Janwar Castle needs a Bamboo House

The children in Janwar Castle have never seen a skateboarding instructor – nevertheless they’ve made it within five month to skateboarding champions. Just look at the pictures.

Now we want to move on and add a bamboo house for further actvities to our learning environment – and we need it before winter sets in. Therefore we decided to run this foto campaign. Vicky Roy, whom I know for many years now, is a well-known and established Indian photographer. The pictures he takes of children always reflect a very special atmosphere and ambiente … same holds true for his pics from Janwar, the village where our skatepark is located. He connects with the rural and he connects with the kids. I am very happy that Vicky Roy is supporting us and gives us these pictures for free for this specific campaign.

Thank you Vicky Roy!

His work has traveled around the world and his photographs are meanwhile a good investment.

We only fixed a minimum price for each picture which covers printing and shipping – otherwise the price is really up to you! Please help us to make this bamboo house become reality!

On the Road

For the past three and a half years I’ve been exploring the roads, the highways and byways, of India on my motorbike. I’ve probably traveled more than 50,000 km all over the country – the only area I haven’t been to is the north east. I usually go on longer trips, 4 weeks or more, and I try to avoid the sterile and boring to ride highways and look for the lonesome roads, the country tracks. To put it mildly, these are not always in tip-top condition – but most of the time it’s well worth investing that extra time and effort. Simply because it’s here that you can dig deeper into the country and get a real feeling for it. I believe it’s on roads like this that India shows its true face: beautiful but sometimes very unforgiving. The landscape can be stunning but all too often it’s scattered with litter and scarred with garbage dumps. The people you meet are among the most innocent and curious that you’ll find but they’re horribly left behind. All these are pictures that we don’t usually find in Western media which pushes the image of an emerging, rapidly growing economic power.

I started to ride a motorbike a few months after arriving in India. Before that I had 20 years devotion to the humble motor scooter and my longest trip on the 50 ccm two wheeler was from Berlin to Heidelberg – a grand total of 650 km! It took me three days and what a great way it was to explore the country roads of my home land away from the straight and narrow of the Autobahn. But motorbiking in India is a different story. Upgrading from a scooter to a motorbike wasn’t so much of a challenge – the real challenge was how to cope with the sheer unpredictability of any kind of Indian traffic situation. Whether on a four lane highway where on-coming traffic shouldn’t be so surprising, not even on the fast track, or arriving in an urbanized area where the density of everything suddenly and dramatically increases. In less than a minute you move from the free breeze in your face to jostling crowds of people, an exploded zoo of animals, swarms of children and jostling competitive traffic: anything from bicycles and auto rickshaws, to oxcarts, pick-up trucks and motorbikes. And the noise is simply ear-splitting. There seem to be simply no rules – it’s freestyle, self-organized traffic where each driver seems to take his life in his hands and act like there were no tomorrow.

My first long tour was on a Honda Hero Impulse 125 ccm – a dirt bike – from Khajuraho, Madhya Pradesh all the way up to Manali in the foothills of the Himalayas.

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Climbing up to Manali

On my way back I went through Rajasthan and Gujarat. The same bike took me to the south of India. Climbing up the Western Ghats was one of my most memorable experiences – it was like driving through the lands of the Avatar movie. Spectacular landscape, fascinating light and lush nature. And plenty of tea plantations.

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Western Ghats in the early morning

After a year on this very dashing bike I bought a new one that was a bit faster when I decided to go on a four month trip to Kashmir and Ladakh. Now the 200 ccm KTM is a very speedy bike, but for me – who had to endure it on long rides – it was simply too small and too tightly upholstered which made for a very ass-numbing experience at the end of a long day.

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And then, last year in Diwali I had this Eureka moment. I was on a tour with a friend going from Bombay to Goa (again on the KTM) when he offered me to ride his “Bullet”. So I got my first taste of how it feels to ride a right Royal Enfield – the supreme incarnation of the motorbike in India that’s been in continuous production now for 75 years. Only my first taste was disappointing. I felt it was way too heavy for me and that I couldn’t handle it properly. So I gratefully hopped back on my KTM. But two days later temptation overcame me and I tried again, and that was the start of a beautiful friendship. I’ve bitten the Bullet ever since. It’s like a luxurious sofa on wheels … and once it starts rolling, believe me, it really does roll.

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Exploring India by road has given me a pretty good sense of how just huge, wild and diverse this country is. Distance has taken on a new meaning here where I can drive 500 km but when I look at the map I’ve hardly moved from my starting point. Using Google maps in India – which is what I do while traveling – can turn out to be tricky once in a while because, as I’ve found to my cost, Google maps don’t scale right. Very often distances on the map might look the same but in fact can vary from between 50 km to 150 km which really screws up your day’s travel schedule. And Google won’t show you how winding the roads are either which is another important factor when you’re calculating travel time.

Usually with the Bullet I do 350 km a day, and rarely stretch myself to cover a grandiose 600 km. If I have to, it means I’m KO in the evening – because 12 or more hours on the bike on bumpy roads is definitely too much. It only happens when I want to reach a certain place or when I’m forced to continue because I can’t find a decent place to stay for the night. There are no hotels or homestays in the villages and small cities. There might be places where you can sleep – but seriously after a day on the bike I do need running water (preferably hot water which is a challenge in itself) and I do need a toilet. My face is a mask of dust and dirt, my clothes are ready for laundry and my hair – even though most of the time I’m wearing a helmet – is so stiff with filth it can hardly be brushed. So sometimes the only option is to move on. Over time I’ve developed a routine where I check out various places online for my next destination – but this doesn’t always work out.

When I finally reach my destination it’s always an adventure finding the place where I plan to stay. Hardly anyone in the streets speaks English and, on top of that, hardly anyone can read – so my Hindi written papers are no help either. It’s pretty much trial and error until I find someone who understands what I want. In the bigger cities it’s slightly easier to find someone who speaks English and I’ve discovered that auto rickshaw drivers have some very basic understanding and at least some sense of direction. So very often I let an auto rickshaw driver be my guide. Sometimes I ask the policemen standing along the road and to my surprise three times a police guy jumped on his motorbike and showed me the way. Probably a special gallant service for lone western women on motorbikes!

The wildness and diversity of India is a continual source of fascination and inspiration. But sometimes it also frustrates me and makes me angry. I see the wildness in the ways the trees grow and the forests and lawns are “not maintained”. I see it in the way the waters flow and fall and how the mountains are shaped.

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Doodhpuri, Kashmir

The co-existence of nature and humans – sometimes brutal, sometimes harmonious – adds its part to the picture. The endless bright colors of the saris with the brownish and greenish shades of the landscape in their background are stored in my memory for ever. The eyes of the children, sometimes empty, very often curious and astonished to see “something like me”. The huge number of wild animals roaming around: tigers, leopards, hyenas, jungle cats, snakes, elephants, camels, donkeys, monkeys, goats, buffalos, pigs, cows, insects and endless number of birds, the infinite variety of sounds you hear – all this expresses India’s abundance and messiness and its beauty. The women working in the fields, taking care of their children and carrying home water and other goods on their heads have become a very familiar scene in my life. But what frustrates me and makes me aggressive is the way that men are absolutely dominant in the rural parts of the country – and by “men” I mean bunches of mostly uneducated, unemployed guys hanging around acting macho like little lords of creation but not moving a muscle to make a more decent life for their villages. On the contrary they make things much worse. In the early hours of the evening they start drinking their local wine and rum, and when they’re pissed out of their tiny minds they’re in a fit state to go home and beat and abuse their wives and very often their kids too. It’s disgusting, abominable but unfortunately way too often just part of the fabric of daily life. Women count for less than nothing in these rural areas.

