OpenKollab: inherent conflicts arising within generative collaboration spaces


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 (, 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.

On Utilizing Technology To Connect People On Different Continents

As many of you know, I am greatly interested in the way that technology can be utilized to connect people across across the world – to make the constraints imposed by geography less relevant.

Since I am a musician, one particular angle on this that I am pursuing is using music at the centrepiece of this process. In other words using technology to broadcast music globally, and to use this process to engage people on issues of social change. The following is evidence that others are thinking along the same lines…

If this concept interests you, please let me know as I am working on putting a team together to explore potential projects in this area.


We Got Skillz is bringing together basketball, music, fashion and dance to host an annual event to be held in Kampala, Uganda that will use these four areas to advocate for social change. This event has the potential to unify, empower and cultivate the importance of international cooperation in an exciting new way. Musicians such as Boys II Men, Joe Thomas, Tanya Stevens and Tanto Mentro & Devonte will be coming to perform. Other performers from in and around East Africa will be hosting workshops for young people in Uganda prior to the event. International dance crews, fashion designers and basketball players will also be coming to contribute to the workshops and the event.

The objective of the event is to showcase the local talent within Uganda and provide a platform for young people to maximize their potential. We believe that positive messages can only be received when they are delivered in a way that distinguishes them from other negative messages. That is why we have chosen to utilize what has already proven to be one of the most influential tools on the planet: hip hop culture. (According to Radiotron, Hip Hop School of Arts in Los Angeles CA, “Hip hop has proven itself to be a solution, an alternative, and a way out of poverty, crime, gang life, drug abuse, violence, vandalism, and negativity…Hip hop has saved and transformed the lives of thousands of people. It has become a vehicle through which young people can join forces together and empower themselves through the arts to make a difference in their own lives and in their communities.”)

Both the workshops and the event will be multicast around the world. The interactive multimedia communication technology provide and supported by Asita Informatica Inc. This event will launch the WGS Global Voice bridging the digital divide project that will be starting immediately preceding the event. Schools from all corners of the globe will be invited to connect through an online platform, allowing young people from various cultures and backgrounds to interactively learn about the lives of the other young people that they are sharing

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.


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

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.

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.

On Power, the Representation of Power and Visibility

It is a fact of existing or established power structures that the entity that is representative of power is, at the same time, represented as that which is powerful. For example, congress is both representative of power and represents power. The distinction is subtle but important. To be representative of power is to be a symbol of power. In contrast, to be represented as that which is powerful is to be powerful.The former is essentially symbolic, the latter is a claim about certain facts in the world. If the distinction is hard to envision its because in the world that we live in, their is no practical difference. That which is symbolically represented to us as powerful is also that which is powerful.

We might even say that what is constitutive of civilized, or modern, society is that these two notions converge. For the most part to be seen as powerful is to be powerful.

In the world that is forthcoming, this distinction will evolve and eventually be eroded. This is so because certain aspects of social formation will become visible that, heretofore, were invisible. The increased visibility of social forms will enable the emergence of alternative structures of power that, in time, will become visible. What will not change is that power is dependent upon visibility of social forms.

What will change is that the visibility of social forms will not be dependent upon their visibility emerging from existing power structures.

It’s important to note that. historically (and presently), visibility was closely related to established power structures, and in fact were mechanisms for reinforcing existing power structures. Controlling the media is an age old mechanism for the maintenance of power. In fact gaining access to the media is a well know strategy for the attainment of power. This line of argument is old news. What is less obvious is that this old news because in a very strong sense visibility is constitutive of power.

To get back to the point initially introduced… what is forthcoming are reduced constraints on the possibility of visibility and hence more possibilities for what is visible to represent power without as yet being represented as that which is powerful. To provide a simple example, we might envision an online community organizing for the purposes of eliminating poverty. At the outset what is observed would certainly be neither a representation of power nor representative of power. As the group grows and attracts members, commences certain action plans and starts achieving its goals, it will become visible as an entity that is truly powerful. It will represent power, but in a manner that is distinct from the structures where power is typically represented – powers that are represented as that which is powerful.

This will, in time, enable the emergence of groups such as this. They will emerge and in time be represented as that which is powerful.

