Trying to participate in the interim phase of the international organization for a participatory society (IOPS) turned out to be helpful for clarifying my own perspectives on what a new global collective could look like and for getting a feel for what other people are looking for, though I have chosen not to associate myself with IOPS itself. Rather than focusing on what is wrong with the way organizers of IOPS are approaching their new international, I would like to look at what a new kind of transparent information gathering and decision-making network would look like.
After two centuries of equating freedom with democracy and now arriving at a point in history where those claiming to represent democracy clearly represent those who are contaminating our planet and our cultures, many people feel an unfulfilled need to have their voices heard and have their voices matter. Social movements like the Arab Spring, occupy, and IOPS, raise hopes that finally now our voices will be heard and our new ways of thinking will be able to change the world in new ways. Hope deferred makes the heart sick. Those of us who are seeking to contribute our solidarity need to refocus our energy. But where? What else can be done to allow people to have their voices heard?
We know what we need to do. The system in place doesn’t work, let’s just be optimistic and assume the transition. Let’s build and nurture an alternate parallel organizational structure.
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We are the first generation with unlimited access to information. Let’s make the most of that data. Let’s pick our fights, let’s be strategic, and go for attainable goals.
-Collective Cognition (an IOPS member in Montreal).
The next attainable goal which seems worth working towards is a new kind of wiki website. This site would serve the purpose of giving people a place to go to have their voices heard, archived, and searchable on any issue. I am picturing something which can be continuously developed and changed by participants, so it could serve different functions as time progresses and it could be different things to different people. It could be primarily an activism-oriented social network; it could be primarily a new framework for journalism –with stories linked to specific issues which would have discussions and polls ongoing, archived, and accessible for analysis by anyone; it could be primarily about discussions concerning specific issues; it could be primarily about polling; it could be primarily about freedom of information –having the facts of what specific numbers of people think about a vast array of specific issues. These facts could then be used to petition governments or corporations to change their ways, but I believe that more important would be the use of transparent and freely accessible information as a cornerstone for building new societies.
The discussions on this site could differ from those on typical forum sites through having the main discussion about an issue as an on-going meeting which would be archived as the minutes with some basic guidelines on how to proceed. These guidelines could change as time moves on, and there could be discussions about how to change guidelines. Some discussion-meetings could use consensus decision-making while others could use Robert’s rules and others could develop entirely new guidelines. Some proposals could be decided on within an issue meeting while other issues would need to be discussed amongst a larger group if they affect more people. It would be a do-it-yourself way to keep track of what people think and how we feel about every issue imaginable. Anyone could begin a discussion or poll on any issue. Anyone can quote from and analyze these discussions in blog entries. And anyone can make proposals for actions to be organized out of what consensus can be found.
This would all be non-hierarchical and as non-ideological as possible. It would not be a matter of telling people what to believe but of listening to what people have to say and allowing people to listen to what others have to say and communicate with them. Projects for building new societies could be organized out of this framework of communication. Small collectives could join with larger groups while retaining autonomy to do things in their own ways and speak their own languages. It could also be key to keeping the internet open to such uses as this.