OpenKollab: inherent conflicts arising within generative collaboration spaces

SUBMITTED TO THE OPENKOLLAB LISTSERV: http://groups.google.com/group/openkollab/

Hey Folks,

I just drafted this as a part of a conference submission that I made and I would welcome your thoughts. Specifically, we have all come to realize that, even though we all share a passion for open collaboration and its potential, actually identifying what to collaborate on is much more difficult than you would think it should be.

I am interested in understanding why this is so and what we can do about it. There are a few thoughts below, but I still continue to be mostly puzzled…

OpenKollab: inherent conflicts arising within generative collaboration spaces

This paper will explore examples of conflict that have arisen in the development of OpenKollab (http://openkollab.com), an generative open collaboration environment that is developing a community of practice as well as tools and processes to foster collaboration amongst organizations with aligned missions. As a result it will discuss specific problems that have arisen during the actual practice of creating an open collaboration space. Potential solutions to the identified problems will then be suggested.

A generative open collaborative environment is one where a group, sharing a high level abstract goal (in our case a commitment to the benefits of open collaboration and a conviction that it can play a role in bringing about positive social change), but no definable or measurable goals, works together to identify such specific goals. Hence different sub projects can be identified and teams can be formed that can pursue these projects within the umbrella of a larger open collaboration environment.

It is our experience that generative open collaboration environments give rise to specific sorts of conflicts that need to be resolved. The challenges are great for those working on OpenKollab, but the rewards will be worth the effort since it is generative open collaboration environments that hold the promise of mass mobilization and coordination of action on a global scale.

The group’s mission has been driven by idealism, but we have learned the hard way that there are many pragmatic challenges that one must contend with. These challenges can be understood as conflicts that arise at many levels, including:

  • The mission of OpenKollab versus participants personal agendas
  • The mission of OpenKollab versus participating organizations
  • Conflicts arising from differing agendas of participating members and organizations.
  • Individual conflicts arising from lack of consensus in the formation of the vision.

All of these conflicts arise out of an inherent tension between the larger group, treated as an abstract entity, and the individuals (or sub-groups) that have a more tangible reality. At first glance it might seem as though the solution to the problem is to engage in sufficient dialogue to generate consensus. Practically speaking, this has proven to be more difficult than it would seem since consensus around high level principles does not necessarily lead to agreement on specific sub-projects and associated tasks.

If the larger objective is to bridge boundaries and create bonds in the spirit of collaboration, practical strategies to overcome these inhibitors will need to be developed.

To mitigate these inhibitors, we are working towards specific task and workflow procedures such as:

Autonomous Information Spaces With Simultaneous Content Publishing: technology mechanisms that allow content to be simultaneously published in a distributed fashion across different platforms (wiki’s, websites etc.)

Hybrid Branding Strategies: strategies that create a brand both for OpenKollab as well as the participating entities.

Commons based Reusable content: what is required is that workflows be structured so that work that is done for the collaborative group is work that can be leveraged by others within the collaborative community.

  • One groups output becomes another groups input
  • Flexibility given for content modification and re-use
  • Subject to commons based content licensing

These, and other such strategies for mitigating conflict in the development of generative collaborative spaces, will be described.

The Structure of Communication

The Structure of Communication

Temporal Structure

Synchronous (real time)

Synchronous Communication transpires in real time. In other words, it transpires when two parties are present in relation to each other in such a manner that that enables them to initiate a communicative act that is apprehended essentially instantaneously by the other party(ies) involved in the communicative act.

Examples of this is include face to face conversations, telephone conversations and instant messaging.

Asynchronous

Asynchronous Communication, in contrast to synchronous communication transpires when two parties are not present in relation to each other in such a manner that enables them to initiative a communicative act that is apprehended essentially instantaneously by the other party(ies) involved in the communicative act.

Examples of this include letters and email.

Distributive Structure

One-to-One

One-to–One communication when one individual initiates a communicative act intended for another individual.

Examples of this include letters, emails from one person to another person (not a group!), instant messenger, telephone calls between two parties (not conference calls!), video conferencing

One-to-Many

One-to-many communication when one individual initiates a communicative act intended for more than one other individual.

