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Power corrupts?

I usually spider people who work on web tools like Digress.it, a project by Eddie A Tejeda.

I found this as a recent post in his blog:
On Social Power Posted on January 23, 2009
"Power is a corrupting force. And politics – a process in which power is acquired – is no exception. So when I see power being amassed, even for good, I wince. To me, politics should always be engaged with a critical eye."

Here's my comment:
I'll use this comment as pretext for saying hello. Just now I registered for O'Reilly's "What is Gov 2.0? web seminar and happened onto the comments for O'Reilly's "Open Feedback Publishing where I saw someone pointing to digress.it. (I've been following such as CommentPress for years ... many, many years.)

Power relations have always been important, of course. But in the age of "attention economy" ... some aspects of those relations are being amplified.

Sidebar / lateral: as an individual begins to expand their network the variety of nodes increases dramatically. As the network expands beyond a certain threshold the variety levels off and decreases, even if nodes are not dropped or trimmed. As the network is edited it becomes ever-more homogenous.

My primary concern with power qua power is simply this: whether a person is in a position of authority, or is charismatic, or is very well spoken, that individual's views are more likely to be adopted. That is, such an individual has the power to convince. Other individuals are more likely to adopt that person's opinions.
And what is true of the "powerful" person is also true of "powerful" situations i.e. others are likely to surrender their autonomy, even if only slightly.
I tuned into that in 1975, after having facilitated a set of workshops on social justice issues. Nothing mutes discussion and discourse faster and more effectively than plausible sophistry delivered in a compelling manner!

Now what folk are talking about how we can tap into not only the "wisdom of crowds" but "swarm behaviour", those dynamics are more and more likely to be gamed.

So I continue to work on what I call "DAV methods" (Distributed Authoring and Versioning, yes?) but I can't say that I've been optimistic. Such tools are bound to empower the Hitlers and Stalins of the world. And the Hitlers and Stalins are very, very likely to deploy them energetically.

What I've been chasing all these years (as though keeping an eye on the vampires while preparing a good stake) is a way to de-fuse jingoism. (I've wondered: if we could implement glasperlenspiel, would it be value neutral? Could we devise a system that mitigated against manipulation?) The best I've managed, so far, is a way to high-light real discourse, in the sense Habermas used the term in his "Ethics".



May 2013

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