The Journal of Peer Production - New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change New perspectives on the implications of peer production for social change
Collaborative Online Writing and Techno-Social Communities of Practice Around the Commons: The Case of in Barcelona image
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Reviewing process: [original] [reviews] [signals] is an informative, participatory initiative in the Barcelona area, which arose from a desire to follow the intense activity around the local commons and technosocial issues. Emphasising ethical and emancipatory viewpoints and encouraging criticism, Teixidora fosters debate, thought and knowledge. It is also a tool (with a digital semantic wiki platform at its centre) conceived to apply collaborative live-writing in events based on community mapping, engagement and participation. Analysing Teixidora’s participation in three specific events during its first year of existence, the article applies Foth and Hearn’s (2007) communication ecology framework to Teixidora. Through observational analysis and other conceptual frameworks, like urban informatics or Commons peer-production, the paper identifies some aspects of its social, technological and discursive layers, and the intersections among them and with each of the three events. In these cases close-knit relationships arise in the three different layers of the communicative ecology, with four transversal elements related to the commons: collective dimension, experimental dimension, sharing and re-elaborating. Three levels of learning are extracted in relation to: governance of the text, mapping communities of practice and interest and practising synchronous collaborative documentation of events. Finally, as a conclusion from these lessons, new means of action and development for the project are offered, and questions are raised regarding future research.

Patterns of commoning, collaborative writing, note-taking, communities of interest, knowledge sharing, mapping of events, action research, transdisciplinary activism, ICT-mediated peer production, innovative P2P practices, self-organisation and community, semantic wiki, mediawiki, commons.

By Mònica Garriga Miret, David Gómez Fontanills, Enric Senabre Hidalgo, Mayo Fuster Morell

Introduction [1] is a digital platform —working in the local commons and technosocial domains in Barcelona— for collaborative live-writing in community events based on community mapping, engagement and participation. can be described as a communicative ecology (Foth and Hearn, 2007), with a social layer (people and the ways in which they are socially organised), a technological layer (digital platform, devices and connecting media) and a discursive layer (the content of communication). was conceived as a process of digital transdisciplinary activism. It aims to connect distributed knowledge generated by communities of practice (social layer) with the relationships among participants at events and with the subjects or discussions, thus creating a discursive layer, in which the purpose is to produce collective narratives, follow what happens and weave relationships by sharing knowledge. Its technological layer, based on several applications and devices, appropriates and combines Etherpad (a web-based collaborative real-time editor) with a Semantic MediaWiki (an extension of the popular open-source MediaWiki application developed by Wikipedia Foundation), and microblogging platforms, Quitter and Twitter. These three layers combine around an axis based on the commons, creating a joint collective dimension, by sharing, re-elaborating and experimenting with elements that are present in all three.

This article first defines Teixidora’s local context and the state of the art in the area of collaborative writing. Next, it describes how Teixidora’s social layer is organised and its evolution, and also discusses the technological and discursive layers, based on a descriptive classification of the 249 registered events, 40 note-takers, 57 mapped organisations, 40 projects, and about 100 texts generated (as shared proceedings, notes, or context articles), up to June 2017.

The methodology consists of an observational analysis of three events using Teixidora, with the purpose of identifying the role of the three communicative ecology layers of the platform in each one. Having extracted what has been learned and observed, it considers the opportunities and limitations of collaboration among peers when documenting their conversations. Although the project is still evolving, there is close integration among the three layers, in mapping of knowledge, in negotiating the degree of collaboration and governance around it, and its collectivisation. Finally, as a conclusion from the lessons obtained in the analysis, new means of action and development for the project are offered, and questions are raised regarding future research.


Teixidora’s Local Context in Barcelona

Teixidora was launched in Barcelona in January 2016, in a context of a heated debate about technology related political, economic and social issues and how to construct or revitalise the commons. The Teixidora team had been involved for years with events including UrbanLabs [2], Hackmeeting, Hardmeeting [3], Media140 [4], Drumbeat [5], Digital Commons [6], Viquitrobades [7], Geoartivismos [8], among others. The documentation created at these events was often not published and remained exclusively available to organisers or individual participants (people taking notes or recording the events), it soon became clear that this was a problem. When it was published, it was random and scattered. Events were disconnected giving the impression of lack of continuity, redundancy, and varying degrees of divergence of discourse. The debate continued between events but was not visible.

This occurred in a metropolitan context where, for more than two decades, a network of initiatives had been growing around technologies and free knowledge and where Platform 0.7 (1994), the anti-globalisation movement (1999), the “no war” protests (2003), the Catalan pro-independence movement (2010), 15M (2011) and the processes of creating an alternative-left municipalism (2015) had empowered people through both collective management, action and organisation, and through free culture (Fuster, 2012).

In the global context, networked social movements appeared from Iran (2009), Iceland, Tunisia and Greece (2010), Egypt, Spain and Occupy Wall Street (2011). They arose in urban contexts but also in close interrelation with what was being debated and shared on online networks (Castells, 2015). Castells points out that these movements occurred in different settings and presented different demands, but they had shared elements (Castells, 2011): they were networked ( happening around the internet and on mobile communications), they were multimodal (online and face-to-face), spontaneous and viral; they were leaderless, reflective (open to debate and transformation) and non-violent; but, above all, they were, simultaneously, global and local.

Against this background, Teixidora is positioned as a techno-social initiative with an action-research approach opening up spaces where technological resources are developed and transforming action and research occur. Analysing the impact of this transformation Teixidora explores relations among emerging discourses.