Examples of this include group email distribution, mail drops (letters sent to a whole postal code, form example), voice messages sent from a single source to a large number of mobile recipients.

Many-to-Many

Many-to-Many communication transpires when many people are in the presence of each other and therefore a communicative act can be initiated by a number of different individuals in such a manner that enables the communication to be received by a number of different individuals.

Examples of this include face to face group interaction (meetings), conference calls and video conferences.

Intentional Structure

Private

Private communication transpires when the intention of the communicator is such that what is communicated is intended for a precisely defined recipient or recipients.

Examples of private communications are letters, emails and telephone calls.

Public

Public communication transpires when the intention of the communicator is such that what is communicated is not intended only for a precisely defined recipient or recipients. In other words, it is the intention of the communicator that what is communicated might be received/apprehended by anyone.

Examples of public communication include advertising, magazine and newspaper publication and postings in public forums (internet discussion threads etc.).

It should be noted that what makes a communicative act public is the fact that a representation of what is communicated and archived.

Presence Structure

Unmediated

Unmediated communication transpires when the parties to the communication are present in space in relation to each other in a manner that enables them to apprehend each other through the use of all of their senses.

Examples of unmediated communication include face-to-face conversations, meetings (in a room, not online…)

It is important to note that associated with unmediated communication is the consciousness those that are party to the communication have of their spatial proximity to each other. This consciousness has evolved due to the obvious fact that, to date, it is not been possible to interact in an unmediated fashion in the absence of temporal proximity. However, there is no theoretical impediment to the possibility that unmediated communication might be non-spatially proximal. At this point this might be science fiction, but we might be able to imagine the possibility of technology advancing to the point where we can experience others through all of our senses in a precisely analogous manner to how we currently experience those that are in our immediate presence, yet where it is such that the other person is in a physically different location.

Mediated

Mediated communication transpires when the parties to the communication are not present in space in relation to each other in a manner that enables them to apprehend each other through the use of their senses.

Examples of mediated communication include letters, telephone calls and emails.

The nature of how communications are mediated needs to be analyzed in terms of the modes of sensory stimulation that are activated in the interaction. Hence, we can extend our taxonomy as follows;

Textual Mediation:  it is the written word that provides the essential mode of communication.

An example of this is the letter.

Auditory Mediation: it is the auditory sensory process that is essential to the mode of communication.

An example of this is the telephone.

Visual and Auditory Mediation: Both the visual and auditory sensory process are essential to this form of communication.

An example of this is a video conference.

Persistence Structure

Persistent: A persistent form of communication is one where the idea that constitutes the communication persists in time. In other words there is a record of the communication that can be viewed at a later time.

Impersistent: In contrast an impersistent form of communication is one where the idea that constitutes the communication does not persist in time. There is no record of the communication other than what resides in the mind of those that are party to the communication.

Implicit Potential

Reflects the extent to which a particular form of communication makes possible implicit communication.

Communications Taxonomy

Empirical Types Temporal Structure Distributive Structure Intentional Structure Presence Structure Persistence Implicit Potential
Face-to-face Conversations Synchronous One-to-One Private Unmediated Impersistent Very Strong
One-to-One telephone ccnversations Synchronous One-to-One Private Auditory Mediation Impersistent Moderate
Conference Calls Synchronous Many-to-Many Private Auditory Mediation Impersistent Moderate
Instant Messaging Synchronous One-to-One Private Textual Mediation Impersistent Weak/Moderate
Chat Rooms Synchronous Many-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Impersistent Wea/Moderate
Discussion Boards Asynchronous Many-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Persistent Weak
Letters Asynchronous One-to-One Private Textual Mediation Persistent Weak

‘Mail Drops’

Asynchronous One-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Persistent Weak
One-to-One Email Asynchronous One-to-One Private Textual Mediation Persistent Weak/Low
One-to-One video conferencing/web camera Synchronous One-to-One Private Visual and Auditory Mediation Impersistent Strong
Many-to-Many video conferencing Synchronous Many-to-Many Private Visual and Auditory Mediation Impersistent Strong
Group Emails Asynchronous One-to-Many Public Textual Mediation Persistent Weak

Next Generation Communication

We are most interested in forms of communication that satisfy the following conditions: are synchronous, many-to-many, public, visual and auditorily mediated, and persistent.