If the distinction is still somewhat unclear then one must consider how, in the absence of systems, that eliminate the constraints of visibility, this group might have formed. The most likely scenario is that they would have formed a formal non-profit charter, organized local meetings, sought government and other funding support etc, Eventually they would likely have requested the support of government institutions, successful financiers and so forth. In short, they would have operated through the existing power structures as the conduit to power is through the existing power structure.

In what is forthcoming these relationships will evolve. We, therefore, see the intimate connection between visibility and power. That which is powerful is, in large part, what is most visible to most; what is most likely to be an object of the consciousness of others. The king is the most powerful in the kingdom because it is he that most people are aware of, most people are thinking about and so on. This is what it is to be powerful. It is this that creates the celebrity culture. It is that they are visible and that others desire to view them that results in their commanding the salaries that they do.      The important and interesting point is that historically their were constraints on the possibility of visibility. These constraints on the possibility of visibility can be understood as constraints in virtue of particular aspects of SPACE.

We might also now see why revolution happens so rarely… discussion of this issue will have to deferred…

Losing Interest in Social Networks?!?

In a recent post entitled Massive Social Change (MSC!!), I raise the issue as to what sorts of things social networking sites need to be thinking about and suggest that they need to consider the fact their constituency is getting older and therefore will require the value they create not solely be the ability to enhance peoples’ social networks.

Making friends might be the top priority to those that are younger and don’t have families and jobs, but as people mature, they develop other priorities.

This notion seems to be born out by the following reasearch…

Social Networks Are Not Yet Universal


Not everyone is pokable.

More than one-half of adults surveyed in 17 countries do not know what social networking is, according to Synovate. The company said it asked over 13,000 consumers in Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, South Africa, Taiwan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the US if they were familiar with social networking.

Although such aggregate findings are useful in a directional sense (many consumers worldwide have yet to hear about social networking), Synovate noted differences in individual countries and among demographic segments. For instance, awareness was higher among younger users.

Adults Worldwide Who Know What Online Social Networking Is, June 2008 (% of respondents)

As for membership, 26% of respondents belonged to social networking sites. Membership was highest in the Netherlands, at 49%; UAE, at 46%; Canada, at 44%; and the US, at 40%.

Synovate also asked adult consumers if they were losing interest in online social networking. Overall, 36% of social network users said yes, led by those in Japan (55%), Slovakia (48%), Canada (47%), Poland and the US (45% each). Social networkers in Indonesia and France were the least likely to be losing interest, at only 18% and 21%, respectively.

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An April 2008 Universal McCann study also found social networking to be a minority activity. As in the other survey, the Dutch had the highest percentage of social networkers. Based on the survey, more than one-third (36.4%) of the total population of the Netherlands said they used social networks at least every other day, compared with 23.4% of the total US population.

Social Networking Users in Select Countries Worldwide, 2008 (millions and % penetration)

eMarketer predicts that 44.3% of Internet users in the US will belong to social networks by the end of 2008.

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The Technology and Social Change Wiki – 50 groups added!!

Just to let everyone know that I have added 50+ group profiles to theThe Technology and Social Change Wiki,

The focus of the wiki is to aggregate information, and eventually serve as the basis for the formation of a community, around the intersection between technology and social change. I am collecting data on various groups that are operating in this area, cutting edge technologies that can play a role in social change, innovative processes that can play a role in social change and much more!

The basic taxonomy that I have started with is:

  • Online Communities
  • Companies
  • Not for profit organizations.

Please note the following:

  1. These are all groups whose websites I have scrutinized in some depth and that I believe are doing very interesting work! Hence this list should be more useful than generic databases with tons of data, but where the human touch is lost.
  2. Part of the profile includes a screen capture (example below) of the homepage. I believe that this helps a lot for you to get a feel for how the group is presenting itself to the world.
  3. The profiles are still very preliminary as I am just identifying the groups that I intend to track and communicate with, but have not as developed the template for the more robust profiles that will, in due course, be developed.

A note on the technology and social change wiki… I am just getting this project off the ground and therefore need all the help I can get in more areas than I can think of!!

If you, our anyone else that you can think of, might be interested in learning more about this project, please pass this on.

Don’t hesitate to contact me directly at:


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!



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!


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 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