demand of consumer conscious collectives and economic solidarity collectives. The goal is to allow producers to connect directly to consumers by removing the middlemen, matching buy and sell currencies to exchange.

One suggestion, made by Rafael Reinehr, is the use of the same meeting platform for various initiatives, as is taking place in the Zeitgeist Movement – when accessing a digital meeting room, it is possible to have access to other meetings, allowing one to choose, enter and become acquainted with any one of them, as if they were open doors in a large hall.

Renato Fabri, of Lab Macambira, indicated the analysis of the Free Media Charter which was a result of the selection process of the Second Free Media Award launched by the federal government. The charter was put together by the award committee and is considered as reference for what is free media.

Another example of a participatory democratic platform is the Delibera developed by Ethymos Web Solutions in partnership with Macambira Lab and implemented by Ethymos for the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing Rights, a network that operates in more than 90 countries.

“The goal is to have a friendly debate, which covers different contributions around common principles and objectives,” states Rita Freire, of Ciranda International of Shared Communication.

Next Steps

To give continuity to the articulation of networks and appoint actions, it was decided that a collaborative virtual document be created so that interested parties may continue to work together (refer also to the introduction of this debate, collectively elaborated).

Another necessary action will be to map out and systematize information regarding free networks.

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