Transitions In The Possibility For Communication: summary[b1]

Transitions in the possibility of communication in respect to time, and its relationship to group formation can be briefly summarized as follows:

Basic Verbal Communication (limited communication form): Talking and shouting represent this form of communication. The ability to communicate is limited to the number of people who can hear you when you shout!

Basic Written Communication (limited communication form): Writing represents this communication form. The ability to communicate is limited in the sense that the pace of distribution of information is a function of how quickly one can distribute written material – books, flyers etc.

First Generation Electronic Communication (one to one communication): This form of communication is represented by the telegraph, telephone etc. These methods can be considered linear communication forms in that they represent communication from one party to another. With the exception of recent advancements that are not used widely (conference calls, for example), most electronic communication easily supports only one to one communication. Second Generation Electronic Communication (one to many communication): This form of communication is represented by email, the use of which is growing at an explosive pace. Email allows for the easy management of lists and groups, as well as control over how one communicates. It allows for easy communication to groups, and represents a recent evolution in group communication process

Third Generation Electronic Communication (real time many to many communication): This form of communication is represented by Instant Messaging: As a result of bandwith increases, and the proliferation of the internet as a medium for communication, we are seeing an explosion the use of Instant Messaging, which allows for real time communication between many participants simultaneously.

The Next Generation in Communication: (organized and mediated [SF2] real time many to many communication): The next generation of communication and interaction will include the ability to effectively organize, collaborate and work in real time dynamic groups on the Internet. Key components of this will be:

  • Organizational systems that facilitate the coordination of virtual teams and virtual projects; integrated collaborative tool systems.
  • Your ability to have your relationship with the internet mediated by Intelligent Agents that provide the capability to customize the nature of your interaction with the exponentially increasing volumes of data that are out there.
  • Your ability to interact in real time with members of your group if you wish.

Group Communication

Communication needs to be understood in four different ways:

Intentional: the act of communicating something where there is an intention to communicate. In other words a person means to communicate something to someone specific, or to some specific group.

Non-Intentional: the act of communicating something when there is no intention to communicate anything specific to anyone in particular. Note that you can communicate non-intentionally by creating the conditions that make communication possible.

Explicit: the act of communicating something that is crystallized in some way – written, verbal, a picture etc.

Implicit: the act of communicating something that is not crystallized – best understood, for example, as body language, tone, inflection etc.

The distinction between non-intentional and implicit communication is subtle and rests on the fact that implicit communication is part of an intentional communicative act. As per the example above, in the case of a someone that is having a conversation with someone else, we note that a component of what is intentionally communicated in this communicative act will be implicit – it will be the grounds for the sorts of inferences that are made by the other party in the conversation in relation to one of voice, inflection, gesture etc. We note, however, that this must be distinguished from non intentional communication since it is part of a communicative act that is fundamentally explicit.


[b1]Needs to be reworked

[SF2] Need to expand on nature an implications of mediation

Technology and Massive Dialogue

There has been much discussion on this blog about the changing nature of space; the way that we can extend the environments that we are in in order to bridge geographic boundaries.

Another theme that is related, and that I will expand further on in due course, is the idea that technology allows you to extend the range and scope of the conversations that we have. We can include more people in the conversations that we have, and to the extent that we do that, we can get to know others that are located at  distance from us, develop a consensus on how to deal with problems with these people and so on.

The following is a great example of what is happening.

THIS PROCESS IS A GREAT EXAMPLE OF HOW TECHNOLOGY CAN BE USED TO BRIDGE BOUNDARIES AND BRING TOGETHER PEOPLE FROM AROUND THE WORLD THAT HAVE A COMMON INTEREST IN ADDRESSING THE CLIMATE CHANGE ISSUE!