Participation in previous projects —which sought to establish connections or compile and organise documentation and activities using an online platform (Experimenta_wiki [9], HKp [10], Viquilletra [11], Germinador [12] — inspired the methodological and technological approaches to the project. Teixidora also shares some basic concepts with CitizenSqKm5 [13] (Km2Poblenou, in Barcelona, May 2014 – May 2015), an experiment involving citizens in a project of discovering and improving of their surroundings through gathering and organising relevant data. Meanwhile, Geoartivismos [14], another project with which CitizenSqKm shared many features, had been launched by Constelaciones Online in Poblenou. This brought together researchers, developers of opensource GIS (geographic information systems) and social groups aiming to improve communication and digital training for local residents and groups, and to make a prototype from the application which the collective Constellations Online had developed for a webdoc about gentrification in Poblenou. Constellations Online organised a series of meetings where notes were taken in open documents. Some members of the CitzenSqKm, took part in the meetings and saw the need to organise and share the collectively generated information, they subsequently become the Teixidora team. In a broader context, Barcelona and its metropolitan area are rich in free-technology initiatives and commons and peer production. In 2014 the Barcelona Metropolitan Observatory, published a study on “The Urban Commons in Barcelona” [15] based on 17 practices in the city. Between 2014 and 2016 the P2PValue directory reflected the maturity of the ecosystem by identifying 1,000 cases of peer production in Catalonia. The BCN Smart City Commons Report 2016 identifies more than 300 local actors in the commons.

It is in this context, and on these bases, that Teixidora was set up.

State of the art in collaborative writing

Collaborative writing is one of the biggest areas of peer production. The most significant large-scale experience is the collective creation of the free encyclopedia, Wikipedia, in several languages ​​by thousands of volunteers worldwide using wiki platforms. Wikis were the first online workspaces that allowed members to jointly create and edit web pages without knowing HTML (Wei, Maust, Barrick, Cuddihy & Spyridakis 2005). At the beginning of the century, there were many blogs and websites. Some became online media, for example Indymedia (the global alternative outlet) or Slashdot (the technology news site), which used methodologies of the free software world (Bruns 2005). They were open-edited in an open-access and many-to-many environment. News production was collaborative, under no sanctioning institution or relying on any “official” source. The abundance of sources and channels made it necessary to change the points of control. The flow of information was opened up. But, at the same time, observation increased. ‘Gatekeeping’ was superseded by ‘gatewatching’, a new way of doing journalism in which materials were mixed, re-mediated and classified, and historical archives were created. The “phenomenon of the open edition encyclopedia” came about in the journalistic sphere (Bruns, 2005), allowing a “multi-perspective” coverage of events in which audiences were able to participate in the development, compilation, editing and evaluation of contents. Audiences became communities, slowly replacing top-down approaches with bottom-up stances by taking ownership of the narratives through the use of media as a tool, and through more civic engagement (Garriga, Salcedo, Vives, Meseguer, 2015).

Collaborative writing mediated by networked digital systems is a widespread practice in many projects and organisations. As noted, this practice has often been adopted, in recent years, at meetings where participants have devices connected to the Internet.

Collective writing has a long history, in which, laws, regulations, reports, essays and literary texts have been collectively written. The procedure might begin with an outline of ideas which are then developed and written side-by-side (Ritchie & Rigano, 2007) or the writing work is divided into sections (parallel writing), or versions exchanged (sequential writing) (Lowry, Curtis & Lowry, 2004). Editing and word processing software has progressively incorporated features to facilitate collaboration among co-authors. New practices have then emerged from the way co-authors use this software, particularly new practices such as “reactive” writing, identified by Lowry, Curtis & Lowry (2004) in their taxonomy of collective writing, where they observe that when typing a document simultaneously, co-authors respond (in-writing) to input from others.

There are at least four types of programmes for collective writing: offline word processors, online word processors, wikis and pads. The following table summarises their features:

Word Processors

With track changes and comments to facilitate sequential collaboration
with sharing file versions.

Word / Libre Office Write / iWorks Pages

Word Processors

With the option of document sharing between different users, track
changes and versions, comments. Used for synchronous and
asynchronous writing.

(Libre Office Online) / Google Docs


With asynchronous online publishing, version control, conflict

/ DokuWiki / Wikispaces / Pmwiki / Tikiwiki


With synchronous simultaneous online editing, color identification of

/ Etherpad / Dropbox paper


These types are not closed. Word processors, initially offline (Microsoft Word, LibreOffice), enabled file sharing, but when they went online and introduced editing on browser (Google docs, Collabora) they developed further functionalities to manage user permissions and simultaneous editing. This has led such programmes to linkup with pads,—initially in the form of interconnected desktop applications (SubEthaEdit, Gobby) and, later, online systems on server for editing also available on Browser (Etherpad)—, and to adopting some of their features. Wikis developed independently improving functionalities for asynchronous collaboration among multiple editors, but now they are also linking up with pads, in simultaneous editing options (like the addition of a TogetherJS based extension to MediaWiki or Etherpad’s embedding extensions).

Although these four types are taken as separate references, there is a degree of hybridization. Any programme can have characteristics of more than one type, independently of how it is classified. Below is a list that can help to identify the features of a programme for collective writing:





Synchronous / Asynchronous

/ Wikis/ Pads / Online Processors

Historic of versions

Compare versions / Sequentially see / Restore


Track changes

Register / See/ Accept / Reject

Text Processors

Conflict control

Detectar / Avís / Comparar / Resoldre

Editor identification

Anonymous edition / Register / Temporary pseudonym to write

Google Drive / Collabora / Wikis /


Anchor text reviews

Insert comments / Reply to comments / Authorship and date-time / solve archive / mail Notifications

Text Processors/ Pads

Rich text format

Bold, italic, styles, titles, size, color

Processors / Wiki /Pad

Text edition

WYSIWYG / code/ enriched code / plain text

Text Processors / Wiki (editor visual/codi) / Pad

Edit Permissions

Open / share permissions / permissions: view, comment, suggest, edit

Pad / Google Drive

URL for document sharing

Google Drive / Sandstorm


For menu or button / automatic
/ featured version

Text Processors / Wikis /

Google Drive / Etherpad

Distributed copies

Gooby / Teem / Jetpad


Folders / labels / Categorization / Search

Drive / Wiki

/ technological environment of use

Desktop / Web /
Mobile App

/ Drive / Collabora / Etherpad

License / Distribution

Free / proprietary / software as a service

Colored features are present in the Etherpad used by Teixidora when taking notes.


The form of collective writing mainly promoted by Teixidora is documentation and note-taking at events. Participants don’t see themselves as authors of the text but rather as people recording what is said. In some cases the people involved in a debate take turns to write. Taking notes is itself a particular form of writing, different from author writing. Its aim is to retain what is said and retrieve it later (Hartley and Marshall, 1974).

