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Willow Brugh

678 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Willow Brugh 678 days ago
Willow B Civics in an age of mistrust and decentralization
For the January salon at NECSI, Ethan Zuckerman and Erhardt Graeff led a discussion and workshop on civics in a distributed society. Both are at the Center for Civic Media at the MIT Media Lab, Ethan as director and Erhardt as a PhD researcher. We explored how people in with influence/power/money try to create change in the world, how those affected by those changes view and respond to those attempts and changes, and also what we would do as people of influence/power/money.
Many people want to change the world.Leverage through money or power
Democracy as it tends to be generally practiced is the act of selecting people for positions of power, and then pressuring them through petitions, protests, and letters. Ethan remarks that this is a remarkably impoverished view. We interact with governance and our social systems also based on what we buy (and don’t buy), where we live, how we speak. Regardless, our trust is low, and not just in government ,  but in institutions as well; and not just in the US, but all over the world. This distrust comes from many sources — leaders who insist government is useless while diminishing funding to the point it can’t be effective, an unfettered (and high-velocity, highly-connected) press, visibly lacking integrity.
<img class="progressiveMedia-noscript js-progressiveMedia-inner" src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*gaeUXMUjtb3lUfQA373UNA.jpeg">
But what about individuals and foundations with large amounts of wealth who also hope to act in the public interest, who aren’t elected, and aren’t subject to public opinion in the same ways? They might invest in think tanks, in market-based interventions (like Tesla), in campaigns to affect public opinion to place pressure on courts and elected officials.
Regardless of if an individual came to have influence through an electoral process or through having access to wealth, Lawrence Lessig provides a framework in his book Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace on which most (if not all) change is attempted.
Four fulcrums
  • Laws are explicit, and created and enforced through governance systems.
  • Norms are implicit social expectations, enforced through social pressure and assumptions based on media and other environmental factors.
  • Markets shape behavior by making some actions more or less expensive financially or time-wise.
<img class="progressiveMedia-noscript js-progressiveMedia-inner" src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*qmrgNO8uuWW4i0bv1xQd8w.jpeg">
How do you know if what you’re doing is working?
It’s possible to track enforcement of laws. A market-based intervention is either successful in the market or fails out. Architecture demands use and maintenance, but use implies success (except for those pesky hackers and other reappropriators). Ethan and Erhardt primarily focus on changing norms. These are also arguably the most difficult to know if your hoped-for-change is occurring, as norms are implicit, rather than explicit. At the Center for Civic Media, we think about the attention economy, and so one way of seeing shifts in norms is by tracking how the media talks about and shows topics. Media Cloud is a tool for gathering media sources, creating visualizations, and comparing various topics. For instance, Erhardt showed a shift in the media conversation around Trayvon Martin (highly recommended reading - w).
<img class="progressiveMedia-noscript js-progressiveMedia-inner" src="https://cdn-images-1.medium.com/max/2000/1*4ef5aBpNPWf-8f6uCs69hA.png">
In short, creating change is hard, even if you’ve got money and/or power.
Here’s the video from our salon:
More on the topic of civics in a distributed society from Ethan’s post about his keynote at Syracuse University’s Humanities annual symposium on Insurrectionist Civics in the Age of Mistrust (highly recommended reading, and most of the images on this blog comes from the associated slide deck- w).
How would YOU create change?
With this framing, this question was posited to the salon attendees. Erhardt facilitated an interactive workshop he’d designed. “So let’s say you have 10 million dollars. Powerball hooray! What would you do, to deal with climate change? Fund think tanks and organizations? Fund advocacy groups / passing laws? Fund research? Create tech to do things we can’t otherwise do?” The room divided into 4 groups, and then picked one of Lessig’s 4 means of interventions.
First, what would you focus on doing?
The markets group suggested moving businesses from current energy consumption modes to “greener” methods. Architecture focused on triggers against bad behavior, as well as visualizations about industry consumption and pollution automatically sent to surrounding populations. The norms group suggested outright bribing of COP representatives to sign binding agreements which countries would then have to adhere to.
We were also joined on Twitter:
<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-conversation=”none” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/willowbl00">@willowbl00</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/NECSI">@NECSI</a> I think the Great African Tree Wall is a good start; ban Urban commutes by automobile on penalty of stoning; nuke plants.</p>&mdash; Kevin Foobar (@fu9ar) <a href=”https://twitter.com/fu9ar/status/687417685123153920">January 13, 2016</a></blockquote>
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<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-conversation=”none” lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”><a href=”https://twitter.com/willowbl00">@willowbl00</a> <a href=”https://twitter.com/NECSI">@NECSI</a> Investments in <a href=”https://t.co/gNtzicIT9q">https://t.co/gNtzicIT9q</a> 2.Battery tech 3.Ending animal agriculture (bigger than transportation)</p>&mdash; Ben Rupert (@Meowdip) <a href=”https://twitter.com/Meowdip/status/687460558803611648">January 14, 2016</a></blockquote>
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How would you know if it was working?
Erhardt then asked the groups how they would know that their initiative was working. The architecture group spoke of running similar experiments with sensor networks in two cities - one with the information visible to the population, and the other where it wasn’t. Pushback was that it’s considered unethical to collect data without letting the participants view it, and that there are many confounding factors at play with your N is 2. The law group focused on microgrids, and passing legislation which required a shift to modernized infrastructure. Pushback was around sufficient infrastructure for the change to take place. The markets group spent their cool 10mil on shifting ALL transport systems to bicycles, and norms created individual carbon-based emission scores which reminded yours truly of buycott.
Summary
To shift the world, even with massive funding and assumed power, is difficult to do. All of the posited interventions at the salon were pilot/demo level. To know you’re succeeding in any way is also difficult. Empathy was certainly built for those who have money and power, and who still aren’t wildly successful at changing the world. Perhaps a few “why don’t you just…” phrases were put to rest. At the same time, as individual citizens, we saw how much of a role we have to play in societal shifts — perhaps more effectively in our distributed and connected networks.
 