Okay, we finally have a venue set for the Mass Dialogue session on Dec. 10th. It will held in the IRMACS theatre (ASB 10905, from 9 to 11 am.

Here’s a spiel from Amber to get you started, and below that is my own synopsis of what I think will happen, based on the larger pdf document that I’ve attached below. The documents below put together by Amber provide a good about of background (helped me a lot!). Please send info as far and as wide as you can, and ask them to RSVP to amber.church@gov.bc.ca.

On December 10, 2008 join youth from across BC as they connect with the youth delegation at the United Nations Climate Change Meetings, COP 14, in Poznan, Poland.
Young people across the province will gather together at schools and municipal buildings to hear an update of the international negotiations from youth working on the ground in Poland, to have their questions answered, and to find out how BC youth can help make a difference to the outcomes of COP 14. Youth unable to gather at the hubs throughout BC will be able to join the live videoconference through their home computers. This event is part of the Mass Dialogues, a program that will see 35,000 young people around the world connecting with youth at COP 14 to engage on the issue of climate change and create positive change.

The format will be something like this:
9am – we make the connection with the Poznan people and establish communication.
9-9:05 am – People arrive.
9-9:30 – participants learn how the question process is going to work.
9:28 am – 2 minute warning from Poznan
9:30 am – Moderator introduces and welcomes attendees, we have a brief video of ourselves shown worldwide (It will be a few seconds).
9:35 – Moderator introduces the session and the panelists in Poznan.
9:45 – Panel discussions begin – moderator poses his/her own questions to the panel of judges. During this time, SFU participants (and people around the world) write their questions on paper and give them to the SFU moderator, who types them into the Poznan moderator, who selects questions for the next section.
10:15 – Moderator begins to ask questions selected from Mass Dialogue participants. If you question is selected, you come up to our microphone and when ask it live.
10:45 – Thanks yous and session ends.

FAQs:
Who is a youth? Someone under 30.
Do I have to be an expert on climate change? NO. You have to be a youth. Prepare if you want, or just come and learn.
Will I be on camera? The whole group will be for a few seconds at the beginning. But if your question is selected your voice will be heard.

The Concept of Facebook

In yesterday’s post I made reference to an article that I wrote entitled The Concept of Facebook. I thought I might as well provide a link to the article for those that are interested:

The Concept of Facebook

The following is an exerpt from the article to give you an idea of what it is all about…

I find the Facebook phenomenon very interesting. What is most interesting is the question as to why it has captured everyone’s and interest. The following are a few thoughts on social networking sites in general and Facebook in particular. There is much to say on this topic and it certainly can’t be said in a few pages so consider the following simply representative of a few themes that will at least serve to ideally stimulate your interest in the topic and hopefully some discussion as well!

FACEBOOK AND SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES

Community

The question that we want to ponder is: what is it about the Facebook community that makes it more interesting than other communities? Think for a moment about the circle of friends you associate with (pretend this was in the pre-facebook era!). What is it about the particular interactions with these friends and the information you had about these interactions that made this particular set of people your close friends.

The question I want you to reflect on is: what sort of information is it about a group of people (and the individuals that constitute that group) that defines the group as your friends?

We are notified when friends post pictures, when friends connect with other friends, which friends are attending which events, who is dating whom etc.

This, in and of itself, is not the whole story, however. What makes the information that we receive relevant in a unique way is that we receive it in real time.

Continuity of Experience: Real Time Interaction

By real time, I mean as it happens. Effectively, Facebook updates information on a continuous basis letting our friends know about changes in our profile as they are made. If this does not sound all that exciting, I ask you to reflect on how you interact with your friends and more generally how you interact with anyone. If you think about this for a moment you will realize that life happens in real time!

The way that we walk through our days and our lives is such that we are presented with a continuous flow of information, images etc. some of which we interpret as relevant and some of which is trivial or useless.

It is the continuity of experience that is something that, heretofore, has not been effectively replicated by other social networking sites, and that makes the Facebook experience unique.