Littauer, Scheidel, Schulder & Ciddi (2015), students in the Master’s degree in Computational Linguistics at Saarland University in Germany, studied the use of four methods of collaboration among students, including collective writing on Etherpad (in addition to a wiki, mailing list and shared Dropbox storage). They showed that taking collaborative notes synchronously during a class allowed (without a prior distribution of tasks) effective performance of the four types of subtasks they had identified: 1) transcribe the content of the slides (unnecessary if integrated by the software) and of the board; 2) summarise instructions and additional comments of the professor; 3) record external references and 4) add personal comments and questions (Littauer, Scheidel, Schulder & Ciddi, 2015). They also observed that form and content of the class would make it easier or harder to take notes resulting in more or less participation of students in the task and more or less complete coverage of content. Thus, in tutorial classes, it was more difficult for students to take notes in parallel to preserving the insights gained and in logic or statistics classes the need to use specific symbols or make schemes meant that taking notes on paper was event more useful . It was found that in classes where students participate more actively in discussions they also take fewer notes (Littauer, Scheidel, Schulder & Ciddi, 2015: p. 1474-1475).

With regard to the practice of note-taking, the fact that Etherpad displays in real time who is writing and where (through different of colors and displaying -when performing mouseover function- the pseudonym adopted) facilitated the spontaneous distribution of roles in the writing process. When seeing what others are doing, one can concentrate on what is still to do in another part of the document (Littauer, Scheidel, Schulder & Ciddi, 2015: p. 1474-1475). In their study, the students also observe how personal comments on the main text of the pad were relocated to the chat as the academic year went by. This tells us something about the evolution of an experienced community . The most salient notes, they say, are taken when a large number of collaborators know little about the subject (and therefore try to jot down everything) and at least one is at an advanced level (and can be concise and help with parts of the notes that are difficult for others) . If everyone is familiar with the subject, few notes are taken, and if no one is well informed, everything is transcribed but notes are empty of meaning. The students also note that collaboration gives linear structure to the notes. If the teacher changes the subject, and goes from one main subject to a secondary one, the writing continues to be linear . The discourse is kept in the same order as it is given by the teacher. Later when further processing the notes, changes are introduced to polish the text, avoid redundancies and improve the style. Moreover, notes come together in a shared repository that is not the responsibility of just one person (Littauer, Scheidel, Schulder & Ciddi 2015, p. 1480).

Many of these observations are confirmed in note-taking experiences at Teixidora events. Teixidora completes the note-taking process with a subsequent sieving of contents and structuring them on a wiki platform which works with forms, thus combining pad characteristics and those of a semantic wiki with structured data. Hence, two of the collaborative strategies tested by the Saarland students are combined in one platform.

Analysis of Teixidora as Communicative Ecology

The concept of communicative ecology, associated with work on communications and the media, combines ethnographic and participatory action research methods. It refers to “the context in which communication processes occur” aiming to analyse technology where it is used. New media should be studied and designed bearing in mind the social relationships of users, the nature of the communication and other means employed (Hearn, Tacchi, Foth & Lennie, 2009). It should therefore be possible to analyse whether or not a particular type of technology can be integrated into an environment and the extent to which it is used.

Communicative ecology is conceived by Foth and Hearn (2007) as a social layer (individuals, social structures with which they identify and the ways in which they organise socially), a discursive layer (the communication content, mediated and not mediated) and a technological layer (digital platform, devices and media connection).

The layers of communicative ecology are useful for conceptual separation of the different aspects of a technosocial ecosystem, without losing sight of their interactions. The description aims to be holistic, both close (from within the ecology), and distant (from the outside). It borrows from studies in classical ethnography which distinguish between two primary perspectives of research on communicative ecology, which is to say emic and ethic positions. A researcher can work from outside the communicative ecology scrutinising it to create an overall vision (emic) or take a position within it to see things from the perspective of participants (ethic). The outside view is useful if comparison between local systems is sought. Then the inside perspective can be used to understand how people construct and give meaning to their communicative ecology.

We shall now take the three-layer perspective to explain Teixidora as communicative ecology in construction and combine observations from within the process with analogies to other processes and systems.

Technological Layer

According to Foth and Hearn’s (2007) concept of communicative ecology, devices and applications inside the technological layer, are distinguished by the model of communication they facilitate; one to many, many to many, online, in person, et cetera (Foth and Hearn, 2007). Teixidora also aims to facilitate ways of sharing information gathered in an event, according to this model (from one to many, many to many,…) and beyond the time and space where it occurs. In doing so, it combines several technological resources, the most relevant of which are: the Semantic MediaWiki for the platform, Etherpad for note-taking and microblogging accounts for communicating, exploring and establishing dialogue.


Figure 1: Screenshot of Teixidora’s semantic wiki, showing the options of documenting past, present and future events, becoming a user or exploring contents.


The main Teixidora tool is a semantic wiki [16]. Besides being an online platform which can be edited by anyone, it allows information to be saved in a structured way with semantic properties, and to retrieve it by queries in dynamic lists like those used at the Seguim Fils sub-portals (Following the Threads) and Teixim Xarxes (Weaving the Networks) [17], and other pages. Much of the wiki can be edited by filling forms, in which parameters of templates are filled with information [18]. Once documentation of an event has been incorporated, anyone can edit the page again and, through the form, distill the contents contained in notes or recordings of video and audio, extracting keywords and other tags that allow detection of relationships among events.


Figure 2: Screenshot of Teixidora where, through semantic queries, events occurring in La Comunificadora programme, are extracted, shown in a timeline and located on the map.


The idea of collectivising the story is a core concept of Teixidora and is taken into account at the earliest level of documentation. Teixidora therefore uses software that allows collective writing, the Etherpad. A self-installed Etherpad is not used. Organisers at each event are asked if they already have pads to take notes. New pads are activated in a “farm”, mainly Guifinet’s and la Mar de Bits, and also Wikimedia, Mozilla, Riseup, Titanpad, Piratepad or Etherpad Foundation.

