Sense of Struggle

Towards a New Public Infrastructure

Resource name: 
Towards a New Public Infrastructure — preprint
Resource type: 
Articles
Resource description: 

This is a preprint of an article that will appear in the ACM SIGCAS Computers and Society Newsletter.

Adapting Change

David Hubert
CIRAL/CIRAN
Problem: 

Heraclitus of Ephesus wrote that of all the things in the world, "change is the only constant." As time goes on, circumstances beyond controlling will occur and and communities will be required to adapt to new conditions, but the nature of some types of change and/or how rapidly the transition occurs isn't always our favor. There also usually exists a correlation between the speed with which change occurs and the amount of supporting systems disrupted by this change, most often to their detriment. Many factors and situations are beyond our individual control while the end-state of change is uncertain at best, so when we recognize the process of change beginning to occur we do what we can to influence the factors we actually can control. If it is decided that action is needed to mitigate change then the nature of that action must be determined first; as Kwama Nkrumah wrote "action without thought is empty, [and] thought without action is blind.” Great care must be taken to avoid unnecessary disruption, and a balance must be found between planning and execution, ensuring that appropriate steps are taken while ensuring they are taken before control of a given situation is lost. 

Context: 
This pattern applies to any community engaged in a decision-making process. Many issues and possible changes are not time sensitive per se, but situations can easily occur at many scales where foregone or even delayed action would be detrimental to the community. Recognizing this type of situation falls on the members of this community, but this comes with the caveats that not all situations are as time- sensitive as they may appear, and that predicted end-states and rates of transition may not reflect reality. 
Discussion: 
Wikipedia defines time as "the indefinite continued progression of existence and events that occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future." From that, the process of change begins with the past, the staging and valuing of variables, then moving through the present by interacting with one another, then unfolding into their end-state in the future. The Hopi saw time as an environment that one moved through, like riding down a river winding through a constantly changing countryside, but thus far both science and philosophy have failed to produce a working model of time.
 
Also much like being swept down an unknown river, change is as unpredictable as it is inevitable. This vagueness makes change a very two-sided coin, offering either hope, or, more often then not, dread, for, as H.P. Lovecraft wrote, "the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown." Numerous studies have shown that the brain operates very differently under different circumstances. Hunger, sleep deprivation and sex all affect our decision-making processes differently, but few drives cause more irrational behavior then fear. When faced with change, especially at larger scales, it can be very easy to slip into an emergency mindset, to lose sight of the bigger picture in lieu a seemingly large detail, but it is usually impossible to  truly say what changes would be good or bad for us just as we cannot accurately say what changes would be good or bad for others. This stems from the simple facts that "good" and "bad" are relative to the observer and that we cannot truly predict the range of consequences from our actions. Returning to the "time as a river" perspective, it is also important to note that it is not really a river, especially in terms of where it might take one. It seems to operate much more like a river delta: broad, steady, and filled with possibilities. 
 
However, this fear of change is not without reason. Any type of change, any adjustment of variables within a given system, inherently causes disruption among adjacent entities. Most often the scale and/or intensity of this disruption is proportional to the rate at which this change occurs, i.e. c=vtc being the change occurring to a given system, v being the disruption of adjacent/interdependent systems, and t being the duration of time this change takes to occur. For example, if one were to dig a hole, one would have many options to achieve this end. The obvious solution would be to use a shovel, causing minimal collateral damage but taking a fair amount of time, where a diesel-powered excavator would certainly be faster but would tear up a lot of other ground. Moving further towards the extremes, an archaeologist can use brushes and trowels to carefully remove dirt over months or years, but with some artfully placed explosives you can have a hole dug in seconds. The perfectly valid concern held by those worried about change is ultimately over exactly which adjacent systems will be affected.
Solution: 

Changing times will require communities to change with them, but top-tier objectives, e.g. ensuring basic survival, rarely change, if ever, and what constitutes top-tier objective(s) must be identified by the community in question. That said, communities must remain flexible in their goals and be willing to adjust for new information and situations, e.g. recognizing when a lower tier objective is no longer feasible or when one method can achieve an objective better than another. Additionally, communities may often identify critical points of failure or obvious challenges within their own system(s) and develop contingencies accordingly. Intentional avoidance of "load-bearing" positions, e.g. having one person without whom the system cannot function, goes a long way towards ensuring stability, as do maintaining standardized communications, including documentation, language and data formatting, to ensure that the correct information can be found by those seeking it. Perhaps most importantly, communities must adopt the mindset of survival, of finding a balance between flexibility to go with some change and the rigidity to resist other, the willingness to "make it happen" in spite of external influence.Solution: Changing times will require communities to change with them, but top-tier objectives, e.g. ensuring basic survival, rarely change, if ever, and what constitutes top-tier objective(s) must be identified by the community in question. That said, communities must remain flexible in their goals and be willing to adjust for new information and situations, e.g. recognizing when a lower tier objective is no longer feasible or when one method can achieve an objective better than another. Additionally, communities may often identify critical points of failure or obvious challenges within their own system(s) and develop contingencies accordingly. Intentional avoidance of "load-bearing" positions, e.g. having one person without whom the system cannot function, goes a long way towards ensuring stability, as do maintaining standardized communications, including documentation, language and data formatting, to ensure that the correct information can be found by those seeking it. Perhaps most importantly, communities must adopt the mindset of survival, of finding a balance between flexibility to go with some change and the rigidity to resist other, the willingness to "make it happen" in spite of external influence.