The Space Between You and Other

When you think of the way that you walk through life, one way to think about it is to realize that we are always in spaces. This is to say that, for example, we might get up in the morning go to the bathroom to take a shower, go downstairs and have breakfast with our families, go to school or work for day, go out to dinner with friends at a restaurant later in the evening, attend a lecture the following day and so on. When considered as such we note that each of these ‘environments’ can be considered a space. If you think about things in this way, it becomespretty apparent that ones life is reflected in the spaces within which you are present and the patterns with which you participate in these spaces. You will note that you go to work five days a week and spend eight hours a day in ones ‘work’ space. You will note that every week you attend a rehearsal with your band and so on.

What is interesting is that you will also associate certain people with the spaces that describe your life. Your home will be associated with those in your immediate family. It might be your wife, your parents, your children and so on. The question is: what is it about the spaces that reflect your life that make it possible to associate particular people with each space?

It is the fact that they are in close proximity to you!

Proximity

It seems pretty obvious that people that are in the same spaces are proximal to you. For example, it is obvious that if you live in the same house as someone then you are closer to them (in some sense) than a total stranger; if you attend a class with other people, you are closer to them in some sense than you are to people that you have never seen. But what is it precisely that creates this proximity.

It is that you are present in relation to them in a certain way!

Presence

Presence is the idea that any actions that we might make are observable by others. When thought of as such it seems pretty obvious that if we are in the same room as someone else, then if we move, the other person will notice. This isn’t rocket science! Therefore, proximity and presence are closely related and the point is simply that those that we are proximally related to are those that we are present in relation to in a manner that makes it possible for us to intentionally make it such that the other person is aware of us. Again, consider the case of those that are a part of your home. If you yell, they will hear you!

How is this relevant you ask!

Facebook Modifies Presence!

What makes the concept of presence an important idea is that Facebook modifies ones presence in relation to others, and in virtue of this changes the nature of space itself.

All that is being said is that it is now easy to get the attention of others at a distance.

What is important about this is that it alters the pattern of communication that is possible.

Facebook Enables Implicit Communication

To better understand this idea, we need to think a little bit about communication. Without getting too deep, we need to begin by realizing that communication needs to be understood in four different ways:

Intentional: the act of communicating something where there is an intention to communicate. In other words a person means to communicate something to someone specific, or to some specific people. Examples of this include talking to someone, writing letters to someone, telephoning someone etc.

Non-Intentional: the act of communicating something when there is no intention to communicate anything specific to anyone in particular. Examples of this include getting a book published, writing a song that gets distributed and so on. In these cases, we intend to communicate, but not to anyone particular.

Explicit: the act of communicating something that is crystallized in some way – written, verbal, a picture etc. Explicit communication can be intentional or non-intentional. For example we can communicate intentionally and explicitly by writing a letter and sending it to someone, or telephoning someone. It can be non-intentional in the case of the publication of an article. In both cases, what we communicate is crystallized in that we have consciously formulated it.

Implicit: the act of communicating something non-intentional that is not crystallized – best understood, for example, as body language, tone, inflection etc.

If we think about communication as such, we see that Facebook makes possible implicit communication in ways never before possible. This is due to the fact that it facilitates the creation of imagery that becomes part of the public domain. When one places a picture on ones profile, writes a note etc. one is placing the object within a domain where it becomes possible for someone to view the object, read the object and so on.

What is intriguing about implicit communication is that it is essentially a new form of communication – one that, to date, has been the purview only of authours, musicians, artists and so on. In the past it is only those that have created content that was deemed worthy of being part of the public domain that actually became part of the public domain. Today we can all create content that is part of the public domain.

I make no judgments on whether the content that is created is worthy or not of being in the public domain as I don’t think that this is the issue. What is important is that the possibility for presenting ourselves to the world has become possible, and that has unique and exciting implications.

For the rest of the article go go: The Concept of Facebook

Introducing the Technology and Social Change Wiki!

I just set up a wiki through http://www.wetpaint.com for the purposes of creating a collaborative environment where those that believe that the internet can play a role in the resolution of Massive Social Problems can contribute in a number of ways.

