Setting frameworks to create, change and communicate

Technology and the internet means that we relate to one another in a completely new way, but it also changes our approach when we create things. Accommodating for these changes in our behaviours is as complex as we human beings are.

Using Minecraft as an example, Clive Thompson floats the idea that the online game is to kids what the Commodore 64 was when it was released. Both represent manipulatable systems that allow users to create and communicate with each other. This simple motive to build and blow up stuff is producing an array of interesting and constructive behaviours amongst its millions of users.

Clive Thompson at The Conference 2016.

Self governing systems

Because nothing is documented in the multi-layered game, players are motivated to share their expertise with one another through open sourcing. In order to gain more control in Minecraft, users will hack the programming as well hack socially via learning complex programming languages and in the self governance of setting the rules of engagement.

– I’ve seen kids discuss the social rules for 30 minutes in order to play a five minute game notes Clive, with the implication that the actual game is in the agreement of the rules in which to play by.

Because Minecraft is notoriously buggy, kids are not left feeling helpless but feel capable of rolling up their sleeves and fixing the issue- a by product of this is that this same generation is being accustomed to a certain level of control and autonomy. With many more of today’s systems being designed to be closed, rather than more open in the past, the question arises how accepting this Minecraft generation will be of such walled off networks.

It will also be interesting to see what the future holds for this up and coming generation and online harassment. Will these skills of self-governance and rules of engagement have a positive impact on online bullying? With their willingness to work for increased control and creativity, the answer seems to be yes. Caroline Sinders, who studies online behaviour and harassment believes that this isn’t a freedom of speech issue. It’s a design problem.

Caroline Sinders at The Conference 2016.

By creating more customization and offering more control, users can opt to silence potential harassment. The work is detailed, yes, but humans are complex and we’re going to have complex interactions, she adds. Let’s not mistake the chaotic for what is simply complex.

Building on the the idea of complexity and the need for accommodating change to better democratize our cities, architect Indy Johar offers, the flow of value is difficult to communicate. How do we change in a complex world? He encourages us to invest in systems over products and to participate in collaborative leadership (just like those Minecraft users). In order to facilitate the organic process of growing our civic systems we need to build consciousness and empathy of all the actors involved as well as their interdependency.

Size matters

Zoning in on the size of our conversations is meaningful as well. What does the architecture of a large conversation look like? poses Indy. Caroline offers one structure, by treating each conversation (or social media post) as its own eco-system. From large to intimate Town Hall / front porch / living room / bedroom users are turning more to smaller conversations in messaging apps away from a twitter like public forum. Just as Minecraft users are sometimes preferential of smaller server communities because they feel more secure.

We are all individuals, and part of the collective who benefit and require participation in all sizes of conversation, from the intimate which are relevant to a few, to the grand scale which affect us all. Being cognizant of the size and protocols within each is now more meaningful than ever; we are now living in the most interconnected global community the world has ever seen.

Text by Kathy Compton.