Etherpad is used in many communities to take notes or minutes at meetings and assemblies. At an early stage, Teixidora made extensive use of Etherpad as an online system for collaboratively taking notes, inviting attendees at each event to participate. The idea was to extend its use and to facilitate processing and re-use of content.

Etherpad enables participants (those who take notes and those who do not) to interact with each other, not only through what is written on the pad, but also through the chat associated with it. In some cases, the chat can be a way of conveying questions or comments from online to face-to-face meetings.

Another significant tool, as well as constituting a connecting element between technological and social layers, is the microblogging platforms, namely Twitter or Quitter. These platforms are useful for exploring, discovering event organisers, and establishing contacts with the actors of the technological and social scene, and later reporting the information collected. Microblogging platforms help to encourage the driving core to provide information before and during the events, encouraging other participants to take notes and give links to the pads, connecting Tweets – via hyperlink- to the pad where the notes of a specific event are taken. They also serve in the face-to-face contributors’ ring, and are used by online contributors (people interested in the content generated by the event), who have learned about the meeting (from any location) while it occurred or later, because other twitterers mentioned it, or through keywords and hashtags on the platform.

Social Layer

At Teixidora the social layer consists of interrelated communities of practice and interest (Fischer 2001), the contributions that occur among participants, and topics and discussions generated in events (what happens). The act of taking notes is determined collectively by a desire to capture, simultaneously and in real time, knowledge generated by personal statements, questions, comments or debates.

Metaphorically speaking, the structure of this layer is onion rings. In the centre there is a small group of people who have previously agreed to cover a specific event. A number of rings of participation expand from this core with people engaged in different ways. Hence, the social layer consists of:

  • Core Driving Group. In the centre there is a small, interconnected group of people who are familiar with the tools in the Technological Layer and able to prepare and manage them beforehand. They identify the core driving group of a meeting (through channels with other online and local communities) and organise to document the event, announcing it to other attendees. This Core Driving Group will ensure that the documenting activity is ongoing, usually alternating when taking notes, and distributing the work depending on the format of the meeting. They will also encourage other participants to contribute their knowledge of the topics discussed. The Core Driving Group may or may not be formally integrated into the organisational structure of the meeting.
  • In-Person Contributors’ Ring. The next ring of participation around Teixidora activity in a meeting consists of people who participate in person, who have been directly contacted before the event or who, during the meeting, have discovered the simultaneous documentation process. These people will also add notes summarising what is said. There are more or fewer contributions depending on who is involved or the type of session, and they communicate with other participants through the text. They can follow the notes as they are taken at the meeting and contribute to some of the subtasks identified by Littauer, Scheidel, Schulder & Ciddi (2015, p. 1478), adding data, references or comments that are relevant, or including, while notes are taken, their personal opinions about something that has been said.
  • Online Contributors’ Ring. Teixidora’s third participation ring is comprised by people who are not physically present but who access the pad from elsewhere [19]. If the technological layer includes video streaming or something similar, people in this ring will be able to take notes, like those in the in-person ring, but will do so from the offline context, not located or influenced by the face-to-face context. If online followers do not have access to direct broadcast they will also be able to follow the session as it is written on the pad and will be able to interact through the chat.
  • Subsequent Participants’ Ring. The fourth ring is composed by all those people who can access content generated by the Semantic MediaWiki or pads, whether or not they have taken part in the activity in real time and in person or online. The content is addressed to them, so they are a raison d’être of the project. These participants in Teixidora’s communicative ecology are the main thread connecting with the knowledge generated, in a kind of digital trail that can be recovered later by themselves or others. Hence, a broader process of knowledge generation by stigmergy (Elliot, 2006) can occur through indirect coordination of work and activities from which knowledge is built and organised (in a combination of automated mechanisms and human activity) on the platform.

Another way to imagine the social layer is distinguishing between present and absent participants at an event, where one category does not totally exclude the other. Present participants are the Core Driving Group and the In-Person Contributors Ring. They are the most active agents in generating documentation. Absent participants are those who follow the event at another point in time, and they may also contribute to documentation. Designed as a system allowing easily movement from reader to publisher, Teixidora also gives significance to absent participants (Antin & Cheshire, 2010), as well as those who have taken part in the event and later return to consult documents. Since these absent participants (or now absent participants) relate the event to other events in Teixidora, they add new contents or re-elaborate them. In a future event they may discover relationships with other events documented in the past. These changes of role in relation with the elaboration of the documentation, as Bruns (2005) has observed, transform our understanding of and commitment to the contents, and the sense of collective ownership with respect to them (the contents).

We are, therefore, also talking about a tool of “network socialisation” from a perspective of urban informatics (Foth, Choi, Bilandzic & Satchell, 2008): the driving force would give rise to a certain phenomenon of participatory culture (a new meeting to cover), and the respective rings activating expressions from different “network individualisms”, in all cases contributing to the democratisation of the knowledge that is generated (Foth, Choi & Satchell, 2011). This is relevant in the context of continuous emergence of new formats of meetings and events in the last decade, from hackathons to open spaces, as new ways of organising offline knowledge interchanges, following specific interaction rules (Senabre, 2009).

Combining the onion ring metaphor with the categories of present participants and absent participants also allows us to take the idea of stigmergy, borrowed from biology, to understand the social layer of Teixidora as an ecology coordinated indirectly through the trail left by events, and that is consolidated and reunited on the platform.

Discursive Layer

As described in the introduction and subsequent sections, the aims of Teixidora are to collectivise the story, follow what happens, weave relationships by sharing documents, and reuse content generated in face-to-face meetings to produce new knowledge and relationships. In this regard, the discursive layer of the project also connects, at a metaphorical level, with the concept of “weaving” (in Catalan ‘teixidora’, in Spanish ’tejedora’, in French ‘tisserande’…) which can designate not only the person weaving but also the machine and the factory or space where the weaving is done. It also refers to the digital environment as heir of previous technological mechanisms and feminist culture (Plant, 1998).