The wiki can be found at: http://technologyandsocialchange.wetpaint.com

I will cross post my general comments that can be found on the CONTRIBUTORS’ MISSION page in the wiki:

I originated this wiki on August, 25, 2008.

I fully realize that it is a wiki and therefore is an information repository/community is not the medium within which I should attempt to evangelize. That said, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that I don’t have a personal agenda, and that this wiki this wiki has nothing to do with my personal goals.

In order to be transparent I will say a few words about what I believe to be true and it should be clear how this wiki will contribute to my larger process. Readers that want more detail on the ideas that I am advancing below can review my blog at https://sureshfernando.wordpress.com.

This wiki is for those ‘outside the box’ thinkers who believe that the internet can be utilized for socially beneficial purposes. By socially beneficial I refer not merely to the sorts of things that we conventionally understand to be its benefit; disintermediation, information dissemination, customized content creation, collaborating on documents in ones office, games, networking, keeping in touch with ones friends etc. etc.

What I am referring to is the sort of social change that we will actually care about and will contribute to changing the world in a meaningful way!

I strongly believe that problems that are seemingly intractable such as climate change, poverty, famine, war etc. are not intrinsic to human nature and therefore it is possible to create a world where these problems will be drastically reduced if not eliminated entirely.

If what I am saying has any truth to it, the internet and the evolution of the communications infrastructure will play a role in making the changes that I envision possible.

In a nutshell, many of the problems with which we are faced are due to the fact that communities evolved in a geographically dispersed manner. It is literally the case that hunter-gather communities in Africa evolved without the knowledge of the existence of similar hunter-gather communities in the Northern Hemisphere. The absence of contact results in the development of differing value systems, customs etc. These differences, in turn, foster a perception that there are fundamental differences between communities. The truth is that these differences are merely contingent facts; things could have been different. If the world comprised a singular community that was geographically homogeneous, we can safely assume that things would be different. Communities that perceive themselves as being homogeneous don’t have the same sorts of issues that arise between those that perceive themselves as being different.

Therefore, the solution to problems of global scope is to create a global community.

What one must ask oneself is whether this is possible. If community has something to do with communication, and the dynamics of communication are changing rapidly and drastically, is there any reason to think otherwise?

Peace and Love.

Suresh


Contributors’ Mission
This page is dedicated to allowing the contributors to this wiki a few paragraphs to outline what their larger mission is, and why participation in this wiki will be beneficial to the process.

SURESH FERNANDO
I originated this wiki on August, 25, 2008.

I fully realize that it is a wiki and therefore is an information repository/community is not the medium within which I should attempt to evangelize. That said, it would be disingenuous of me to suggest that I don’t have a personal agenda, and that this wiki this wiki has nothing to do with my personal goals.

In order to be transparent I will say a few words about what I believe to be true and it should be clear how this wiki will contribute to my larger process. Readers that want more detail on the ideas that I am advancing below can review my blog at https://sureshfernando.wordpress.com.

This wiki is for those ‘outside the box’ thinkers who believe that the internet can be utilized for socially beneficial purposes. By socially beneficial I refer not merely to the sorts of things that we conventionally understand to be its benefit; disintermediation, information dissemination, customized content creation, collaborating on documents in ones office, games, networking, keeping in touch with ones friends etc. etc.

What I am referring to is the sort of social change that we will actually care about and will contribute to changing the world in a meaningful way!

I strongly believe that problems that are seemingly intractable such as climate change, poverty, famine, war etc. are not intrinsic to human nature and therefore it is possible to create a world where these problems will be drastically reduced if not eliminated entirely.

If what I am saying has any truth to it, the internet and the evolution of the communications infrastructure will play a role in making the changes that I envision possible.

In a nutshell, many of the problems with which we are faced are due to the fact that communities evolved in a geographically dispersed manner. It is literally the case that hunter-gather communities in Africa evolved without the knowledge of the existence of similar hunter-gather communities in the Northern Hemisphere. The absence of contact results in the development of differing value systems, customs etc. These differences, in turn, foster a perception that there are fundamental differences between communities. The truth is that these differences are merely contingent facts; things could have been different. If the world comprised a singular community that was geographically homogeneous, we can safely assume that things would be different. Communities that perceive themselves as being homogeneous don’t have the same sorts of issues that arise between those that perceive themselves as being different.

