Timelab – Experiments with New Organisational Models

When I visited Timelab in 2012, it was a organisation which was working with two distinct communities: international artists, and a mostly local community of ‘makers’.

Since then, the Timelab core crew has taken a bold step further by radically changing the way they operate. The new organisational logic has been inspired by holocracy, alternative business development models, agile software development methods and various other concepts. This change has allowed many barriers to disappear – the artists and makers form one community instead of two, and there is a great amount of transparency in all the activities.

This blog post offers some glimpses to the way Timelab operates, based in the discussions I had with Eva de Groote and Evi Swinnen.

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This is the Timelab manifesto (a rough translation):

Timelab gives examples of small and big changes. These inspire and trigger dialogue, and encourage development of new models. Timelab offers time and space for reflection on a complex society in transition.

In dialogue with the members of the community, Timelab chooses topics to work with, and initiates processes to tackle these topics. The chosen topics should be such that they are complex, they bring people together from different contexts and backgrounds, and that they offer a rich space for reflection and innovation.

The Clover

The Clover is a method developed in Timelab, which can be used to evaluate and formulate new proposals for projects as well as organisations. The four cycles which can be iterated several times are: Principles, Design, Values and Community.

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These are the values of Timelab itself:

1. Sharing knowledge
Share knowledge, machines and expertise
2. Short supply chain
Make everything locally reproducible and repairable
3. Adaptivity
Choose for modular, adaptable systems
4. Combine strengths
Look for complementary skills
5. Reciprocity
Provide equal and mutual input
6. Intrinsic motivation
Connect and strengthen through voluntary contributions
7. Trust
Find support from peers
8. Autonomy
Cherish different views
9. Serendipity
Find something other than what you were looking for

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Instead of the traditional work titles and tasks, each staff member of Timelab has a specific role with a more holistic approach to Timelab’s activities.

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All essential information about how Timelab operates is visible on the walls and available as individual information sheets:

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Here is a wonderful diagram which explain Timelab as an electric circuit:

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The project management has been inspired by the Kanban method, used in software development. In Timelab, physical boards are used to communicate the current status of the project. Progress is made on incremental steps – the focus is on the ‘next first step‘ (rather than on deadlines and budgets).

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As the images above make evident, the physical space of Timelab is extensively used to communicate information that enables everyone to be self-organised. This approach is also used with the available tools in the space. The tools are clearly organised, with manuals, and if something is broken then ‘fix me’ sign can be used.


One thing that I don’t have a proper photo are the shared gatherings around food. The space also has a community kitchen, and every day people get together to have lunch.

Here is one photo of Timelab in action on a Thursday afternoon:

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At the moment there is currently no instruction book available about the Timelab way of doing things and we’ll have to wait for that a bit I guess, since many of the methods described above are still under development. On the other hand, many projects are already moving ahead using these methods, and the staff seems content and enthusiastic about this new direction.

Many of the Timelab methods are a result of many years of research and experimentation, and the core crew offers assistance and consultation for other organisations (governmental agencies, NGOS, startup companies, etc) to use these tools.

To me all this seems very exciting and promising, so I do hope that we’ll get to read the Timelab manual someday ; )

Paavolais-kritiikki ja suomettumisen monet muodot

paavolainen-nykyaikaa-etsimassaH. CITROEN: »SUURKAUPUNKI» (FOTOPLASTIIKKAA)
 (Olavi Paavolainen, Nykyaikaa etsimässä, 1929)

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Paavolainen oli takinkääntäjä ja narsisti – siinä tuulahdus suoraan 1940-luvun lopulta, otsikkona Helsingin Sanomien kulttuurisivuilla syksyllä 2014. Hesari on tähän otsikkoon vain osasyyllinen – pääasiallisena pölynkantajana toimii Panu Rajala, jonka kirjoittamaan Paavolais-historiikkiin kyseinen otsikko liittyy. Rajala toistaa kirjassaan väitteet Paavolaisesta ‘totuuden vääristelijänä’ ja ‘takinkääntäjänä’ melko pitkälti samassa muodossa kuin ne alunperin esitettiin vuonna 1946.


How to Improve Peer Evaluation?

To continue the slow New Culture vs Old Structures blog posting series – here are some thoughts about peer evaluation and a couple of concrete proposals of how this system could perhaps be improved in context of arts and culture.

Peer evaluation is the key method for evaluating arts, culture and academic research. During the past years, there have been various efforts to change or undermine the importance of this kind of decision making process.