Both the reference to (human and technological) networks and that to making or producing something, well portray the project approach and its discursive layer. The latter includes several “sections” as areas of intervention in the social and the technological layers. Each section has its own identity and its title acts as a metaphor to describe the nature of the transmedia (Jenkins, 2006) intervention and some visual characteristics making it recognisable:

  • “Following the Threads Section” (Seguim Fils), refers to Teixidora’s nature as a proactive observatory which completes, orders and re-elaborates material produced as part of the socio-technological activity occurring in Barcelona, and in the form of conversation threads in social networks, forums, mailing lists, blog comments, and others.
  • “Weaving the Networks Section” (Teixim Xarxes), indicates how Teixidora places knowledge in the glocal context, providing additional information about how things work, historical background, ethical debates that may have been raised, et cetera. This section unblackboxes technologies and provides information on how they are configured. It is also about the idea of establishing and strengthening links between people and communities.
  • “Giving Rope Section” (Donem Corda), refers to the fact that Teixidora offers opportunities for expanding personal and social autonomy, thus giving visibility to free technologies and technological appropriation.

This discursive layer of Teixidora, considering the transmedia perspective (Jenkins, 2006) as a phenomenon that can ultimately generate new narratives in a participatory way, simultaneously implies in the social and urban context previously described for Barcelona a counter-narrative and deconstruction of the “smart city” discourse (Wolfram, 2012). Accordingly, it represents a point of divergence with regard to the most technical, automated and “big data” based visions in the urban informatics field. Moreover, as we shall describe in the following section with examples, true co-created and therefore democratised knowledge arises by means of interaction of people in social contexts and meetings around common interests in cities.

Intersections among the three layers

There are some common elements in the intersections of the social, discursive and technological layers, something which allows Teixidora to be understood as a tool generated from the technosocial context described for the metropolitan area of Barcelona. In this sense, its transformative character lies in the fact that starting from collaborative writing online we can connect the virtual with the face-to-face, and the asynchronous to the synchronous, enabling the people and communities involved to be active from their particular physical spaces (Foth, Forlano, Satchell, Gibbs & Donath, 2011).

There is a collective dimension in the production and processing of content (social layer), in the functionalities of the technologies chosen (technological layer), and in the discourse calling for collectivisation of the story (discursive layer). It is something that connects in different ways with the concept of digital commons, with an idea of belonging and at the same time of shared management of open knowledge (Fuster, 2011).

The concept of sharing, also related with the commons, is present in the orientation of collective action —both for those who are present and those who are absent at the events, and in the four rings of participation (social layer)—, in the decision to use only free software and design the platform to provide open access and use (technological layer), and in explicit discourse in favour of freeing access to content (discursive layer).

The idea of ​​re-elaboration is implicit in the actions that follow an event, where participants are invited to work with collected content (social layer), in the pad-provided functionalities that are open to contributions and in the forms which produce a semantic wiki structure (technological layer). This idea is conveyed by the metaphor of “network weaving” (Teixim Xarxes), an invitation to create links, map actors and events, and work with the contents created (discursive layer).

The experimental dimension is evident in a willingness to adapt methodologies to the characteristics of the event and the participants (social layer), in exploring the possibilities offered by pads and wikis (technological layer), and in Teixidora’s discourse as a continually reviewed iterative process in constant evolution (discursive layer). This type of experimental design also means that Teixidora can be understood as an example of urban informatics infrastructure (Foth, Choi & Satchell, 2011).

These four elements, —collective dimension, concept of sharing, idea of re-elaboration and experimental dimension—, reveal the construction of a digital commons and a hybrid ecosystem (Fuster, 2010) forming a three-layer (social, technological and discursive) transversal axis. This axis does not only connect intangible assets (content documented, mapping generated, network of relationships created, stories re-made) but also capacities created (group practices experienced, transmitted and improved). Hence, Teixidora is a particularly rich example of where to apply the concept of communicative ecology which integrates the three social, technological and discursive layers. From here it is possible to conduct a separate analysis of some aspects of this ecology and observe some of the interactions between layers in specific cases.

Lessons Learned

The final analysis of this section is based on the following three examples of specific projects in which the three layers of Teixidora’s communicative ecology have developed and interrelated, and the lessons learned in this process. These three events have been selected as case studies because, in all three, the innovative —face to face and virtual, synchronous and asynchronous, interlaced collaborative online writing— dimension that unites the three layers have been fully experienced. Moreover, they are paradigmatic examples of three areas of live debate that is taking place in the urban environment of Barcelona about free technologies, co-design of public policies, and promotion of socio-economic values.

Participation in three specific events


When Teixidora was launched, the first events where the platform was tested was the Alternative Mobile World Congress (2016): the Mobile Commons (UPF), the AntiMWC (Ateneu Llibertari de Sants), the Mobile Social Congress (Setem), and the First Congress of Technological Sovereignty (SobTec). The Teixidora team attended all four events and took notes, inviting others (via Twitter and word of mouth) to join them (social layer, core and first ring). The pads used were later embedded in the platform and the topics covered in the events, were collected in a single page, titled “Learning from the Alternatives to MWC” [20] (technological layer).

A year later, Teixidora was at the MSC and Sobtec, this time with the prior agreement and cooperation of the organisers (social layer). At Sobtec, Teixidora’s participation in documenting the conference was announced in the programme published online [21]: “During the meeting we encourage you to jointly take notes summarising talks. These notes will be stored later in the semantic wiki”. Each session in the programme had a link to the Mardebits pad where notes were taken, to the organisation’s wiki documentation in Sandcats [22], and to Teixidora’s page for the session (technological layer). Teixidora was given a slot for its presentation : “Welcome and Introduction to’s Pads.” At the beginning of each session everyone was invited to take notes, and there were posters with QR codes in the room to access pads from mobile phones.

Looking at the social layer, the Teixidora team and members of the organisation took notes, as did several anonymous people (one or two per session, with a total of fifteen). Two overlapping sessions were not covered. In spite of the large number of participants, many came without laptops and only a few tried to take notes or access them using mobile phones (Etherpad’s interface is responsive but writing long texts with a phone keypad is difficult).

