communal in Stalder 2018

at characterizes these processes is
*communality*. It is only through a collectively shared frame of
reference that meanings can be stabilized, possible courses of action
can be determined, and resources can be made available. This has given
rise to communal formations that generate self-referential worlds, which
in turn modulate various dimensions of existence -- from aesthetic
preferences to the methods of biological reproduction and the rhythms of
space and time. In these worlds, the dynamics of netwo

ing processes
that reduce and give shape to the glut of information, by extracting
information from the volume of data produced by machines. This extracted
information is then accessible to human perception and can serve as the
basis of singular and communal activity. Faced with the enormous amount
of data generated by people and machines, we would be blind were it not
for algorithms.

The third chapter will focus on *political dimensions*. These are the
factors that enable the formal dimensions describe

relatively new collectives are also becoming more differentiated, a
development that I outlined above with reference to the transformation
of the gay movement into the LGBT community. Yet nevertheless, or
perhaps for this very reason, new forms of communality are being formed
in these offshoots -- in the small activities of everyday life. And
these new communal formations -- rather []{#Page_80 type="pagebreak"
title="80"}than individual people -- are the actual subjects who create
the shared meaning that we call culture.

::: {.section}
### The problem of the "community" {#c2-sec-0010}

I have chosen the rather cumbersome expression "communal formation" in
order to avoid the term "community" (*Gemeinschaft*), although the
latter is used increasingly often in discussions of digital cultures and
has played an import­ant role, from the beginning, in conceptions of
networking. Viewed analyti

r in
conflict.[^42^](#c2-note-0042){#c2-note-0042a} []{#Page_82
type="pagebreak" title="82"}These impressions, however, which are so
firmly associated with the German concept of *Gemeinschaft*, make it
rather difficult to comprehend the new forms of communality that have
developed in the offshoots of networked life. This is because, at least
for now, these latter forms do not represent a genuine alternative to
societal types of social
connectedness.[^43^](#c2-note-0043){#c2-note-0043a} The English word

ity is distributed unequally and is
based on the extent to which the members value each other\'s (and their
own) levels of knowledge and experience. At first glance, then, the term
"community of practice" seems apt to describe the meaning-generating
communal formations that are at issue here. It is also somewhat
problematic, however, because, having since been subordinated to
management strategies, its use is now narrowly applied to professional
learning and managing knowledge.[^46^](#c2-note-0046){#c2-note-0046a}

From these various notions of community, it is possible to develop the
following way of looking at new types of communality: they are formed in
a field of practice, characterized by informal yet structured exchange,
focused on the generation of new ways of knowing and acting, and
maintained through the reflexive interpretation of their own activity.
This last point in particular -- the communal creation, preservation,
and alteration of the interpretive framework in which actions,
processes, and objects acquire a firm meaning and connection -- can be
seen as the central role of communal formations.

Communication is especially significant to them. Indi­viduals must
continuously communicate in order to constitute themselves within the
fields and practices, or else they will remain invisible. The mass of
tweets, updates, emails, blog

ientation becomes enmeshed with the outward
pressure of having to be present and available to form a new and binding
set of requirements. This relation between inward motivation and outward
pressure can vary highly, depending on the character of the communal
formation and the position of the individual within it (although it is
not the individual who determines what successful communication is, what
represents a contribution to the communal formation, or in which form
one has to be present). []{#Page_84 type="pagebreak" title="84"}Such
decisions are made by other members of the formation in the form of
positive or negative feedback (or none at all), and they are made with
recourse to the interpretive framework that has been developed in
common. These communal and continuous acts of learning, practicing, and
orientation -- the exchange, that is, between "novices" and "experts" on
the same field, be it concerned with internet politics, illegal street
racing, extreme right-wing music, body modification, or a free
encyclopedia -- serve to maintain the framework of shared meaning,
expand the constituted field, recruit new members, and adapt the
framework of interpretation and activity to changing conditions. Such
communal formations constitute themselves; they preserve and modify
themselves by constantly working out the foundations of their
constitution. This may sound circular, for the process of reflexive
self-constitution -- "autopoiesis" in the language of systems theory --
is circular in the sense that control is maintained through continuous,
self-generating feedback. Self-referentiality is a structural feature of
these formations.