Therefore, the solution to problems of global scope is to create a global community.

What one must ask oneself is whether this is possible. If community has something to do with communication, and the dynamics of communication are changing rapidly and drastically, is there any reason to think otherwise?

Peace and Love.

Suresh

The Relation Between Modernity, Space, Consciousness and Massive Social Change

In yesterday’s entry I introduced the notion of Vectors of Consciousness in order to capture sense in which Outside Spatial environments have a ‘collective’ feel. When a number of people are in the same space and are conscious of each other, the way that collection of people stand in relation to each other, and therefore their environment will depend, in part, on the extent to which the Object of which they are Conscious (Locus of Consciousness) is something about which they are all conscious (Intersection of Consciousness). We used the contrast between watching a performer in a concert hall and being present in a shopping mall. In both cases we are in Outside Space, but clearly these are very different environments. The difference that I want to highlight is that in the case of watching a performance, we are collectively focused on the performer. In the case of walking around in a shopping mall, there is a certain randomness to the way that peoples’ attention is focused.

Today I want to introduce a few more concepts that will give us further tools to understand the sense in which the spaces that we operate in are different. After introducing the concepts I will say a few words about how these ideas are relevant to the wired world that we are living in today.

Size: Defined as the distance required to establish the spatial boundary. This is to be understood in its intuitive sense in that, for example, a concert hall is a large space, whereas a coffee shop is a smaller space.

At first glance we might think of this boundary as being defined by the physical facts involved – that, for example, the walls of the concert hall and the coffee shop define the size of the space. I would like you to think of Size differently, however, as the area within which we can be phenomenally conscious[1] of objects within the space. Since consciousness of objects requires that they are phenomenally present for us, the size of a space defines the boundary within which we can receive meaningful phenomenal stimuli. The walls of the coffee shop define the space because when we are inside the walls, we are not able to be conscious of things outside of the walls.[2] In the case of the piano recital, we are very conscious of being quiet and this is because we know that the slightest sound can be heard by all others in the room (as well as the performer!).

If the space that I am in is defined by the boundary that encompasses the set of possible Objects of which I can be conscious and you also happen to present in the same space, then it follows that it is possible for us to be conscious of each other; their exists the possibility for Reciprocal Consciousness.

One more point needs to be emphasized. Not only is there the possibility for Reciprocal Consciousness, we note that the consciousness is Simultaneously Reciprocal. This is important because not all cases of Reciprocal Consciousness need to be simultaneous. We all, for example, have a consciousness of our friends and family members but this does not mean that when I am thinking about my mother that she is necessary, at that moment, thinking about me. The possibility for Reciprocal Consciousness is simultaneous because it is a form of consciousness that arises from phenomenal stimuli.

If I am able to see/hear you at the same time that you are able to hear/see me then there exists the possibility for Simultaneously Reciprocal Consciousness and we are thus in the same Space.

Stability of Locus of Consciousness: Defined as the predisposition for the Locus of Consciousness to remain constant, across the group, over a period of time. For example, in the case of the performer at the recital, we can expect that he/she remains the Object of Consciousness for the vast majority of those in the hall for the vast majority of the time. We would therefore say that, in this case, the Locus of Consciousness is stable.

Spatial Stability of the Locus of Consciousness: Defined as the relationship between the Locus of Consciousness and the physical characteristics of the Space. If the relation between the Locus of Consciousness and the physical environment remains constant then we can say that the Locus of Conscious is spatially stable. If the performer stays seated on her piano stool, then she represents a spatially stable locus of consciousness for those in the audience. In contrast, we can imagine a pop star dancing around the stage with great enthusiasm. In this case, the performer is the Object of Consciousness to no lesser a degree than the concert pianist (all eyes are trained on both!). Yet in the case of the pop star, the physical facts of the situation are different.