I don’t know how many of India’s 700,000 rural villages I’ve passed through on my travels. This is where most of India’s population is living, probably some 800 million people. And this is where India is the most exploited. These villagers live without any water supply and electricity. They’ve hardly any health coverage and no kind of sanitation. Malnutrition is chronic and just part of life – they have too much to die but too little to prosper. Yes, government schools have arrived in some parts, but often enough teachers don’t show up or children don’t attend because they have to work in the fields. There’s no TV and if a village has a phone it’s simply one very basic cell phone for receiving in-coming calls with no chance of making an out-going one. The homes are mostly just one room with no furniture where three generations of the same family plus an odd goat or two sleep on the ground. They carry cans of water to wash themselves after they’ve emptied their bowels somewhere else. Sometimes they’ll follow the call of nature right next to the road, sometimes along the railway tracks, sometimes in the fields, and very often kids will squat down on heaps of uncollected garbage where pavements should be. Right next to the chickens, pigs, donkeys, goats and cows looking for something to eat. This mixture of rotting garbage and excrement sends out an acrid nauseous smell which hangs in the air and sticks in your throat. When they set fire to it, which they very often do, it becomes truly excruciating.

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Bophal, MP

But still these people laugh. They are very friendly. They are happy – much more happy than many of the people I see in the streets of Bombay, Bangalore and Delhi. Or back home.

Why is this?

This is a question that puzzles me and that I often mull over while crossing India on my motorbike. So far I haven’t found an answer. But I think it has something to do with NOT having access to the Western or the so-called developed world. These people accept their lives for what they are and enjoy what they have. For “us” it seems like nothing – for them it might be a hard life but it’s a happy one. There is an innocence and a curiosity about them which urban culture has lost.

Riding my bike is a form of mediation for me – my mind becomes free. Many of my best ideas were born on these trips. There’s no tension. No phone-calls. No e-mails. Nothing to worry about. The roads and nature are wide open. All you need to do is to go. And you can go endlessly. I become one with the bike and the road and the surroundings. I don’t count the kilometers I am riding, I simply enjoy the NOW.

I feel the country.
The sun. The dust. The rain. The dirt. The air. The noise. The smell. The density. The wildness.

(Thank you my dear Paul Morland for adding some “Shakespearean Art” to my text)

Open Environment Data

These sensors pick up bits of information that cameras and microphones never could: they smell the air, they taste moisture, and they feel the sting of pollution. Though a camera can give you a general sense of how a place looks, these sensors can tell you very precisely about all the complex networks — from weather to social groups — that make a place what it is.

Six weeks from idea to prototype – now we are waiting for Kumbha Mela to start in order to collect for the first time ever environmental data in realtime from a pop-up city in India.

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First time when the data came in from our sensor box

Here is how the entire story started.

Six weeks ago I’ve sent the link of data canvas to a friend in Delhi who is running a data analytics company, a brief note attached: “Do this in Delhi” and the PR will be yours!”. The idea of the data canvas in short: Install sensors all over the city and measure in real time the city’s environmental data (air quality, noise, light, temperature, CO2 ….) and visualize it. It was laid out as an art project. And it was sponsored by Seeed in Shenzen, a company I had just visited. This was actually what caught my attention. Seeed provided the Arduino boards and the sensors for the project.

My friend, M2 and his business partner, immediately got the idea and jumped on it.
And then the story evolved.

I connected M2 with Seeed, they figured out what kind of sensors would be the best for getting an overall idea about the quality of the enironment in a city like Delhi, I went to Shenzen MakerFaire two weeks later and ordered the sensors while I was there. Another week later M2 and Srinivas Kodali (an open data expert) applied for the MIT Kumbhathon, they got accepted and they went. I was there as a mentor.

M2 and Srinivas introduced the idea and immediately four hardware students from Pune joined the team.

With MIT Kumbhathon the focus had changed a bit – we were much more practical and focussed now because all of a sudden we had an ideal test market – the Kumbha Mela – right in front of us. During this huge religious gathering more than 20 million people will come Nashik. This would give us the chance to measure environment data under “regular” circumstances, but also when the city suddenly pops up to 10 or 20 times its size. What would change? Are there any changes at all? How ould environmental data correlate with health data?

For the very first time we will be able to measure this kind of data (we have 9 different sensors) in real time. This will enable authorities and government official to achieve alerts when an alert case occurs and it will provide the baseline for predictions for any future pop-up situation in any Indian city.

During the MIT Khumbathon the newly founded team of volunteers finished the first 6 prototype boxes, we got the datastream running and the very first sensor box is already sending data. There are a few bugs which need to be fixed, but the system is up and running. The website and an app will provide realtime visualization within the next 2 weeks. In mid August the team is planning to return to Nashik and to implement and install another 45 sensor boxes.

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Our first prototype from the inside

During the MIT Kumbhathon we also defined our open data strategy and outlined how we are planning to move forward:

Our goals

  • To achieve a better understanding of how environmental paramenters change during pop-up situations.
  • To gather a sandbox full of data which make pop-up cities more predictable.
  • And – since data is publicly available – to make citizens and its authorities smarter. Smart citizens for a smart city.

Our business modell

  • All data will be published in a well structured format under a creative commons non-commercial share alike licence.
  • Commercial use and specific analysis and visualization will be chargeable.

Our organizational structure

  • Currently we are a loose structure of volunteers committing our time to this project.
  • Midterm ideally the organizational structure is transfered in some kind of trust or society where individuals and companies can become members.
  • We want an advisory board with a diverse range of people (data & environment scientist, MIT Media Lab, authorities, ….)

Our partners

  • Other MIT Kumbhaton projects (cloud steering and epidemic tracker)
  • Nashik officialsand authorities as well as government
  • Outside MIT Kumbhathon: Seeed, juxt smart mandate, Janwar Castle

The plan with “my” Janwar Castle is to assemble the 45 boxes with the kids in Janwar and teach them slowly how to do this. It will be th ebeginning of the first maker space in rural India, right next to the first skateboarding park in rural India;-)  The bamboo house which will be the home of the young makers will be ready by the end of August … another milestone in Janwar. I believe a good way to link urban development with rural India – for the benefit of all!

The entire project is set up as a sandbox – meaning we are providing the data pool, we structure the data and provide it in an easy to use way – all this for free as long as feeds into a non commercial use-case. We lay the ground and open up to the collective intelligence of all how to make sense and use out of this data.

After the Kumbh we will think how to move forward.

The learnings will help us a lot – I am sure.

