Orientation

Privacy

Pattern ID: 
589
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
65
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Everybody has information, activities, thoughts and events from their lives that they'd rather keep to themselves. Unfortunately for them, corporate marketeers, government security forces and criminals, both amateur and professional, are working hard to uncover and exploit these secrets. While it's clear that some information of this sort needs to be uncovered for the common good (news of an impending terrorist attack, for example), this need is sometimes invoked as a pretext for trampling on privacy protections. Without adequate safeguards, dictators and other authoritarians (including many in putatively democratic societies) spy on critics of their regimes, an activity that can result in harassment or even torture or death of the critics in many places around the world.

Context: 

Legitimate governments, civil society, and concerned individuals must work together to prevent the all-too-common privacy abuses where the powerful prey upon the less powerful. In what the Kinks call "the wonderful world of technology" the basic ingredients including massive amounts of personal information in digital form, ubiquitous communication networks and inexpensive and miniscule surveillance devices, coupled with the social equation of eager snoops and unsuspecting dupes, has helped create an explosion of privacy abuses and the potential for untold others. The fact that human identities themselves are now routinely "stolen" reveals the severity of the threat and how much "progress" is being made in the advancement of privacy abuse.

Discussion: 

In 1763, the noted English Parliamentarian William Pitt in his "Speech on the Excise Tax" declared that "The poorest man may in his cottage bid defiance to all the force of the Crown. It may be frail; its roof may shake; the wind may blow through it; the storms may enter; the rain may enter – but the King of England cannot enter; all his forces dare not cross the threshold of the ruined tenement."

Now nearly 250 years after Pitt's speech modern day rulers use technology to easily enter the tenements, both ruined and intact, of millions of people without a warrant or the problems associated with actual physical entrance. In the campaign to re-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger to the governor's office in California, according to Michael Blood (2006), "The Schwarzenegger campaign has stockpiled millions of names, phone numbers and addresses with consumer preferences, voting histories and other demographic information." Then, based on assumptions about consumer preferences (a Democrat, for example, is more likely to drive a hybrid vehicle, while a Republican is more likely to drive a pickup truck or Cadillac), they employed "microtargeting" to carefully craft messages to appeal to the people they believe they now understand based on their interpretation of the data. According to Blood, "The idea is an outgrowth of techniques that businesses have long used to find new customers. ... Few people might realize how much information is publicly available, for a price, about their lifestyles. Companies collect and sell consumer information they buy from credit card companies, airlines and retailers of every stripe."

Why is technology so crucial — and so threatening right now? The quick answer is plenty of product and buyers. The laundry list of new technology is growing daily and institutions are not afraid to (ab)use it. Some, if not most, of the technology is plagued by problems that are either "built-in" (or otherwise inherent or inevitable) to the technology and/or subject to misuse. "Face recognition" software, at least currently, falls into the first category. John Graham, for example, of the Giraffe Project, faced a problem in the second category when his name showed up on the U.S. "No fly list" for no discernible reason. After several letters to the government he finally received word that his "identity has been verified," meaning, presumably that yes he is the "John Graham" in question. Currently his name has not been removed from the list, whether this is attributable to incompetence, work overload, or basic mean-spiritedness is not easily determined.

According to Privacy International,

"Privacy is a fundamental human right. It underpins human dignity and other values such as freedom of association and freedom of speech. It has become one of the most important human rights of the modern age.

Privacy is recognized around the world in diverse regions and cultures. It is protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and in many other international and regional human rights treaties. Nearly every country in the world includes a right of privacy in its constitution. At a minimum, these provisions include rights of inviolability of the home and secrecy of communications. Most recently written constitutions include specific rights to access and control one's personal information. In many of the countries where privacy is not explicitly recognized in the constitution, the courts have found that right in other provisions. In many countries, international agreements that recognize privacy rights such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or the European Convention on Human Rights have been adopted into law."

The organization also points out that "The recognition of privacy is deeply rooted in history. There is recognition of privacy in the Qur'an and in the sayings of Mohammed. The Bible has numerous references to privacy. Jewish law has long recognized the concept of being free from being watched. There were also protections in classical Greece and ancient China.

