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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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

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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

Storytelling

The last couple of days I thought a lot about storytelling and how to create a message best. It’s a story what people remember … no matter when you talk about yourself, your product or your company. Here are two sources which I found very helpful … Maybe they will help you as well.

One is a presentation by Gary Vaynerchuk

… the other one is an interview with Jack Ma, the founder of Ali Baba. Almost each of his answers included a story …

Both of them are excellent story tellers.

Girls Session at Janwahr Castle

I haven’t had enough time to write a more detailed story about our we_school skatepark – hopefully this will happen soon – but I am very happy to say that the park is in full swing;-)

Older blogpost about what this is all about you find here and here.

For now, please enjoy this short video, a random selection of fotos, showing the girls of Janwahr skateboarding. These kids didn’t know a few weeks ago what skateboarding is.

China: From copy cat to innovation

China has come a long way – in a very short time. And they are moving on as if nothing can stop them. From being the mecca for copying brand name products and pushing them into the markets, they have established their own brands in any price range in the field of electronics (Lenovo, Huawei, Xiome – just to name a few) and now they are ready for the next step: innovating. And the magic word around it is MAKERS.

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What David Li (native Taiwanese) and two others started 2010 in Shanghai is almost history: China’s first hacker/maker space XinCheJian. On their website they define a hackerspace as “community-operated physical places all around the world, where people can meet and have fun on their projects. XinCheJian, the first of many Hackerspaces in China, is one of the many hundreds Hackerspaces all around the world. Each Hackerspace is an autonomous entity, but they all share the same philosophy of having fun building things. An hackerspace is an environment where people can learn and tinker with technology, work in teams, participate in international competitions where many new opportunities can be found and created for all.”

I remember the difficulties David was facing in the beginning. For many Chinese – the government included – these kind of working spaces were rather suspicious. Today they are seen as THE nest for innovation. Very officially and with a big bang Li Keqiang, the Chinese Premier, announced in Shenzen, the heart of Made in China, that the Chinese government will implemet the Maker philosophy on a huge scale. Li Keqiang himself visited the Chaihuo Hackerspace in Shenzen which is also the cell and first office of Seeed Studio.

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Seeed has everything what is needed for the innovation process: from the perfect environment of generating ideas to prototyping to getting the products ready to market. Seeed is a hardware innovation platform for makers – no matter if the makers are self-employed or employers of companies – no matter how big or small they are. For the makers Seeed provides access to technologies, supply chain knowledge and literally the ability to produce prototypes. In an iterative process pieces from 1-1000 can be easily and quickly produced. The manufacturing is manged by an agile manufacture team of Seeed. And the manufacturing conditions are good! I visited the manufacturing floor, short video will follow soon). Seeed also teams up with incubators, the Chinese tech ecosystem and investors and distributors to broaden the maker’s market. All the products which come out of Seeed are open source!

Seeed started in 2008 as a two men show. Eric Pan, whom I met yesterday, was one of them. Meanwhile he has grown Seeed into a profitable company with more than 200 employers. Seeed is also the host of the ShenzenMakerFaire which was promoted at the NasDaq screen at Times Square, New York.

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The Maker Faire will take place in the third week of June 2015 and they aim for the first time for international outreach. By the number of foreign visitors in the electronic markets of Huaqiangbei I have no doubt that they will succeed.

These days Eric and David are both heavily frequented by government officials. From all government levels (local, regional, central) officers come and inspect and learn about the maker culture. They seek the maker’s advice to scale the innovation movement. The decision is made. Makers are riding on a huge wage – the remaining question is will they stay on top of the wave or will they be overrun?

The idea of implementing what they call maker libraries – accessible for everybody – all over China and to encourage companies to do the same inside is something the Chinese are very good at. But where do all the makers come from? What David and Marc are practicing in their environment is a completely different working culture and cannot be simply multiplied. It has to grow. It’s an open process – and if the Chinese government gets this right, then I am sure we will soon see a new generation of innovators and entrepreneurs reaching out to international markets with products innovated AND made in China.