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These are the parameters we measure:

Temperature
Humidity
Pressure
Oxygen
Carbon Dioxide
Air Quality
Dust (PPM)
Multi Gas (Ammonia, NO2, CO)
UV
Sound

 

 

DIY Ready To Scale?

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Kevin Kelly, senior maverick at Wired, has his doubts on this. David Li, the guy who opened up the first maker / hacker space in China, interviewed Kevin at the MakerFaire in Shenzen. Being asked if open source and DIY products will replace or challenge traditional mass prodcution Kelly replied very hesistant: “DIY and open source products enhance the number of possibilities and this by itself is a very good and positive thing. But today I cannot foresee any scenario that DIY and/or open source products will ever vanish mass production for consumer and/or industrial goods or even challenge it in a significant way.” A bear hug for the world capitol of mass production in electronics, an embarrassment for the fairly new and quickly growing community of young innovators which was just recently ennobled by none less than the Chinese Prime Minister himself. China’s new innovators embody the DIY culture and I do believe that their biggest gathering and get together has a very specific reason to take place in the world centre for mass manufacturing – and this reason is explicitly mass manufacturing. So what happened when DIY and mass manufacturing meet? Is Kevin Kelly wrong?

It was my third visit to Shenzen, the second one in this year. You can almost see the city changing during a three month period. And it was my second visit to a MakerFaire. The first one I attended was in Accra, Ghana, West Africa. It was the first African MakerFaire and it was in 2009. In Accra everything was about prototyping. Prototyping products which eventually would improve the daily lives of the people. We saw prototypes such as a cooler for tomatoes or an irrigation system for farmers or clothes made out of old plastic bags and newspapers. A broad variety of daily needs. In Shenzen there weren’t any prototypes – almost each and every showcased DIY product and gadget was ready for mass production.

Shenzhen was built from scratch exactly for the reason of mass production. Mass production of electronics. It became well-known as THE copy-cat center of the world – but this is changing rapidly. Not only do the manufacturing lines change towards more qualitative products, e.g. Leica is supplying its objectives and lenses for the Chinese version of the gopro camera, we also see the rise of an entire new service industry around the manufacturing processes: consultants helping people to design their manufacturing outlets – very flexible, very fast and still very cheap. You basically come with a prototype and they design the facilities or adjust existing ones. It’s what’s called an “absorptive state” – it’s getting better and better at combining its own local capabilities and infrastructure with foreign technologies and knowledge. And when you walk around in the electronic malls in Shenzhen you experience the international business crowd looking out for exactly this. Basically each vendor in the mall is associated with at least one or two manufacturers. And this is the feeling I had when I strolled around at the MakerFaire in the midst of Hardware City – the district in which most of the multinational IT hardware companies have their offices. The only difference: the international business crowd at MakerFaire were the young makers. Unlike in many other MakerFaires the DIY spirit and the presence of art-tech mash-ups were lacking. Instead the makers were equipped with order sheets and product catalogs – the things I saw most were robots, drones and 3D-printers. And I saw guys from the manufacturing firms walking around and looking for interesting prototypes ready for their mass production units. And at quite some office buildings you could see the logos of international accelerators.

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Kevin Kelly (left) interviewed by David Li

So coming back to Kevin Kelly – yes, I’d argue he is wrong. What I’ve seen in Shenzhen is “Maker to Market” – fully supported and in line with the Chinese government claims. What this basically means is that “weird prototypes and gadgets” which were developed in the grassroots communities of hacker and maker spaces in Shanghai and Shenzhen and elsewhere now become commercial products.

And what you can also already sense and already see in Shenzhen – many of these young makers and innovators set up their own companies. They want to become entrepreneurs. This will certainly fuel Shenzen’s economy further and add a new component to its industrial landscape. And when you walk through OCT Loft, a very surprising quarter of Shenzhen (at least to me), you’ll get a sense of what this means … just click through the pict below and you feel you are in Amsterdam, Berlin or Barcelona. OCT Loft – surprise, surprise – is also home of the first maker space in Shenzhen: Chaihuo – the cell and first office of seeed studio. And it’s also the place where the first Shenzhen MakerFaire took place. Seeed studio in turn is the main sponsor and organizer of the Shenzhen MakerFaire and the world’s biggest online platform selling everything what maker need. Mostly open source hardware components – made by makers for makers. And with their own production facilities – which are open and transparent – they are closing the gap between prototype and mass production by manufacturing up to 1000 pieces.

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OCT Loft in Shenzen

Currently the “Maker to Market” products are quite simple – in comparison to sophisticated and specialized technologies – and they are mostly built on open hardware technologies such as Arduino and low cost labour force. But having seen the transformation in Shenzhen’s industry in the last decade it’s hard to imagine that it will STOP here. And the first glimpses we could catch already: students from Hunan University showcased an electric car that runs 300 km per charge. Others showed a fuel-efficient vehicle which could run 1000 km with 1l of gasoline. And this vehicle only scored second best in a Honda competition for fuel-efficient cars. The big companies have realized the potential of the makers – and they are embracing it. Sony and Samsung for example have opened their research labs for the makers in Beijing. A bold move.

But does all this mean at a wider level that the manufacturing practices in Shenzhen, in the Guandong region and in entire China will even get worse? More unfair pay and harsh working conditions in the factories? Already many strikes for better salaries are going on and Foxconn, one of the MakerFaire’s main sponsors, is subject to interrogation about the working conditions in its factories. And the question of what kind of impact these factories have on the environment (air, water, nature, health …) isn’t part of a public debate yet. This opens a wide area for speculation.

For me the Shenzhen MakerFaire shined a light on the potential of the DIY ecosystem and ways to move forward, the political regimes which more or less regulates it, the infrastructures which supports it, the forms of work that drive it and the culture and history that shape it.

We are on – Kumbhathon 5 (#K5)

Last week we were on for the 5th time over the last 18 month. Kumbhathon 5 or #K5. I was there in late January 2015 and it felt like coming back to a huge family. Read my blogpost from #K4 here.

It’s only a few weeks to go and the Kumbha Mela will start. It’s the biggest religious gathering on this planet – and here is where the pilgrims will take their dip into the holy water at three specific days in August and September: Ramkund, Nasik. Hard to imagine that millions will do so! It will be a very very crowded place then, no doubt.

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The Kumbhathon is an iniative of the MIT Media Lab which started out almost 2 years ago at inktalks, when Ramesh Raskar, born in India and currently professor at the MIT, announced it. It’s a year-round initiative to identify and address the challenges of a pop-up city like Nashik when it will grow from its “normal” 2 million inhabitants to 15 million a day during the celebrations. Kumbha Mela will give innovators, change makers, entrepreneurs and corporations the opportunity to learn, develop and test solutions to “pop-up city” problems at scale, instantly, so they can be mapped to large gatherings and emerging cities worldwide.

I was very keen to see what happened between #K4 and #K5 – what would be the status of the projects? Would new projects have been added? How would the students and young entrepreneurs have been developed and moved forward? With some of the participants I kept interacting after #K4 and three of them even came to visit me at Janwar Castle. At #K5 again there were 150+ participants there – students, innovators from all over India. Most of them with an IT or engineering background. There is / was a lack of management, administrative and creative people  … I would assume diversity would drive this initiative even further.

