[MG] Come together or reach out - was cascading etc.

Michael Allan mike at zelea.com
Mon Jun 6 19:18:57 EDT 2011

Thomas von der Elbe wrote:
> Somehow I believe, there is an overall tendency towards a huge single 
> forum for everybody with many sub-sub-sub communities for the simple 
> reason, that it makes vote-shifts easier. If you are just a small group 
> and you want to win other voters, you better go where they are talking 
> already, so they dont need to bother for a new login etc if they 
> consider joining you. Maybe I'm wrong here and OpenID has lowered this 
> hurdle enough so there will be many forums. But still I am convinced 
> that once a single poll has exploded in a population, there are no tools 
> needed any more to support the growth of the next poll.

It's hard to imagine what forms of media we'll be using in the future.
I feel the only safe guide for technical design is a healthy respect
of current theory and practice, and an equally healthy disregard of
current technical forms.  If theory demands (correctly) a practice of
extension, then the tools must be designed for that.

> Therefore I still see no use for this kind of tool for the long-term, 
> but more than I did before for the short term. (The only long-term use 
> might be as a measurement for rapidly growing (not just in numbers but 
> also communities) and therefore interesting polls. But this is very 
> small use I guess.)

We're discussing your concerns (my wording):

> > (2) That tools might not be needed for [extension] practice at
> >     all.
> >
> > (3) That the practice is only useful during the early adoption
> >     phase of the technology.  Once the first poll hits the news,
> >     nobody will be worried about extension anymore.
> >
> > (4) That it's wasteful to develop tools that are likely to be
> >     outmoded so soon.
Our difference centers on the practice (3) more than the tools.  You
see no future for extension as a practice, but I see it (more and
more) as being essential and permanent.  We as individuals are spread
out all over the place and that will never change.  Yet our freedom
*as* individuals cannot be safeguarded except by forming collective
identities and engaging in collective action.  This much you will
agree with.  All that is at issue here is the practical method of
overcoming the physical distances that separate us.  Either we must:

  (i) Come together, or
 (ii) Reach out to each other.

We may have cultural biases, you and I.  Germans are a single people
who put value on solidarity, wheras Americans are a hodge-podge of
many peoples who put value on diversity.  Too much can easily be made
of that.  I know however that we have personal biases, as well, that
put us at odds along roughly this same axis.

Even this is not the crux of our disagreement.  In the end, the
distances for people to overcome are not physical ones but rather
"distances" of understanding.  The only way to bridge those
differences is through discussion aimed at mutual understanding.  At
issue is how this crucial discussion can happen when the parties
concerned are:

  (i) Grouped in separate camps, or
 (ii) Spread out all over the place.

I think this is where (i) fails.  To be sure, we cannot represent
ourselves in a dialogue with the government, where we negotiate over
this or that point in the promulgation of a consensus draft.  The
government is a faceless administrative machine.  Numerous individuals
such as we have no way to communicate with it except intermediately
through our end candidate.  (Impatiently we await his/her translation
of the government's response.)

Where the end candidate cannot intermediate for us, however, is in
discussions with other people.  Not only are those people too
numerous, but the goal is a mutual understanding between us and them.
Here it is the end candidate who must wait on us.  Mutual
understanding is not something to be engineered centrally and sold
back to us as a packaged deal.  It depends on us as individuals to
present ourselves to those others who disagree and expose them to our
internal discussions in a way that invites informal participation.  At
the same time, we must be aware and accepting of them in their
otherness and attentive to their own discussions.  For this we require
(ii) not as a temporary expedient, but as a permanent and deliberate

So instead of huddling together and talking amongst ourselves, we will
go around with our smartphones (or whatever the future brings) and
engage with others.  We'll mix it up.  Further, I would argue that we
must explore every form of this practice without bounds, because
freedom has no other basis in theory.  It is only by inclusion of "the
other" that we are free.  Any democratic practice that is not suffused
with this manner of extension and inclusion is not the practice of
free people.

> > (1) That we should pioneer the practice of extension manually, so
> >     to speak, without tool supports.

This we also agree on.  But AFAIK only the 3 of us agree, and you and
C are tied up in the coming weeks.  So we don't have enough boots on
the ground to do anythin hands on (do we?).  In the meantime, here's a
possible plan:

  1. Mock up the extension visual for crossforum theatre.

  2. Show it to activists and ask, "Is this the right stuff?"

     They won't have a clue what we're talking about.  So:

  3. Code it.

  4. Post the theatre app on the home page as a running demo.

  5. Use it under the noses of activists and ask them, "Is this the
     right stuff?"

Does this make sense?

Michael Allan

Toronto, +1 416-699-9528

Originally posted to the mailing list of the Metagovernment Project:

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