A paper on the Fediverse by Thomas Struett, American University – School of Communication, Aram Sinnreich, American University – School of Communication, Patricia Aufderheide, American University – School of Communication, Rob Gehl, York University.
Interesting #mainstreaming look, that bypasses the grassroots it’s actually talking about, this is a common issue with academic writing, am at Oxford this winter so have everyday “organic” expirence of this.
For governance, we have a widely discussed project on this forum that is “native” to address all the issues outline in the article Open-Media-Network/openwebgovernancebody: ON STANDBY due to waiting for funding – (OGB) This is a space for working through Governance of horizontal projects – using #KISS online tools. – openwebgovernancebody – Open Media Network 4
So to sum up, what we need is for “us” the collective to get up from our knees and become the change we would like to see. This is actually not a hard thing to do “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
Let’s look at this PDF:
This thread and our failing in general in “governance” is to do with the fluffy and spiky debate, or much more obviously the failing of this debate to actually be held in place.
“Potential benefits of the fediverse are at risk of being subverted, either by commercial
competitors or through structural dysfunction.”
Dealing with both commercial and structural dysfunction here.
Commercial – funding has shifted from distributed to centralized over the last few years, this is driving core dysfunctions – interesting and useful subject to discus.
Structural – we have not moved anywhere towards “native” governance approaches, this is building crises Legitimacy (political) – Wikipedia
“hold promise as human-scale, democratically-run platforms for civil discourse within and between these groups of users.”
We aspire to this, but with no democracy in any formal or informal sense. And secondly we lack “groups of users” as the coding being copies of #dotcons are strongly “individualized” which pushed our #mainstreaming “common sense” over this openweb “native” space.
“challenges inherent to distributed governance, commercial platform capture, inclusive
access, moderation at scale, reputational assaults by commercial competitors, and the tacitly
neoliberal techno-Romanticism familiar from previous digital innovations. ”
The is a long working (activist) history of mediating these problems that we are ignoring here. A first step to addressing this is the fluffy spiky debate being held in place #KISS
“Developers, entrepreneurs, institutions, and users of these technologies
must also work collectively and proactively to help the fediverse avoid these historical threats
and maximize its civic potential.”
This is the bit we need to talk more about, as it’s key to not fucking up agen.
“However, the fediverse is more than a technical system; it is also a political structure (Mansoux
& Roscam Abbing, 2020). ”
On this currently, we are seeing Legitimacy (political) – Wikipedia failing.
“the structure of platform governance and moderation is both reflective of and integral to the
functioning of democratic processes in digital networks, and much of the proverbial “devil in the
details” comes down to arcane and obscure questions about transparency, control, and
information flow at any given chokepoint or sociotechnical layer.”
This is why link to the #4opens, and it’s use to judge if a project or group are “native” or not – to make transparent in groups and most impotently OUT-GROUPS. A technical/social membrane, as this quote say “devil in the details”
“1. Distributed governance failures
Previous decentralized social platforms have sometimes failed to deliver on their civic potential
because of challenges emerging from the governance process: the norms, institutions, and
technologies that determine who gets to say what to whom, under which circumstances,”
This is the subject of responses to this thried, illustrating the issues, so think of it as the spiky in the fluffy spiky debate. Notice, we are currently failing to hold this debate in place.
“it introduces other risks that must be addressed and mitigated, including new threats such as accountability and liability crises, forking… Corporate actors may also exploit these challenges, by posing themselves as solutions to distributed governance frictions (Marshall, 2006).”
This is likely in part one of the underling issues we are not talking about here.
“Examples of distributed platforms falling prey to these governance challenges in the past are
We have much to learn and address on this, I talk about this a lot as it’s a key subject we need to move away from “common sense” approaches. Yes this is seen as spiky, but it’s needed, let’s hold this debate open please.
“Not all platform governance is alike. Though corporate platforms emulate traditional media
structures by centralizing power (Napoli & Caplan, 2017), the fediverse has a more distributed
governance structure. This decentralization is not just an aspect of the underlying software but also a core tenet of the governance philosophy of the fediverse itself.”
