“Las Indias” is the community of people who are part of the group of cooperatives of Las Indias. Las Indias is connected through three organizations: the “Club of Las Indias,” an association dedicated to debate, learning, and deliberation; “The Art of Things,” a cooperative dedicated to the promotion of cooperativism through the community production of everyday objects; and the “Society of the Electronic Indies,” the head of the group and economic tool through which the Indiano “communards” enter the market.
On this page, we want talk to you about these three groups and what we do together:
- What is the “Club of Las Indias”?
- What is “The Art of Things”?
- What is the “Society of the Electronic Indies”?
- The Indiano way of life
What is the Las Indias Club?
The “Las Indias Club” is a non-profit association that, since 2014, has been dedicated to creating spaces for learning, debate, and knowledge, strengthening the appearance of innovative social and technological projects that drive communal cultural and economic development, always prioritizing the use of free software and distributed structures.
The “Las Indias Club” continues the tradition that the Cyberpunk movement in Spanish started in 1989, which was developed through the associations of Cyberpunk.org (2002-2006) and the “Library of the Electronic Indies,” founded in 2004 to cover the activities of cooperation and cultural development that Cyberpunk.org, then centered on the defense of civil rights on the Internet, wasn’t already covering.
With a long history already behind us, in 2014, we called a first international meeting that laid out the conclusion that we had entered in a new stage marked by a change in the scale and scope of productive forms. All the banners we had flown for decades: distributed networks, free software, the globalization of the small… were producing a change in ways of producing wealth and knowledge in which the center was no longer in nations or in big businesses, but rather in small groups and communities that are empowered by a new knowledge commons and the possibility of moving in broader and broader markets. The result was the re-founding of the association with its current name at a new international conference: Somero 2015.
In the “Las Indias Club,” we organize a minimum of two gatherings, presentations, or debates a month throughout the whole year. The topics vary from more “techie” ones, like programming languages for children or the development of bots, to poetic soirees.
In October 2016, we will also begin a series of “Europeista” gatherings around the news published on Europano.info, and once a year, we host GNU social Camp, a meeting of developers with whom we collaborate on the creation of free tools for the distributed web.
What is “The Art of Things”?
“The Art of Things” is a cooperative dedicated to the promotion of cooperativism through the production of everyday objects, whether for self-consumption or for sale on the market. When we make beer, soap, magazines, books, or electronic devices, the main objective is to empower our members in practical learning about community production, with all that it implies: development of knowledge, sharing and distributing efforts, collective financing, and finally, in some cases, selling on the open market.
“The Art of Things” was created in 2007 to give structure to the first projects with partners from outside the “Society of Las Indias,” and has become a true incubator of products and worker cooperatives. Soon, however, we realized that the “entrepreneur ecosystem” and its dynamics was no good for promoting the productive culture we believe in. Neither speculative logic of “start-up-ism,” nor the dependence and localism of the so-called “social economy” are useful for really empowering people and communities, and giving them control over their own lives.
Following experiments with different ways and proposals, it was the demands of our surroundings, especially those of the members of the Las Indias Club, that led us to a new model: understanding design, producing and, in some cases, selling together, as a social and communal activity, not only empowering but with all the love of knowledge and meaningful work of the hacker ethic.
The Art of Things is very different from a “platform cooperative,” as commonly understood. In them, interaction between members is minimal, or happens through an impersonal platform. Our projects emphasize conversation and learning in common. Therefore, our focus is on everyday objects, creating, for example, groups for making homebrew beer. Even in the projects with professional objectives, like the publication of books or magazines, conversation and open discussion accompanies the while development of the project, including not only to the partners in it, but the whole surroundings and its experience.
What is the “Society of the Electronic Indies?”
The “Society of the Electronic Indies” is the cooperative through which the Indiano communards enter the market. If you want to know more about our lives in the market, our clients, and the services we provide, visit the page dedicated to our commercial history. On this page, we don’t want talk to you about the cooperative, but rather the egalitarian community that gives it life and shape.