The first three days I was counseling and mentoring the various projects under the lead of innovation strategist Beth Zonis who was hired by the MIT Media Lab to guide the students and innovators through this crucial process of really getting things done and getting things ready for Kumbha Mela. From 10 am to 6 pm we listened to all the groups and advised them in the following key issues:

  • to get their project explained in a few compelling words.
  • to describe its benefits for Khumbha Mela.
  • to identify a business model.
  • to schedule and prioritize the process and streamline it.
  • and to share it with others in order to find synergies and identify common challenges.

Once we broke the ice and they accepted us not as “Yes, Madam” or “Yes, Sir” the presentations of the groups became much more like conversations. It took us a while to make them understand that it is them to make the decision and it’s us ONLY to give advice. Our advice should been taken into consideration but it shouldn’t be accepted as a task to follow up with. To achieve this understanding among the students was a tough job.

For some of them it was also hard to understand the 3 layers – the bigger picture – of the Kumbhathon:

  • having personal goals and reasons.
  • dedicating time and resources to a very specific project.

And on top of these two things

  • understanding what it means to be part of an open platform like Kumbhathon where you first put in before you can pull out.

Some of the projects evolved and developed since #K1 and those were the ones which were very much advanced and ready – so to speak. Actually at the last day of the Khumbhathon one group founded a company;-) During our hearings and conversations it became pretty clear that not all projects will make it. A few were still in a kind of “dreaming status” where one would think that Khumbha Mela will happen next year. There was no urgency and no will to get things done – and it was kind of hard to tell this to the students and innovators. I believe if more management and administrative people would have been in the groups they would have sensed this urgency and they would have understood how to get things done. The lack of design people also became obvious … no really compelling designs and presentations were seen. But these are all things which can be added easily.

This might sound a bit negative – but I wanted to point to some critical points which open the space for improvement. I want to see this process growing bigger … and this is why I am participating and hopefully adding value. The best things which happened over these 2 years are that the MIT Kumbhathon has really established a PLATFORM, a SANDBOX where many stakeholders have bought into: authorities of Nashik, government, universities and colleges, international, national and local companies, citizens and young students, innovators and entrepreneurs. And this is a very precious thing …. the platform / the network is set-up out of which more things will evolve. A lot of friends have been made and even more like-minded people found each other. It’s almost as like a movement has started, a movement for

  • spotting problems,
  • finding and prototyping solutions,
  • and then translate these solutions into valuable products.

A movement to think and act like innovators and the realization that this can only be achieved when as many people as possible collaborate. It can’t be achieved by one company or one institution alone.

And if only a few of the existing solutions will succeed during Khumbha Mela the system is proven right. And I am sure a few projects will succeed and help to understand situations in which cities suddenly grow at large scale much better – high among them the Kumbha Mela app, the epidemic tracker, the media tracker, the crowd steering project and maybe one of the housing projects.

I am tempted to return to Nashik during the Khumbh – not sure though if I really want to face that huge crowd;-)

Thanks to Ramesh Raskar and John Werner for letting me be part of this!

Schön, dass DU da warst!

(English text at the bottom)

Es war eine Reise über nahezu ein Jahrzehnt, die in der vergangenen Woche ein plötzliches Ende nahm. Peter Kruse ist tot. Mit ihm ist mein wichtigster Gesprächspartner in Sachen Internet und Netzwerke gegangen. Und ich habe meinen Mentor verloren – einen inspirierenden Menschen mit einer unglaublichen Fähigkeit, Dinge auf den Punkt zu bringen und sie wunderbar in Worte zu fassen. Was ich am meisten an ihm schätzte, war, dass er wirklich “Walk your Talk” lebte. Er stand für das was er sagte, und sagte nie etwas für das er nicht stand. Verbiegen wollte, ja konnte er sich nicht. Ich schätze mich sehr glücklich, dass er mich mit auf seine Reise durch die Netzwerke und das Internet genommen hat und das wir in vielen Meilensteine über die Jahre immer einen Schritt weiter kamen … auch wenn wir nie angekommen sind. Aber das macht nichts. Denn es lag in der Natur unseres Themas, nicht anzukommen. Er wird mir sehr fehlen auf meinem weiteren Weg. Peter hat mir sehr viel Orientierung gegeben. Orientierung in der Form, dass er durch seine Analysen und Aussagen Sicherheit in mein eigenes Tun und Handeln brachte.

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Bereist haben wir Netzwerke. Manchmal haben wir es Internet genannt. Manchmal offene Systeme. Manchmal “we”. Gereist sind wir meist alleine – aber mit einer starken mentalen Verbindung. Mit gemeinsamen Werten. Ganz weit weg und doch nah dran. Wie es in Netzwerken eben der Fall ist. Peter hat mich einmal als “eine passionierte Grenzgängerin” bezeichnet. Ich habe dies als großes Kompliment aufgefasst, weil Leidenschaft und das Überschreiten von Beschränkungen und Grenzen jeglicher Art genau die Eigenschaften waren, die Peter von vielen anderen unterschied. Und das hat er wohl auch in mir gesehen.

Mein erstes Treffen mit ihm werde ich nie vergessen. Lutz Berger, ein Kollege aus Heidelberg, hatte mich gefragt, ob ich nicht Peter interviewen möchte. Ich kannte ihn bis dahin nicht. Was ich dann über mehr als zwei Stunden in Bremen erlebte, war eine Tour de Force. Ich habe dieses erste Interview in wahrsten Sinne des Wortes erlitten. Ich habe nur Bruchstücke von dem verstanden und mitbekommen, was Peter in seine Antwortsätze packte. Er sprach so schnell, seine Antworten waren so Inhaltgeladen und seine Ausdrucksweise war so wissenschaftlich – ich hätte eigentlich ein Lexikon gebraucht, um alles unmittelbar verstehen zu können. Ich konnte kaum folgen. Aber irgendwie habe ich mich “durchgewurschtelt”. Lutz hinter der Kamera hat es geschafft, mich dennoch gut aussehen zu lassen und wir haben das Interview fertig gestellt und in kleinen Einheiten (eine Frage/eine Antwort) auf youtube hoch geladen. Es ging um Kreativität, Netzwerke und in ersten Ansätzen um die Potentiale des Internets. Die Videos gingen viral und wurden bis heute mehr als eine Million mal angeschaut. Es war der Beginn einer ausserordentlichen und ungewöhnlichen Zusammenarbeit, die sich über die Jahre zur einer schönen Freundschaft ausweitete.

