I recently posted this to Mastodon:
I followed it with:
I understand that it's a long shot but I'm hoping to find people interested in rolling up their sleeves and building, bottom-up, robust and enduring online collaborative communities of broad, egalitarian purpose. This will, I think, require the development of a new kind of organizing, digital community organizing, which borrows from the traditions of voter organizing, civil rights organizing, community organizing and labor organizing that precede it.
If we are going to build for an uncertain future we cannot specify in detail what our community will eventually look like; we're just going to have to work that out as we go along. Which means that, in order to conduct all-inclusive discussions, the community will have to be of a humanly-manageable size, small enough that everyone stands a chance of getting to know and to trust each other.
We'll all have to be engaged participants (no lurkers!). We'll need to cover a wide range of interests and abilities: concerned citizens, activists, academics, techies, designers, coders, writers, organizers, etc.
As multiple communities of this sort form we can undertake to establish robust and mutually supportive relations among them.
Even though I cannot (and don't want to) dictate the final form of these communities I can describe some initial hopes, wishes, and thoughts about what might emerge from this effort:
I hope it will be possible to build a community which will serve as a model for a network of online, general-purpose, communities-for-community's-sake that are —
- (members numbering no more than the population of, say, a NY neighborhood);
- intentional (which is to say, elective and with some degree of mutually agreed common purpose);
- self-formed, self-supporting and self-maintaining;
- members (who are able) should collectively pay for its hosting; and
- develop the technical capacity to keep it running (either within their ranks or by recruiting those who can); and
- regularly participate in the “chores” that must be done to administer the site;
- committed to mutual aid;
- actively greeting and educating new members;
- actively monitoring the ability of members to negotiate the environment and keeping an eye out for those who may need help;
- actively working to maintain the site as a safe and hospitable environment for as broad a range of people as possible;
- seeking to find other ways members can assist and collaborate with each other, both online and in the real world;
- built exclusively out of software that is freely shareable and whose code is openly readable;
- with clear, democratically-developed and communally-enforced rules of conduct, standards of participation and constructive criticism which are regularly collectively reviewed and periodically revised;
- engaged in active, robust efforts at inter-community relations (not just individual cross-community relationships);
- which is to say, a community whose members understand their membership to entail constantly collectively negotiating the character and identity of that community;
- transparent (in terms of finance, governance, technical design and maintenance, inter-community relations, etc.).
In future posts I will try to explain why I think such communities are necessary, some of the history that has brought us to this point, some of the principles and theories which I think can inform our decisions, and some of the goals which I think we should adopt.
But, for now, I hope I've given you enough to start thinking about.
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