1. Reblogged this on maha's place.

  2. yukigusu says:

    Hi Tim, thanks for sharing this lovely piece. I was inspired by your way of structuring a respectful dialogue. I decided to reflect upon some of the ideas and write this. I would be extremely grateful if you can read: many more thanks.

    • Hi Yukiko. Thanks for sharing this. It’s a great review with some really sharp insights. I love your summation of Unger’s political philosophy: ‘Unger aims at creating a more open and synthetic set of social institutions in which individuals and groups can interact, propose change, and effectively empower themselves to transform social, economic, and political structures’. This is spot on.

      The position that Unger puts himself in is strategically interesting, isn’t it? Effectively, he is saying: progressives need to lose big time in order to win. We’ve been losing for years: giving up ground and accomodating ourselves to the reforms of the right. Given that few people want to see the return of big government, progressives need a powerful alternative in order to maintain their relevance in the 21st century beyond the task of ‘humanising’ free market reforms. Unger seems to be one of the few people around who is dedicated to exploring such an alternative.

      To be honest, I find Unger hard to read. His style is abstract without the philosophical depth of, say, Heidegger. I have the impression that he glosses over a lot. I have no idea why he continues to claim that we need to adopt ‘advanced collaborative practices’ while refusing to adopt the vocabulary of the practitioners: design thinking, collaborative innovation, rapid prototyping, and so on.

      Still, I think he is an important voice. A lightning rod for possible storms.

      I was very pleased that you noted the shift towards microtechniques in my work. In the past year or so, I’ve been deeply engaged with the local share and collaborative economy in Sydney, while exploring techniques used in hacker, maker, and coworking spaces, and participating in a lot of design jams and co-innovation sessions. Like Unger, I am convinced that the next big shift in our societies will be socio-cultural in nature, as we learn how to embed these new techniques in our economic practices and political institutions. I see this as the next stage in a cultural evolution that is being driven through societies globally by the internet. The kinds of collaborative practices that were intially developed by hackers and developers to conduct online worksessions are now flowing offline to inform the activities of people in FabLabs, hackerthons, and coworking spaces, and being desimminated out into the broader culture as these activies become more popular and mainstream.

      Change comes slowly. No doubt this new collaborative culture will remain on the fringes for quite some time. Those of us who desire change, therefore, should work at promoting them as much as we can. This is one of the key objectives of One Million Acts of Innovation, a new not-for-profit company that I’m helping set up at the moment. We’re still in bootstrap mode, but I should have some details about this that I can share with you soon, if you’re interested.

      Thanks again for your comments, analysis, and support, Yuki. I appreciate it.

  3. “We can do this. The question is – why aren’t we?” A big difference between technological advancement and societal advancement is the complexity and a lack of ‘building blocks’ for societal advancement. On my own I can reuse and repurpose a zillion open source projects. (I am a programmer…) If I would sit together with other makers, and we agree on something to build, quite likely this is possible and feasible. The result would be a product, which may support a process. (think Loomio)
    Which building blocks would you point out in the collaborative practices of hackers and what other kind of ‘tools’ do you think would be necessary?

    Thanks for your article Tim.

    • Thanks Arjen. I think the technical infrastructure for this kind of initiative could be relatively simple. Given licence to dream, I would imagine a platform like to manage projects, perhaps coupled with something like to promote them. I remember the Kony 2012 site had a page that enabled you to message your local representatives or state senator – it would be ideal if the thunderclap system was linked to them, so that the best designs are presented direct to political office, together with a measure of their public support.

      As you note, though, the real challenge is social, not technical. Social innovation is hard to orchestrate. It requires a widespread shift in political imagination, culture, and desire. Viability is a necessary condition of success, meaning that people would need to be convinced that this kind of system actually worked, and their social innovations wouldn’t wind up stillborn. We’d need high-level political buy-in too. I imagine the best way to build the system would be to start local, working with a progressive city council, then build on success to scale it. Similar work is already being done in Mexico Citt and elsewhere We could build on this work, presenting ‘maker democracy’ as a radical new form of civic engagement. But selling it to politicians and councillors would be a real challenge. In my experience, they tend to be obsessed with control, scared of social innovation, and largely devoid of imagination!

  4. What happens if someone gamefully inserts malicious code into the societal OS?

    • What would count as malicious code?

      As I see it, any social innovations to make it beyond prototyping phase in this kind of model would undergo rigorous user testing before beta launch. The process would be transparent to enable financially accountability. So I don’t see how the equivalent of black hat hacking could happen.

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