Nach diesem Interview haben wir mit diversen interaktiven Veranstaltungsformaten experimentiert. Peter liebte vor allem Livestreams, in denen er unvorbereitet auf die Fragen der Zuschauer antwortete. Es waren immer sehr spannende Events. Für alle Beteiligten. Je besser ich Peters Marktforschungstools und Analysen verstand, desto deutlicher wurden für mich ihre Parallelen zum Netz. Peters Verständnis und Annäherung an das Internet, was zu Beginn eher zögerlich war, kam von einer ganz anderen Ecke. Das war spannend. Als Systemtheoretiker und Netzwerkforscher haben ihn die Potentiale dieser neuen Infrastruktur doch sehr schnell begeistert. Wie kein anderer in Deutschland – und nach meinem Empfinden kann ich das auf die ganze Welt ausweiten – hat er das Internet “erklärt” und begreiflich gemacht. Er hat den plötzlich auftretenden und bis dato unbekannten Aufschaukelungseffekten einen theoretischen Rahmen verpasst. Und die Internetgemeinde hat ihn spätestens nach seinem spektakulären Vortrag auf der re-publica2010 dafür geliebt. Sie hatte eine Leitfigur. Doch Peter ist nie in diese Rolle geschlüpft, in der man ihn gerne gesehen hätte. Er blieb bis zu seinem Tod ein kritischer Mahner doch das Internet als das zu nutzen was es ist: ein offenes System mit Dynamiken und Unvorhersehbarkeiten in einem bis dato unbekanntem Ausmass. Sein Plädoyer, das Internet als ein neues System zu begreifen, das nicht versucht, das Alte besser zu machen oder auf dem Alten neu aufzusetzen, sollte nachklingen. Das Netzwerk als Möglichkeit komplexe Probleme zu erkennen, zu verstehen und kollektiv zu lösen – dieses Potenzial sah er weitgehend als ungenutzt. Und ich würde mir wünschen, das Peters zahlreiche Anhänger und begeisterte Zuhörer vermehrt beginnen, dies umzusetzen. So kann Peter durch uns weiter dabei sein.

Ich weiss nicht wie viele Stunden Video ich mit ihm produziert habe, an wie vielen Textvorlagen ich mich versucht und nach wie vielen richtigen Worten ich in Übersetzungen gemeinsam mit Paul Morland gesucht habe. Worte waren wichtig für Peter. Sie wurden vom ihm nicht nur “genutzt” – sie hatten einen festen Sinn und waren immer wohl gewählt. So war auch jeder Tweet von ihm ein kleines literarisches Meisterwerk – mal mahnend, mal ermutigend. Nie die eigene Sache propagierend. Immer Inhaltgeladen. Er hatte keinen schluderhaften Umgang mit Sprache. Für ihn war das gegenseitige Verstehen, der Austausch, die Grundvoraussetzung für gemeinsames Handeln. Deshalb hat er sich auch damals auch an DNA digital – dem Austausch zwischen Digital Natives und Managern – beteiligt. Er hat es als ein Licht an Ende des HR-Tunnels bezeichnet. Es war der Austauschprozess, der DNA digital zugrunde lag, der ihn reizte.

Unsere Reise hatte viel Highlights. Jeder davon brachte uns einen Schritt weiter im Verstehen was das Netz eigentlich ausmacht und wie wir es für Problemlösungen nutzen können. Es brachte uns auch weiter in unserem gegenseitigen Verstehen. Vom ersten, aus meiner Perspektive erlittenen Interview angefangen, in dem ich wirklich kaum folgen konnte, hat sich über die SCOPE, DNA digital, einer zweistündigen Aufzeichnung eines Skypecalls zur “Kernschmelze von Unternehmenswerten”, das erste Google-Buch “Think Quarterly”, Peters Auftritt bei der Enquete-Kommission des Deutschen Bundestages bis hin zu unserem Workshop bei der NATO zur Vorbereitung des NATO Summits in Chicago 2013 und schliesslich im vergangenen Jahr das Forum Gute Führung – ein gegenseitiges Verständnis und Verstehen entwickelt, so dass ich heute kein Lexikon mehr benötige, um Peter zu verstehen. Ich kann seinen Äusserungen und Gedanken deutlich einfacher folgen.

Was uns am längsten beschäftigt hat, war Peters Idee und sein Wunsch ein Institut aufzubauen. Ein Institut, das ein besseres Verständnis für das komplexe Miteinander in unserer Gesellschaft schafft und Diskursprozesse für eine lebenswertere Welt initiiert. Er war sehr besorgt über die zunehmenden gesellschaftlichen Spaltungen, die sich in vielen seiner Befragungen als ernstzunehmende Befürchtungen in der Bevölkerung herauskristallisierten. Mein erstes Interview dazu habe ich mit ihm vor drei, vier Jahren gemacht. Die Dringlichkeit mit der Peter jedoch die Idee im letzten Jahr vorantrieb, hatte sich sehr gesteigert. Seine gestiegene Besorgnis wurde auch sehr deutlich in meinem letzten Interview mit ihm – es ist gerade mal vier Wochen her, dass wir an seinem Teich in Barnstorf zusammen sassen und gesprochen haben. Ich kam eigens dafür aus Indien angereist. Es ging eigentlich um etwas ganz anderes – um den fünften online Geburtstag von OUBEY, einem eigenwilligen interaktiven Kunstprojekt, das Peter von Beginn an beobachtete und begleitete. In der Provokation – wie er es nannte – mit der das Projekt mit dem etablierten Kunstbetrieb umgeht, fand er spannende Ansatzpunkte für ein neues System “Kunstmarkt”, in dem der Kunst wieder eine bedeutende Kraft für das Entstehen von kulturellen Werten zukommt und sie nicht zu einem Anlageobjekt in der Welt des Finanzkapitalismus verkommt. Er nahm das Gespräch zum Anlass, uns alle aufzufordern, ganz grundlegend über Fragen wie “In welcher Gesellschaft wollen wir leben?, “Müssen wir nicht den Begriff des Kapitals neu definieren?” “Was passiert mit einem System, wenn ihm das Feindbild abhanden kommt?” “Brauchen wir Räume, die frei von kommerziellen Marktmechanismen sind?” nachzudenken … Die Fragestellungen seines geplanten Instituts. Mich werden diese Fragen weit über seinen Tod hinaus beschäftigen und ich werde weiter in seinem Sinne das Netzwerk und die darin liegende kollektive Intelligenz als Problemlöser nutzen.

Nun bin ich wieder auf der Reise von Indien nach Bremen. Die letzten Zeilen dieses Textes habe ich im Nachtzug von Khajuraho nach Delhi geschrieben. Heute abend geht es dann weiter nach Deutschland. Es ist eine sehr traurige Abschiedsreise. Und das in sehr stürmischen Zeiten. Die Zukunft des Internets ist sehr ungewiss – die scheinbar so schnell entstandenen demokratischen Freiräume sehen sich aktuell grossen Einschnitten gegenüber. Ich kann Peters Tod noch gar nicht richtig begreifen, aber eines ist mir klar; mir wird Peter sehr fehlen auf diesem weiteren Weg – irgendwie ist auch Etwas von mir gegangen.

—————-

Thank you for being there!

Ours was a journey spanning some ten years that came to an abrupt end last week. Peter Kruse is dead. With him I have lost my key sparring partner in issues of the internet and networks. And I have lost my mentor – an inspirational man with an incredible ability to get right to the point and express his thoughts in marvelous language. What I admired about him most was that here was a man who really did “Walk his Talk”. He stood for everything he said and never said a word that he couldn’t back up. Bending, compromise, was not part of his nature. I consider myself highly privileged that he took me with him on his journey through the world of networks and the internet and that over the years and over many milestones we gradually moved forward – even though we never finally arrived. But that doesn’t matter because never arriving at some final point was part and parcel of the quest we were on. I will miss his companionship badly. Peter gave me orientation. Orientation that in the shape of his analyses and pronouncements provided me the reassurance I needed to continue to forge my own way.

