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Re: <nettime> Renewed Tyranny of Structurelessness
carlo von lynX on Wed, 15 Jun 2016 10:50:25 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Renewed Tyranny of Structurelessness

In the spirit of nettime, I took the time to add thoughts to several
of the past contributions.

On 06/12/2016 10:41 PM, Gabriella "Biella" Coleman wrote:

>    I certainly like this statement and think it has some valuable
>    insights: [1]https://jacobian.org/writing/assholes/

Yes, by creating structures of rule of conduct enforcement we create
the ruleset by which code can be contributed, so people who had fun
being assholes find themselves in the need to play nice in order to be
able to submit code. Given time they probably get nice (and grown-up).

>    However, sexual assault is its own special case whereby victims
>    don't speak out--understandably--early enough so as to change
>    things before problems spiral. This is not unique to this case at
>    all.

Yes, but I think that the missing structures are what is missing here.
There needs to be something in-between staying quiet, going to the
police or going public, risking to be accused of defamation. Currently
this information would spread in random gossip, with victims talking
to just a few good friends, creating pockets of warning knowledge
that does not communicate with each other and still does not have
any authority to *do* anything. By creating structures that have the
elected role of getting informed, who have an obligation to keep
quiet and respect the privacy of victims and accused alike, but have
the authority to express a verdict of local range (like recommending
project X to suspend finances for contributor Y - or recommending
conference A not to give a keynote speech to relator Y), without going
into details. And then there should be a way for Y to reach out for an
independent court of appeals. This all happens before ending up at the
state authorities, and can legitimately act without hard evidence.

> And I believe the digital domain is a special challenge for justice,
> harder to deal with than problems Jo Freeman describes.

What I wanted to say in this situation is that the digital domain
is how we met, where we come from and how we interact. Even if the
hurting is happening physically, I would want the structures that
help us protect from future hurting to be available by the means we
are used to. Or would you expect victims to walk up to the office
for harrassment complaints of the EFF or Tor Inc in person, only
because the problem was physical? Of course it would be helpful if the
Internet were secure.

>    Why? I think the problem of sexual assault or harassment is a
>    society wide problem that many groups seem to have issues dealing
>    with appropriately. In academic circles there are endemic and
>    persistent problems with harassment and intimidation. In one
>    institution I worked in, one professor had so many problematic
>    relationships with graduate students (with so many complaints
>    levied against him) they disallowed him from advising graduate
>    students and moved him to an office so that another professor
>    could monitor him. What a shameful and inadequate response
>    for both parties and this came from 200 year old institution
>    with a team of lawyers who you'd think could handle this a bit
>    more fairly. Our society idolizes stars/celebrities and these
>    individuals can in turn command a lot of power over victims
>    whether it comes in form of sexual violence or harassment
>    and whether it is in academia, in journalism, or in hacker
>    circles. Thankfully things seem to be changing for the better
>    in some academic institutions. A pair of scientists at U
>    Chicago and Berkeley have been forced out or stepped down after
>    internal investigations. Whereas once the genius professors was
>    untouchable, this seems to be less and less the case. Maybe this
>    will change too in hacker circles.

Our hacktivist organizations aren't typical boy clubs.. many women
have important structural roles already. It is up to us to elect more
women into the role of not only assisting victims of harrassment, but
also to have the authority to exercise measures when enough evidence

The structural mistake here could be that frequently such things are
discussed in an assembly if at all, where too many people are supposed
to be informed of far too many private details. This is not respectful
of the privacy of neither victims nor culprits. And it potentiates
the effect of collective shrugging: nobody wants to have enemies,
nobody likes to be the one who in the assembly proposed to cut the
funds to person Y. If the discussion is already about expulsion, it
is happening too late. Justice doesn't need all the people of the
assembly, those who have the elected *job* to take measures have a
wholy different motivation than your average assembly participant.
But it needs that the few who are in charge of justice be trustworthy
enough to be told all the painstaking details, and to be trusted
enough to not be questioned when the verdict comes out, except by a
court of appeals. Developer Y is having his finances suspended for a
while and maybe nobody even needs to know. Somebody else is holding
the keynote for Project P, and the reasoning is not known because of
personal privacy which at times is more important than transparency.

