Resilient Networks

Jean-Noel Montagné


In France, most of the Makers are hobbyists, technolovers, geeks that create for fun, for local glory and some, for business. But few of them are makers for social or political goals. Most of the objects created in fablabs and makerspaces in the last years are useless regarding the urgent problems of the planet. Because the planet is on fire. Climate crisis. Energy crisis. Demography crisis. Water crisis. Metals crisis. Financial crisis. Education crisis, even crisis of mental health because of the abuse of digital communication.

But stop ! it’s enough ! Come back to transformaking, No-one wants to hear about this crude reality !

Resilient Society

And that’s the problem: historians studying the extinction of old civilisations in the last millennia have discovered that leaders and populations knew about the perfectly serious problems of their time, but they ignored the scientific advice and all indicators turning to red, until the end. We are doing exactly the same and we don’t have a lot of time to act. We must transform all sectors of the society before the conjunction of some important crisis, and transformakers will help us to do it.

In the global village, industry is totally dependent on flux, networks of raw materials, energy, goods, tools, components, distribution and transportation. Any failure in one spot can disturb or stop the whole chain, from extraction of raw materials to distribution of goods. This interdependency is an enormous fragility in the context of the coming crisis, and transformakers can help us to break it.

We have all noticed that we can’t really count on our political systems to find efficient solutions. We know we can only count on ourselves. We, citizens, can build resilient communities, based on small structures, driven by direct democracy, and based on big citizenship networking. We have the digital tools and the network to do it.

Transformakers have a key role in this transition from globalisation to resilience.

Global Crisis

The COP21 UN conference about climate change offers to limit the rise of the global temperature to two degrees more. Accepting 2 degrees more, on average, for the planet, however, is accepting violent transformations of the climate that will create a giant loss of biodiversity, massive extinction of species in earth and ocean during those years. Two degrees more will also create huge environmental and social disorders, instability everywhere, wars, starvation. Hundreds of millions of refugees will have to move, dismantling completely the actual geopolitic equilibrium.

Pure water is also missing everywhere because of very bad management, but the most important resource crisis will come with metals and oil. We live now with the illusion of infinite resources, but this new prosperity will have an end. The planet has a limited quantity of fossil energy in the ground, and we are reaching the limits in one or two generations, in our children’s lifetimes. No lessons have been taken from the 2008 crash. Improvements in high-frequency trading do not actually cover the many debts of countries and their people. Big monetary regulators are also provoking also a crisis of democracy, of citizenship, of trust in each other.

A new era of chaos brings an opportunity for radically changing the system in good directions.


How can transformakers help in the context of global crisis ?

By helping us to change the scale from globalization to small resilient networked communities, to rebuild real direct democracy and redefine urbanisation and the usage of our lands. By helping us to rebuild our social organisation around knowledge networks. By helping us to harvest clean energy, renewable energy everywhere, and to share it. By helping us to redefine our material strategies, our industrial strategies. By creating new models for currencies and money circulation.

We discover today that good social, environmental and financial practices have always existed. Transformaking is the common behaviour in many communities in the world, especially in rural areas: do it yourself, DIWithOthers, Do It Together: people invent tools and technologies adapted to their context, to their pragmatic needs, using few resources, using local resources. People repair, they recycle, they hack objects, they transmit the knowledge to young generations. Poor countries will not suffer as much as rich countries in the chaotic future, because they have always lived in the Transformaking way.

In social organisation, all over the world, small communities use solidarity structures, monetary arrangements, like barter systems that can be considered as local money, in a pure peer-to-peer exchange. The organisation of traditional communities offers big lessons for us and this model just needs digital tools to be adapted to small communities in the modern world.

Sharing knowledge = open sourcing

Transformaking officially arrived in our society 30 years ago, when hackers started to change the world with the first open source software licences, one of the most powerful political acts of the XXth century. Artists followed the movement 20 years ago with open source documents and artwork licences, and some makers have taken another important step, ten years ago, with Open Source Hardware licences. This is transformaking: changing the society by offering alternatives containing the values of solidarity and knowledge.

Open source technologies, from their concept of production and distribution, open the possibility of a total citizen control on technology. It’s now possible to envision human-scale industry, citizen industry, decentralized industry, like our ancestors did before the Industrial Revolution. The ecosystem of transformaking is self-organised around knowledge networks. Any technological process can be created or improved by transformakers, because networks of knowledge, networks of citizen research, networks of materials and networks of components exists underground. In the recent years, transformakers have started to design and build very complicated open source machines related to many sectors of industry, and citizen research now attacks topics such as high tech medicine, nuclear physics, nanotechnologies or genetics. All in Open Source: Free Libre Open Source Software (FLOSS) and Free Libre Open Source Hardware (FLOSH).

Patents are living their last twenty years, even in some very protected niche industries, such as medical equipment: look at their websites and initiatives.

One could argue that hackers, transformakers are not regulated by authorities, certifications, ethics commitees and could launch projects which are dangerous projects for society. But no. They wouldn’t. Because transformakers are a network of citizens, we are self-organized and the debate is always open in open source technologies. Creation and correction of code, of designs, follows real democratic rules, much less dangerous than government or military-security projects. How to promote more transformaking in society?

First by protecting the Internet and net neutrality. Networking tools are essential for democracy and sharing of knowledge. Big companies like Facebook and GAFAM are silently killing the Internet by replacing all software on the client side, by services driven by their data-sucker servers, associated to the Panopticon of the Internet Of Things. New global totalitarianism.

We can promote transformaking

  • by supporting hackers and transformaker projects through crowdfunding
  • by opening new medialabs, hackerspaces, makerspaces, and open laboratories, and specializing in them ( biology, health, agriculture, etc)
  • by opening places in cities to dismantle, repair, recycle objects, parts, etc
  • by choosing to use open source software and open source hardware when available
  • by funding P2P and common goods initiatives in all sectors of society
  • by installing education programmes about hacking, about transformaking
  • by choosing slow and resilient communication technologies for establishing strong communication and education networks.

Post capitalist era

Transition from globalisation to new resilient small-scale networked societies is necessary and must start now. Transformakers are the first explorers of the post-capitalist era. But they don’t move alone. Many new citizen organisations, new-style political movements are following the movement, but most of them ignore what transformakers are doing.

Transformakers have started to transform the society through new behaviours based on local resources, local solidarities, self-management and direct democracy, and based on global communication and global exchange of knowledge.

Instead of losing energy to promote this vision into standard political systems, we need to start building initiatives around us, responding to our values, co-existing with the actual system, and if our alternatives are good, if our models take sense into the society, they will naturally replace the old system, without war, without revolutions.

Let’s do it. DIY, DIT, DIWO, DIN1

1. Do-It-Yourself, Do-It-Together, Do-It-With-Others, Do-It-Now