David-Weinberger-im-Gespräch-mit-Peter-Kruse

David Weinberger in conversation with Peter Kruse, Petersberg 2011

Our travels were in the realm of networks. Sometimes we called them internet. Sometimes open systems. Sometimes we. We mainly travelled alone at different ends of the globe – but the mental bond connecting us was always immediate and strong. A mental bond composed of shared values we both held dear. Physically separated yet very close. Just as happens so often in networks. Peter once called me an “impassioned maverick” and I took this as a huge compliment because passion and a disregard for all kinds of restrictions and marker boundaries were exactly the qualities that distinguished him from so many others. And I recognized that he saw something similar in me.

I will never forget that first meeting of ours. Lutz Berger, a colleague of mine from Heidelberg, asked me to do an interview with him. I’d never even heard his name. But in that first interview in Bremen I was at the receiving end of a true intellectual tour de force. When I finally emerged from those two hours I was literally shattered. I’d only managed to grasp a few bits of what he was saying in answer to my questions. He spoke so quickly and his arguments were so compressed and precise and couched in such academic language that I’d have needed a dictionary to decipher it. I struggled vainly to keep up. But somehow I muddled through and Lutz behind the camera managed to show me in not too bad a light. We produced the video and published it on YouTube in little one question one answer excerpts. It was about creativity, networks and in a tentative kind of way about the potential packed by the internet. The videos went viral and have now been viewed over one million times. It was the beginning of an extraordinary and unusual partnership which over the years grew into a beautiful friendship.

Following from this interview we launched into experiments with various interactive event formats. Peter was especially fond of livestreaming where without any kind of preparation he could grapple with the questions viewers posed. These events were always excitement-packed high octane occasions. For everyone involved. As I began to understand the market research tools Peter used and his analyses, I began to get a much clearer idea of the parallels between them and networks. Peter‘s way of approaching and understanding the internet, hesitant at first, came from a completely different background to my own which made it fascinating to watch. Yet as a system theorist and network analyst he soon became enthusiastic about the possibilities inherent in this new infrastructure. Like no one else in Germany – and I could also say like no one else in the entire world – Peter explained the internet and made it understandable. He supplied the theoretical framework to those suddenly eruptive resonance effects, a new phenomenon at the time. And the internet community embraced him and loved him for this, especially after his spectacular lecture at re-publica2010. They had found a new leader, a new guru. Yet these were mantels Peter resisted putting on however much people might urge him to do so. Right up to his death he remained a critical admonitory figure tirelessly advocating use of the internet for what it is – an open system with its own unprecedented level of dynamics and unpredictability. His writings in favor of an understanding of the internet as a new system in its own right, not one that improves on what was already there or adds new elements to it should live on after him. Seeing the network as a possibility for understanding complex problems and moving collectively to solve them is a huge – and as he saw it – largely untapped potential. And what I would love to see is that Peter‘s numerous followers and all those people he enthused with his talks would begin to realize this potential. And, by doing so we could keep Peter among us.

I’ve lost count of the many hours of video I spent producing with him, of all the draft texts I’ve worked through and of the many hours spent puzzling over the right word with Paul Morland, his English translator. Words were important for Peter. They weren’t just “used” by him –they always had a definite meaning and were always well chosen. Each of his tweets was a minor literary masterpiece – now cautionary, now encouraging. Never basely self-serving. Always with something vital to say. He was always precise and meticulous in his dealings with language. For him mutual understanding, debate and discussion were the bedrock on which collective action was based. This is why among things he also joined DNA digital – the dialog between digital natives and managers – which he saw as a light at the end of the HR tunnel. It was the process of dialog built on DNA digital that fascinated him.

Our common way had many high points. Each of them brought us a little nearer to understanding the unique qualities of the Net and how we could exploit them for tackling problems. And they also brought us forward in our own mutual understanding. From that first – and in my view horrendous – interview where I was completely at sea, a succession of stages like SCOPE, DNA digital, a two hour recording of a Skype call on “The Meltdown of Corporate Values”, “Think Quarterly” the first Google book, Peter‘s participation in the German Bundestag’s enquiry commission, our NATO workshop in the run-up to the NATO Summit in Chicago 2013 and finally last year the Forum on Good Leadership have nurtured a ready mutual understanding such that I no longer need to reach for the dictionary to grasp what Peter intends to say. I have a much clearer appreciation of his statements and thoughts.

The most enduring of our concerns was Peter’s idea and desire to found an institute for inculcating a better understanding of the complex processes that underpin our co-existence in society and for promoting dialog to make the world we live in a better place. He was extremely worried about the increasing number of rifts and gulfs opening up in our society which, as the number of surveys he conducted made only too clear, large sections of the population now perceive as serious threats. My first interview with him on this issue took place three or four years ago. Yet the pressing sense of urgency with which Peter drove this idea only increased in the meantime. This unprecedented sense of unease was also very apparent in the last interview I made with him – just four weeks and a whole world ago when we were sitting beside the pond in the garden of his house in Barnstorf. I had flown in from India specially to make it. The interview was actually about something quite different – about the fifth anniversary of the OUBEY MINDKISS online project, a highly unconventional interactive art project that Peter had watched and supported from its inception. In the way that this project willfully ignores and circumvents the established art business – in its “provocative stance” as he called it – he saw the exciting beginnings of a new art market system in which art would once more be a major force for the creation of cultural values and stop being debased as an investment asset in the world of financial capitalism. He took this conversation as an opportunity to call on each of us to rethink such fundamental questions as “What kind of a society do we want to live in?”, “Don’t we need to redefine the concept of capital?”, “What happens to a system when it loses its favorite bogeyman?”, “Don’t we need spaces free of commercial market mechanisms?” It was precisely questions of this kind that his cherished institute would have addressed. And these are the questions I shall continue to devote myself to after his death and, as he would have wished, use the network and its inherent collective intelligence as a means for supplying answers.

Now once more I am travelling from India to Bremen. The last lines of this text were written in the night train from Khajuraho to Delhi. Then comes the evening flight to Germany. An acutely painful last journey. In a time of great tumult. The future of the internet hangs in the balance as great inroads are now being made into the democratic free spaces that seemed to spring up so effortlessly. I still can’t fully comprehend Peter’s death but one thing is certain – I will miss him dreadfully on my further journey – somehow something in me has gone as well.

A sandbox.

I am currently involved in a couple of projects which I’d consider being sandbox projects. Not sandbox in a way that these projects aren’t mature or professional. No. When I say sandbox I mean it in it’s very original way.

