The Constellation of Commons (CC) is an audiovisual archive of self-managed “communities of practice”(Wenger) that operate in the Spanish State. Many of these communities could be considered from an orientation and aspiration contrary to capitalism (understanding capitalism as “an institutionalized social order” (Fraser) —as was feudalism—which is defined by a matrix of domination and exploitation of human and non-human resources and by the structural tendency to eliminate those obstacles that interfere with the perpetual accumulation of capital).
The Constellation is the result of a five-year research process on the culture of the commons, its cultural matrix and its practical expression. Configured as a constellar file, this space houses a set of conversations documented in audiovisual and textual format.
From the standpoint of content, the organization of this commons of knowledge is born from the mapped practices themselves. This archive testifies to a political, cultural, ecosocial, and existential position against complicity with the dominant model. As in the entire archive, although the opposite is stipulated, the classification is arbitrary and conjectural. From the process of analyzing all 45 interviews, I’ve created 11 categories that I’ve organized into thematic nodes based on the recurring themes. Each one of these thematic groups answers to a collection of demands that activate the life of these communities and their relationship with the expanded educational movement: social justice, the urgent protection of the Earth’s rights, the right to healthcare and care of each other, gender equality, the right to dignified work, the protection of migrants’ rights, the right to dignified housing, the right to a comprehensive education and continued education through every stage of life, the right to media training and accurate information, artivism as a form of political expression, and the exploration of new political and economic formulas. Clearly, the list of social demands is incomplete and partial, it’s merely a snapshot of what’s going on in this movement.
Listening to the collection of conversations organized around these 11 nodes communicates to us a transversal, socially creative force that explores ways to support, incentivize, and push for a structural change that addresses causes. Obviously, these do not constitute the only demands that exist in Spain, nor is the selected collection of communities representative of all of the responses that the Spanish citizenship has to offer. What I’ve gathered here in this guide and its digital archive is an initial sample that I hope continues to expand in time. In both the guide and the digital tool, each thematic node is bound to a group of communities that practice it.
The criteria for the ordering, tying together, and linking of certain communities with certain thematic nodes follows the degree of importance that a certain demand holds in the heart of a community. These primary relationships or principal proposals are not an obstacle to establishing other possible nodal relationships; in fact, if one reads all of the interviews, one will see that it’s possible to see overlap.
This collection of testimonies forms a purposeful horizon of good news that, at the same time, celebrates successes and feeds the engine of hope with stories of community. The urgency for solutions is not only work for the legal, judicial, economic, and political fields, but is also a cultural work. If our ethical, creative, and political health comes first and we must resist a whole way of life that goes against life itself, then it is essential to create stories with which to learn how to discard the cruel optimism and the techno optimism present in the capitalist sensibility. The CC is a modest contribution within a chorus of stories that points us towards a possible path, not without contradictions and obstacles.
In this space, social activism is connected to research and teaching. It’s an informative tool and a repository of knowledge, without the aim of profit and with the aim of reproduction. All the content housed in this archive is offered under a creative commons license.
Why an archive?
From the space that I occupy as a researcher and social activist, the object of this archive is to contribute to the systemic transformation underway, illuminating the direction and the power of proposals of grassroots communities. This archive is a bridge that allows us to communicate with the reality of these communities through their own experience. Its vision as a whole foretells possible responses to the question that has motivated this entire process: In what kind of world can we live and do we want to live? To this question, all of the communities respond from their practice in a plurality of proposals and from experiments in creative revolutionary formulas, in the sense that they validate other ways to understand property, the governing of the public, work, relationships, care, commercial transactions, education, etc.
The story of these practices do not tend to appear in traditional media, nor does it seem to find its place in classrooms; it’s for this reason that it seemed important to call upon a representative part of these groups to archive their testimonies with the goal of recording the change that they represent and are already undertaking. Sharing this work with professionals from librarian, technical, digital, and audiovisual fields has allowed for not only the creation of an open access, professional tool; it has also made possible the library cataloging of the digital tool so that its content exists in the institutional ecosystem of information.
Warning: This archive does not only seek to promote a distinct vision of a marginalized history of social activism and its power to impact macro-politics; it’s also a mirror where we can see ourselves and a space for thinking of ourselves as powerful agents of change. The attentive reading of these conversations can make possible unforeseen connections and links. The material is offered in its raw form so that each person can reach their own conclusions.
How was this archive made?
This archive is the result of 5 years of research and of a series of trips to Spain spread out in three stages that correspond to the years: 2017-2018-2019. Previously, there had been an entire work of mapping the research and selecting those grassroots communities that were sufficiently representative of the variety of proposals that encompass the phenomenon of the commons.
The diversity of communities brought together here accounts for the different social roles and needs that these practicing communities cover in Spain. The majority of the protagonists of these conversations are the founders of these communities; in this sense, their stories share a privileged knowledge. All of the recorded conversations were structured around a script of questions that were pre-approved by the interviewees. Once edited, the recordings were sent to each community for its viewing and subsequent approval.
The end of the recording process marked the beginning of the process of video editing, developing the digital tool, and gathering together the broad group of people that make up the community that sustains this whole project. All of this work is made available to the commons with the desire of illuminating possible meanings that go beyond the research itself.
How to explore this constellation?
This Constellation must be explored by playing, but not like a videogame. What I’m proposing to you is that you enter into this Constellation not to pass the time between other activities but rather to listen and connect with what you will hear. I’d like you to suspend your expectations for objectives and results and allow yourself to be curious, assemble relationships and associations, give expression to recurrences and occurrences, spend some time listening, reflecting on your own paradoxes and those of the commons. Travel this path however you can and however you want. With your five senses, in its entirety or in stages, following the proposed connections or inventing your own, playing with the web of ties and links, weaving them and unweaving them. Drift, take a walk, linger, pick up cuttings of plants and keep them in your pocket. Remember that here, it’s about ethical use to benefit everyone, without exception!
Who is this tool for?
The Constellation Commons is, above all else, a space for good news. It’s also an informative tool, of research, educational and designed to serve as a bridge between spheres, realities, and sectors that have been purposefully differentiated and that are not often in dialogue. It’s a space for the convergence of people, practices, and knowledges, so the content will be of interest to anyone who is curious to get to know the cultivation of grassroots communities in practice in the commons.
- To other grassroots communities and activist and militant collectives, national and international, this archive can serve as a place of communication and learning from other experiences and as a place of exchanging information, conventions, etc. Keeping in mind that one of the most important stories in the world of social activism is that which recounts and documents the journey itself, this tool serves a double social function: documentation and communication.
- Those people who dedicate themselves to research and knowledge production will find, together with the collection of original materials, an invitation to contribute to the expansion of this resource. I invite you to send new stories, bibliographic recommendations, to feed this list of resources, or to participate in the co-dictionary with the addition of new terms.
- The open classroom section allows all those interested in using these materials in processes of formal or informal education to access examples of the pedagogical use of this material. Also, the tool is an invitation to contribute with course programs or invented dynamics based on these materials. Other constellations commons will be possible if we join forces.
- The Co-dictionary is open to anyone’s participation. It’s about bringing together concepts, interrupting the logic of closing off knowledge into distinct disciplines, and opening knowledge up to participation. This co-dictionary is an expansion of concepts mentioned in the interviews. The variety of entries offers a broad range of theoretical off-shoots. The terms and definitions come from the communities mapped in the Constellation as well as from researchers who have generously lent themselves to participating in this archive by writing their own entries. I’ll take this opportunity to thank them for their selfless collaboration.