Wed 16 Nov 2016 8:17AM

Dynamic and Unfolding Processes instead of Static Solutions

RH Ronen Hirsch Public Seen by 348

Craig and I initiated a conversation that began with my response to his post on taking back social media: https://medium.com/enspiral-tales/taking-back-social-media-could-be-world-changing-35c479cc387f#.xrcs5iv2e

We would like this to be an open conversation instead of a private correspondence stored in our inboxes. Hence this space ad this thread. What follows is my response:

I too have been holding a story for a couple of years about a social dynamic. I haven't evolved it it much because I am one person (who doesn't enjoy coding) and I feel this should be a group effort (way too many decisions for a single person to make). Given that there is no group, I've been contemplating not so much the system itself but what would be a relevant first step to make it happen.

This has brought to me a realization that I believe is key to any effort to make a substantial change in our social media landscape. I believe that we need to stop seeking solutions and start creating, changing and tuning processes. I believe that a better social media future is one where there isn't one solution but diverse solutions that create an web of interactions which lead to vastly different social dynamics than what we have today. The question, I believe, should NOT be how to create a better Facebook, but how to create a different socio-technological process (that, amongst other things, creates software solutions) that would lead to something inevitably different then what we know today.

The question is then, what would be the sun, the center-of-gravity, around which such a software ecosystem could exist?

I believe that at the heart of all our social efforts lies the individual - an independent, free and accountable individual. Simply put I believe everyone should have a self-owned, open-source based, online presence. This is a basic building block which, I believe, may lead to different social-constructs. Currently, coming together has either been either designed to create or resulted in fragmentation of our online-selves. When I participate in a conversation (such as your filterburst.useresponse.com) I create a fragment of myself which someone else (in this case you & useresponse.com) can control and manipulate. That is, I believe, at the core of what gives Facebook its power. Many people who are on Facebook would like it to be different, but they have no say about that. They walk around disgruntled and carrying a misplaced sense of entitlement to a voice about the space they (wrongly) believe they own. I believe this common (unconscious?) architectural choice (individual fragmentation) has been a systemic fault in most of of the attempts (including those listed in your post) that have been made to create alternatives to Facebook.

With that in mind I would like to share with you:

I believe that many of the building blocks to create this realize already exist and that there are working examples of this. But I leave that thread of conversation for another time.


Olga Savinc Wed 16 Nov 2016 3:37PM

Thank you for sharing this, " I believe that we need to stop seeking solutions and start creating" is exactly what I think. Can you help me with understanding second half of your post? I've read also your other posts but still I am not sure how to grasp the practical meaning behind your words about individual fragmentation and its consequences? I hope this will not make me sound stupid, but I believe in asking (silly)questions and I am a little bit "afraid" of academic language (again - I am a simple person and I am trying not to feel that the language overshadows the goals - maybe my brain really likes simplicity ; ) )


Ronen Hirsch Fri 18 Nov 2016 10:07AM

@olgasavinc I'm not sure what it is that you are asking clarification about, but I will try to clarify to the best of my understanding. Please feel free to re-ask so that mutual clarification can continue.

I would like to start with an example. This very thread of conversation we are having. You and I and others are generating content (potentially valuable and useful) here. Why are we doing this here and is this a good choice? This can open up a very wide discussion, but I want to demonstrate a point by focusing on two aspects: 1) reliability; 2) longevity.


There are many underlying assumptions that make this thread reliable and possible: That you can make a comment, that it will be displayed as you wrote it without any changes made to it, that it will be attributed to you, that anyone reading this thread can view your comment, that anyone can reply to it, that it will still be here tomorrow and the day after and and hopefully for years to come ... and more (many more!).

We tend to take these assumptions for granted, forgetting that they are choices that have been made on our behalf. In this case the choices were made by the people of Loomio who are part of Enspiral.

If you are on Facebook then these choices were made by other people and though people assume them to be similarly reliable, in fact they are not. On Facebook there are active filtering processes on that determine what you see, how you see it, when you see it, etc.

Anyone who cares about this subject has known this for a long time. Facebook actively research social manipulation by adjusting the way their feeds are created and presented. Now, when it seems to have affected the electoral process in the USA more people are paying attention.

There have been a and will contninue to be pressures on Facebook to do better, to be more transparent, more accountable. But this hasn't had much effect and there is no reason to expect it to. Facebook is beholden first and foremost to itself and secondly to its large stake shareholders. Smaller shareholds and users don't really matter.

With Loomio its a bit more comfortable for you and I because there is a sense of underlying shared values which creates a sense of trust. But even here, as an example, consider that it is not possible to export this content (that remember you and I have created) unless we pay Loomio money. That is a choice you and I don't have a say in.


The history of online platforms shows that they are not here for the long run. I have come across numerous talks and presentations available online that list so many large internet companies that were used this way (socially created content), that people assumed would stick around for at least a lifetime but vanished after a few years and took with them all the content and relationships that were created and expressed on them.

