[spox] Raw text of O'Neil presentation at Oekonux 4
- From: "Mathieu O'Neil" <mathieu.oneil anu.edu.au>
- Date: Tue, 21 Apr 2009 19:17:28 +1000
[Converted from multipart/alternative]
THE SOCIAL IMPACT OF ONLINE TRIBAL BUREAUCRACY
AUSTRALIAN DEMOGRAPHIC AND SOCIAL RESEARCH INSTITUTE
THE AUSTRALIAN NATIONAL UNIVERSITY
FOURTH OEKONUX CONFERENCE
UNIVERSITY OF MANCHESTER, UK
27-29 MARCH 2009
PART 1: THEORY
Why is there mass participation in online projects?
1. Autonomy (rejection of hierarchy)
2. Distribution (power is shared)
What does distribution mean:
The right to fork (compromised in Web 2.0)
In Web 2.0: people can rapidly attain powerful positions
Who rules in autonomous / distributed systems?
Why do others accept their authority?
=> Leaders must _justify_ their central position.
Defining online authority:
1. sovereign authority (role separated from person)
-bureaucratic (also rules, release schedules, official repositories, written records): needs to be democratised to fit communal form
-'value-rational' (Weber 1978)
- collective basis, will of the people
See Debian: Project Leader, Constitution (organisation science: O'Mahony & Ferraro 2007).
But does not account for...
2. charismatic authority (role relinked to person)
- charismatisation of meritocracy (expertise not bureaucratic / hierarchical)
- affective attachment to personal qualities:
-- brilliance of great founder (hacker-charisma)
-- position of great node (index-charisma)
See Linux, Wikipedia, Daily Kos
distribution of authority
conflicting authority orders
=> drain on resources
=> unity and purpose, rite of passage
Role of leaders
Integrate contributions / adjudicate conflicts
To be accepted, these decisions must be legitimated by meaningful relationship between role and structure: networks offer no justification.
Volunteer associations (Harrison 1960)
Collectivist organisations (RothschildWhitt 1979)
Voluntary hierarchies (Weber 2004)
Online tribal bureaucracy (O'Neil 2009)
A hybrid form used by autonomous groups and characterised by:
- cooperative production of free content
- overlapping of authority orders: bureaucratic traits are mixed with collective and charismatic (or 'tribal') traits
- prevalence of conflict
- deliberative procedures
PART 2: WORK
Comparison: corporate bureaus
(1) advantages of OTB
- Good match people/work (ownership of authority)
- No misuse of resource by insiders (risk by outsiders)
- No representational costs
(2) disadvantages of OTB)
- No (legal) responsibility for well-being of participants
- No means to oblige performance of unpopular tasks (lack of responsiveness / training)
- Since decisions are collectively debated, there is more likelihood of affective conflict (flamewar)
(1) advantages of OTB
- Resolve scale issue (length of meetings)
- Less unstable than communes (persons, unlike positions, are subject to sickness / moods)
(2) disadvantages of OTB
- Normative controls less efficient in large groups
Challenges: peer production and conflict
- Elite projects: quarrels over control of development
- Mass projects: Herding of autonomous content producers can generate humiliation
Wikipedia: inflation of authority mechanisms
Challenges: types of conflict
- minor conflict slows down the project
-- task [project content]: uncontroversial
-- affective [communes: persons not roles]: distributed work, but collective decisionmaking
-- process [approach to task]: betrayal of democracy, criticism of injustice
- major conflict consumes the project (combination of affective and process conflict) individual explicitly breaks rules => justifies by opposition to archaic force
- hard to punish loner or transient effectively (norms assume symmetry of interests)
- granularity (not coarse penalty of Leviathan): even if centralised decision, depends on agreement of individual members to be applied
Debian: reluctance to intervene
Challenges: deliberative procedures
- Fact: path-dependence
- Fact: speed, overexcitement
- Risk: disappearance of due process (notification of rule to obey)?
- Risk: disappearance of sacred quality, of surprise provided by voting?
PART 3: MARKET
How to increase market share for peer production?
- Frame in terms of common sense, not common good:
- Pragmatic, not normative (Open Source rather than FLOSS)
- Personal realisation is paramount in society (see Duncombe 2007)
- Success-story as tool of depolitisation
Peer production in the business
- 'Post-bureaucratic' organisation like W.L. Gore & Associates: no hierarchy, no title: create idea, recruit talent, peer-review of performance, emergent leaders: rankings
- Still have to compete for connections, best projects: still competition
Peer production and the market
- Free content in Capitalism: great product, great advice provision, reach those who would not buy
- Utopia online => consumption of hardware...
- Internet ideology of freedom / 'New Spirit of Capitalism' (Boltanski and Chiappello 2004)
What replaces the market?
- Capitalism rejected domination based on transcendence / tradition.
- Reversion to earlier models of exchange (closeness, mutual help, solidarity): risk of reversion to precapitalist exchange (role=person).
- Tribal model: charismatic / traditional leader
- What form of exchange? (Everyone needs to conform)
These interrogations: explain my focus on peer organisation
Important questions remain: justice provision in relation to bureaucracy / State?
Connection to State? Possible? Desirable?
But if to represent viable alternative to bureaus, two other OTB issues need to be resolved.
Expertise and identity
- Tension between mass projects based on participation of amateurs and elite projects based on participation of experts.
- In one case anonymity is accepted.
- But: is anonymity viable (no responsibility)?
- But: total surveillance?
- User-centric IDM? Web of trust? Solutions?
Boltanski L & Chiappello E (2004 ) The New Spirit of Capitalism, London: Verso.
Duncombe S (2007) Dream: ReImagining Progressive Politics in an Age of Fantasy, The New Press, New York.
Harrison P (1960) `Weber's categories of authority and voluntary associations', American Sociological Review, Vol. 25, No. 2.
Rothschild-Whitt J (1979) `The collectivist organisation: an alternative to rational-bureaucratic models', American Sociological Review, Vol. 44, No. 4.
O'Mahony S & Ferraro F (2007) `The emergence of governance in an open-source community', Academy of Management Journal, Vol. 50, No. 5.
O'Neil M (2009) Cyberchiefs: Authority and Autonomy in Online Tribes, London: Pluto Press.
Weber M (1978 ) Economy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology, Berkeley, Los Angeles and London: University of California Press.
Weber S (2004) The Success of Open Source, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.