Although privacy is seen as a fundamental and universal right, it's not easily to define. For one thing, it does depend to some degree on culture and context. New communication technology as well as new surveillance technology has shown also that privacy — and the threats to it — also change over time. Generally speaking, "privacy protection is frequently seen as a way of drawing the line at how far society can intrude into a person's affairs" (Privacy International, ____). United States Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis explained privacy simply as the individual's "right to be left alone."

Privacy can be divided into the following separate but related concepts (Privacy International, 2006):

Information privacy, which involves the establishment of rules governing the collection and handling of personal data such as credit information, and medical and government records. It is also known as "data protection";
Bodily privacy, which concerns the protection of people's physical selves against invasive procedures such as genetic tests, drug testing and cavity searches;
Privacy of communications, which covers the security and privacy of mail, telephones, e-mail and other forms of communication; and
Territorial privacy, which concerns the setting of limits on intrusion into the domestic and other environments such as the workplace or public space. This includes searches, video surveillance and ID checks.

Each of the types of privacy concept mentioned above has a variety of ways in which the privacy can be abused or invaded. What can be done to stop or slow down these abuses? You can spy on some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time. You can't spy on all of the people all of the time… yet.

The ultimate aim is self-restraint where government and other groups and institutions that have a propensity o invade privacy stop doing it. Whether apocryphal or not, there was a feeling that "Gentlemen don't read other people's mail." Although it's not always obvious, there are always (presumably) limits to what people or institutions do that are either self-imposed by habit or by fear of retribution or other penalties.

Unfortunately it's not the case that people should just trust governments or businesses or other people or institutions who might feel obliged to invade your privacy. What can individuals do to protect their rights? And what can individuals do to get out from problems where privacy has already been invaded? As individuals and as members of organizations (like the American Civil Liberties Union, Electronic Privacy Information Center, and Privacy Rights International) who stand up for privacy rights we must anticipate abuses, monitor powerful (and otherwise snoopy), develop policy, negotiate and engage with authorities (law enforcement, legislators), redress abuses. There are many ways in which people can — and should — take personal initiative. These include encrypting e-mail, shredding, protecting yourself from identity theft; and, generally, falling for scams. Initiating lawsuits against the government and corporations for breaches in privacy can be an effective tool of the citizenry in behalf of privacy although ideally it would be much preferred if these institutions could be counted on to police themselves adequately.

The idea that "an innocent person has nothing to fear" is an illusion. Worse, it shows a lack of knowledge that is almost breathtaking. If privacy is the "right to be left alone" then different people will have draw different boundary lines — but everybody will draw one. On the other side of that boundary are institutions and people who will cross that line if they are emboldened to do so. There are also of course times when government or police are legitimately obligated to cross that line, but they will need to do so in a manner that is legitimate for the times. There is never a time when there is no line. Thus privacy is important to everybody in the world. It is also an important policy to consider for groups of people as well. When, for example, would it be necessary to forcefully bring a small group that existed communally for centuries into a cash economy. When is it ethically acceptable to bring the "word of god" (one of them at least) to people of another religion? When does one bomb a country to bring the benefits of democracy to it?

We'd like to think that people would not have to resort to extraordinary measures to protect themselves from privacy intrusion and invasion After all, in the "best of all possible worlds" people wouldn't bother about privacy. Fortunately we don't live in the best of all possible worlds. There is ample evidence in fact that the assault on privacy has only just begun. There are a number of problems that are simply "waiting to happen" Google, for example, owns an immense amount of information about virtually everybody who has ever searched for anything online. While it may be true that, as their mission statement states, they'll "do no evil," how can we be sure about the company in five or ten years time. And just as spammers keep finding way to send electronic dreck, the unethical collection of personal information may be done by new types of spybots, which could be part of e-blackmail rackets, possibly in conjunction with faked digital evidence. Although some people have less reason to fear government, business or criminal impinging on their privacy we all face problems, real and potential of abuse. For that reason privacy rights are often strongly associated with human rights, for example. Privacy is not just an issue for dissidents or political activists.

Solution: 

We are all living in an era when new technology and security concerns — both genuine and feigned — raise tremendous threats to privacy. The threat is real and the struggle against it must be equally as strong. Be cognizant of the critical importance of privacy and work conscientiously on all fronts to protect privacy rights. Public education is important in this area as are public campaigns against privacy invaders.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Everybody has information, activities, thoughts, and events that they'd rather keep private. But marketeers, security forces, and criminals are uncovering and exploiting these secrets, leading, sometimes to harassment or even torture or death. We need to be aware of the importance of Privacy and work to protect privacy rights and resist privacy invaders.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
John Thomas

Transparency

Pattern ID: 
527
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
64
John B. Adams
Public Sphere Project
Douglas Schuler
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The lack of authentic and principled accountability of corporations, government, political processes, and the media provides irresistable opportunities for corruption. Unfortunately this most often deprives whole societies and the world's poorest people of their right to an equitable sense of well-being and opportunity.