A few days after the conference a Dathaton Session “Buidarada” (of content and data) [23] was held. It was called by the SobTec organisers and attended by eight people. A wiki page was prepared with a semantic query to show all pages of the sessions and to detect those that missed documentation or data. (technological layer as a tool for the social layer). With this page as a reference data from each session was collected. The names of speakers were added with the link to their presentations and video recordings were embedded. The contents of each session and corresponding notes were transferred from each pad to the wiki. Keywords, organisations, projects and individuals mentioned were identified and harmonised (in terms of spelling). The SobTec mapping actors was carried out clicking on the red links in each session’s form and creating other forms for organisations, people and projects that had not been mapped by Teixidora before.


In the field of local governance and in relation with the gestation of new public policies for the commons collaborative economy, Teixidora was the space in which the event Procomuns[24] documented, in March 2016. Before the meeting, more than 20 people contributed to the draft of a joint statement and a series of proposals for public policies, working on a Google Doc. This document had evolved from an early version into the one presented at the meeting. Teixidora’s core team suggested that, during the event, notes would be jointly taken. It therefore opened a list of pads (one per each conference), announcing and promoting it on Twitter and StatusNet, and making sure that the existence of the pad was announced at each session, and that at least one person would take notes. In other words, there was a ring of contributors for the social layer of the project.

Some participants, speakers and members of the audience took notes during the talks, to varying degrees, following the guidelines set out in pads (in Catalan, Spanish and English), referring to two types of key contributions to this discursive layer: notes, links and relevant references, on the one hand, and the specific proposals for public policies related to the commons, on the other.

Lists of proposals, linked to the conversations during the event, were produced. A category in Wikimedia Commons [25] was also created and participants were encouraged to link to Teixidora photos and documents from the talks after they had been uploaded to other platforms (such as and social networks, systematising the content produced by the event. Thus the core Teixidora team, together with researchers and experts in the sector of the commons and collaborative economy, merged, classified and relocated more than 60 new proposals at the municipal level and 18 at the European level. These had been collected in the pads technological layer and color-marked to trace the origin of proposals which were eventually transferred to the draft of the earlierjoint statement and, later, to the Decidim Barcelona platform [26] (the municipal platform to facilitate participatory processes), for integration in the Municipal Action Plan of the City Council (PAM).

Recommendations collected via Teixidora during the event were later reflected in two documents, one for the municipal level (the third version, published in May 2016 with more than 120 measures accompanied by an executive summary of ten measures and, the other submitted to the European Commission.

La Comunificadora

Another project in which Teixidora has participated is La Comunificadora [27], a Barcelona Activa programme (organisation for promoting the economic development of the city) together with three organisations which are part of the commons scene: Platoniq, Goteo and the Free Knowledge Institute. Regarding the discursive layer, the aim of the programme was to promote initiatives for the collaborative economy and help transition towards the commons economy through training, advice and guidance in fifteen projects which shaped the social layer of the process.

Teixidora was used in several ways:

  • To take notes collectively in four, four-hour training sessions, in conventional classrooms where some participants wore laptops. Between five to eight people took part in the note-taking (roughly 25% of participants). In the more explanatory sections of two hands-on workshops, notes were also taken.
  • As agenda and documentation of events (notes, materials and other documents were collected) in both training sessions and workshops, as well as in open meetings, each with their own form on the wiki.
  • As documentation for these projects, which already had a page on Teixidora, where they are introduced, characterised and related with other contents.
  • To register the feedback received in open meetings: every project was presented in an elevator pitch and participants gave feedback on a postit, which was stuck on a canvas. Next, someone with a laptop transcribed the content of the postits to a Teixidora form, producing a page with columns on the same canvas (I would join the project if…, I like it because…, It is similar to…, It would improve if…, or This would interest such person…). This made it possible to produce a page combining all the contributions from a semantic search [28].

Participants were grateful to have notes from the training sessions. They were able to observe the dynamics of collaboration which had been described by the Saarland students (Littauer, Scheidel, Schulder & Ciddi, 2015). The Module 4 session, about legal status and obligations was especially “magic” since up to ten people took notes. Four or five took turns to transcribe what was said and others corrected minor errors, completed missing information, or searched for links to documentation as it was mentioned.[29]


Figure 3: Collective note-taking in a session within La Comunificadora programme.


After, digitally recording the postits feedback at open meetings, thus achieving almost-live results at the end of the session, opened the way for further exploration of documentation of sessions beyond the classic lecture format.

The contents past on by La Comunificadora to Teixidora, after the forms are emptied, are integrated and related with other contents already in Teixidora. Hence, for example, one can click on keywords which will automatically make a semantic search. For instance, clicking on “commons” can relate a La Comunificadora session to past or future events.

What has been learned and observed

Three levels of learning —the managing of collaboration and negotiation around the governance of the text; mapping actors, communities of practice and interest; and practicing synchronous collaborative documentation of an event [30]— emerge from our study of the cases described above, which revealed how to relate the communicative ecology layers with Teixidora.

Collaboration and Governance

The integration between social layer (organisers, note-takers and participants), technological layer (, pads, programme, and website of the event) and discursive layer (creating a common good and shared documents) was notable in SobTec 2017. This generated a team spirit, a real sense of working together. It enabled participants to see how others take notes, complete what others write and how others stop at some point and later retrieve the notes. It was then possible to contribute to notes taken by others, and also to learn by observing others in the processes of receiving and reflecting when they receive information. This gave note-takers the possibility of being active at an event, not only receiving information but also enriching it, in an act of communisation. This experience was further strengthened in the Dathaton (“Buidarada”) meeting after the congress, in which information was classified, organised, and shared sensibilities and interests identified.

Negotiation around governance of a text may come up in the most surprising ways, not only when trying to achieve a better final text, but also learning while note-taking. These points relate to the nature of communities of practice and interest, and their “located” learning (Lave & Wenger, 1991), and to previous learning experiences using wikis for collaborative writing (Gómez Fontanills, 2010). A common resource can be managed by individualising it (everyone keeps his or her notes) or socialising it, and bringing about a new result with better notes for everyone, enriched by contributions from all participants. In the case of socialising, new authors and similar events may arise, old notes about the same issue may be rediscovered and so on.

