Video: the ethics of doing activism in the marketplace

Richard D. Bartlett
Dec 4, 2018 · 2 min read

I was interviewed back in August by Jessica Feldman, a scholar studying social movements and technology. I enjoyed our conversation so much I wanted to share it. The whole video is here:

If you know my background, you can skip the first 20 minutes, as that is one long introduction. I explain how I wound up in the Occupy movement, and how Occupy led us to start Loomio, an app for collective decision-making.

After that point, we cover a lot of interesting ground. Some themes:

The different qualities of online vs face-to-face deliberation. Tech offers big efficiency gains, but meetings can do a kind of psychological work that is impossible to do without eye contact.

At 29:14 we start talking about the values encoded in our apps and devices, considering the whole technology stack, from hardware up through all the layers of software. I point to Scuttlebutt as probably the most exciting decentralised technology project currently underway, because it has excellent values baked in, and is being built by people with a mature understanding of power and access.

We start talking about my book Patterns for Decentralised Organising around 38:34. I propose that if you’re trying to build a socio-technical system with participatory/ decentralised/ democratic/ equitable/ accessible values, you have to experience a good system before you can design a great one. There’s a question of alignment between different scales: e.g. the quality of the working relationships in your product development team will impact the quality of the large-scale systems your build.

The final segment starts around 52:00 where we look at some of the tradeoffs of holding radical values while working in the marketplace.

I really loved this conversation. If you want to follow more of Jessica’s work, see her academic profile.

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