Last week the 2nd annual Techfestival took place in Copenhagen. As part of this there was a 48 hour think tank of 150 people (the ‘Copenhagen 150‘), looking to build the Copenhagen Catalogue, as a follow-up of last year’s Copenhagen Letter of which I am a signee. Thomas, initiator of the Techfestival had invited me to join the CPH150 but I had to decline the invitation, because of previous commitments I could not reschedule. I’d have loved to contribute however, as the event’s and even more the think tank’s concerns are right at the heart of my own. My concept of networked agency and the way I think about how we should shape technology to empower people in different ways runs in parallel to how Thomas described the purpose of the CPH150 48 hour think tank at its start last week.

For me the unit of agency is the individual and a group of meaningful relationships in a specific context, a networked agency. The power to act towards meaningful results and change lies in that group, not in the individual. The technology and methods that such a group deploys need to be chosen deliberately. And those tools need to be fully within scope of the group itself. To control, alter, extend, tinker, maintain, share etc. Such tools therefore need very low adoption thresholds. Tools also need to be useful on their own, but great when federated with other instances of those tools. So that knowledge and information, learning and experimentation can flow freely, yet still can take place locally in the (temporary) absence of such wider (global) connections. Our current internet silos such as Facebook and Twitter clearly do not match this description. But most other technologies aren’t shaped along those lines either.

As Heinz remarked earlier musing about our unconference, effective practices cannot be separated from the relationships in which you live. I added that the tools (both technology and methods) likewise cannot be meaningfully separated from the practices. Just like in the relationships you cannot fully separate between the hyperlocal, the local, regional and global, due to the many interdependencies and complexity involved: what you do has wider impact, what others do and global issues express themselves in your local context too.

So the CPH150 think tank effort to create a list of principles that takes a human and her relationships as the starting point to think about how to design tools, how to create structures, institutions, networks fits right with that.

Our friend Lee Bryant has a good description of how he perceived the CPH150 think tank, and what he shared there. Read the whole thing.

Meanwhile the results are up: 150 principles called the Copenhagen Catalogue, beautifully presented. You can become signatory to those principles you deem most valuable to stick to.

3 reactions on “CPH150: Principles for the Digital Age

  1. Ton writes about networked agency in the shadow of The Copenhagen Catalog:

    For me the unit of agency is the individual and a group of meaningful relationships in a specific context, a networked agency. The power to act towards meaningful results and change lies in that group, not in the individual. The technology and methods that such a group deploys need to be chosen deliberately. And those tools need to be fully within scope of the group itself. To control, alter, extend, tinker, maintain, share etc. Such tools therefore need very low adoption thresholds. Tools also need to be useful on their own, but great when federated with other instances of those tools. So that knowledge and information, learning and experimentation can flow freely, yet still can take place locally in the (temporary) absence of such wider (global) connections.

    While Ton was focusing on digital systems, I think it’s useful to read his words with an eye to how our legislatures work, as what is the legislative process other than individuals in meaningful relationships working to govern.

    While the Rules of the Legislative Assembly of Prince Edward Island are nominally under the control of legislators, the essential ingredients of legislative process have remained unchanged for hundreds of years and I dare say that if you ask any individual MLA whether they feel that the shape of the process and the tools available to them, engender a environment where “knowledge and information, learning and experimentation can flow freely,” they would answer no.

    The way we choose to arrange our legislatures, and the power we afford to the status quo, owes much, I imagine, to the long-fought drive for responsible government: once we had a system that mostly worked, the notion that we should constantly tinker with it lost out to a desire to not have the system topple over again. And so we are left with a system based on gentlemanly combat rather than on enlightened collaboration, a system, I think, that has outlived its usefulness.

    We’re centuries into this experiment now, and the world is in the midst of a wholesale upgrade in how we communicate, how we relate, and how we make decisions: it’s high time we looked at how we choose to govern ourselves through these new lenses and consider redesigning the process, in more than simply cosmetic or procedural ways, so that we can better achieve the “meaningful results and change” that Ton writes about.

    Legislative Assembly of PEI | Ton Zylstra

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