We “Indianos” are the product of a long evolution that starts with the first virtual communities in Spanish and Portuguese at the end of the ’80s. They were the birthplace of the first online literary groups and the first European civil-rights association on the Internet.
At some point, we realized two things: in the first place, that this rich online conversation between people that lived on different continents was what made our life interesting; we learned, we contributed, and we felt useful to others.
Secondly, we didn’t forget that the whole experience was very fragile: without an economy of their own, our capacity to transform our surroundings and maintain a way of life where learning was ongoing was not only very limited but, with everyone being in different parts of the world, our serenity depended on states and markets that were more and more unstable.
We were clear that we didn’t want to abandon our permanent conversation to become a traditional business, but also that our activity had to be productive, and that our autonomy would come from thinking about the market in a different way.
How we make a living
Our income comes from our activity in the market. We design and carry out projects of innovation that seek to empower all kinds of organizations, both in their surroundings and in their internal working. For their relationship with the world, the market, and risks, we design, develop, and implement tools of public intelligence; to strengthen their internal capacities, we develop programs and tools that enrich their community dimension. The common element is a long experience in technology and networks.
Fourteen years after creating the “Society of the Electronic Indies,” we’re proud, above all, of four things:
- What we’ve learned about the big changes of our time and the place that the communal, the free, and the distributed occupy in them. We’ve summarized this learning for our friends and readers in The Communard Manifesto.
- Our internal egalitarianism. In Las Indias, we live in the community experience we always wanted. We function by consensus on the solid base given by permanent deliberation. We share among all responsibilities, economic activity, and the income that it produces. We all learn and improve ourselves to contribute, and with everyone’s work, we satisfy everyone’s economic needs. We explain this model in The Book of Community.
- The Indiano community in the broadest sense. Beyond the “communal life,” many ways of being an Indiano have appeared over time. Las Indias allows different levels of commitment and activities, which are connected by the tools that form our cooperative group, from participating in or promoting debates, workshops, and cultural activities with the Las Indias Club to creating and cooperatively producing all kinds of things in The Art of Things. The result is a living community based on a permanent dynamic of conversation, learning, and production that constantly enriches the life of all.
- Our place in the market. We’ve turned what we value most into commercial products: what we have learned—and continue learning—in conversation; the debate of all these years, which you can discover in our books; our contextopedia, and our blog. Thanks to that, not only do we continue to be an egalitarian community that is alive, creative, and constantly learning, but we’ve consolidated a small but healthy group of cooperatives with ever-greater social impact.
The world we live in is at a crossroads. On the one hand, the crisis, driven by the gigantism of corporations has multiplied social decomposition; on the other hand, the tendencies toward a new world with other values that are already expressed through new forms of production and consumption like the direct economy and P2P production are stronger and stronger.
That is, in spite of all the miseries of the crisis, the growth of inequality and war, our world, thanks to the development of knowledge and the extension of distributed networks, is closer and closer to making the old dream of our species possible. It’s a broad goal, but less utopian than it seems, that we explain and link to changes that are developing before our eyes in the The Communard Manifesto.
The Indiano way of life
In the end, Las Indias is a way of life guided by the pleasure of learning and the idea that our surroundings—real people, with first and last names with whom we work or converse, and our affections—our families, peers and friends, are much more important than any “imagined community” or any national or cultural “belonging.” Being consistent with this has led us to learn and explore all kinds of things, from languages synthetic to the game of Go. Learning and exploring is our way of enjoying.
We also realized that we had to “translate” what we learned in these years into knowledge and practical experiences that we could share, show, and make available to other people who, like us, would have realized that internal egalitarianism, the passion for everyone’s learning, and competition in the market are perfectly compatible, and what’s more, that together, they offer the possibility of having a life that is interesting and committed to others.
If you want to follow our evolution, participate in our debates, or simply keep up to date on our announcements, follow our blog and create a user in our conversation space. With it, you’ll be able to comment on the posts on our blogs and other blogs of the members of the Art or the Club.