>    And I agree with Vesna: there is a lot of material out there for
>    non-violent conflict resolution and for responding to harassment.
>    Institutions can more easily implement policies to deal with
>    these problems but these resources, as Vesna suggested, can also
>    be spread/used at conferences too.

Yes, but culture is not enough. An essential aspect of Elinor Ostrom's
Nobel prize to me seems to be the proof of the simple assertion that
democratic rules (from the assembly or whatever) are useless if you
don't create structures that enforce them. Nonviolent philosophy only
starts having an effect, if you can't bypass it.

Just imagine Beavis and Butthead interacting with a non-violent
conflict resolution instructor. You get the idea. Maybe it is
generally useful to frame Internet issues from that perspective. Would
Butthead stop annoying people on a mailing list? No. Would Butthead
join shitstorms on Twitter? Of course! Would Butthead inappropriately
take advantage of little girls that look up to him? Sure, unless that
girl's parents are standing nearby. So what we need is the structural
equivalent of parents standing by.

I've come to the observation that it is helpful to redefine humanism
as expecting the worst, egotistic behavior from humans and make
structures that motivate humans to be their best. Not hope for the
best, not preach the best, to make society in such a way that it
brings out the best. Humans are strange animals, they excel when they
are given just the necessary boundaries. That's also in a nutshell why
I sense that ideologies such as anarchism and communism do not work
for humans, because they assume humans to not be what they are. But
now I've gone off the discussion track.

>  The Pirate Parties thought they could handle it with regular party
> structures, but the improperly addressed digital domain created
> shitstorms, paranoia and lifelong relationships of hatred. Party
> structures were not enough.
>    Not saying it is either. Just making the point that there are
>    multiple types of interventions in the digital domain. It is a
>    pretty plural landscape.

I'm saying that going for the shitstorm strategy is a guarantee
to move further away from justice and straight into manipulatory
potential. I think it leads to the implosion of any organization in
the long run. In Germany people stop wanting to be with the Pirates,
maybe people will stop to be associated with the Tor project next.
It's like with Fairtrade since the slavery scandals came out, you
don't want to have a Fairtrade product in your home.

This habit of thinking stuff is cool until the first scandal is out,
and repeating this ad libitum isn't really productive. We can have
ways to structure stuff so that it does not produce scandals, so that
we can be proud of it in the long term. I heard of a person that has
a Wikipedia logo tattoo from the days when all the world loved that
project. Now whoever has an onion tattoo may start worrying.

>    You will always have tensions and fighting (I think it is
>    impossible to get rid of those problems) but the question is
>    whether you can create structures and measures to weather the
>    storms.

Yes, and if you design those structures to intervene early rather than
when the hurting has happened, it may be even better.. and even be
able to deal with cases of physical abuse.

> I guess my point is we need a structure that can demotivate people
> from exercising anonymous hate speech and especially multiplying it
> by the practical "retweeting is no endorsement" mantra.
>    Or maybe we just need to get rid of Twitter and social media.
>    They dynamics you address, which you seem to pin primarily onto
>    the hacker world, are now endemic because of contemporary social
>    media technologies.

That also can be a rule an organization agrees upon in an assembly,
but then it needs to be enforced. No in-fighting on Twitter allowed,
whoever starts a fight, participates or retweets be sanctioned by the

> "Friends of victims" are potentially the worst, as they can enjoy
> jumping at a chance for a vengeance crusade without having suffered
> the hurting themselves. An excuse is provided to hide behind,
> apparently legitimising the satisfactory feeling of exercising lynch
> justice. If a structure of justice exists, such "friends" of victims
> have no excuse to carry out lynch logic.
>    Again I am not sure this is a problem inherent to hacker circles
>    but a much much larger issue having to do with our social media
>    landscape and it is a really tough problem to solve.

The circles are as big as people are willing to adhere to them. If
a circle manages to develop a justice system that works so well, it
disincentivates people from even starting fights and abuses, well,
then I can imagine that circle to become so damn cool that everyone
wants to be part of it - and become a part of the safe space that it
creates for all its members. And so the circle grows... and if it is
big enough it becomes like a Constitution for the digital sphere.

