Just back from the ISEA conference in Istanbul where I took part in a session convened by Charlotte Frost for a-n, entitled Share Workers: The Techniques and Meanings of Sustainable Digital Networking.

Around the table were Bridget McKenzie (Flow Associates), Jack Hutchinson (AIR/a-n), Dougald Hine (Space Makers and the Dark Mountain Project) and Marcus Romer (Pilot Theatre).

The mere act of sharing perspectives and experiences with these people modelled the challenges that face us as we grapple with deepening notions of sharing in different contemporary fields. What is our motivation? Marketing or mutual benefit? Or both?

Bridget described strategies to support peer-learning and paragogy (a new term to describe peer-learning facilitated by social media style platforms) to support the development of distinctive local, social technologies while Jack described an array of new social media channels and devices that engaged artists and simultaneously raised the profiles of a-n’s work and services.

I talked about how partnership on artistic production between Drake Music and Furtherfield had led to a desire to explore the benefits of deeper organisational sharing and then talked in more detail about WeShareDigital- a proposal for a new form of cultural production that enables arts to lead on digital innovation.

The discussion was cleverly framed by Charlotte to deal with the what and how of sharing; extracting examples of practice and at once sidestepping and uncovering the most important set of questions.

There is a difference between access and inclusion. We can think about it also as a difference between broadcast and more distributive (many-to-many) forms of communication. For instance, by streaming live presentations or archiving video documentation from conferences, we can provide access to content, making it available to anyone with an Internet connection and (arguably) reducing the carbon footprint of gatherings. People can access inspirational presentations by charismatic speakers (think of the success of Ted Talks).

However, single authoritative speaker is privileged and opportunities for debate, dialogue and learning together are cut out. Sitting around a table together still wins for rich dialogue and sharing, unless you have a large budget to spend on corporate video conferencing suite. We are particularly sensitive to these matters as we have been thinking about ways to develop environmentally sensitive ways to meet with with people around the world in our Rich Networking programme.

The other major question is one of trust, openness and sharing.

The FOSS community has long debated the ethics of sharing (or not) the fruits of ones labour with people who may use it for their own profit (and possibly to the detriment of others). This is a DEEP question. What does who want to share with who, and why?

It is a question about the kind of society we want to live in. What kind of society we want to sustain. And one that is central to the WeShare project.

- >Future topics of discussion could include commons-based peer production, and the concept of the Phyle, “a transnational value community linked to entrepreneurial entities that have as primary aim the creation of sustainability of the new value communities.” (David de Ugarte and lasindias.net )