Makers and Open Source in China

In the process of setting up the right software and hardware for our learning environment in Panna which we build right next to our skatepark I of course looked into open source and the maker scene. In India the maker’s movement isn’t very strong and it’s just in its beginnings. Same holds true for open data. In both cases China is much more advanced. This is why I turn to China in this case – I will go “shopping” for my kids in the village of Janwahr in Shenzen, the heart of the maker scene in China. And I am very happy to have David at my side …

Four years ago I’ve met David Li in Shanghai. It was then when I conducted the interview at the end of this blogpost. David was among the first in China to promote hacker/maker culture and open source hardware. He co-founded XinCheJian the first Chinese hackerspace just for this reason. He has been contributing to open source since 1990. Over the past 20 years, David has started several open source software projects and contributed to many others. He also developed Ardublock, the most popular visual programming environment for Arduino. We worked with Arduino a year ago in a rural village south of Delhi. In the past two years, he has become interested in urban farming and is an enthusiastic proponent of aquaponics, which brings the spirit of open source to farming and gardening.

The following short interview with David and the included links will give you an introdution into China’s maker scene.


Please give us a short overview how the maker scene in china started and how it evolved.

XinCheJian was the first “maker space” in China. We started in 2010. This marked somehow the beginning of the maker movement in China, at least we’ve had an “institution” where we could point at! However, the main growth of maker spaces in China started from 2012 onwards, after the publishing of Chris Anderson’s book “Makers: New Industrial Revolution.”

Currently there are 76 makerspaces in China covering major cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen,r cities: Beijing, Shanghai, Shenzhen, Nanjing, Chengdu and others. Here are a few articles which cover them more or less intensively …

xinchejian hackerspace shanghai
Wall Street Journal
The Economist

It can be argued that the “makers” never ever have stopped in China. Clay Shirky has recently wrote a good article on that “There is no Maker Movement in China”.

We (Silvia Lindtner, Anna Greespan and I) have also been working on this about Makers and China under the Hacked Matter think tank we co-founded in 2011.

See also a good read in The Atlantic.

If we would have to define the makers movement globally as the catalyst of a collaborative and open ecosystem, China already has it and its name is Shanzhai.


What kind of people are involved … ?

The maker movement symbolized by XinCheJian usually is all about white collars working in the cities curious to build stuff.

What kind of products are the makers/hackers working on and do these products have any significant market shares?

Makers are all about niche and long tails products globally. But the niche can have a strong impact on an industry. Just look at how Shanzhai has disrupted the mobile phone industries and caused the downfall of Nokia and Motorola.

Shanghai and disruptive innovation
Shanzhai an open platform for innovation
Conference paper

Shenzhen somehow seems to be a “headquarter” – what is Shenzhen about, a city which 20 years ago didn’t exist? Is it the home of make or made in China?

Shenzhen is the manufacture hub in China and now responsible for majority of global electronics productions.
Read more in The Economist about it. Very interesting read!

Recently the Chinese government embraced the maker scene – any implications on the makers work?

See here to articles of the Chinese government ….
article 1
article 2

The support by the highest level of Chinese government came as a big surprise. Not the fact that it happened but how fast it happened! The Premier’s surprise visit to Chaihuo Makerspace on Jan 4th and the State Council announcement on Jan 28 to support “Mass Makerspace” and to encourage startups was a huge step.

What is your take on the European/US maker culture/scene?

The makers movement there was driven by the fast growing availability of affordable embedded electronics such as Arduino at $50 and the nostalgia of “making goods” of the past. Clay Shirky has a good take on this.

Do the maker products intend to solve any societal problems such as environment, pollution?

Makers represent a grassroot innovation force that might lead one day to real solution for environment and pollution issues. Currently those social problems are tackled by large corporations and nation-state actors.

Is there any link between making and sustainability?

Currently, not. Sustainability is a very hot marketing word for paddling expensive products rather then real intention.

We are going to make a major push for this link! The current electronics (PCB) are closed source and can’t be reused easily. The standard process is either the crude extraction of the chips – high economic value but very toxic, just see these picts (pict 1, pict 2, pict 3) or the melting of the products to gain some precious metals like gold. This process is less toxic, but economically it’s of very low value. Watch this video to understand.

We will propose open hardware as a third alternative. Our idea is to make the circuit information available and hackable so that the whole PCB can be recycled and repurposed. As Internet of Things will grow significantly in the next few years, the PCB recycle problem becomes very real!

Do we need global player in this market or will it be a complete decentralised market?

There will be a mix of global players and local players with a new ecosystem of large manufacturers and small brands.

To end with here is the interview I conducted with David 4 years ago – when no one was talking about a maker scene in China.