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
organization
Themes: 
Education
Themes: 
Globalism and Localism
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Case Studies
Verbiage for pattern card: 
 Determining which steps to take is just as important as actually taking them, but in a time-sensitive environment, action and thought must be carefully balanced. Communities must be able to recognize where change is occuring/will occur as well as which rates of change are favorable, which are not, and which ones can be regulated or negated.
Pattern status: 
Released

Pattern Languages for Public Problem-Solving

Resource name: 
Pattern Languages for Public Problem-Solving
Resource type: 
Preprints
Resource description: 

The pattern languages perspective for the design and development of the built environment was popularized by Christopher Alexander and his colleagues in the late 1970s. Although many people have adopted the pattern language philosophy and framework in a variety of design / problem domains, there is a small but growing awareness that this orientation could serve a much broader and influential function than it currently does: organizing around and with pattern languages could provide much needed support for addressing complex problems, by supporting direct and indirect distributed collective action with more flexibility and respect for local context. Eleven "seeds" that could help improve our public problem solving capacity with pattern languages are presented. These seeds promote better understanding of our work, enhanced sharing approaches, publicizing the work, and organizing and enhancing our own communities.

Invitation to Join the Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / Network

Invitation to join the Collective Intelligence for the Common Good Community / Network

We would like to invite you to participate in a new research and action community network that focuses on Collective Intelligence for the Common Good. We hope that our collaborative efforts will help address our shared challenges.

Project Goals: 
Develop collaborative tools, policies, etc. — and links between them — that have a positive influence in addressing local and global challenges.

HERMES Center for Transparency and Digital Human Rights

Organization's slogan: 
Whistleblowing Technologies: Empowering Truth as a Human Right
Civic Organization Disclaimer: 
Possible disclaimer: This information has been entered by a person who isn't associated with the organization. It may be incomplete or contain mistakes. If you are associated with this organization and would like to maintain this information, please get a Public Sphere Project account and ask us to transfer ownership of this information to you.

Our mission is to promote and develop in the society the awareness of and the attention to transparency and accountability, be they related to the society-at-large or not. Our goal is to increase the citizens’ involvement in the management of matters of public interest and to boost the active participation of workers and employees to correct the management of corporations and companies they work for.

Organizational engagement: 
Active
Organization's headquarters: 
Milan, Italy
Organization's geographic focus: 
Worldwide

Internet Defense League

Organization's slogan: 
Make sure the internet never loses. Ever.
Civic Organization Disclaimer: 
Possible disclaimer: This information has been entered by a person who isn't associated with the organization. It may be incomplete or contain mistakes. If you are associated with this organization and would like to maintain this information, please get a Public Sphere Project account and ask us to transfer ownership of this information to you.

Beyond the blackout

The Internet Defense League takes the tactic that killed SOPA & PIPA and turns it into a permanent force for defending the internet, and making it better. Think of it like the internet's Emergency Broadcast System, or its bat signal!

The Problem

Internet freedom and individual power are changing the course of history. But entrenched institutions and monopolies want this to stop. Elected leaders often don't understand the internet, so they're easily confused or corrupted.

The plan
When the internet's in danger and we need millions of people to act, the League will ask its members to broadcast an action. (Say, a prominent message asking everyone to call their elected leaders.) With the combined reach of our websites and social networks, we can be massively more effective than any one organization.

How it works

First, sign up. If you have a website, we'll send you sample alert code to get working in advance. The next time there's an emergency, we'll tell you and send new code. Then it's your decision to pull the trigger.

Targets

We'll keep in close touch with groups like the EFF and Public Knowledge to identify threats and opportunities. We've also got a subreddit. This will get formalized more soon, but for now we're definitely targeting ACTA in June and CISPA as it re-emerges in the Senate.

Year the organization was founded: 
2012
Organizational engagement: 
Active
Organization's geographic focus: 
The World
Contact information: 
team@fightforthefuture.org

Street Music

Douglas Schuler
The Public Sphere Project
Celebration of Public Music
Version: 
1
Problem: 

(note that the Problem Statement is still in work.....)

Music, including singing as well as the playing of instruments, has been a key element of the human condition for millennia. Unfortunately -- at least in the United States -- music has become more of a commodity, to be enjoyed passively and non-interactively. 

The rise of mass media is probably at least one of the culprits. 

Context: 

(note that the Context Statement is still in work.....)

Discussion: 

(note that the Discussion is still in work.....)

Street Music blurs the distinction between producer and consumer of music as well as the distinction between formal and informal venues for music production and consumption. 

Although street bands, including many of those found at Honk Fests, can be found at protests (including the Infernal Noise Machine (image below) that supported the demonstrations against the World Trade Organization in Seattle in 1999), their actions are often political to a large degree by virtue of their publicness in an era of electronic or other formalized or mediated forms of music consumption. 

See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i-MLvzLlou4 for Environmental Encroachment's performance of Hashia.

 

Thanks to a member of the Bucharest Drinking Team and to Bob of Environmental Encroachment for their thoughts on the current breed of "new street bands" including their history and motivation. 

Solution: 

 

Solution in work:

something about establishing and supporting street music. More and more and more of it....

Categories: 
orientation
Categories: 
engagement
Categories: 
social
Categories: 
products
Themes: 
Social Critique
Themes: 
Community Action
Themes: 
Social Movement
Themes: 
Media Critique
Information about introductory graphic: 
Photo of Church, a marching band from Santa Rosa, California. Shot by Douglas Schuler, June 1, 2012. Georgetown (Seattle, WA)
Information about summary graphic: 

Infernal Noise Machine, Seattle Washington

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