One motivation for this has been the search for short-term economic gain – there has been a wish to turn old institutions into streamlined flagships of ‘cultural industries’. Another motivation has been that separating disciplines into strict categories (art, architecture, design, etc) has seemed to be an ‘old-fashioned’ and far too rigid way to respond to the complexity and diversity of the creative aspirations of people today.

So far here in Finland the efforts to improve the decision-making process have focused on two options. They are both tempting due to their simplicity, but unfortunately have some serious shortcomings.


Tuukka Tomperi’s blog has a great article (in Finnish) about the new scoring system for academic publishing. In future the academic journals will be rated on 4 levels, and researchers will get points accordingly:

- Level 3: 4 points
- Level 2: 3 points
- Level 1: 1 point
- Level 0: 0.1 points

It’s worthwhile to note the dramatic difference between levels 3 & 2 and level 0 (only 0.1 points).

The problem with this system is that it has been designed based on ‘hard sciences’ such as  physics or medicine, in which you can rather easily identify these different levels (with journals like Science or Nature being on the top of the hierarchy). Originally this system was not supposed to be used for humanities, since it’s very difficult to categorize the publications in a similar manner. Therefore it’s very likely that a lot of publications will fall into category 1 or 0.

When the renewal of the scoring system was prepared, if was emphasised that various academic disciplines operate on very different logics and therefore would need different evaluation systems (‘you cannot use the rules of rugby to judge soccer’). But now these differences seem to have been forgotten.

The problems of numeric evaluation were well elaborated in Seminar on Measuring the Effect of Cultural Policy, organised by Nordic Culture Point in November 2013. It’s notable that most of the presenters in the seminar were economists and/or statisticians.

In his introduction talk, Mikael Schultz illustrated this via an example:



It might very well be that the true answer to meaning of life is in fact 42. The problem is that we don’t know how to interpret this answer. The same goes for all numeric values – if they are used in isolation, they do not actually properly measure any quality. As noted by Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila, since Aristotle we have known that it’s impossible to measure quality by quantitative means.

Here are a couple of slides that further illustrate the same point:

This slide is from the presentation by Clas-Uno Frykholm.

When thinking about evaluating culture, one needs to make a difference between three aspects:

- Output: Concrete outcomes such as produced artworks, or events with specific amount of participants, etc
- Outcome: The direct effect that the this cultural project has on individual people
- Impact: The impact that the project has in the society

What did I learn at Art of Hosting?

art-of-hosting-title-photoLast week I had a chance to participate in an Art of Hosting training in Otavan Opisto, Mikkeli.

The hosts did a fantastic job in making everyone feel welcome and establishing an open environment for learning. Actually, the first thing that the organisers made clear was that the participants would be the hosts, and we would be learning about hosting while doing it. The different tasks one could sign up for included Harvesting (documentation), Feng Shui (arranging & cleaning the space, organising food & coffee, etc), Check In & Check Out (tuning into learning sessions, and tuning out from them), creating the programme for the evening party and or course hosting the actual learning sessions.

I came to the event to learn some more facilitation methods (and to gain a better understanding of methods I’m already familiar with), but I actually learned something else – various frameworks for getting a better grip of the community learning process as a whole, and to understand the process of personal growth and how human-to-human communication works (or fails to work).


The Unlikely Success of Pixelache Helsinki

pixelache-nyc2Pixelache 2003 NYC (live av performance on the rooftop of Gershwin Hotel. Photo by Antti Ahonen.)

(PART 1 of New Culture vs Old Structures)

Pixelache Festival was my main professional commitment for 10 years, from its inception in 2002 to year 2011. In the process of trying to establish Pixelache I learned a lot about the public funding system and below I will share some insights on how the system works – or rather how it does *not* work.

Hopefully this information will help some people to avoid banging their head against the wall as much as I did. Or hopefully they will at least choose the right wall.

Disclaimer – I’m no longer involved in the Pixelache organisation so all the thought below should be considered as my own personal views, not official statements by Pixelache.

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In year 2006 I was pretty frustrated (‘vittuuntunut’ in Finnish) with the situation of Pixelache Helsinki. It was the fifth year of Pixelache, and 12th year for me to organise events in Helsinki. Pixelache was really successful internationally – we were in the process of establishing chapters in various countries and had been invited to collaborate with many prominent events (ISEA, Doors of Perception, etc).