Practically speaking this is pretty obvious. In the case of watching a piano recital we are likely to be fixed in our seats. It is the kind of environment that requires that we constrain ourselves physically etc. A pop concert marks a strong contrast with not only the performer, but the audience free to move around, All of these sorts of variables bring to bear on the nature of how we are conscious of ourselves and others in the spaces that we inhabit.

You can now think about the sorts of spaces that you inhabit, who/what the Locus’ of Consciousness are in the spaces that you inhabit, and the extent to which these spaces are stable.

So what does all of this have to do with anything you ask!

It should be pretty clear that the notion of spatial size has less meaning in the modern world. This is not to say that large rooms aren’t still large rooms! What it means is that the range of possible objects about which we can be conscious do not have to be physically proximal in the same way that they had to be in the olden days. In the days of the Hunter Gatherer communities, people lived in close proximity to each other and the people that they were conscious of were those that they could see, hear and touch. It is literally the case that our ancestors in Africa would not have had the slightest idea that others on different continents even existed.

Therefore, modernity serves to eliminate certain constraints on possible of objects of consciousness.[1]

Intuitively this should be pretty clear to anyone that utilizes the internet. If you are reading this blog, then there is a sense in which you and I are in the same space. It is the precise nature of this change that is taking place that we want to understand.

OK, but then what does Locus of Consciousness and Stability of Locus of Consciousness have to do with anything?

Part of what I will demonstrate is that Modernity gives rise to the possibility of Social Change on a scale, and in a manner, never possible before. I will argue that it is possible to engineer solutions to large scale global problems such as climate change, poverty, famine, war and so on; typically problems that we have thought of as insoluble.

The reason that this is possible is that the evolution in the communications infrastructure allows us to make a Particular Object of Consciousness the Locus of Consciousness for a very large number of people – millions! There is nothing, in the world that we live in today that prevents us from aligning a very large portion of the worlds collective energy on large scale problems and thereby creating collective developed solutions for these sorts of, seemingly intractable, problems!

More on all of this tomorrow!


[1] It’s important to note that it does so in other ways than this which I will discuss as we move forward.


[1] Remember that phenomenal consciousness refers to the sort of consciousness that arises from data that is presented to us via our senses. Photons impinge on my retina and I see your face.

[2] One shouldn’t interpret this absolutely literally. Obviously even when one is sitting inside a coffee shop one can see cars passing by, hear people talking on the sidewalk and so on. This is true, but clearly the availability/accessibility of such stimuli is reduced by the presence of the concrete that separates us from those outside of the coffee shop. One must understand this notion as a matter of degree.

The Beginning

Hello! That seems like a good place to start. I have commenced this blog in order to communicate ideas on a range of topics. I am currently a doing a Masters in philosophy with a concentration in philosophy of mind. This is a very broad topic area, but encompasses study of consciousness, mental states, language and many other things.

I decided to return to school after many years in the private sector because I felt that my greatest contribution to humanity would not be realized in blindly pursuing material wealth. During my latter years in the private sector I acted as an investment banker, providing financing and strategic advisory services to early stage technology companies. It is during this period that it started to become apparent to me that the world that we live in today is much different from the world that our ancestors lived in, and that the way that the world is different makes possible global change in a manner that was not even conceivable in the past.

This is so because due to advancements in the technology infrastructure, it is now possible to create a GLOBAL COMMUNITY. With the creation of global community it becomes possible to resolve LARGE SCALE GLOBAL PROBLEMS such as climate change, poverty, famine and so on.

I am attempting to synthesize all of my ideas in a book entitled FIXING THE WORLD.

Admittedly all of this sounds grand and utopian and I certainly expect you to challenge this assertion…

However, as you mount this challenge, I hope that you will attempt to understand what I am saying.

I should also like to point out that, from a more practical perspective, I am interested in specific organizations (private or not-for-profit) that are contributing to the solution. Hence, I am developing a database of such companies. You will note that the blogroll consists of links to many of these companies. If you see any that you think would be of interest, please let me know as I would love to add them to the list.

Suresh