CommonCoin is a tool for economic empowerment and an ongoing experiment on alternative economies. The aim is to co-design a social wallet digital system to forster the cooperation within the members of the community, by sharing means of production, socialising the common profit, supporting each members’ weakness and losses.
CommonCoin is a social local currency integrated with a basic income, based on social cooperation. It is a token system co-designed by the community of Macao - independent center for art, culture and research based in a former slaughterhouse in an abandoned area not far away from Milan city center, and on an open assembly of art workers, activists and citizens - which provides economies, governance management and mutual aid. CommonCoin is a new alternative currency, conceived for financing cooperative production, anti-accumulation and anti-speculative use, developed with a media and digital technology, but politically controlled by the communities that use it. This laboratory merges together skills and thoughts from marxist and post-operaist theory, clearing house, bitcoin and crypto currency experts, and communities based on self-determination, self-organization and open source culture.
Since 2015 Macao has been experimenting within a community of around 100 members the CommonCoin. CommonCoin is conceived as a social local currency based on cooperation, therefore the amount of the monthly basic income depends on the number of the participants and the general income of the organization. The more a member participates in the governance, maintenance and management of the organization, the more he/she is part of the common value. Basic income is self-organized:
Macao articulates some issues:
“The fundamental and radical question in this process is: can we use a decentralized algorithm and a peer to peer technology rooted in a political decision making process? Can we build an algorithmic machine based on a community sharing political values?
The future Macao imagines is made of decentralized technological infrastructures, distributed and based upon algorithms. They are governed by democratic discussions and decisional processes, put into place by communities that share values and ideas. In other words: in a plausible future in which algorithms control our economic, relational and spatial behaviours, the real challenge is to find a way to question them without creating a democratic deficit as a collateral effect.
This is a central question: in a future in which machines, digital and physical automation, will substitute most part of the work once performed by humans, how will it be possible to keep purchasing power? In the past, wealth was redistributed through salary and wage. Significantly, the salary was also pivotal for workers’ struggles and unions’ claims. But what will happen if redistribution through wage becomes irrelevant? What kind of struggle and organization are we able to imagine?
The Great Recession was first and foremost a crisis of trust: debts, loans, derivatives, these are all means by which capitals produce political control in neoliberalism. It is a crisis of relationships, of trust-ability.
We aim at a new economic environment, a new ecology in which the value unit is based on a fairer infrastructure [...] An ambitious project that attempts to provide an alternative economic environment to cooperatives and grassroots independent productions on a worldwide scale.
CommonCoinis articulates around the following ideas:
Rejecting the creative industry paradigm, and innovating the idea of cultural institutions, Macao considers art production as a viable process for rethinking social change, elaborating independent political critique, and as a space for innovative governance and production models. Macao started its collaboration with Freecoin and the EU project D-cent in order to design a platform allowing to share means of production and co-production in the art/creative/cultural field and as part of the network of occupied art spaces emerged during the political mobilization over the last ten years across Italy and Europe. After the financial crisis of 2007, the social movements within the art sector discussed how to self organize networks using new technologies like cryptocurrencies and blockchains, developing the next generation of open source, distributed, and privacy-aware tools for direct democracy and economic empowerment.
The first idea for CommonCoin was born during the conference on Alternative Currency and the Institution of the Commons organized by Effimera and Macao. After that Macao decided to develop a pilot in collaboration with the European Project D-Cent.
In November 2013 for one month, Macao hosted the most important hackers and developers of the Bitcoin community of that period (like a.o. Amir Taaki, Vitalik Buterin, Cody Wilson). This gave Macao an opportunity to face what Bitcoin was and the ideas behind the cryptocurrency movement. After this full immersion, Macao provoked a discussion in Italy around alternative economies and radically different kinds of monetary systems. This ended up in a symposium at Macao in September 2014 entitled “Money of the Common” which led to the publication of the book La moneta del comune. La sfida dell’istituzione finanziaria del comune. In that meeting, which was attended by an Italian community of political economists, critical theorists, and some participants in practical projects that Macao strongly supported, they agreed on two main prerequisites for any currency of the commons to work: First, the money of the common has to be anti-speculative and not scarce, and it has to promote a circular economy. Second, the technological infrastructure has to be sustainable in terms of energy expenditure and consumption. That’s why the Bitcoin architecture was problematic in terms of proof of work and mining, and because it is scarce and fluctuates in value. The high levels of energy that are consumed in processing the Bitcoin blockchain also ruled it out as a currency of the commons.
From that moment on, Macao looked for projects and collaborators in order to build alternative projects that were anti-speculative and sustainable. Faircoin, Commoncoin and Bank of the Commons are some of these. The challenge was to create collective infrastructures for the Commons with new technology, as an alternative to capitalism, as well as, locally and globally to build ecosystems for the future.
COMMONCOIN by Macao
Emanuele Braga: Infrastructures for future ecosystems, MoneyLab https://networkcultures.org/moneylab/2019/02/25/infrastructures-for-future-ecosystems/
MACAO, Milano IT