Unfortunately, we had not been able to get any funding for the work needed to put together the main festival in Helsinki. With great effort we had managed to scrape together money from dozens of different sources to cover some of the necessary basic costs, but there was no chance to pay anything for anyone for the actual production work. In comparison, the very first edition of Mal au Pixel (the French edition of Pixelache) received 7 times more funding than what we had in Helsinki.

In this situation I sent this email to ‘everyone’ – state art organisations, Helsinki City Cultural Office, cultural foundations and key people in Finnish media art scene. The email is in Finnish but the main point is that I made it clear that unless we received more proper financial support, the main festival would need to stop in Helsinki. This email was not just a tactical move, this was the actual reality we faced. During these years I spent most of my time abroad and only occasionally came back to Helsinki for a month or so to focus on Pixelache Helsinki planning/organising work. This had worked fine in the first couple of years but had been not been manageable (or in other words, was far too fragile and stressful) for a while already.


New Culture vs Old Structures office, summer 1999 (photo by Juha Huuskonen)

After a long time of procrastination (a year or two) I’ll finally publish a few blog posts about the mismatch between new emerging culture and the established cultural institutions in Finland.

During the past 15 years (ever since did its first projects in Kiasma in 1998) I’ve been helping various grassroot projects to gain visibility and access to resources such as public funding. This has often been a paradoxical task, since most of the new, independent cultural projects have an uneasy relationship towards money, power and institutions. More

Sitran Uusi demokratia -ohjelma / Sessio Mikael Jungnerin kanssa

Osallistuin kaksi vuotta sitten Sitran Uusi demokratia -foorumiin. Yksi kiinnostavimmista sessioista oli noin tunnin pituinen keskustelu Mikael Jungerin ja noin kymmenen muun foorumin osallistujan välillä. Kirjoitin sessiosta muistiinpanot, jotka nyt Mikael Jungerin suostumuksella julkaisen.

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(Sitran Uusi demokratia-ohjelma, keskustelutilaisuus marraskuu 2011)

Kysymys – demokratian määritelmä?:

Jungner: “Systeemi, jolla ihmisyhteisön asioista voidaan päättää tavalla, joka on ihmisyhteisön mielestä luotettava ja reilu.”

3 havaintoa:

* 1: Postmodernismi on saapunut nyt

- Esimerkki – jos tänään kaikille tulisi ilmainen sähkö, se ei olisi mullistus huomenna, jonkin ajan päästä vaikutus alkaisi näkyä jonkin verran, vasta 10 vuoden päästä paljon.

- Vrt tiedon vapaa liikkuvuus – tämä iso mullistus on tapahtunut 10 vuoden aikana.

- Räätälöitävyys

* 2: Yksilön mahdollisuuksien voimistuminen

- Aikaisemmin yksilö pystyi olemaan ehkä 10 kertaa tuottavampi kuin muut.
- Nykypäivänä yksilö voi olla tuhansia kertoja tuottavampi kuin muut.

* 3: Maailma on monimutkainen, nopeasti muuttuva

- Ketteryys on parempi tapa hallita kuin valvonta

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3 asiaa liittyen politiikkaan:

* 1

100 vuotta sitten oli fiksua että oli 100 kansanedustajaa joille pyrittiin keräämään tarpeellinen tietämys päätöksien tekemistä varten. Tänä päivänä ihmiset tietävät paremmin kuin kansanedustajat. More

The City State of Origamia

Crafting utopias at a Byzantine castrum on Brioni island, Croatia

At the Summit of Practical Utopias, our group (me, Miranda Veljačić / Platforma 9,81, Emina Visnic / POGON, Nik Gaffney / FoAMŽeljko Blaće and Tim Boykett / Time’s up) developed an an utopia that would answer the question ‘How could citizens collectively make informed decisions regarding urban environment’?

We decided to call this utopia Origamia, referring to the capability of something to be transformed to many different forms. In Origamia, each citizen would at some point have to participate in decision making related to public affairs. This duty could be similar to civil service which exists in some countries, as an alternative to the compulsory military service. The decision making process would be based on some kind of version control system, perhaps similar to Github. Origamia would also give more power to young people (under 18 years old), so it would a kind of ‘pedocracy’.


Energy Hackathon 2013 – the results

(also posted on OKF Finland blog)

8 great concepts/prototypes were created last week at Energy Hackathon 2013!