You set-up a wooden frame, put sand in it – and make it accessible.
You don’t define any outcome, it’s an open process.
No projects are pre-defined.
You just provide and facilitate the set-up.
And let the things which are going to happen emerge.
Maybe you adjust a bit here and here.
Some little nudges at the frameset … But that’s it.

sandbox

Maybe an expression which comes close to it is Tim o’Reilly’s usage of the word platform. When Tim speaks about government as a platform he is e.g. talking about open data provided by the government – free of use for anyone. Citizen, companies, institutions – everyone can use the data the way they want it and the way they need it – within a clearly defined frame (legal, technical, economical, social). This way government doesn’t have to think about all the thousands and thousands of possibilities the data could be used – it simply will be used when there is a problem for which it provides a solution. This way government fosters innovation and participation. It enables others to built on government’s work and by doing so its impact is multiplied. Things emerge. Just like inside a sandbox.

Besides the sandbox that I’ve created by my own – Janwar Castle, the first learning camp with a skateboarding park in its core in rural India – I am working on three completely different sandbox projects. One is an open data project in Delhi, aiming to set-up an open data platform which provides realiable data about the air quality in India’s capital. It’s said that it is among the worst in the world, if not the worst. It’s planned as a joint venture of citizenery, companies (Indian and Chinese – and this before Modi went there;-) and government. The data will be provided for free and anyone is invited to make the best out of it – whether it is to build applications, to change habits or whether it is to pass appropriate laws.

The second one is Mindkiss – a different way to present and deal with art. I’ve just written about it here. It’s basically a new modell for art and culture – an open process during which certain projects evolve.

And the third one is the sandbox Kumbhathon – one of my favourites;-) I’ve been following this endevour since its beginning at inkTALKS in Kochin two and a half years ago and I participated actively in the last workshop held in Nashik in January 2015. I was mentoring the students. For me this is a very interesting platform for many reasons:

  • It aims to find solutions for a real world problem: How to handle a city and deal with the issue that 30 million people come in.
  • It brings together various stakeholders: city officilas, companies (local and multi-nationals), external institutions, citizens and students from all over India.
  • It’s an open process within a given frame.
  • The MIT Media Lab brings in new methods to innovate and to co-create solutions.

In this sense the Kumbhathon is truly a sandbox out of which many things will emerge. We’ve already seen new applications and products solving Kumha Mela problems (housing, mapping, infrastructure); I am sure we will see more. The people involved are embracing this new way of solution finding – so it will last and stay in Nashik. Meaning there is an impact on this level as well. And – for me the most important thing – the locals and more than anyone else the local youth has understood, that they themselves can deal and handle the upcoming problems and provide adequate solutions. The process so far was all about enabling, encouraging and co-creating for Kumbha Mela.

As a long term outcome I expect this process to become a role model for an innovation center with multiple  stakeholders committed to solve social problems. So it’s not so much about running very specific projects; it is much more about how to drive innovation and how to find solutions for existing problems in a collaborative way.

And it makes me very happy and shows a lot of respect for our work in Panna that Ramesh Raskar, one of the initiators of the Kumbhathon and professor at the MIT Media Lab asked me to set-up a “little Panna-Park” (a small Janwar Castle) during Kumbha Mela.

So there are many reasons to look forward to the next Kumbhathon gathering in late June/ early July in Nashik!

Empathie. Experiment. Provokation.

Für den 5.ten Online Geburtstag von Oubey – Mindkiss-Projekt – durfte ich mal wieder Prof. Peter Kruse interviewen. Er war einer der ersten, der mit seinem Encounter diesem ungewöhnlichen Kunstprojekt einen grösseren Rahmen verschaffte. Ich war damals dabei als er das Bild, das Dagmar Woyde-Koehler ihm mitbrachte, sozusagen “auspackte” und auf sich wirken liess. Die erste Reaktion damals – er stellte es weg von dem ursprünglichen Platz unter einem Olivenbaum im Schuppen 2 (nextpractice Büro) und platzierte es direkt vor der Computerwand. “Da passt es besser hin”, meinte er.

2013-01-27_encounter_kruse
Prof. Peter Kruse, Schuppen 2, Encounter with Oubey, 2010

Mindkiss ist für mich ein aussergewöhnliches Projekt. Ich würde es nicht unbedingt als Kunstprojekt bezeichnen – es ist für mich vielmehr ein interaktives Experiment, das anders als man es gewöhnlich kennt, mit Kunst umgeht. Die Geschichte von Oubey in wenige Worte zu fassen ist schwer. Oubey ist bei einem tragischen Verkehrsunfall ums Leben gekommen und hat ein umfassendes Kunstwerk hinterlassen. Bis zu seinem Tode hatte er erst eine Ausstellung gemacht und hatte sich nach dieser dann ganz bewusst aus dem traditionellen Kunstbetrieb zurückgezogen. Er hat geschaffen, nicht mehr ausgestellt. Als er nach Jahren der Distanz wieder für eine Ausstellung bereit war, starb er. Dagmar Woyde-Koehler trägt seinem Wunsch, wieder in die Öffentlichkeit zu gehen und doch dem traditionellen Kunstbetrieb fern zu bleiben mit dem Mindkiss Projekt in höchstem Maße Rechnung. Sie hat einen lebendigen Interaktions- und Erlebnisraum für Oubeys Kunst geschaffen, in dem sie mit besonderen Formaten wie Encoutern und ungewöhnlichen Events wie Oubeys Online Geburtstag im ZKM seine Bilder zu echten Begegnungen mit seinen Betrachtern werden lässt. Frei von irgendwelchen auferlegten Zwängen und Interpretationen. Frei von dem Zwang verkaufen zu wollen.

Die Menschen, die in einer ersten Runde von Woyde-Koehler zu einem Encounter eingeladen wurden, sind alle ja man könnte sagen “artverwandt” mit Oubey. Sie stehen für die Themen, die ihn interessierten, und zeigen die Vielfalt von Oubeys Gedankenwelt auf. Und wie es scheint, “sprechen” die Bilder in ihren Begegnungen mit den betrachtenden Menschen. Peter Kruse machte diese Erfahrung vor 5 Jahren. Er wurde förmlich in das Bild hineingezogen, das er damals als unverschämt bezeichnete, und er war erstaunt, welche Tiefen das Bild aufwies. Es nahm ihn mit auf eine Erkundungstour, an deren Ende Kruse das Gefühl hatte, in Oubey einen Seelenverwandten zu haben, jemanden der einen sehr ähnlichen Blick auf ein Thema hat, jedoch dieses aus einem vollkommen anderen Blickwinkel betrachtet. Empathie.

Über die Jahre betrachtete Kruse das Projekt aus der Distanz. Manchmal war er bei einem Event zu Gast. Er sah wie sich Oubeys Kunstwerk weltweit und online einen Raum zum Experimentieren schaffte – ein Experiment, das anders als man es für gewöhnlich kennt, mit Kunst umgeht. Und er sah wie eine “Community” rund um Oubey und Mindkiss entstand. Menschen setzten sich mit Oubeys Bildern auseinander, trafen sich real und virtuell und tauschten sich aus – in einem vorgegebenen Rahmen, aber innerhalb dessen vollkommen frei. Eine Spielwiese. Ein Sandkasten. Eine Plattform. Lebendig. Erfrischend. Und vielleicht gerade deshalb provozierend.