This is a subject I talk about a lot and have been working on for the last few years with the ogb as a “native” approache. In general, these “native” approaches are still being #blocked by #mainstreaming “common sense” approaches. This needs to change if the openweb reboot is not to wither and die.
“Benjamin Mako Hill (2018) describes this corporate capture of OSS projects as “strategic closedness.””
This is in easy view with a lot of our tech and fashionable crew pushing #closedweb ideas as “common sense” verse “native” openweb approaches. This is a problem with no obverse solutions, the #4opens project is one way to mediate this insolvable/unspoken issue that is everywhere in our dev crew.
“2. Commercial capture
Another challenge that has undermined the health and strength of previous decentralized or
open platforms is commercial capture. Proprietary, value-added features that enhance the user
experience are used to bring more users onto the platform, ”
We currently have few tools to push this back, our strongest tool is likely our “culture” but this itself is fractured, full of infighting and unspoken. Speaking this out load while creating tension is likely nessersery for any good outcome. Hiding from this is #fail
“This means that only a continuing commitment to interoperability by developers, and not merely the existence of an open technological standard, can ensure an open ecosystem within the fediverse.”
It’s social/political NOT a technical problem, so our current fixation on ONLY tech and avoidance of the social/political is a easy to see and act on #fail
“Eternal September is not that new users simply need to be taught the social norms of the space they are joining, but that norms policing is a form of gatekeeping that can exclude new and more diverse users from joining.”
This is both true and a #fashernista problem, we need a better path, this should be easy, it’s not.
“it is important to critique calls for technological approaches to user-friendliness, which are often couched in rhetoric of democratization of technology, while simultaneously undermining decentralized
power relations… making the platform easier to join and use,
while also limiting users’ agency to make choices about the underlying infrastructure that will
best foster their communities”
We are going to see this from every side for and agenst, we need a balances’ path through this mess, we are not currently talking about this path, we need to.
“the fediverse currently relies on the goodwill of countless volunteer moderators and self-funded instances, this goodwill can’t last indefinitely, and a workable approach to funding and compensation has yet to emerge.”
This one is a can of worms, the current “best” solution is to keep instances small and voluntary run, our ongoing disagreements on this path is likely to continue to do damage… one path out of this is legitimate “governance”.
“The reputational anti-halo is already cropping up in discourse about the fediverse and Mastodon, which have been tainted by their uses among the “alt-right” (Makuch, 2019) and for child abuse (Thiel & DiResta, 2023).”
This comes down to voice and power, as “libertarian cats” we have little of either… it’s a bad path to stay on, what path would be better and more “native” is a good question to talk about.
“techno-Romanticism works to obscure the labor, networks, and institutions that are key to supporting technological development while elevating the simplistic view of the great men of history… the fediverse is particularly vulnerable to techno-Romanticism”
This is an endemic issue, and most people are chasing the tech equivalent of the American dream that they will become the top dev… this is not a native approach to the openweb, but it’s currently a dominating view. This is mess making.
“Technical language and the assumption of baseline technical expertise may also present unintended obstacles to adoption. Conversely, the fediverse also faces the threat that the rhetoric of “user friendliness” will justify the curtailing of user agency, or re-centralization of the network… messy, and continuous practice of maintaining a healthy and inclusive space for civic discourse…
Techno-Romantism’s utopian discourse poses a threat to the fediverse because it distracts from the importance of social action in the development of technology… discussion about how to
identify them and limit their impact, is a critical step toward reaching those civic and
technosocial goals together.”
In conclusion, the roadmap for the fediverse’s future must transcend the confines of technicality and delve deep into the socio-political fabric. Holding the fluffy-spiky debate firm, nurturing ‘native’ approaches, mitigating commercial capture, addressing governance challenges, and fostering a culture of inclusivity and sustainability—these constitute the keystones for nurturing the true potential of the fediverse.