The focus of the hackathon was on domestic electricity consumption data. One reason why this data is particularly interesting is that Finland is one of the first countries in Europe where smart meters have been installed in nearly all households. The legal framework that gives people the access to their own data will be valid from the beginning of 2014.

The hackathon had approximately 60 participants and 3 special guests from abroad: Denise Recheis (Thesaurus and Knowledge manager at Reeep), Chris Davis (Postdoc in TU Delft) and Julia Kloiber (Project Lead at Open Knowledge Foundation Deutschland).

Helsingin Energia and Elenia provided several data sets and the developers of the Open Energy Data API gave access to their test data. More

Huijari Goethe (Keltaiset housut, osa 3)

Vielä liittyen Keltaiset housut ja kadonneet enkelit blogipostaukseen -

Goethen esikoisteoksen Nuoren Wertherin kärsimykset (1774) alkusanat:

“Olen huolella kerännyt kokoon kaiken, mitä olen saanut selville Werther-poloisen tarinasta, ja saatan sen nyt teidän eteenne uskoen vakaasti, että olette siitä minulle kiitollisia. Te ette voi muuta kuin ihailla ja rakastaa hänen ylevyyttään ja luonteenlaatuaan, eikä hänen kohtalonsa ole jättävä teidän silmiänne kuiviksi.

Ja sinä, kelpo sielu, joka tunnet samaa poltetta kuin hän, ammenna lohtua hänen kärsimyksistään ja ota tämä kirjanen ystäväksesi, ellet kohtalon oikusta tai omasta syystäsi ole löytänyt ketään läheisempää.”

Tämän jälkeen tarina etenee Wertherin ‘autenttisten’ henkilökohtaisten kirjeiden kautta, joita kirjailija kommentoi alaviitteissä. Kirjan loppupuolella on vielä ‘julkaisijan sana’ lukijalle:


Kuinka hartaasti toivonkaan, että ystävämme viimeisiltä, erikoislaatuisilta päiviltä olisi säilynyt niin paljon omakätisiä todistuskappaleita, ettei minun tarvitsisi keskeyttää kertomuksellani hänen jälkeensä jääneiden kirjeiden julkaisemista.

Olen parhaani kykyni mukaan yrittänyt hankkia asiaan selvitystä haastattelemalla niitä henkilöitä, joiden olen otaksunut olleen lähemmin perillä hänen elämänvaiheestaan. Tarina on yksinkertainen, ja kaikki lausumat ovat muutamia pikku yksityiskohtia lukuun ottamatta yhteneväisiä; vain asianosaisten mielentilasta esiintyy erilaisia mielipiteitä ja toisistaan poikkeavia arvostelmia.

Tehtävänämmehän onkin enää vain kertoa tunnontarkasti, mitä olemme suuren vaivannäön jälkeen saaneet tietoomme, ja sovittaa vainajan jälkeensä jättämät kirjeet oikeisiin paikkoihinsa väheksymättä pienintäkään käsiimme osunutta lappusta, varsinkin kun on jo tarpeeksi vaikeaa selvittää jonkin yksittäisen teon perimmäisiä, todellisia vaikuttimia, jos asianomainen henkilö ei kuulu aivan tavanomaisimpiin.”

Mutta Wertheriä ei siis ollut olemassa, vaan kirjan tapahtumat perustuvat Goethen omiin kokemuksiin – ihastukseen 19-vuotiaaseen Charlotte Buffiin, joka olikin toisen miehen morsian, ja erään Goethen ystävän itsemurhaan (joka liittyi vastaavaan kilpakosinta-tilanteeseen).

Vastaavaa lukijan huijausta käytetään myös Don Quixotessa (1605) ja tietenkin lukemattomissa muissa kirjoissa. Kirjailija väittää löytäneensä päiväkirjan / kirjeitä / tekstejä jotka hän tuo lukijoiden tietoon, vaikka todellisuudessa kirjailija kertoo omasta elämästään ja läheisistä ihmisistään. Ja on tyypillistä että kirjailija paljastuu – tai tarkemmin sanottuna tämä on niin tyypillinen formaatti, että lukijat olettavat että mitään oikeaksi väitettyä henkilöä ei ole oikeasti olemassa.

Nykytilanteeseen verrattuna, millaista blogia Goethe olisi pitänyt? Missä menisi tuomittavan huijauksen ja fiktiolle sallittavan lukijoiden huijauksen raja?