Context: 

Corruption, although illegitimate, is a common mechanism of social domination. In one basic form it exacts a price from people with little power in exchange for a "favor" from someone with more power. In another form, two or more people or organizations with power swap "favors" for mutual advantage. The "favor" can be large or small and it can be granted or denied at the pleasure of the power-holder, whose criteria, rationale, and legitimacy for the decision is hidden and, therefore, unavailable for review or criticism. Although the degree of corruption varies from place to place, everybody at one time or another can be a victim, however indirectly. Journalists, business people, government officials, activists, educators as well as "ordinary" people - citizens - are affected by corruption and can play a role in its prevention.

Discussion: 

At its most basic level, "Transparency" is "the quality of being able to be seen through." When used in a social context it means "easily detected, understood: obvious, evident." To exhibit transparency means that the reality of how things actually work is not occluded by false or misleading layers of artifice. Transparency thus helps shed light on corrupt practices that thrive on secrecy.

At a time when concern is mounting over the seemingly overwhelming range of problems facing our world, the principle and initiatives of transparency advocates are gaining momentum and significant interest within a broadening global discourse. While rights to privacy and protection are critical benchmarks in evaluating the relative health of a democracy, deterrents and penalties to corruption are essential if efforts designed to invigorate social justice are to become more successful.

It turns out that the relatively simple approach of making transactions — both monetarily and information-based — of the powerful visible has the desired effect of discouraging corruption and encouraging good works. Learning about corruption is a first step towards rooting it out — but it's only the initial step. Rooting out corruption is often a long, frustrating, thankless and sometimes dangerous enterprise. A corrupt court system, for example, is likely to free guilty people in certain instances, and non-corrupt judges may pay with their lives when they act to convict guilty people.

Niccolo Machiavelli introduced the familiar social equation, "Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely" that asserts that corruption is an inevitable consequence of power, and that the greater the power - the greater the resultant corruption. Machiavelli's perspective reminds us why citizens are naturally suspicious, for example, of secret meetings between government officials and corporate executives. For example, when Bush administration officials met behind closed doors with executives from the world's biggest energy corporations to discuss U.S. energy policy.

In truth, Machiavelli's wisdom provides governments with ample incentive for making such meetings more open or "transparent." Corruption is not intrinsically the province of one political party or another. It does thrive, however, in situations where secrecy and fear are prevalent. The Enron and WorldCom scandals certainly provided lessons that were largely responsible for the whistleblower protection provisions of the "Sarbanes-Oxley Act" in the U.S.

On the international front, groups that adopt transparency as a prerequisite to their work while providing expert advice, include IISD (International Institute for Sustainable Development), whose model "Multilateral Agreement on Investment for Sustainable Development" brought the convention of sustainability to influence within OECD (Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development) — by helping design both legal and policy instruments on foreign investment.

While numerous projects and symposia have focused on transparency, two relatively recent events are especially relevant to this pattern's "big picture" at a most sensitive time in human history. They are the United Nations Convention against Corruption (UNCAC) and the ongoing, USC (Union of Concerned Scientists) Transparency Project (2000-2001) that has been working for over a decade to foster the "intellectual and institutional capacity to increase transparency through participation in international arms control negotiations".

The Transparency pattern is very general and can be applied in various cultures and in various situations that include the following:

  • Disaster aid and reconstruction, such as that related to the Southeast Asian tsunami
  • Decisions about what articles to run in newspapers or on television news shows
  • Source of funding for columnists
  • Decisions about corporate executive salaries and severance packages
  • Inspectors of new construction, fish harvests, food quality, tax returns
  • Building permits and other land-use decisions
  • "Revolving door" between executives in weapons corporations and government officials who buy from them
  • Lobbying government officials (versus bribes for legislative support)
  • Welfare systems
  • Judicial systems
  • Money laundering, or support or opposition to banking transparency legislation
  • Attendance at government meetings by corporate executives to decide policies where they are the direct beneficiaries

One of the greatest strengths of transparency as a social pattern can be found in its inclusiveness. Highlighting this point are grassroots activists who are elevating public awareness and forming alliances with many types of people and groups. As a result the 'practice of transparency' is becoming a model of increasingly influence.

