GOAT Book Club: Session 1 on Sat, May 18

Session 1: Networks, Peers & the Virtual Class

This Saturday is the first session of the GOAT Book Club that we’ve been talking about since approx. forever. To kick it off, we’ll look at a couple classic texts from the first couple decades of the Internet era, plus one slightly more recent excerpt.

The first “classic” is from Yochai Benkler, legal scholar and faculty co-director of the Berkman Klein Center at Harvard. In The Wealth of Networks, Benkler lays down the canonical definition of commons-based peer production, a kind of third way for 21st century political economies, made possible by ubiquitous computing and the world wide web.

Then we’ll take in a less sanguine view of the emerging “dotcom neoliberalism” of the 1990s with Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron’s 1995 article for Mute magazine, “The Californian Ideology.” They take dead aim at the prevailing techno-determinism of the age and its assumed liberatory (or right-libertarian) potential. They point out how what some were hailing as the new “virtual class” of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and innovators was a pipe-dream that overlooked the hidden social costs of utopia.

Finally, we’ll read an excerpt from Peer to Peer: The Commons Manifesto published by Michael Bauwens, et al. from the P2P Foundation. Written in 2019, it can be seen as an effort to reclaim the ideal of Benkler’s commons-based peer production from the wreckage of surveillance capitalism and the ever greater consolidation of tech monopolies.


I hope we can just get into some organic conversation, but to prime the pump a lil, here’s some things to think about:

  • How do these authors define “the commons” and where do their definitions diverge/converge? E.g.:
    • What types of resources can be part of the commons and who decides?
    • What role do “the state” and “the market” play in the creation and maintenance of “the commons”?
  • According to each of the authors, to what degree and in what ways does technology determine society, and vice versa?

How to Join

  • When: 2024-05-18T18:00:00Z2024-05-18T19:00:00Z
  • Where: Jitsi Meet
  • Who: Anyone! Try to do the reading, at least one, but don’t let it stop you if you don’t have time.

For those who make it, we’ll try to schedule another one for next month, so if you can’t make this one, stay tuned! The recommended readings for the next 5 sessions are listed in the original post, though it’s always open to changes and suggestions.

Recommended Reading

Read-time estimates via thereadtime.com.

Further Resources


Thank you @jgaehring for also including the time commitment!!! Even if I double it because I am a slow reader it seems doable. I will do my best to come but just for an hour - community garden opening day ya know. :green_heart: #whycantwebetwoplacesatonce Also: This is how I do books too.mp4 - Google Drive so thank you for the linkies!!!

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