::: {.section}
### Singularity and communality {#c2-sec-0011}

The new communal formations are informal forms of organ­ization that are
based on voluntary action. No one is born into them, and no one
possesses the authority to force anyone else to join or remain against
his or her will, or to assign anyone with tasks that he or

n, at least at first, represent
for the individual a gain in freedom. Under a given set of conditions,
everyone can (and must) choose which formations to participate in, and
he or she, in doing so, will have a better or worse chance to influence
the communal field of reference.

On the everyday level of communicative self-constitution and creating a
personal cognitive horizon -- in innumerable streams, updates, and
timelines on social mass media -- the most important resource is the
attention of others;

is no longer of much significance.
Instead, the quality of a picture is primarily judged according to
whether "others like it"; that is, according to its performance in the
ongoing popularity contest within a specific niche. But users do not
rely on communal formations and the feedback they provide just for the
sharing and evaluation of pictures. Rather, this dynamic has come to
determine more and more facets of life. Users experience the
constitution of singularity and communality, in which a person can be
perceived as such, as simultaneous and reciprocal processes. A million
times over and nearly subconsciously (because it is so commonplace),
they engage in a relationship between the individual and others that no
longer re

movement, a sure way to be
kicked out to is to stick stubbornly to a party line, even if this way
[]{#Page_87 type="pagebreak" title="87"}of thinking happens to agree
with that of the movement. Not only at Occupy gatherings, however, but
in all new communal formations it is expected that everyone there is
representing his or her own interests. As most people are aware, this
assumption is theoretically naïve and often proves to be false in
practice. Even spontaneity can be calculated, and in many cases

the central
difference from the classical, bourgeois conception of the subject. The
self is no longer understood in essentialist terms but rather
performatively. Accordingly, the main demand on the individual who
voluntarily opts to participate in a communal formation is no longer to
be self-aware but rather to be
self-motivated.[^51^](#c2-note-0051){#c2-note-0051a} Nor is it necessary
any more for one\'s core self to be coherent. It is not a contradiction
to appear in various communal formations, each different from the next,
as a different "I myself," for every formation is comprehensive, in that
it appeals to the whole person, and simultaneously partial, in that it
is oriented toward a particular goal and not toward all areas of

(the case studies were mostly in North America) are defining their
identity less and less by their family, profession, or other stable
collective, but rather increasingly in terms of their personal social
networks; that is, according to the communal formations in which they
are active as individuals and in which they are perceived as singular
people. In this regard, individualization and atomization no longer
necessarily go hand in hand. On the contrary, the intertwined nature of
personal identity and communality can be experienced on an everyday
level, given that both are continuously created, adapted, and affirmed
by means of personal communication. This makes the networks in question
simultaneously fragile and stable. Fragile because they require the

urn of the millennium, the king and
the queen, the state and civil society, are both naked, and their
children-citizens are wandering around a variety of foster

::: {.section}
### Space and time as a communal practice {#c2-sec-0013}

Although participation in a communal formation is voluntary, it is not
unselfish. Quite the contrary: an important motivation is to gain access
to a formation\'s constitutive field of practice and to the resources
associated with it. A communal formation ultimately does more than
simply steer the attention of its members toward one another. Through
the common production of culture, it also structures how the members
perceive the world and how they are able to design themselves and their

he community selects a manageable
amount of information from the excess of potentially available
information and brings it into a meaningful context, whereby it
validates the selection itself and orients the activity of each of its

The new communal formations consist of self-referential worlds whose
constructive common practice affects the foundations of social activity
itself -- the constitution of space and time. How? The spatio-temporal
horizon of digital communication is a global (that is,

define the parameters of space and time themselves in order to
counteract the mire of technically defined spacelessness and
timelessness. If space and time are not simply to vanish in this
spaceless, ongoing present, how then should they be defined? Communal
formations create spaces for action not least by determining their own
geographies and temporal rhythms. They negotiate what is near and far
and also which places are disregarded (that is, not even perceived). If
every place is communicatively (and p

every person
must decide which place he or she would like to reach in practice. This,
however, is not an individual decision but rather a task that can only
be approached collectively. Those places which are important and thus
near are determined by communal formations. This takes place in the form
of a rough consensus through the blogs that "one" has to read, the
exhibits that "one" has to see, the events and conferences that "one"
has to attend, the places that "one" has to visit before they are
overrun by tourists, the crises in which "the West" has to intervene,
the targets that "lend themselves" to a terrorist attack, and so on. On
its own, however, selection is not enough. Communal formations are
especially powerful when they generate the material and organizational
resources that are necessary for their members to implement their shared
worldview through actions -- to visit, for instance, the places that
have been chosen as im

