I want to give special thanks to Meredith (@maradydd), Sam (@metasj), and the Berkman crew (@berkmancenter) for help in parsing all these complicated ideas. I’m forever grateful for our conversations.
The existing harms of social scripts we ran while in smaller, geographically-constrained groups are being amplified due to network effect. Tiny unchecked errors, scaled, become large harms as people find ways to exploit them, in life just as in software.
I propose we hold a 2-day event to understand “weaponized social” historically, tangentially, neurochemically, and technically — and to arrive at ongoing ways of addressing them. These challenges are not new, they are simply arising in space we consider new. Given the erosion of trust online, I see meeting in person as vital to rebuilding trust. You can suggest when and where the event takes place via http://goo.gl/forms/2iBJbHXD5E
There was a time when the hacker and academic circles I run in had the default assumption of “it’s better to have your idea broken by your friends than by someone else.” The implicit assumption being that we’d build even better ideas, together. I *hate* that loving dissent is disappearing from my corners of the internet, when I used to dream it would spread. I hate that there’s a vanishing chance I can reasonably assume a trolling comment online is social commentary from an yet-to-be-known compatriot dealing with the same bizarre issues of a system that I am; but rather must now deal with such as a potential precursor to having to leave my home based on legitimate death and rape threats. I hate that some of my intelligent male-shaped or neuro-atypical friends are scared to join conversations online for fear of being severely and permanently ostracized for slight missteps. I hate that some of my intelligent female-shaped friends feel unwelcome online – yes, because of “trolls” who often happen to be self-male-identified, but ALSO because of an incredibly strange practice of women belittling each other. I hate that I only know how to speak to these issues in a gender-focused way, despite knowing damn well race and class come strongly into play, and having the sinking suspicion that cohorts don’t feel safe calling me out. I hate that nearly all my lovely friends of all genders feel unwanted and unsafe because they and others happen to be organisms interested in sex, and respond to culturally indoctrinated shame (in response as well as in self-assessment) by pinning problems on the tangible other, building self-fulfilling prophesies of distrust and violence. And I hate that we’re driving each other off pro-social paths, making taking an anti-social one more likely. I’m sick of these social scripts we’re auto-running, and I’m set on returning to lovingly breaking my friends’ ideas, and us examining and strengthening those ideas together. Please join me in this act for this event, the surrounding ideas, and the rest of life.
Since online conversation is currently so focused on gender divides, let’s look at that for a moment. This proposed re-scripting is complicated by women being socialized to understand men, to reach out to them, to be accommodating. In a desire to NOT run dis-equalizing social scripts, we as female-types are instead falling into scripts of victimization and back stabbing/”you’re doing feminism wrong.” I’d consider the former set worth embracing as human, the latter to be consciously left to the wayside. Those socialized to be masculine have social scripts they’re bucking and/or selecting, too. Scripts about being protective, and reliable, and strong. Scripts about being stoic, and angry, and omnipotent. But such re-scripting is entirely doable, and we should hear from people about why these cycles happen, and how other disciplines have escaped cycles and built new scripts. Attendees will be trusting me that other attendees are here in good faith, a meatspace web of trust, and that means attendees will be vetted. We will talk about difficult things, and we will set an example of doing so with an interest in begin tough on ideas but kind to people. There will come a time that we can expect every human to stand open but unwavering; but personal, cutural, and institutional histories matter. Violence across these has left a wake of torn-down individuals, and in this space everyone will be expected to be kind.
The re-writing of scripts has proven powerful and useful in other spaces. There are communities in conflict zones which refuse to adopt the identities of victim nor aggressor, instead providing pockets of increased stablity in tumultuous geographies. They do this not out of pacifism, but because that particular conflict doesn’t work for them. We see things like Popehat emerge to offer a way out of victimhood and isolation in being targeted by unparsable legal threats. We see groups like Strike Debt question entire financial structures, providing paths to visible solidarity in otherwise isolating systems. Others have shown it is possible to forge new paths, many in more dangerous and complex situations than what we face. Let’s learn from them.
If you’d like to contribute suggestions to who should be invited to speak, examples to look at, or even helping with the event itself, please be in touch!