Provokation. Das ist der wesentliche Punkt, den Kruse fünf Jahre später dem Mindkiss Projekt zuschreibt. Die Provokation mit Kunst anders als rein profit- und anlageorientiert umzugehen. Für ihn skizzieren die drei Layer des Mindkiss Projektes Empathie, Experiment und Provokation ein mögliches Modell, Kunst als eine bedeutende Kraft für das Entstehen von kulturellen Werten wiederzubeleben und nicht Kunst als Anlageobjekte in der Finanzwelt des Kapitalismus untergehen zu sehen. Mindkiss als Modellversuch für ein neues System “Kunstmarkt”. Ein System dritter Ordnung – wie Kruse sagt. Ein System, das NEU ist und nicht versucht, das Alte besser zu machen oder auf dem Alten neu aufzusetzen. Das findet Kruse spannend. Und er nimmt es zum Anlass, uns alle aufzufordern, ganz grundlegend über Fragen wie “In welcher Gesellschaft wollen wir leben?, “Müssen wir nicht den Begriff des Kapitals neu definieren?” “Was passiert mit einem System, wenn ihm das Feindbild abhanden kommt?” “Brauchen wir Räume, die frei von kommerziellen Marktmechanismen sind?” nachzudenken …

In dieser Hinsicht findet Kruse das Mindkiss Projekt sehr provokativ – es regt zum Nachdenken an und zeigt dabei einen neuen Weg bereits auf …

An interview version with English subtitles you can find here.  And here is the written English interview:

Plant A Tree

Two days ago I sat down with Mantu, the guy who owns the land where we built the skatepark and we’ve had a chat about our up-coming summer camp. Almost en passant he mentioned that he and Vini (my landlord where I stay at Ken River Lodge) will plant small trees around the park. For environmental reasons and for some shade – in a few years. And – when the trees are ready to be commercialized – we take the money and re-invest it in girls’ education.

Some trees will be Teak trees – they are prohibited trees in Madhya Pradesh, you are not allowed to plant and cut them unless you have government permission. All done! And they only can be cut off after 15 years. They probably bring a return of 15.000-20.000 INR per tree. We only use indigenous trees and we will look for some diversity – we will have some fruit trees (much earlier to use), maybe eucalyptus and bamboo.

Single-baby-teak-tree

I really liked this idea and immediately jumped into it.

We need around 300 trees to surround almost the entire park.
And we have almost 300 childeren in Janwar.

So I thought – why not planting a tree for every child in Janwar and get the funding from all of my friends from around the world.

One tree cost 100 INR.
To dig the hole where it is planted costs 20 INR.
And to make a fence to protect the baby tree costs another 80 INR.

So all in all it is 200 INR per tree (approximately 4.2 Euros or 5 USD).

My goal is to reach out to at least 100 friends in 100 countries.
Who ever donates a tree can name the tree! Many of my friends have chosen to name the tree after their children.

I checked the resonance – and people loved it!
I started yesterday and asked a few friends.
By now I have collected tree-donors from 11 countries!

The Netherlands, Lebanon, China, Pakistan, India, Germany, France, UK, US, Greece and Austria.

89 more to go!

We will plant them during our summer camp in June.

So please join us in this endevour. Spread the word!!! On facebook, twitter … wherever.

Just drop me an email if you are in:

we (at) we-magazine (dot) net

Thank you!

The Janwahr Castle Summer Camp

From June 1-30, 2015 we will run our first summer camp at Janwahr Castle.

Janwahr Castle is a project of we_school and can briefly be described as a learning environment with a skateboarding park in its core. It’s located in Janwahr near Panna, a small buzzling town in Madhya Pradesh, Central India. In the village there are about 250 – 300 kids.

The summer camp is the first activity of its kind in Janwahr. Three of us – Yogesh, a local scholar from Khajuraho who speaks good English, Vivek, a Teach for India fellow, and me. We will run daily early morning sessions (until 10 am) with the kids and late afternoon sessions (6 – 7.30 pm).

The main goal of the camp is to teach the kids English – so the camp language will be English! The kids of course can answer and talk in Hindi or their local dialect.

And we’ll have guests joining us:

Laura, a friend from Bombay who is native Scottish and an excellent violinist. She will conduct music sessions and hopefully give a concert in front of the Khajuraho Temples.
Mamaji (a local tour guide, actually the best you can find in Khajuraho) will join us for Indian mythology and history sessions.
Children from Kunderpura – an Adivasi village close by – will visit us.
The Maharaj of Panna will come and tell stories of the past.

The kids will learn English in face-to-face session with Vivek, we have tablets with English learning programs, we have dictionaries, English books and we hopefully will have one or two whiteboards. Besides English learning we organize nature walks, we will build dustbins for the skatepark and pillars for two swings, we paint, play and dance and we will take the kids to Panna National Tiger Park which is close by but the kids never had a chance to go there. And of course there will be lots of skateboarding ! 

The entire endeavor is calculated with 2,30.000 INR or 3000 Euros and I do need your help !

Here is a list (things_we_need_mit) where you can see what we need and how we will spent the mn see what we need and how we will spent the money – it includes very precise donation packages such as:

– 5 English books for either 1000 INR or 1500 INR or
– 3 dictionaries for 3000 INR or
– paint and brushes (1000 – 2000 INR)
– paper (2000 INR)
– a jeep for the Tiger Safari (6500 INR) or
– costs for skateboarding teachers (5000 INR) or
– snacks, milk and fruits (from 1000 – 2800 INR) or
– transportation

1000 INR are app. 14 Euros, maybe a little less.

Just let us know what you like most to support!
100% of the money will be used for the case you mention.

Please make transfers payable to:

Account name: Ulrike Reinhard
nature: we_school summer camp / case you’d like to support
IBAN: DE63700222000071631281
BIC: FDDODEMMXXX

If you are not donating from Germany and want to avoid unnecessary banking fees please use transferwise.

Thank you!

A few weeks ago we started our first activities with the kids from Janwahr and – as you can see – the kids really enjoy it!

IMG_1503
Excursion to the Khajuraho Temples, at Mamaji’s organic farm

IMG_1425 (1)
Skateboarding sessions at Janwahr Castle, our skatepark

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And if you want to know more about our activities please visit our website or read below or send an email to

we (at) we-magazine (dot) net

Goals of Janwahr Castle

– to improve the children’s and the women’s health 
– and their standing in the community
– to bring hope and show possibilities for all the villagers and 
– to enable and guide them to solve their problems by themselves and even
– make a decent living out of it.

for the kids

– we provide many things they don’t have at school
– things they don’t even know of (like skateboarding)
– a space where all are the same (no caste and gender issues)
– we make them capable of communicating with “outsiders” (virtually and real)
– this is why learning english is so important ….

Its Impact

on an individual level

– physical fitness because of skateboarding and other sport activities (volleyball)
– exposure – learning YES, I can >>> self esteem
– health >>> extra food (fruits) on 2 days in the week
– learning new things / skills which broaden the horizon
– learning to “imagine”
– connect with foreigners 

on the village and community level

– connect the village with the outside world
– establish small businesses
– create a community culture
– clean(er) village