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June 11, 2006

Comments

klaus

Social technologies need benevolent dictators who love their constituents.

J. Alva Scruggs

There's something to that. Why not have each node in the network run by a benevolent dictator? It could mirror online life, where access to bandwidth and possession of some computer skills creates a sort of natural nobility. That kind of pre-selection ensures the actual selection process doesn't get out of hand.

et alia
Delegate democracy is "non-representative". Sounds postmodern. Sounds like metaphysical concerns being smuggled into politics. Sounds anti-political.

To be is to be the value of a variable, klaus. Metaphysics have been completely respectable since Quine's “On What Is?” collected in From a Logical Point of View. Nothing post-modern about that!

Sometimes, it's good to know a little analytic-philosophy-fu.

klaus

Yuck! Fu.

Phil

Excellent link, Klaus, thanks. Blogged it. The idea that there is a benevolent dictator behind a successful online community works for me, but I am not sure that the Dictator can be the Owner. Note that Myspace has been sold to Rupert Murdoch. How the communal space is owned is one question. How it is governed is another. Both are important.

Phil

Scruggs, what I have learned from blogging versus the user experience at omidyar.net is the importance of distributed "ownerhsip and control." We invest in what we ourselves create. I imagine a federated structure with a common tech platform that enables groups to form each it its own "dictator" or moderator. (This is close to your delegative democracy concept, of local caucuses.) The "Dictators" would have latitude in setting the tone and style of their subcultural group. They would toggle certain "privacy features" on and off, so that those who do not want to be seen and heard all over the net could have a private clubhouse.

You do need a Dictator, I think, or you end up with the mob psychyology of o.net with its rating system being the only way to get rid of people who drag the group down. All you really need is a Dictator who cautions then eliminates them. If you don't like the Dictator's style, go to another node with another Dictator, or start you own. Be our guest. That would be the attitude. But out of that, we would encourage the Dictators to share best practices, etc, and form a community leadership team across the many boundaries that divide us. Something like that. I or The Happy Tutor would make a fine Node Dictator. But at the tip of the pyramid you need a vision that says, "Fine, you despise PBC - go for it, create your own space here and more power to you."

Phil

Representation? Quine? Are we talking about political representation here, or the theory of reference, for crying out loud.

klaus

The just go to another node only works if there's no connection btwn the site and your real location. If it was a community site, hyper-local as they say, the benevolent dictator thing becomes a bit of an issue.

klaus

probably not news, but wouldn't living in an era of semiotic dubiosity turn up the volume on older, more practical doubts about political representation?

So say, an idea like delegate democracy, which is a long practice of some organizations, acquires a currency...

phil

How do you get it going, this delegate democracy? How does one model it?

Gerry
The just go to another node only works if there's no connection btwn the site and your real location. If it was a community site, hyper-local as they say, the benevolent dictator thing becomes a bit of an issue.

Ideally most locations (if it is locality based) could support more than one node if it came to that. Probably many nodes would not be strictly local and draw common interests across regions or nations. Also, the dictator might be a temporary post, but as long as the leader has the confidence of the community it may go on and on. I'm thinking of the leadership of Linus Torvalds for the Linux kernel or Jimmy Whales at Wikipedia. The dictator has more influence than power, but it is effectively power because the leader has the support of all (most) of the active participants.

Phil

Klaus and Gerry, you are talking in shorthand that I don't quite follow. Let us say that civicspace sets up a kind of typepad style server based version of their software. A user can go in an configure a new site easily and have it hosted for $30 a month. Let's say there is a template they can get that is part of the World We Want Network. That is, when they pick the template they get features that have been proven to work in other communities, and they get some amount of shared content, or shared links to resources at the "mother ship," the main site. At the mother ship they can also get tips, pointers, best practices, of running their local site. What we end up with is more like a King or Queen at the top and Nobles on the nodes. Each site has a "dictator," but the dictators are under the sway of the Uber-Dictator of King at the top. The benefit of this "slack" is significant.

Take Lenore Ealy as a good example. She would make a great "Duchess of Libertarian Civispace." She would be fine interacting with me or anyone here, but some of her consitutency would, basically, hate our guts. Which is fine. The point is that we need to build into the system room for our opposites. That is the Constitutional challenge. E Pluribus Unum. We want to make it easy for Lenore or someone else to set up their own space to support their own vision of the world we want and to rally their own community around it. At the federal level, we would help one another to maintain these local communities and to keep them in constructive dialogue. Some open space events would be community based by locale, some community based by ideology, but there would also be regional and national events in which we "all just try to get along," learning a more urbane kind of citizenship.

Without "tribal leaders," or local magistrates, or call them what you will, this national community will break down around ideology, or become just another sect or cult, another tiny slice of the whole. To be truly inclusive we have to a) sort ourselves out into elective communities and b) either send delegates or go ourselves to local, regional, and national conventions.

What we would be seeding is a little technology and a whole lot of sociology - wisdom gleaned from making a community work. The "We" in the World We Want is the we of "we the people." Our founders had the sense to make it a town, state, federal system to allow for regional and other kinds of differences. They added a Bill or Rights protecting our right to be wrong or different. It seems to me that The World We Want has that kind of "nested" community structure with guarnatees to every member that they not be required to conform to any one ideology, but to contribute to the community of their choosing as a good citizen and to leave others slack to do the same.

Gerry

I think the main confusion is that Klaus was thinking that the nodes would be tied to a place, and so you would be included in that node as you are in a voting district. I was just saying that it can be more as you describe with nodes that are social grouping for people with similar language and philosophy.

Further, I am saying that once there is a node and a community around it, the leadership of the node might shift to a new dictator for a number of reasons.

There are a number of interesting points about how nodes are linked, and how content is shared through the network. All of the nodes are contained in some superstructure, but just how permiably are the boundaries? Are there groupings of like-minded nodes that form cauceses or something like that. All interesting design questions for the social software that impliments this, but beyond the scope of this comment box. In our EFN call about infrastructure this came up right from the start. Working groups want identity, but they also want to be part of something larger.

What is particularly challenging for your vision of TWWW is the necessity to include groupings that are potentially antagonistic. Maybe various caucuses groups send delegates to a congress. Maybe that congress is the implementation of the Public Square we have talked so much about. All voices represented, not just the reduced form we see with the two party and majority vote system we have.

Phil

Yup, including antagonistic groups is a prerequisite for any commonwealth. Otherwise, guess who will be exluded from the group? The likes of you and me. The trick is creating a constitution and a technology that encompasses the ideals and practice of "well-accorded strife," to guote an Augustan phrase likening the "well mixed state" to music consisting of concord and discord.

"You are with us or against us, and if you are against us, please join us in the Senior Common room for a rousing debate over sherry and desert." Now that is my ideal. We are losing it because we are out of touch with our own traditions. About time we awakened them.

klaus

Concord and discord, like a walter brennan and gary cooper jam session, harmonica and jaw harp. The Capra-esque overtones of TWWW don't have the august dignity of their classical counterparts, but the Dorian scale is only a couple notes different from the blues.

phil

Thanks, Klaus, blogged the link. Now, seriously, how can we create and network together these John Doe clubs?

Bert G

It's doesn't appear to me that anyone has a clue as to what Soros means by "Open Society" and what it will be like to live in such a society. An open society means no privacy, which means no security, which means no liberty, at least for the proletariat, which means the vast majority in our Brave New World.

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