Wikipedians look to the past, coders looks to the future(s)

Anil Dash just published an interesting post looking at the social implications of the code fork, and how it has changed from a huge contested point to a feature of the collaborated process:

“While Linus Torvalds is best known as the creator of Linux, it’s one of his more geeky creations, and the social implications of its design, that may well end up being his greatest legacy. Because Linus has, in just a few short years, changed the social dynamic around forking, turning the idea of multiple versions of a work from a cultural weakness into a cultural strength. Perhaps the technologies that let us easily collaborate together online have finally matured enough to let our work reflect the reality that some problems are better solved with lots of different efforts instead of one committee-built compromise.”

ShiftSpace's network graph on Github.com

This is something we touched upon in the Collaborative Futures book, both in the Multiplicity and Social Coding and the Forks vs. Knives chapters. Anil goes on to suggest a distributed collaborative model that encourages forking might reinvigorate Wikipedia, which follows the more traditional centralized collaborative model:

“Most importantly, the new culture of ubiquitous forking can have profound impacts on lots of other categories of software. There have been recent rumblings that participation in Wikipedia editing has plateaued, or even begun to decline. Aside from the (frankly, absurd) idea that “everything’s already been documented!” one of the best ways for Wikipedia to reinvigorate itself, and to break away from the stultifying and arcane editing discussions that are its worst feature, could be to embrace the idea that there’s not One True Version of every Wikipedia article.”

Extending the distributed model beyond code and leveraging forking in other collaborative processes have interested me for quite some time. In commenting on Anil’s post, I realized something  about the inherent difference between Wikipedia and software. Instead of rewriting it, I’ll just quote my comment in its entirety:

I’m happy that both the merging and the network view issues were addressed on the previous comments. I have been interested in extending the git&github models beyond software myself. I understand the interest in considering Wikipedia as the next logical step for networked collaboration right after code, but I think there is a fundamental difference between the two. While software code contains a set of rules that would operate a system, Wikipedia’s model is almost opposite – it documents a system that is already happening or has happened. Wikipedia attempts to document a monolithic past while software attempts to imagine the multiplicity of the future(s). Read the rest of this comment→

Re:Group – Beyond Models of Participation

The brouchure cover by Ange Tang

For the past year I have been collaborating with Paul Amitai (Eyebeam), Jason Jones & Beka Economopoulos (Not An Alternative) and Marco Desiris (Snafu) on a talk series as a part of Upgrade NY. The series revolved around open source as it relates to activism and creative practice. Yesterday we opened an exhibition on this theme, investigating models of participation and participation as a model.

The show features 13 works from a long list of artists and art collectives. The collaborative process of developing the show was quite fascinating (though sometimes excruciating) on its own. This process reached its climax when we had a really hard time arriving to a consensus on the curatorial statement. Things got pretty emotional as each side felt subsumed by the other in a futile attempt to find the middle ground.

In the core of the disagreement was an intellectual argument Jason and I have been (really) enjoying for the past three years. If we have not reached an agreement for three years, a three days deadline was not enough to change it. Finally we realized that in the rush to come up with a uniform statement we have not internalized the tagline we chose for the show and go “beyond consensus”. We decided to publish an introduction followed by two curatorial statements.

Excerpt from the intro:

For the past year Eyebeam and Not An Alternative have organized the NY node of Upgrade!, with the theme Open Source in Activist and Creative Practice. The decision to produce this show was born from that collaboration, however the curatorial concept was a source of constant debate. A unified position was never achieved, but collaboration does not necessarily result in synthesis. The intention with the following two curatorial statements is to reflect subtle but important differences in our curatorial perspectives on the subjects of collaboration and participation. As we reflect back on the process of curating this show we see that our experience was far richer because of the (albeit sometimes painful) philosophical, aesthetic, and political debates among us.  While harmonious unanimity was never achieved, in our view this must not be seen as an inevitable goal. We appreciate that in this show about collaboration, our curatorial collaboration has honored distinct positions, rather than subsuming difference in pursuit of consensus.

Continue reading “Re:Group – Beyond Models of Participation”

Diaspora’s Kickstarter $$$,$$$ success endangers both Diaspora, Kickstarter & you

The Internets is all buzzing with chatter against Facebook’s latest privacy breaches. Into this happy mix a bunch of NYU students have been cast as the Davids against the social networking Goliath. Is that really a good thing? Can we help? Diaspora is a new initiative by 4 NYU students to create a “privacy aware, … Continue reading Diaspora’s Kickstarter $$$,$$$ success endangers both Diaspora, Kickstarter & you

Upgrade New York: “Free As In What?” video

We have just uploaded the video documentation for one of the most interesting Upgrade events we had in the past year with Biella Coleman and Zach Lieberman discussing the tensions within the Free Software / Open Source world(s?) on the meaning of “free”. It explores the tensions between ethics and pragmatics, between “to free” and … Continue reading Upgrade New York: “Free As In What?” video

Help Strike a Win for Watchdog Journalism – Vote for NewsShift

NewsShift is the title of the grant application coming from some of us at the ShiftSpace team in collaboration with LittleSis.org. NewsShift basically turns a news page into a node in a networked collaborative journalistic effort. It has made it through the first round of proposals and is constantly trending as one of the highest … Continue reading Help Strike a Win for Watchdog Journalism – Vote for NewsShift

Collaborative Futures Day5: DONE!

We did it!

It took 5 days, no pre-coordination, we didn’t know each other in advance, we don’t necessarily agree on a lot of things, but we wrote a book together – more than 30,000 words written, edited, redited. On Monday it will be sent to the printer and that’s it. Kind of…Well the book is open ended, the first release will be printed next week but anyone can go and add to the book or edit the current version.

The book (PDF & ePub versions to follow soon) turned out way way way more successful than I expected, but maybe it’s only because I didn’t get enough sleep. We covered a lot of ground, many of our chapters are skeptical others are very hopeful. Some of the collaborations mentioned in the book refer to examples as new as last week (Haiti), some are very personal, some are just hilarious.

CF team - Temporary image, until I get a better one with everyone inside

Disclaimer

7 things this book is not:

  1. It is not an exhaustive survey of any type or any aspect of collaboration
  2. It is not consistent in its tone and writing style
  3. It is not devoid of repetitions or conceptual holes
  4. It is not really an art book
  5. It is not really a cultural theory book
  6. It is not really a technology book
  7. It is not bad at all

Continue reading “Collaborative Futures Day5: DONE!”