For instance, in 1999 the Poder Ciudadano (Citizen Power) an NGO group based in Argentina "negotiated an integrity pact with the city government of Buenos Aires", to monitor a 1.2 billion dollar subway construction project to "root out corruption". Across political, economic, industrial, scientific, legal, and civic sectors numerous reform initiatives are being coordinated providing benchmarks for accountability and success that are being applauded. These evolving strategies have resulted in a holistic "integrity approach" towards waging a unified struggle against corruption. The resulting 'victories' provide a great ray of hope for countries and peoples ravaged by decades — or centuries — of tyranny. Hence, 'transparency' is now poised to have a greater and greater influence on enforcing Civil Society values over time.

Transparency International was launched by people who shared a "common experience of having witnessed first hand the devastating effects of cross-border corruption" and is now providing leadership in the battle against corruption worldwide. Over the years Transparency International has developed a wide range of useful tools and information resources. These include:

  • TI Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), the best known of TI's tools. It has been credited with putting the issue of corruption on the international policy agenda. The CPI ranks more than 150 countries in terms of perceived levels of corruption, as determined by expert assessments and opinion surveys.
  • Global Corruption Barometer: A survey that assesses general public attitudes toward and experience of corruption in dozens of countries around the world.
  • Global Corruption Report: 2006 focuses on the health sector, where lack of integrity can be a matter of life and death.
  • TI Integrity Pact (IP): A tool aimed at preventing corruption in public contracting; consisting of a process that includes an agreement between a government department (at the federal, national or local level) and all bidders for a public contract. The IP also introduces a monitoring system that provides for independent oversight and accountability.
  • TI Bribe Payers Surveys: Annual tool that evaluates the supply side of corruption - the propensity of firms from industrialized countries to bribe abroad.
  • Business Principles: This comprehensive reference aims to provide a practical tool to which companies can look for a comprehensive reference to good practice to counter bribery. Designed as a starting point for businesses to develop their own anti-bribery systems or as a benchmark.
  • TI Integrity Pact (IP) is a tool aimed at preventing corruption in public contracting.

Transparency is fundamental to the evolution of a just and humane civil society. Focusing on transparency should help thwart corruption at the root(s) and help create new solutions to age-old problems stemming from greed, fear, anger and stupidity.

A concentrated effort to foster visibility is fundamental for the success of this project. Humanity has much to learn from the many tangible gains and policy shifts that are taking effect. As stated at the beginning of this pattern, corruption in its various guises can deprive whole societies of opportunity and a sense of well-being. This reality beckons us to develop constructive innovations that stand at the vortex of change. If we are successful, this work holds the promise of “giving new life” to the testimony and values of peace, justice and solidarity for generations to come.

Solution: 

Using traditional, as well as new forms of on-line media and ICT, we can continue to raise public awareness about specific struggles over transparency while exposing, protesting and defying corruption at all levels. It is important at the same time to continue to broaden the support for transparency initiatives and enforcement. In this way, more accountability can be demanded which can be translated into the development of equitable practices and policies.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Lack of accountability encourages corruption. Journalists, business people, government officials, activists, educators and "ordinary" people are affected by corruption and can play a role in its prevention. Transparency ensures that important transactions are not hidden or inaccurately portrayed. Using traditional and newer forms of media and communication, we can support transparency initiatives and enforcement while exposing and defying corruption at all levels.

Pattern status: 
Released

Community Currencies

Pattern ID: 
789
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
63
Burl Humana
Gilson Schwartz
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People have always traded or bartered with each other, using different tools and materials to represent and store value in various kinds of transactions; trade, investment, consumption, production, marriage, kinship, sacrifice. In complex, urban and global capitalist societies, money expands the potential for growth and accumulation, while also creating new forms of wealth and power concentration, regulated by central banks and other supervisory authorities at national and international levels. Community Currencies or “complementary currencies” offer a solution for local markets deprived or unserved by global or national currencies.

