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June 2008
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August 2008

Benkler on TED

I have said it before Yochai Benkler is my hero. (hard to read ..better to watch)

This is a good background on the foundation of what trends are really playing with modern movement organizing. Network-centric advocacy stems from exactly the trends that Yochai introduces here. As Benkler's ides sink in it transforms the way you think about organizing and what is possible.

The challenge for the movement is to think about network production and social change endeavors. The model of radical distributed campaigns are just taking shape in our sector. Long-term campaigns built deliberately around network organizing are just being contemplated by the leaders in our sector.

The web and these networks are going to transform social change movements but not just in fundraising. It could easily be argued that in America today our successful social movements are not dealing with a scarcity problem from a lack of resources (ask AARP).

Money was a problem in social movements. Organizing solved this problem and focused on addressing the scarcity of money (both Presidential opted out of public financing) by compiling small donations.

As time of supporters becomes scarce in political and social organizing the challenge and opportunity for the sectors is to collect smaller parts and build them into something wonderful.

Galaxy Zoo

Hmm. I could imagine a traditional organizer interviewing the folks organizing the astronomy research at Oxford.


Q: Tell me about your project?

A: We need to do a lot of research.

Q: How much?

A: Well it is like counting and looking at stars in space.

Q: How long will it take? How many staff would it take? How much?

A: Not long. Only a few staff and a big network. Most of the research will be free.

Q: What do you mean?

A: We distributed the work to the network. We asked them to do little bits, check each others work and built our research from the results.

Q: what did they find?

A: "Armchair astronomers using the website have identified over 500 overlapping galaxies in the local Universe when astronomers had previously only known of 20 such systems."

Can you design a similar project? Would you have funded it? Would you have supported it in your organization? Why or why not?

This is network organizing. This is different than thinking about how to organize or build an organization. This is different than grassroots organizing. This is organizing projects to run across massive connected networks of participants using their skills and intelligence.

I look forward to getting out advocacy network based projects moving again. And please check out the Galaxyzoo.

Link: Home | Galaxy Zoo.

Thanks for making Galaxy Zoo such a success!

With your help, we've been able to collect millions of classifications, with which to do science faster than we ever thought possible. We are currently preparing the first science papers for submission to peer-reviewed journals and we will keep you posted on the progress of the papers on the BLOG and the FORUM. From now on, if you classify galaxies on the ANALYSIS page, your classifications will continue to be recorded and will be part of the public release, but it won't be part of the first round of papers. Don't be alarmed if the galaxies are odd, this is part of the process of checking our results.

But we still need you! As part of our follow-up work, we need volunteers to review our set of possible merging galaxies. If you're already familiar with basic Galaxy Zoo analysis, click here to read the instructions and click here to take part. Galaxy Zoo 2 will go live in the near future featuring a much more detailed classification system, while further off we plan GalaxyZoo 3 with lots of exciting new data. We'll notify all of you via the newsletter when we're able to start these two new endeavours.

Flocks and movements

I was just reading some interesting information about agent-based modeling. They look at flocks. They are working on how to get computer animated icons to behave like a flock. The interesting thing is that there are three rules that drive the behavior and the way a flock of birds moves:

1. All birds try and fly towards the center.

2. All birds try and avoid collision with other birds.

3. That they match the speed of all other birds.

Using these three simple rules, you're able to set up models where they can completely mimic the flock.

The question is whether or not, given the way Foundation world funds at the center if they create a flock mentality by default.

Does lack of funding innovation push movements to move away from the edge? Does lack of funding at the edges drive us toward center? Does membership, brand and media strategy make groups avoid overlap "avoid collision"? Due to political realities and pack lobbing keep groups prevent groups from to stepping too far in front of their other allies (matching "the speed or progress" of the movement)?

Most groups want to be at the center because that's where most of the money and protection is. Given these three dynamics, we see much of the movement behave like a flock of birds. They move in unwieldy directions.

They move, as a mindless group, swarming with each other around. It can be beautiful in birds but it a shame that social change and groups of progress are not using a more effective method for organizing. (I'll look at the hive, swarm and ant hill models soon)

Who is the Peregrin our groups are all afraid of?