703 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Willow Brugh 703 days ago
How connectivity matters -- smartphones and wifi all over.
This means governments etc are losing control. Hungarian goverment trying to say "we won't let you in illegally" when the migrating population knows better. The rhetoric versus the actuality.
 
737 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Willow Brugh 737 days ago
Publication of scientific works
 
Yaneer Following  discussion on Oct 28 (about open publication and Interjournal) one  should ask: What is the reason that the open internet has not given rise  to open academia? The answer is that academia is a  collaborative/competitive system, i.e. an evolutionary one. If it were  just a collaborative system there would be an immediate solution in the  form of an open access. The problem is that there is need for  gatekeeping because of the role of peer review in career advancement,  i.e. credits that advance reputation which is a necessary aspect of  position, funding, publication (competitive process). 
Steps  to advance science must recognize that science is not just an  abstraction of knowledge but it is also a social phenomenon. This means  that the process of scientific advancement is both linked to individual  social dyanamics, as well as collective social dynamics, i.e. the  development of the community structure (individuals as part of topical  domains, areas of expertise, educational programs) and  organizations/institutions that are essential to the (mostly unknown)  future progress of science, as much as they are to the current or  immediate advances. This  suggests that in order to develop effective scientific communication we  need elementary mechanisms of evaluation and recognition as much as we  need elementary mechanisms of sharing of information.  The current social mechanism that gives rise to evaluation and  recognition is the peer review process. It is widely understood to be  problematic. It fosters an environment of zero-sum game / conflict of  interestes competition that motivates "unethical" behaviors and those  who advance are those who are able to successfully navigate this  landscape (i.e. combinations of scientific prowess and unethical  behavior [think about this next time you meet a highly recognized  scientist, ouch]), and is known to inhibit innovation (this follows from  the analysis). This also gives rise to large scale failed (from the  point of view of advancing scientific knowledge) dynamics of collective  behavior (one example is theory of high-Tc superconductivity, i.e. when  the subject of inquiry is important enough to individual recognition the  community shuts down the process of recognition in order to prevent  individuals from gaining the recognition that many other people want). 
The  mechanism of the peer review system is that there is a gatekeeper  system that has its own social structure, i.e. editors and funding  program officers. They serve as the coordinators of the peer review  process. Their requests for additional effort (nominally uncompensated  both financially and in the recognition system) by participants in the  process are being agreed to because of the power it gives to the  reviewers to influence the process itself, i.e. the implicit gain of  their participation (there is an altruistic component, particularly  among some of the young scientists, which is just enough to mask the  more prevaling reason) as well as "points" they gain from their  interactions with editors that promote the editors bias toward the  helpful referees (editorial bias becomes part of the mechanism o peer  review system in all contexts, editors become part of a political  process).One of the examples is the use of reviews to get ones own work  cited, but more generally it includes placing additional burden on other  researchers so that their work is delayed in publication and they are  unable to do other important work, restricting others to doing less  important or innovative work in the process of zero sum game  competition, promoting the work of associates and collaborators,  friends, other types of affiliated in-group members, and, where  relevant, family members. There are rules that are designed to prevent  such "cheating" but any time there are such rules it just points to the  existence of ways around the rules which are widely exploited by those  who are engaged in active planning of how they will succeed. 
The  reduction in the financial and technical barriers to publication has  changed the ballance of how this process works in recent years. This has  affected the power of refereeing and the nature of the zero sum game.  It has not clear whether a critical transition has occurred to a  different pattern of behavior altogether.  
There  is some variation from field to field about the appilcation of this  mechanism. For example, economic papers are often published in working  paper format, physics papers are published on the arxiv, both before  peer review. 
However,  it is important to recognize that one of the main mechanisms of control  of attention is "ignoring." This can be willful or not but is part of  the underlying mechanism of the system. People choose to, or not to,  cite articles based upon what they want to give recognition to. Thus,  putting articles in the public domain often leads to the use of  ignoring, excused by claimed lack of knowledge of the existence of the  work, amply justified by the volume of information and the existence of  the gatekeeper system that specifies which articles are less ignorable.  Note that even articles published in high profile journal may be  considered ignorable (and often are).
 
Rather  than considering this as something to solve as a problem, we need to  think about how we can make it work better for the purposes and  functions that it serves. The main issue therefore, is the solution of  the attentional mechanism of recognition (nominally the zero sum game)  rather than the problem of open communication per se. 
 
793 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Willow Brugh 793 days ago
  • Family and network support netsitself
 
737 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Willow Brugh 737 days ago
  • (making it really open)
  • Notes (brain dump, perhaps for separate document)
 
 
1056 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Willow Brugh 1056 days ago
Flow
 
Willow B Mesh placement/review
Analysis priorities capacities
Distribution: crowdflow
 
Relevant articles / links
 
Seed Attendees
 
Registration
  • Venue
  • Link
 
1056 days ago
Unfiled. Edited by Willow Brugh 1056 days ago
Mesh
 
Willow B scenario framing
opportunity space
 
Relevant articles / links
 
Seed Attendees
 
Registration
  • Venue
  • Link
 

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