r can be as
simple as how quickly to respond to an email. Because the transmission
of information hardly takes any time, every delay is a purely social
creation. But how much is acceptable? There can be no uniform answer to
this. The members of each communal formation have to negotiate their own
rules with one another, even in areas of life that are otherwise highly
formalized. In an interview with the magazine *Zeit*, for instance, a
lawyer with expertise in labor law was asked whether a boss may requir

concerned with the specific question of whether or how they can fulfill
their wish to have children. Without a coherent set of rules, questions
such as these have to be answered by each individual with recourse to
his or her personally relevant communal formation. If there is no
cultural framework that at least claims to be binding for everyone, then
the individual must negotiate independently within each communal
formation with the goal of acquiring the resources necessary to act
according to communal values and objectives.

::: {.section}
### Self-generating orders {#c2-sec-0014}

These three functions -- selection, interpretation, and the constitutive
ability to act -- make communal formations the true subject of the
digital condition. In principle, these functions are nothing new;
rather, they are typical of fields that are organized without reference
to external or irrefutable authorities. The state of scholarship, for

ous expansion of the cultural
requires explicit decisions to be made in more aspects of life. The
reaction to this dilemma has been radical subjectivation. This has not,
however, been taking place at the level of the individual but rather at
that of communal formations. There is now a patchwork of answers to
large questions and a multitude of reactions to large challenges, all of
which are limited in terms of their reliability and scope.

::: {.section}
### Ambivalent voluntariness {#c2-sec-0015}


en though participation in new formations is voluntary and serves the
interests of their members, it is not without preconditions. The most
important of these is acceptance, the willing adoption of the
interpretive framework that is generated by the communal formation. The
latter is formed from the social, cultural, legal, and technical
protocols that lend to each of these formations its concrete
constitution and specific character. Protocols are common sets of rules;
they establish, according to the net

style of expression, humor, and
preferences. Ultimately, software developers do not form a professional
corps in the traditional sense -- in which functionaries meet one
another in the narrow and regulated domain of their profession -- but
rather a communal formation in which the engagement of the whole person,
both one\'s professional and social self, is scrutinized. The
abolishment of the separ­ation between different spheres of life,
requiring interaction of a more holistic nature, is in fact a key
attraction of []{#Page_97 type="pagebreak" title="97"}these communal
formations and is experienced by some as a genuine gain in freedom. In
this situation, one is no longer subjected to rules imposed from above
but rather one is allowed to -- and indeed ought to -- be authentically
pursuing his or her own interests.

But for others the experience can be quite the opposite because the
informality of the communal formation also allows forms of exclusion and
discrimination that are no longer acceptable in formally organized
realms of society. Discrimination is more difficult to identify when it
takes place within the framework of voluntary togetherness, for no

ducts, while
different viewpoints and areas of knowledge are
excluded.[^69^](#c2-note-0069){#c2-note-0069a} What is more, those who
are excluded or do not wish to expose themselves to discrimination (and
thus do not even bother to participate in any communal formations) do
not receive access to the resources that circulate there (attention and
support, valuable and timely knowledge, or job offers). Many people are
thus faced with the choice of either enduring the discrimination within
a community or rema

nt on more than a technical level; as interpretive
frameworks, they structure viewpoints, rules, and patterns of behavior
on all levels. Thus, they provide a degree of cultural homogeneity, a
set of commonalities that lend these new formations their communal
nature. Viewed from the outside, these formations therefore seem
inclined toward consensus and uniformity, for their members have already
accepted and internalized certain aspects in common -- the protocols
that enable exchange itself -- whereas ever

tside has not
done so. When everyone is speaking in English, the conversation sounds
quite monotonous to someone who does not speak the language.

Viewed from the inside, the experience is something different: in order
to constitute oneself within a communal formation, not only does one
have to accept its rules voluntarily and in a self-motivated manner; one
also has to make contributions to the reproduction and development of
the field. Everyone is urged to contribute something; that is, to
produce, on

ormation will be at risk of
losing its internal structure and splitting apart ("forking," in the
jargon of free software).

