Web of Change and me

So here I am at Hollyhock, on Cortes Island, for Web of Change, for the second year running. I need to quickly put down some things or I’ll lose them. So this will be a fast and dirty post.

The main reason for this is that there is no time, despite this conference being organized largely on Open Space. The conference is bigger this year, for one thing. There are about 100 peeps here. And of these, there are so many fascinating, killer sharp folks that I want to chat with, in addition to attending the sessions, that it’s literally becoming a bit like work to track down and “pencil in” these moments. When in conversation with one, another will walk by and I interrupt myself to “bookmark” that person, to say hey, let’s talk later. Things like answering emails, mentally preparing for my return to normal life/work and facebooking (even though I’m over it) are taking up some precious “down time”…

Peeps I need to further bookmark:

Jon Stahl: I have linked to him on this blog for some time. He is a WoC alumnus but was not here last year. I am pleased to meet him f2f and he has lots of very interesting thoughts on the intersection of non-profits and open source, and he doesn’t mind getting political n shit… He posted this essay on his blog, which I skimmed but will treat more in depth when I return.

David Eaves: This guy is tack sharp. He presented a session called “Online collaboration: Quantifying the problem, designing a solution”. The main problem he identified stopped me in my mental tracks. It was just this: What we consider to be collaborative work online isn’t true collaboration. That is, offline, it would be considered something entirely different. This reminded me of the cyberutopian claim that the internet was a virtual agora that would revitalize democracy etc. etc. We saw this uncritical approach in a lot of early academic writing on the Internet. Now that I’m thinking about online practices and values, and their potential for contributing to offline social change, I’ve been hyping on “collaboration”, unconsciously and uncritically valorizing it as a practice that inheres within internet technology. My bad. This critical interpretation of online collaboration is one I need to flesh out and add to my growing collection of ideas around the prospects for 1. democratizing Internet technology and 2. translating this process offline (democratizing society). Thank you Dave.

Rolf Kleef: Another WoC alumn whom I became aware of through the WoC mailing list, but just met. His tagline on his card is: Online communication and collaboration. Rolf is from the Netherlands; I wonder if this accounts for his political orientation to Internet technology. For a little light reading he brought a book I’ve used (and now will reread): Cyberprotest: New media, citizens and social movements. He is an acquaintance of one of the editors, Wim van de Donk, whose work I totally dig. What are the chances? What interested me about Rolf was his insight that often,within organizations (he’s a consultant) problems that are identified as technical are, in fact social. This reminds (me) of the tendency to abstract technology from its social grounding and treat it as a panacea.

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