From the better-late-than-never department: CAPES and APPS meetup in Austin

I was invited to speak at the 2008 Flow TV conference, where I convened a panel on the U.S. digital television transition.  The Flow TV conference was organized at the University of Texas at Austin, so it also accorded me an opportunity to wear another hat — organizer for CAPES (the Chicago Area Participatory Economics Society). 

Two members from CAPES met up with three folks from APPS at a restaurant in Austin, Texas.  All five of us got to have an extended conversation about matters and ideas from both groups.  It’s the first time that members from both groups got to meet in the person, and the second time since the Vancouver / CAPES Labor Day meetup in Chicago that members of IPPS who contributed to the book "Real Utopia" got to meet in person.

We shared on one point: That for relatively small groups, it’s quite hard to keep the momentum going.  It appears that both APPS and CAPES have had organizational lulls as of late, but fortunately both groups do have committed core groups of members.

It seemed to me that we also agreed (though I don’t think we actually articulated it) that the time has passed for debating the merits about the parecon model or related parsoc models.  The time has come to figure out how to widen the awareness of these models and implementations of them in daily life. 

Here’s where we had a disagreement, though it was a fruitful disagreement.  What exactly do we do to widen such awareness?  We tossed around some ideas.

One idea I mentioned was to starting a business built around a parecon or parsoc-related game.   The business itself would be structured along pareconish lines, and the game that’s promoted would itself be a parecon or parsoc simulacra of sorts (think "Second Life" or "World of Warcraft" but along parecon-ish lines).  After all, gaming in various sorts — sports, gambling, video games, TV game shows, and so on — represent major industries, so it accords a way to break into a niche that could be (we hope) economically sustainable.  Plus, it also accords a chance to explore models in reasonable simulated environments.  What’s more, profits that could accumulate from this business can be funneled into antipoverty and other grassroots efforts, which can also serve as an indirect teachable moment of sorts ("Who gave us this money?"  "A group that creates parecon-ish games."  "What’s parecon?").  The idea was met with intrigue, but with understandable skepticism.  It might be the kind of thing where people believe it can succeed when they see it succeed.  It’s food for thought in any event.

Another idea that was proposed was to implement parecon-ish principles into a current practical tool.  The example that was cited specifically was Wikipedia, which can be argued as an example of anarchist principles channeled into creating something immensely practical and well-known.  If Wikipedia can be a useful example of anarchist principles, why don’t we create something that embodies a useful example of parecon or parsoc principles?

Whatever we might want to do, we did agree on an emphasis on strategy — or rather, strategies.  I don’t think that it’s going to be a single "magic bullet" strategy that’s going to win us a parecon or parsoc world; I think it’s going to be a wide variety of actions and strategies to pull.  The more strategies, the more people involved, the sooner our hopes, the better our chance to win the biggest game of all.  Here’s to a 2009, full of exciting, wide-ranging and world-changing strategies.

(Also: I owe a big thanks to Marcus from IPPS, who was gracious enough to host my girlfriend in Austin and I at the last minute.)  πŸ™‚

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