I believe that if we are going to embark on profound change we need to do so using tools that are able to stay with us for the long haul.

When I talk about such projects I talk about a 20 year process ... at least! That means we need not only tools that will last that long but processes that will too. We have to strive towards a paradigm in which this work can outlast even you and I. That it Ican continue to exist when you and I have lost interest and others want to carry the torch forward.

Alternative Paradigm

Given this reality, I see two paths forward (though there are probably more, but I am trying to make a point):
* Talk about creating a better (democratic, c-owned ... add any fashionable alt-social-media adjective that tickles your fancy) platform (which seems to me to be the default in most such conversations).
* Start by choosing a simple and fundamentally different paradigm and see where it takes us: start as self-sustained individuals that can congregate into shifting communities.

In the simle example scenario I tried to describe the dyamics of small, individual, distributed "platforms" that connect to each other there is room for alternative mechanisms that generate qualities such as robustness, reliability, longevity without having to create centrally governed solutions that seem to inherently compromise these qualities.


john gieryn Wed 16 Nov 2016 8:22PM

Thanks for putting this together, as many are calling for transformation of our media systems in light of the recent indications of the insane disconnection people are experiencing—good initiative and critical dialogue. I like the focus on identifying one potent feature to be used as a banner or call to action/ convergence as mentioned by @ronenhirsch in the context; this makes strategic sense to me. @craigambrose's article towards action & experimentation is spot on as well IMO.

What I'm curious to tease out is an individual (accountability) approach vs. a collective (intelligence/ wisdom) approach. I see pros and cons in each.

My journey here starts with my finding Enspiral through an indie research project I initiated with the dream of forming a (platform) promotions co-op, where those who travel with content (musicians) could find audiences in cities they traveled to (think Couchsurfing for media-sharing). I departed from that build-a-social-media-network/ collective approach after seeing just how many players there were in the (not so) sharing economy, as well as being introduced to the valueflo.ws* ethic of protocols not platforms. From that point I started focusing towards the personal (or maybe interpersonal), looking at tools that add value to social networks that already existed. One of the tools I'm working on is community controlled metrics (e.g. local currency or mutual credit). Some that I think are important include the persistence of identity, e.g. proof of humanity & who they are through identifying relationships in common, and their past & ongoing projects/efforts.

That last bit, I think, speaks towards federated identity ← a great idea if we can achieve it with informed, consent-based process and proper data security and privacy. This last bit seems challenging, still, but SSB folks and others hopefully can bring that piece to the table. Some cool data security projects briefly presented at last wknd's #PlatformCoop Conference, including MIDATA.coop and a data project for "The Co-op" in the UK, led by Sarah Gold. (@olgasavinc the fed.i.d. link ↑ could help your understanding perhaps)

The big con I think of with the individual freedom/ accountability approach is that this might propagate the neo-liberal subject, the extreme self-interest that the market and our regulations have taught us. I don't mean to get on a platform (haha) here, but I think there's a real balance to be struck between organizing people out of their self-interest while painting a vision and teaching an ethos of cooperation. (note there's also a danger, methinks, in going to far that way to the point that people are speaking on behalf of "we" or are neglecting self care)... sorry to get culturally paradigm-y here!

Anyways- I look forward to emergent action, rapid prototyping, and pluralistic approaches here. Also- I'm aiming to transition my computer to Linux and should probably do that post-haste so I can get on patchwork...

*hopefully I'll see @bobhaugen over here, since he's playing with SSB/patchwork folks AFAIK


Ronen Hirsch Sat 19 Nov 2016 4:43PM

what if it isn't VERSUS but AND:
individual (accountability) approach AND collective (intelligence/ wisdom) approach

It doesn't matter if you are conservative or liberal ... you will inevitably find your life throwing you into countless situations where group-decisions need to be made and, given the way we currently do things, are being made on your behalf because participatory technologies are not in place.

My suggestion is that if we want to create meaningful and lasting participatory technologies we need to start with good building blocks - which are the invididuals that make up a community.

It is not that different from needing a photo-ID to vote. You have to have an online ID to online. To this there can be different approaches:
* Centralized = governent issued, the problem is that online the government is currently Facebook.
* Decentralized = blockchain technology which I believe is both promsing and fundamentally flawed (not mathematically, but socially).
* Networked = the paradigm I am trying to put forward. Where your trusted is an echo that results from all of your connections and participation in the network.


john gieryn Sat 19 Nov 2016 5:15PM

Hope to read your messages in turn soon; quick reframe of my response: I totally agree with YES, AND here, but I proposed the VS. in terms of prioritizing the criteria in regards to your question:

what would be the sun, the center-of-gravity, around which such a software ecosystem could exist?

The individual↔collective balance is challenging in projects such as these, I think, I as mentioned in a response to my "Panarchy"-proponent friend Paul B. Hartzog.