::: {.section}
Algorithmicity {#c2-sec-0018}

Through personal communication, referential processes in communal
formations create cultural zones of various sizes and scopes. They
expand into the empty spaces that have been created by the erosion of
established institutions and []{#Page_101 type="pagebreak"
title="101"}processes, and once these new processes ha

l lead
to new knowledge, to a comprehensive understanding of the world, indeed
even to "omniscience."[^76^](#c2-note-0076){#c2-note-0076a} This faith
in data is based above all on the fact that the two processes described
above -- referentiality and communality -- are not the only new
mechanisms for filtering, sorting, aggregating, and evaluating things.
Beneath or ahead of the social mechanisms of decentralized and networked
cultural production, there are algorithmic processes that pre-sort the


::: {.section}
### Data behaviorism {#c2-sec-0026}

Algorithms such as Google\'s thus reiterate and reinforce a tendency
that has already been apparent on both the level of individual users and
that of communal formations: in order to deal with the vast amounts and
complexity of information, they direct their gaze inward, which is not
to say toward the inner being of individual people. As a level of
reference, the individual person -- with an interior world

about individuals than individuals know about
themselves, and are thus able to answer our questions before we ask
them. As mentioned above, this is a goal that Google expressly hopes to

At issue with this "inward turn" is thus the space of communal
formations, which is constituted by the sum of all of the activities of
their interacting participants. In this case, however, a communal
formation is not consciously created []{#Page_123 type="pagebreak"
title="123"}and maintained in a horizontal process, but rather
synthetic­ally constructed as a computational function. Depending on the
context and the need, individuals can either b

Technological and Scholarly Phenomenon," *Information, Communication &
Society* 15 (2012): 662--79.

[III]{.chapterNumber} [Politics]{.chapterTitle} {#c3}

::: {.section}
Referentiality, communality, and algorithmicity have become the
characteristic forms of the digital condition because more and more
people -- in more and more segments of life and by means of increasingly
complex technologies -- are actively (or compulsorily) participating i

articipatory options that made the open
internet so attractive.

One of the most popular and radical services on the open internet was
email. The special thing about it was that electronic messages could be
used both for private (one-to-one) and for communal (many-to-many)
communication of all sorts, and thus it helped to merge the previously
distinct domains of the private and the communal. By the middle of the
1980s, and with the help of specialized software, it was possible to
create email lists with which one could send messages efficiently and
reliably to small and large groups. Users could join these groups
without much effort. From the beginning, email has played a significant
role in the creation []{#Page_130 type="pagebreak" title="130"}of
communal formations. Email was one of the first technologies that
enabled the horizontal coordination of large and dispersed groups, and
it was often used to that end. Linus Torvalds\'s famous call for people
to collaborate with him on his operating system --

t. By now, Facebook has more than a billion users, and each of
them has produced at least a rudimentary personal profile and a few
likes. Thanks to networking opportunities, which make up the most
important service offered by all of these providers, communal formations
can be created with ease. Every day, groups are formed that organize
information, knowledge, and resources in order to establish self-defined
practices (both online and offline). The immense amounts of data,
information, and cultural refer

connection between the network effect and the monopoly effect, however,
is not inevitable, but rather fabricated. It is the closed standards
that make it impossible to switch providers without losing access to the
entire network and thus also to the communal formations that were
created on its foundation. From the perspective of the user, this
represents an extremely high barrier against leaving the network -- for,
as discussed above, these formations now play an essential role in the
creation of both id

production. As early as 2002, the legal scholar Yochai Benkler
coined the term "commons-based peer production" to describe the
development in question.[^66^](#c3-note-0066){#c3-note-0066a} Together,
Benkler\'s peers form what I have referred to as "communal formations":
people joining forces voluntarily and on a fundamentally even playing
field in order to pursue common goals. Benkler enhances this idea with
reference to the constitutive role of the commons for many of these
communal formations.

As such, commons are neither new nor specifically Western. They exist in
many cultural traditions, and thus the term is used in a wide variety of
ways.[^67^](#c3-note-0067){#c3-note-0067a} In what follows, I will
distinguish between thre

also be used for the production
of commercial products -- cheese from the milk of cows that graze on a
common pasture, for instance, or books based on the content of Wikipedia
articles. The relationships between the people who use a certain
resource communally, however, are not structured through money but
rather through direct social cooper­ation. Commons are thus
fundamentally different from classical market-oriented institutions,
which orient their activity primarily in response to price signals.

forms that primarily exist by means and for the sake of their members.

