Ways of Communicating

Have you ever worked on a highly distributed project, that criss-crosses multiple networks, has a constantly shifting centre of gravity, with aspirations towards horizontality and decentralisation?

The unMonastery is a strange beast, as it’s careered around Europe over the past 18 months, manifesting itself through conversations, small gatherings, full blown prototype, scoping exercises and conference presentations — it’s found itself with a constantly fluctuating level of supporters, dissenters, participants and dedicated unMonasterians. Like shifting tectonic plates, opportunity for critical convergence often leads to large volcanoes of activity, which dissipate and move on over time.

But it’s been clear, from the start that the unMonastery was no well oiled communications agency — despite all the very unexpected press and magazine articles, that have fortunately plugged the gaps, at times there has been a failure to communicate. Even despite working hard (perhaps obsessively) to document and pull together all work on the unMonastery to date — which manifests itself in a 60,000+ word log, known as The Book of Greater and Lesser Omissions.

Bruce Sterling @bruces · Jan 30
http://unmonastery-wiki.mirelsol.org/doku.php?id=book_of_mistakes:working_texts:start … *Even by the generous standards of dropout communes, this is a really weird document

The aforementioned GLO acts as an extensive archive which forms a cornerstone of the unMonastery Toolkit; known as The unMonastery BIOS. Over the past 6 months we’ve been attempting to distill the learnings of the Matera prototype and subsequent endeavours into a well crafted How To for the deployment of future unMonasteries. We plan to release the public Beta in July and as part of this process we’ve also begun to rationalise our excessive and fragmented use of online platforms — with a view to deploying exclusively open source tools over a 12 month period.

But somewhere in the flurry of all this work between #LOTE4, Transmediale and the scoping exercise recently deployed in Athens, we’ve found ourselves unable to maintain our more permeable membranes, in part this has been as a result of learning to negotiate distance after Matera. Realising this we have over the past fortnight been doing significant work to develop ways in which people can join in unMonastery activity, stay up to date and generally increase the opportunities for participation, hopefully without becoming a full time reception desk.

We think staggered participation might look something like this:

Concentric Circles from Outer to Inner Read: Initial Points of Contact; Individual Projects; Individual unMonasteries; unMonastery MetaNational — Each layer representing increased degrees of commitment.

And if that appears to be a bit abstract in its satellite-like omnipotence, we’ve started putting together some basic flowcharts for different forms of interest and desires for participation in ongoing development.

Our initial drafts look like this:

Very rough starting point, for mapping routes of participation.

Over the next months, we’ll begin to publish interactive versions of these to the participate section of our website, so that visitors and curious lurkers can get more closely involved with unMonastery.

As part of this development we’ve also begun to put together designs for a dashboard system for tracking progress on individual unMonasteries, to tie in with the map presently on the front page of unMonastery.org — this functionality is intended as a single serving page that can show progress, phase of development, key dates, current outstanding tasks and points of contact.

Whilst we work towards developing clear paths of access for anyone discovering the unMonastery for the first time, we’ve also implemented and scheduled a few things to get started with:


Self described as “an open source discussion platform built for the next decade of the Internet” — this space is intended as a public forum to enable discussion for the ongoing development of the unMonastery concept as a whole.

We chose discourse for a number of reasons, firstly it’s open source, secondly it allows people to login with their existing accounts (including Persona), and perhaps most importantly it’s been designed so that it is easily accessible for anyone encountering it and comes with a built in immune system which allows for the most engaged community members to assist in the governance of the community.

Over the next few weeks we’ll be uploading, updating and relocating a number of discussions to the initial set of categories set up on the platform.


Bringing Back the Community Call

Last year we used to run regular community calls, whilst we still hold regular calls for the core unMonastery team, they’re usually a little overwhelming in their checkbox administrative nature — so we thought it made sense to set up a regular call dedicated to anyone that wants to drop by and chat — these will happen on the last sunday of every month.

The first of these new community calls is schedule for the 26th April at 11:00 CET — we’ll make a separate post with relevant links and details later this week.

unSummit #2 and #3

Following the success of the first unSummit at Transmediale at the end of January, we’ve decided to make these gatherings as regular as is unHumanly possible, we’ve no intention to cling to a fixed format or scale so you should expect that each iteration will bring something different.

The next unSummit will be announced shortly, and will take place in Athens — so to ensure it connects directly to our current scoping work in the country. We’ve also begun planning for unSummit #3 to take place in Nottingham this July in collaboration with NearNow.

Regular Meetups

The unMonastery thrives and prioritises face to face communication, so we’ve decided to begin hosting small informal gatherings, starting with London — the first one will happen at on the 3rd floor at Royal Festival Hall on Sunday: 26th of April / 10:00–12:00.

unMonastery Stories

We’ve decided that it could be useful to begin sharing our personal experience of working on unMonastery, partly to communicate with the wider world, but also to offer one another a glimpse into our daily process and thinking, you can find the first of such posts by Katalin Hausel here.


We hope that everything that we’ve laid out here will enable others to join us in our exploration of what the unMonastery is, how it might grow and what it could become — but we’d like to express a few words of caution. Like the early days of monastic tradition the ‘we’ value certain degrees of solitude, focus and frugality, as a result we will at times struggle to fulfil every desire or expression of interest but we hope that over the course of the next 200 years there will be many possibilities for our paths to cross in meaningful ways.

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