photo: grant potter

I am very grateful to have been able to take part in organizing the Contact Conference, an event that pitched itself as a working festival of innovation, a social technologies exhibitor space, and a celebration of the potential of a network culture.

And it was definitely all those things, so mission accomplished there. The energy in the room was great, the recipients of the three $1oK Innovation Awards worthy, and the four projects conceived and launched at the event exciting. (more details on those things below in Douglas Rushkoff’s letter to participants)

But that’s really only a part of the story.

The bigger picture here is that if we start from the premise that “the system is broken” or “we’re at a critical turning point’ or that “we’re in a global transition,” or any such broad sweeping statements about the functionality of our social/economic/political/environmental/technological/scientific systems, and the majority of the world’s population is either deeply dissatisfied or at the least has an itching feeling that there is something that is just not right… then the only sane choice left is to act.

And, as the Hopi elders put it: 

We are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

There is no magic pill, no savior, and no wishing a better world into existence. Freedom and liberation is also ownership and responsibility. If we want a world that is more equitable, beautiful, sustainable and even abundant, then it is our responsibility to build systems (both in the physical world and in the mental construct that is our mind) that foster and nurture those things.

Contact was about making contact.

Physically holding space for us to connect to each other in meaningful ways, share our visions and intentions with one another, and begin (or continue to) build rapport and trust with the other collaborators and co-creators that are going to help us manifest those dreams into reality.

If we’re serious about the things we say we care about, then it’s time to recognize each other and learn how to navigate an interconnected future where the strength of our character, our commitments, our integrity, and our ability to cooperate are critical for success.

I’m ready to take the leap with you and go beyond any of our expectations. This is only the beginning.

– v

Below is a message to all participants from Douglas Rushkoff, along with information about how to stay connected to the community and its projects:

Thanks for making October 20 a great success. Contact was most definitely established, and together we marked a moment in our collective history. As participants, sponsors, facilitators, occupiers, technologists, artists, activists, educators, librarians, students, and more, we came together to declare and release the greater potential of our networks to make a better world. Your collaboration and spirit humbled me greatly.Of course, Contact was never about itself but about you and your initiatives. So it is with great pleasure that I share with you some of how we and our colleagues are moving forward with the ideas and projects we created together, as well as a little bit more about the Bazaar winners.Remember, to stay in touch with people please consider joining the GoogleGroup we have set up, http://groups.google.com/group/contactsummit.

Also, as Contact participants you have the ability to create an IndieGogo campaign for free by using the code “socialweek.” Finally, if you’re particularly interested in “next net” initiatives, the http://groups.google.com/group/building-a-distributed-decentralized-internet list has been going strong for a few months now.

Here are the four projects we committed to seeing happen, and how to take part:

Upgrading Democracy
Representation is a fundamental concept of our governance, but is encoded in the technology of the 18th century. The modern networked world enables a truer form of representation known variously under the names Dynamic Democracy, Liquid Democracy, and Delegable Proxy voting. This is an effort to use the net to enact these new forms of democracy. If you want to add your name to the email list to receive updates on the progress of this project go to http://upgradedemocracy.org/  For the Upgrading Democracy conference in San Francisco spring 2012, contact Micah Daigle atmicahdaigle@gmail.com. For the Democracy Hackathon in Virginia, April 28 to May 5, 2012, contact Keenan Dakota at keenan@twinoaks.org. Session notes at http://forum.contactcon.com/discussion/23/upgrading-democracy.Local Foodsharing platform  
Local food systems need tools that can help match needs (land, labor, tools, transportation, and more) to available resources without money acting as a barrier. Many resource-matching tools already exist. The Food MatchIt Project will identify and adapt them to specifically support the food space in a barter context. Join us and help: identify local food matching needs, inventory existing matching tools, and adapt existing tools (or maybe even build some new ones) in coordinated makeathons. To learn more and collaborate, sign up at http://FoodMatchIt.com“Kick-Stopper”
Crowdsourced Unfunding – Working together in a coordinated debt strike/divestment campaign we can bring the banks back under democratic control and give teeth to the concrete demands that are being hammered out at GA’s and working groups around the country and the world. The goal of this project is to create a mechanism for organizing and coordinating large scale debt strike and divestment campaigns. The project is explained here:http://forum.contactcon.com/discussion/33/kick-stopper#Item_1
Join or learn more here: http://groups.google.com/group/debt-strike-kick-stopperCollaboration Matchmaking Application
A collaboration matchmaking service bringing artists and geeks together with other sectors. This service aims to match one’s needs with the skills of the people who will openly collaborate to provide them. More information is here: http://technoevangelist.net/collaboration-matchmaking-service/Online General Assembly
This group, first convened by Dan Sieradski, folded itself into the Upgrade Democracy group. But it has its own mandate: to create an online version of the General Assembly technique for consensus building. Read about the genesis of this idea in this Contact Forum:http://forum.contactcon.com/discussion/24/online-general-assembly-building-a-platform-for-real-time-consensus-based-meetings  To join the effort, emailparticipate@consenter.org or join the listhttp://groups.google.com/group/consenterMeanwhile, MetaCurrency, Community Forge and other Contact participants re-thinking currency will be leading a Reimagining Money track at Occupy Wall Street today from 10am to 7pm. The Protest Currency Design competition is also completed, and results posted here:  http://moneyart.biz/ows/At the end of the day, Reverend Billy officially blessed each of our three Bazaar Award winners as they were announced. The projects each received $10,000 from Pepsi, deposited as the seed money for free campaigns on IndieGogo. Winners were chosen by a team of judges selected from among the participants.

Runners up included: The Library Farm, New Hive, Meshkit, GiftFlow, Commotion, Tethr, and Digital City Mechanics. The three winners were:

Fayetteville Free Library Fab LabThe Fayetteville Free Library aims to be the first library in the United States to build a free, public access Fab Lab. At the foundation of the FFL’s Fab Lab will be a MakerBot Thing-o-Matic 3D printer, central to the greater vision of encouraging local innovation, collaboration and education. Lauren Britton Smedley, who has spearheaded this effort, said “the FFL is excited to provide our community with free and open access to this technology.  We are building a replicable model with the hope that other libraries around the country will be able to follow and learn from our experience.  It was such a thrill to participate at the Contact Conference, it was truly an amazing and inspiring day.”
Free Network FoundationThe Free Network Foundation is an organization whose purpose is to steward the creation of a censorship-proof, disruption-resistant, global peer-to-peer network which is fully owned and operated by its participants. They managed to get two prototype FreedomTowers up and running in time for Contact – one at Occupy Austin, the other here at Occupy Wall Street in Liberty Square. The towers are providing Internet access to the occupiers, and will be used to establish an occupation-to-occupation Virtual Private Network. Next steps for the FNF, according to its founder, Isaac Wilder, include continuing to build out their burgeoning Wide Area Network, applying to the American Registry for Internet Numbers for status as an Autonomous System, iterating and improving the design of FreedomTowers, and working with the FreedomBox project to build FreedomNode, a mesh-enabled FreedomBox capable of opportunistically engaging in communications that are materially peer-to-peer.
FreedomBox FoundationFreedomBoxis a personal server running a free software operating system and free applications, designed to create and preserve personal privacy by providing a secure platform upon which federated social networks can be constructed. “Free communities require free communication.  Once we have that, no problem is beyond our ability to cooperate toward a solution,” says FreedomBox’s Executive Director, James Vasile.Watch for links to these projects on IndieGoGo in the next few days.

Thanks from all of us to Pepsi for sponsoring Contact’s Bazaar Awards.

Stay in Contact

Video from some of the morning provocations is being posted to the Contact Summit youtube channel

Photos are going up on the #contactcon flickr group
To upload your own media (video clips, audio, and imagery) to our collaborative video editing project (in order to mashup and export your own version of Contact), create a free account on WeVideo, then send an email with your account username to venessa@contactcon.com, and she’ll add you to the project.And again, thanks to everyone for choosing make Contact. To stay in touch with Contact – to keep the spirit of that day alive – please stay in touch with each other or one or more of the projects you conceived and developed. Contact was just an initiation. You are it.All my best,

Douglas Rushkoff