So far, no behavior that could be considered vandalism or trolling has been detected when taking notes on pads. There is no sign of this in any of the three cases described or in the other hundred sessions where notes have been taken. In future research, it will be appropriate to check whether this is still the case when the practice of collective documentation is widespread and more visible. For the time being, we advance the hypothesis that the nature of the activity does not encourage this type of behavior.

Mapping of communities of practice and interest

When Teixidora was launched, the focus was on collecting content rather than mapping communities of practice and interest. Nevertheless, the latter finally stands out as one of the most valuable project contributions. This is one of the main lessons learned when considering how the social, technological and discursive layers interrelate.

The starting point was a peer-production experience where participants are invited to sieve knowledge generated offline, with a view to later building common good in the form of digital documentation. In practice, through cases like Sobtec, La Comunificadora or Procomuns, it was observed that recording events, who organises them, what is said, and documenting the debates, discussions and reflections, makes it easier to map and systematise actors (individuals, organisations and projects) in real time.

This lesson has been present throughout the process and has gradually been incorporated into it. Accordingly, forms -easily generated from the event page-, were also added to document actors, and test methodologies, for example adding the pre-sieving information system at the foot of the pads or organising datathon “Buidarada” sessions like the Sobtec experience.

With this mapping coming from the three layers, documentation which is usually difficult to find, connect and re-use, is systematised. Inclusive, in person and online, and synchronous or asynchronous participation is facilitated which in turn, means that informed, documented proposals and collaborative work emerge from events and debates. The technological layer provides tools to bring the mapped information together semantically, to contextualize it, synthese it and collectivise knowledge and the narrative concerning certain issues, starting from the social layer and going through to the discursive layer.

The result is constantly developing conceptual mapping. This mapping is not only of actors, communities of practice and interest, but also of narratives and innovative visions, of alternatives, of issues related to the intersection of technology and society, and other issues related with them.

Synchronous documentation of events

As noted about, especially in the cases of Sobtec and La Comunificadora, the discursive layer (creating a common good, sharing documents) is relevant for the success of the social layer while also benefitting from the technological layer. The potential of collective note-taking in real time, at an event, a conference or a series of training sessions, is important in terms of results (materials are created and they can be used later), but it is also a positive factor in the development of the activity (participants also construct the narrative, and in doing so they become more familiar with the contents, the result of working together is of better quality and there are no missing details). The effect on the social layer is therefore significant. Even people who do not participate know the narrative is not being created without them, or in other words, those who are participating or are attending a parallel session know that they are not being excluded, that the contents can be related with those they are producing. Participation in note-taking was low in relative terms. It remains to be seen in future studies whether this is a structural issue or wether it could be higher and, if so, whether the practice would support a change of scale.

Yet, obviously one wonders why some people do not participate in note-taking or share the collective discourse, even in the case of the commons discourse, as has been observed in many events covered by Teixidora, or why they take personal notes (on paper or with electronic devices) while refusing to use a joint pad.

In some cases explanations are found in the technological layer:

  • weak wifi signal or one limited to a certain number of simultaneous connections
  • proxy that prevents access to pad or pad server crash
  • participants who do not bring electronic devices

However it has also been found that when these obstacles do not appear, in contexts where commons issues are discussed, it cannot be assumed that knowledge-sharing will occur, or that it will be collectively generated. Sometimes notes are not shared, despite affinities of the people in the social layer and the general agreement over principles of free knowledge in the discursive layer.

Why, in some cases, are notes not shared? Our observations and interaction with participants lead us to wonder whether this can be attributed to determinants from the social layer rather than the technological or discursive layers:

  • Format: activities which, due to their methodology, do not conform with the usual contexts of note-taking (lecture or meeting) and which are difficult to document digitally. This challenge was first explored in the documentation of La Comunificadora Meetups and should be revisited.
  • Skills Limitation: participants who do not bring a laptop to meetings or who are not in the habit of writing with a phone or cannot type fast.
  • Personal attitudes: unwillingness to take notes (either on paper or digital devices) or lack of experience.
  • Perceived risks: perceptions regarding the provision of data or even expressing opinions or views because of fear of making oneself vulnerable or for reasons of data privacy. Fear of interference by vandals who may get involved in the note-taking in order to alter or even pervert the sense or meaning of content.
  • Personal insecurity: insecurity about the writing skills (spelling or knowledge of the language used).
  • Attention economy: rivalry between stimuli and attention during the course of the meetings documented.
  • Competition with other forms of documentation in real-time: social media (Twitter, GNUsocial, Whatsapp, Telegram, Instagram, Facebook, etc.), photographs or audiovisual recordings.
  • Purpose: Lack of knowledge regarding the final destination or goal of the collectively generated content.

In terms of future research, the study as to whether, despite the apparent achievement of commons discourse, there are still obstacles in the way of putting its principles into practice, might be advisable.


The main concern of Teixidora today is note-taking and identifying key themes discussed in events. Although the project is still evolving, the communicative ecology structure, with its three tight-knit layers (social, technological and discursive), is clearly discernible. These layers, where communication occurs and where contents are processed, blur the boundaries of time and space. They are based on the deliberate design of a tool acting as a space for communication and documentation which is also part of a techno-social context and an urban fabric.

The social layer, with its structure of concentric rings, is indirectly coordinated by the trail left by events. This is then fixed and placed on the platform. The technological layer facilitates a diverse communication model, in person and in real time, or a posteriori, from any location. The discursive layer works with concepts related to collectivisation (who produced, where and when) of the story.

With these attributes of communicative ecology, the platform becomes a space for negotiation about the degree of collaboration and governance around knowledge. It also enables mapping of actors, projects and technosocial issues in the​​ Barcelona area. It is a meeting place for people who participate in person and in real time, to document events, and those who don’t.

Applying the communicative ecology framework to Teixidora on the basis of observing and analysing three practical cases allows to continually rethink its needs and possibilities. From this action-research process and for the future development of the project, we identify five key fronts to develop:

  • Explore automation of note-taking tools and assess whether their use improves or gives depth to the debate.
  • Systematise the ways in which conclusions are drawn, proposals are made and debate occurs in the discursive layer, in a scalable manner, as in the Procommons event.
  • Find out how to go beyond note-taking in documenting events, especially those with physical media-content, like workshops or dynamic sessions of knowledge-generation, and how to transfer notes from the physical to the digital, which is to say into Teixidora’s technological layer, as explored in La Comunificadora.
  • Investigate methods and technological tools in order to facilitate re-elaboration and synthesis of content from different events with a common theme, so that self-organisation experiences of the social layer (as with Sobtec, for example), can more easily and independently benefit from Teixidora.
  • Keep exploring open source annotation tools and projects that deal with the lexical-semantic level and with syntax and semantics, as well as narrative knowledge representation and visualisation.