On 06/11/2016 09:05 AM, Andreas Broeckmann wrote: > Where does this
"becoming-celebrity" actually take place, and where is > it played
out? I guess it must have something to do with passing a > certain
threshold of attention into the mainstream media (interviews, > being
named as a lifestyle example)?

On 06/11/2016 09:24 PM, morlockelloi {AT} yahoo.com wrote:

> In today's technical and political circumstances, it's amazing
> that makers of anonymity and security systems still group in
> identifiable organizations with obvious 'leaders'. There are
> existing technologies that can provide collaborative publishing of
> Tor.

My guess is that celebrity is the natural mechanics of humanity if
you don't introduce any rulesets that alter these mechanisms. Let's
say if we were to create "the circle" (in an opposite sense to Mr
Eggers ;)) then the assembly could come to the conclusion that it is
a *necessity* for the well-being of the organization that even if
leader X got invited to do interviews and presentations, person Y or Z
must be given the job to play that part instead. You can't eliminate
charisma but you can alleviate the power effects a bit. Of course this
means that the circle would have an assembly, like a meeting place or
a liquid democracy platform.

On 06/11/2016 09:05 AM, Andreas Broeckmann wrote: > How does this
relate to the "protective shield" that such public > attention can
also form for somebody who is potentially vulnerable?

If the community is unstructured, then the celebrities get detached
and start flying in outer space with no-one to check into how they
are doing but a general gossip murmur that can find its only way
of punishing by turning into a shitstorm monster. If the community
is structured, it can develop rules of conduct for celebrities and
enforce them, without being disrespectful in their regards either.

> And what role do events like (a few local examples) the CCC
> congress, transmediale, re:publica play in this, given their
> relatively new reach into broader, non-expert audiences, and mass
> media attention?

Instead of being multipliers of the general effects of the attention
economies they could be power hubs of exercise of respect and
sanctions of code of conduct. It shouldn't take a complete destruction
of a celebrities' public image before they are no longer invited to
hold a keynote. A mere indication by the internal justice system
could suffice, and if the "celebrity" improves their behavior in
the following years, everything can go back to normal. And the
organization as a whole doesn't get to develop a bad taste in public
perception.. like Fairtrade, Mozilla, Wikipedia, Google, Facebook and
Apple for that matter. Remember they all were "cool" at some point
in history. Now they are at different levels of uncool. Making an
organization in such a way that it is vulnerable to individual failure
is the default, making it such that it is immune - that is a form of

On 06/10/2016 10:00 PM, Vesna Manojlovic wrote:

> There is no lack of information, but there seem to be lack of
> awareness among "technical experts" that there exist social and
> communication problems that require different kind of skills and
> expertese, those coming from "soft" sciences and even from looking
> into emotions of people involved in our communities. These issues do
> NOT require technical solutions.

Yes, I even sense some disrespect at regarding the discoveries of
sociology and philosophy as a kind of science. Like the way the legend
of the "Don't Feed The Troll" is stronger than all evidence of this
ideology to be fundamentally flawed. Although we have the large big
Internet full of knowledge, there is an inertia of the minds and a
persistence of bad traditions.

> - create an "ombudsman" team to enable anonymous reporting of incidents

I doubt that anonymity will be helpful here. What a reporter needs is
that there is somebody they can talk to without having to go public.
But if they stay anonymous, then there may be no way to distinguish
their report from trolling or manipulation. Let's go spread a lot of
false rumors about X! No no, for the small tiny justice system the
stuff does not need to go public, but it has to be from real people
with real names. After all they are testimonies.

There is no such thing as anonymous testimonies, right? Therefore,
when it comes to human interactions, there can be no transparent
justice without infringing privacy, right?

> - be serious about "we do not tolerate
> verbal or physical harrassment"
> (https://www.ccc.de/de/updates/2016/a-reminder-to-be-excellent-to-ea
> ch-other)

What I learned from Elinor: without enforcement, words are just words.

What you get when you have rules but no enforcement is a continuous
stream of refinements of the rules, hoping that each time the rules
get more complicated they will solve the problem. Italy has a lot of
laws like that - desperately overengineered not because the original
laws sucked, but because they weren't enforced.

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