Bob Haugen Thu 17 Nov 2016 1:42AM

I'm here. Waiting to comment until I have something useful to say.


Ronen Hirsch Sat 19 Nov 2016 4:28PM

I think these are good questions ... and I think there are MANY more like them ... and so I prefer to relate to them in teh spirit of this thread ... with less specificity and a more systemic view.

I think a mistake we can make (and are making) is thinking that these questions have a definitive set of answers and that it is therefore encumbent on a group of intellecual people (like us) to find them.

These are potentially fascinating questions and instead of working on them (theoretically) I would like to create an ecosystem in which they can be encountered and resolved on a case by case basis.

For example consider that in a network I am envisioning (of free individuals who can freely commune) these questions can transform ... they are more changed then answered:


Since I have full control of my online presence I can BY DEFAULT freely express my authentic point of view. Assuming my site is public my expression may attract certain people to me. How they interact with me and how I interact with them may inform me and the way I express myself.

I may also choose to expose myself to different degrees to different people (family, friends, co-workers, etc.)

Different contexts in which I interact may likely influence how I express myself. Some will nourish and expand me, some may viciously attack and contract me.


Through my expression and my interests I may find myself interacting with different people in different contexts / communities.

Interaction may be as simple as someone commenting on something I wrote or as rich as connecting to a community where active participation and group-decision-making is taking place.

If, for example:

  • I encounter a community with violent communication in a context that is only moderately important to me, I may distance myself from that context/community.
  • I encounter non-violent communication in a context that is not important to me I may stick around because the company is pleasent.
  • I encounter violent communication in a context that is very imporant to me, I may stick around, absorbs some violence but try to bring into that community some of the non-violent qualities I have learned about in other communities.

Different patterns may emerge in different contexts in a network of participation ... and still ... as you suggest ... grouping andbundings (partisanship) is proabbly inevitable.

Therefore, I think we are better off designing for diversity. Racist people may still graivtate towards racist communities. But in some contexts (decisions about community gardens in their neighborhood!) they may also encounter non-violent communications, caring group-decision-making, voting dynamics ... things that may challenge their underlying constructs and assumptions.


Trust is a very tricky substance ... very subjective even though we may like to think of it as more objective and solid.

In the participatory network I am trying to describe there may be a few inherent side-effects:

  • Information integrity is foundational in the network I envision because copies of information are stored in different contexts. If I connect to a community and, for example, vote in it. My vote is documented both in my personal site and on the community site (and potentially on sites of other participants in that community). If I try to modify the record of my vote (by hacking my own site) it will be invalidated by the records dispersed throughout the network.

  • Transparency may emerge through the documented history of my participation throughout the network. This comment I am leaving on this Loomio thread is a testament to who I am and what my views are. If Loomio had rankings ... those too would be available. No matter what story I try to tell about myself on my own site, my participation in this community is not something I can manipulate (beyond my actual participation).

  • Transparency is foundational to accountability. You shouldn't need me to attest to myself. If I want you to be able to form an opinion of me it would be in my interest to let you know what communities I participate in. You can then go tthose communities and see what I am actually like. If I try to hide that information (which I can do because I control my own online presence) that would make me a black box ... which is also says something about me.

  • Integrity may emerge as it may become visible wheteher or not I walk my talk. If I write a position but then vote against it ... that may surface.

  • Intentional rankings and indicators may be added into community hubs to further shed light on individuals who partake in them.

Trust will form AND SHIFT dynamicaly within such a network of interactions. Both the actions that can inform trust and the way they are perceived become a continuously unfolding and shifting system.


We should not be trying to debate or solve such questions. We should be putting in place a socio-technological network where solutions will constantly emerge, be challenged, change and shift in response to ACTUAL social dynamics.


Poll Created Sat 19 Nov 2016 4:57PM

Create one or more collection threads for relevant resources Closed Tue 29 Nov 2016 4:01PM

As the discussions unfold we are seeing mentions of different relevant resources and I would like to highlight this and suggest we aggregate this information in dedicated threads.

I would like to suggest some threads as a starting point:
* Existing Social Methodologies (techniques for group participation and decision making).
* Technological Protocols - theoretical or applied.
* Working technologies (platforms, apps, etc.)


Results Option % of points Voters
Agree 66.7% 2 IS AVD
Abstain 33.3% 1 JG
Disagree 0.0% 0  
Block 0.0% 0  

3 of 29 people have participated (10%)


john gieryn
Sat 19 Nov 2016 5:10PM

I like the intention behind this, but I'm not sure that I find Loomio the ideal tool for directory/ list building. What if we made a google-sheets csv or Trello for each of the above, then link it into the Group Description and/or relevant threads?


Annelieke van der Sluijs
Mon 28 Nov 2016 3:43PM

@johngieryn: let's start on the structure we are in, whenever our needs grow beyond what is possible on Loomio, we can naturally shift to something that is appropriate in that particular case...

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