::: {.section}
### The organization of the commons {#c3-sec-0012}

Commoners create institutions when they join together for the sake of
using a resource in a long-term and communal manner. In this, the
separation of producers and consumers, which is otherwise ubiquitous,
does not play a significant role: to different and variable extents, all
commoners are producers and consumers of the common resources. It is an
everyday occur

of resources for his or her own use, but it is understood that something
will be created from this that, in one form or another, will flow back
into the common pool. This process -- the reciprocal relationship
between singular appropriation and communal provisions -- is one of the
central dynamics within commons.

Because commoners orient their activity neither according to price
signals (markets) nor according to instructions or commands
(hierarchies), social communication among the members is the

them.[^69^](#c3-note-0069){#c3-note-0069a} Instead, she has identified a
series of fundamental challenges for which all commoners have to devise
their own solutions.[^70^](#c3-note-0070){#c3-note-0070a} For example,
the membership of a group that communally uses a particular resource
must be defined and, if necessary, limited. Especially in the case of
material resources, such as pastures on which several people keep their
animals, it is important to limit the number of members for the simple
reason t

an system and other works, without
any fee."

Thus, over the years, a multifaceted institutional landscape has been
created in which collaboration can take place between for-profit and
non-profit entities -- between formal organizations and informal
communal formations. Together, they form the software commons.
Communally, they strive to ensure that high-quality free software will
continue to exist for the long term. The coordination necessary for this
is not tension-free. Within individual communities,

mmunity but do not do much editing. This suggests that donating is
understood as an opportunity to make a contribution without having to
invest much time in the project. In this case, donating money is thus
not an expression of charity but rather of communal spirit; it is just
one of a diverse number of ways to remain active in a commons. Precisely
because its economy is not understood as an independent sphere with its
own logic (maximizing individual resources), but rather as an integrated
aspect of cul

that free access to data represents a
necessary condition for autonomous activity in the []{#Page_167
type="pagebreak" title="167"}digital condition, many new initiatives
have formed that are devoted to the decentralized collection,
networking, and communal organization of data. For several years, for
instance, there has been a global community of people who observe
airplanes in their field of vision, share this information with one
another, and make it generally accessible. Outside of the tight

that commons can develop cumulatively.
Free software and free hardware are preconditions for []{#Page_168
type="pagebreak" title="168"}producing and networking such an object. No
less import­ant are commercial and non-commercial infrastructures for
communal learning, compiling documentation, making infor­mation
available, and thus facilitating access for those interested and
building up the community. All of this depends on free knowledge, from
Wikipedia to scientific databases. This enables a great variety of
actors -- in this case en­vironmental scientists, programmers,
engineers, and interested citizens -- to come together and create a
common frame of reference in which everyone can pursue his or her own
goals and yet do so on the basis of communal resources. This, in turn,
has given rise to a new commons, namely that of environmental data.

Not all data can or must be collected by individuals, for a great deal
of data already exists. That said, many scientific and state
institutions face the p

nd out that threaten to undermine the commons from within
before they can properly establish themselves. These movements have been
exploiting certain aspects of the commons while pursuing goals that are
harmful to them. Thus, there are ways of using communal resources in
order to offer, on their basis, closed and centralized services. An
example of this is so-called cloud software; that is, applications that
no longer have to be installed on the computer of the user but rather
are centrally run on the pr

so deeply with its
closed applications (such as Google Maps and Google Play Store), the
company ensures that even modified versions of the system will supply
data in which Google has an

The idea of the communal use and provision of resources is eroded most
clearly by the so-called sharing economy, especially by companies such
as the short-term lodging service Airbnb or Uber, which began as a taxi
service but has since expanded into other areas of business.

one another. This is not least the case
because everyone\'s activity -- at times singularly aggregated, at times
collectively organized -- is contributing directly and indirectly to
these contradictory developments. And even though an individual or
communal contribution may seem small, it is still exactly []{#Page_174
type="pagebreak" title="174"}that: a contribution to a collective
movement in one direction or the other. This assessment should not be
taken as some naïve appeal along the lines of "Be t


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