Context: 

Thomas Greco states three basic ways in which conventional money malfunctions: there is never enough of it, it is misallocated at its source so that it goes to those who already have lots of it, and it systematically pumps wealth from the poor to the rich. The symptoms of a "polluted" money supply are too familiar: inflation, unemployment, bankruptcies, foreclosures, increasing indebtedness, homelessness, and a widening gap between the rich and the poor. However, the ultimate resource of the community, the productivity, skills, and creativity of its members, is not limited by lack of money. (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

Discussion: 

According to Michael Linton, "Money is really just an immaterial measure, like an inch, or a gallon, a pound, or degree. While there is certainly a limit on real resources -- only so many tons of wheat, only so many feet of material, only so many hours in the day -- there need never be a shortage of measure. (No, you can’t use any inches today, there aren’t any around, they are all being used somewhere else.) Yet this is precisely the situation in which we persist regarding money. Money is, for the most part, merely a symbol, accepted to be valuable generally throughout the society that uses it. Why should we ever be short of symbols to keep account of how we serve one another?" (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

"The proper kind of money used in the right circumstances is a liberating tool that can allow the fuller expression of human creativity. Money has not lived up to its potential as a liberator because it has been perverted by the monopolization of its creation and by politically manipulating its distribution -- available to the favored few and scarce for everyone else."2 Creating community currencies may foster exchanges among people that need it most.

Conventional money is strictly regulated by central authorities at a federal level. Its regulated scarcity is a major source of powerful economic policy (i.e..raising interest rates to curb inflation) that plays on the rules of capitalist competition. Community currencies, on the other hand, are designed to counterweight scarcity by promoting exchanges founded on cooperation or collaboration. The emergence of new information and communication technologies has promoted numerous local projects that use “open source money” or “collaborative money”. Both “conventional” money and “community” currencies, however, rest on the same foundation, that is, confidence in the agreed on rules of production and supply of monetary and financial instruments (credits, loans, time sharing, etc.). Both are “conventions” designed and operated by living human communities.

Community currencies may also be qualitative rather than quantitative, so that the “purchasing power” of the currency takes advantage of specific ranges of skills and resources (child and social health care, environmental campaigns or edutainment projects), unlike the conventional economy which values certain skills and devalues or ignores others as effects of blind market forces. The move toward “community” currency is motivated by the desire to bridge the gap between what we earn and what we need to survive financially.

Local currencies are seen as a community-building tool. Communities may range from solidarity economies in slums and vulnerable social areas, to game players, to collectors or charity donors; spread throughout the entire world as digital networks promote new forms of community life. Community currencies not only prove a commitment to community building and to supporting what’s local but also may function as a path towards a greater experiential understanding of the role of economics and money in our daily lives. Any community can, in principle, design currencies backed by something, tangible or intangible, that the community agrees has collective value.

Hundreds of community currency models are at work these days. These are a few of the community currency reference sites - Bernard Lietaer,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bernard_Lietaer; Resources for Community Currency Activists, http://www.communitycurrency.org/resources.html; Luca Fantacci, "Complementary Currencies: a Prospect on Money from a Retrospect on Premodern Practices", http://akira.arts.kuleuven.be/meijifin/node/52; Social Trade Organisation, http://www.strohalm.net/en/site.php; Open Money, http://www.thetransitioner.org/wiki/tiki-index.phppage=Open+Money+home+page.

ITHACA HOURS, where everyone’s honest hour of labor has the same dignity and LETS, Local Exchange Trading Systems are examples of such models. These two community currency models illustrate new forms of social and communicative practices that have a real impact on living structures at a local level.

The ITHACA HOURS system was created in 1991 by Paul Glover, a community economist and ecological designer. With ITHACA HOURS, each HOUR is equivalent to $10.00 because that’s the approximate average hourly wage in Tompkins County, Ithaca, New York. Participants are able to use HOURS for rent, plumbing, carpentry, car repair, chiropractic, food (two large locally-owned grocery stores as well as farmer’s market vendors accept them), firewood, childcare, and numerous other goods and services. Some movie theaters accept HOURS as well as bowling alleys and the local Ben & Jerry’s. (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

The LETS model was created on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada, as a self contained network in which members buy and sell services to other members and are paid in the LETS currency. Every member has an individual account which records their debit or credit. Members do not "owe" the person or business providing the service, instead their debt is to the LETS system, and their debt is thus socialized.( James DeFilippus, 2004)