Teixidora is an evolving project, which will continue to implement technological solutions, work on social methodologies, and generate discourse. Several questions for future research emerge from our examination of this first year of activity:

  • By producing in new iterations determining how the communicative ecology framework might be useful for planning and understanding the use of Teixidora (but also other similar tools) at different events.
  • With a new round of case studies, ascertaining which impediments and/or dynamics have greater influence in knowledge-sharing and generation of narratives, as digital commons, in these contexts.
  • Exploring how to improve use of Teixidora, involving all three layers of the communication ecology in scientific research, public policy innovation and citizen participation.
  • Investigating the implications for gender balance, meaningful learning, relationship between actors, privacy and inclusive participation in democratic decision making processes.
  • With this contribution to collective intelligence-gathering processes, registering community activity and conceptual mapping of social actors and topics, looking into how to adopt practices similar to those used at Teixidora in other contexts might be adopted.

End notes

[1] Teixidora (weaver) is an informative, participatory initiative, around technosocial conversations and activities in the Barcelona area. Teixidora emphasizes ethical and emancipatory viewpoints and encourages criticism. It fosters debate, thought and knowledge.
[12] “Creació collectiva: una panoràmica des del projecte Germinador”. Article a Papers d’Art núm. 91 de
[13] Its main aim is to benefit the neighbourhood by engaging the wider community in the discovery and improvement of their environment by collecting and classifying data related to territory. CitizenSqKm Report (Confine Project Deliverables, p.1)
[15] “Comuns urbans a Barcelona. Pràctiques de defensa, cura, reapropiació i gestió comunitària” OMB 2014
[16] A wiki is a website where you can edit all the pages from the browser itself, which keeps track of all changes in the page history and where inexisting pages can be linked and created later. The software used in Teixidora is a MediaWiki, the same used by Wikipedia, a free software developed under the auspices of the Wikimedia Foundation; to which a Semantic MediaWiki extension, is added, allowing to work with structured data and to do semantic queries to retrieve them.
[18]’s wiki is in a server and is part of a “farm” of wikis that share the same configuration and are managed as one, at the level of installation, upgrade and extensions.
[19] They may know about the existence of the pad because it was included in the program or in the publicity of the event or may find the link on social networks during the event.
[24] Event promoted by de Àrea d’Altres Economies i Proximitat de Barcelona Activa i Barcola
[27] La Comunificadora at Related events and participating projects
[28] La Comunificadora at Feedback on projects at open meetups
[29] This process can be watched at the session’s Etherpad Timeslider


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About the authors

Mònica Garriga Miret is a member of Free Knowledge Institute, where she is currently developing and also contributes to transition programmes for commons-oriented initiatives (La Comunificadora), social workshops on the deployment of an IoT citizen owned and managed network (The Things Network Catalunya), or the setup of the CommonsCloud (a collectively owned cloud platform). She is also a member of the recently created cooperative FemProcomuns. She co-designed, developed and implemented the CitizenSqKm project and Km2Ciutat, a research into the use of mobile and GIS technologies to foster transformation through education, local government and citizen participation. She was a partner at media140 with projects and events, spanning science, media and technology across the globe. She is a law graduate, worked as a foreign correspondent in South East Asia, Australia and the South Pacific and later specialised in Communication and Multi-platform and Transmedia with the aim to looking into ways of using journalism/communication for the audiences to generate change themselves.

David Gòmez i Fontanills is a member of Free Knowledge Institute, coordinating transition programmes for commons-oriented initiatives such as La Comunificadora, and producing, he is a member of the recently created cooperative FemProcomuns. He is also an assistant teacher in the Multimedia Degree at UOC, since 2000. As a member of the collective TAG Taller d’Intangibles, since 1996, he has promoted networked participatory projects, such as HKP, about technological appropriation and other artistic activities and texts on, online collaboration and creative appropriation of artifacts. He also promoted self-publishing initiative. Since 2007 he has worked on several semantic wiki platforms for education, culture and science such as Viquilletra, wiki EOI and Experimenta_wiki. He promotes free knowledge with Amical Wikimedia and Wikimedia Spain, and in 2013 with a grant from the Wikimedia Foundation he launched the wikiArS initiative to encourage participation of art schools in Wikipedia . He has a degree in Fine Arts (University of Barcelona) and Master in Knowledge Society (Open University of Barcelona, UOC).

Enric Senabre Hidalgo is PhD candidate at the research group in the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute of the Open University of Catalonia, with a project about co-creation principles (specially participatory design and Agile management) for transdisciplinary processes, team science and strategic planning of research. He’s Research Fellow at CECAN, University of Surrey. Previously he was an active member of Platoniq collective, co-founder and project manager at the platform for civic crowdfunding, where he specialised in facilitating collaborative knowledge management, learning methodologies and co-design strategies for civic impact. He has been vice-president of the Observatory for CyberSociety, project manager of the Innovation and the City Area at Citilab-Cornellà, and associated professor of software studies at the Open University of Catalonia, where he holds a Master’s Degree in the Information and Knowledge Society.

Dr. Mayo Fuster i Morell is the director of research on collaborative economy at the Internet Interdisciplinary Institute of the Open University of Catalonia. She is faculty affiliated at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University, and at Institute of Govern and Public Policies at Autonomous University of Barcelona (IGOPnet). In 2010, she concluded her PhD thesis at the European University Institute in Florence on the governance of common-based peer production, and have numerous publications in the field. She is the principal investigator for the European project P2Pvalue (Techno-social platform for sustainable models and value generation in commons-based peer production), and also researcher at the DECODE project. She is also responsible of the experts group BarCola on collaborative economy and commons production at the Barcelona City Council.