"Currencies are powerful carriers of feedback information, and potent triggers of adjustments, but on their own terms. (Jacobs, 1984) “A national currency registers, above all, consolidated information on a nation’s international trade." (Jacobs, 1984) National dollars tend to flow out of local communities where they are needed the most to those who already control large pools of wealth like banks and corporations. Community currency is also a tool that can help revitalize local economies by encouraging wealth to stay within a community rather than flowing out. It provides valuable information about the community’s balance of trade and collective values. (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

People who are time-rich and cash poor can be socially and economically productive without necessarily using only national or international, centrally regulated money. If community currencies can also be used in conjunctions with national currency their use does not have to become an all or nothing proposition, thus leading to the notion of “complementary” currencies.

Local currencies empower their members to improve their circumstances and environment while protecting the general community from the negative influences of other capital flows. This gives the community more control over investments and allows the poor to become emancipated beings in the economic choices and conditions that affect their daily lives. Local currency systems offer the opportunity of transforming labor power or working time into local purchasing power. (Meeker-Lowry, 1995)

Solution: 

There are unique challenges in implementing a community currency system, both technical and political. Shared values and multiplayer commitment by community members are needed to build a sustainable currency. Adequate management at the local level may involve monetary policy issues similar to those experienced at national or international spheres. The community may be local, but also involve participants from distant places acting towards a common goal that can be social, educational and cultural. If successful, a community currency system can leverage local projects in economically depressed areas of the map and put them on the road to a hopeful and fruitful future.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People have always traded with each other, using various ways to represent and store value. In complex capitalist societies, money encourages growth, accumulation, and new forms of wealth and power concentration. Community Currencies can offer a solution for local markets deprived of or unserved by national financial policy. If successful, it can promote local projects and put them on the road to a hopeful and fruitful future.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
http://www.samarasproject.net/images/hours.jpg -- permission sought

Community Networks

Pattern ID: 
858
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
61
Peter Day
CNA Project
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Communities often lack the information and communication infrastructure needed to: a) support and sustain the social networks of clubs, organisations, associations, groups, agencies, families and individual citizens that constitute the structures, organisation and activities of community life; and b) enable effective organisation, planning and enactment of local campaigns when threatened by external agency.

Whilst network technologies present interesting opportunities to support community networking activities they are not, in themselves, community networks. Furthermore, the dominant ICT agenda of both public and commercial sectors is often hostile to the mutuality, collaboration and communicative processes required for utilising ICT in support of community networking (Day & Schuler, 2004).

Context: 

Building, organising and sustaining active relationships within the social, cultural and economic networks of the community requires appropriate and effective strategies. Building and sustaining community networks requires strategies that facilitate the community appropriation of communication technologies in support of community networking.

This pattern is intended as a contribution to, and perhaps even as a catalyst for, a dialogue about community (ICT) networks. Dialogue participants should include: 1) community members; 2) local activists; 3) practitioners (community developers and community technologists); 4) community researchers; 5) policy makers; 6) local businesses and community economic developers. Whilst not exhaustive, the list illustrates the diversity and levels of knowledge and expertise needed to plan and develop community (ICT) networks that empower and strengthen community relationships and processes through democratic communications.

Discussion: 

It is interesting that community networks are frequently referred to as technological artefacts (Wikipedia, 2006) and appear to be understood in terms of the connectivity they give to ICT rather than the links they facilitate within communities. Yet in his seminal text on the emergence of ‘new’, i.e. ICT based, community networks, Schuler explains how the term ‘community networks’ was a sociological concept – that referred to community communication patterns and relationships (1996) – long before the emergence of the community bulletin boards of the late 1970s (Morino, 1994), i.e. the forerunners for the web-based community networks of the 1990s onwards (Kubicek & Wagner, 1998).

Establishing what lies at the heart of community networking, i.e. the purpose and nature of the relationships within communities and the processes of communication, is central to understanding community. Generating knowledge of what shapes and energizes community life by making connections and interacting with people of diverse values and belief systems is pivotal to developing effective community networks. In this respect the effectiveness of community networks is understood in terms of how they support and sustain community communications, relationships and activities.

An example of how knowledge of community networking in its broadest sense can be generated and how this knowledge might inform the development of community networks is illustrated by the Community Network Analysis (CNA) project in the Poets Corner community of Brighton and Hove, UK. Early in the project a community profile (Hawtin, Hughes & Percy-Smith, 1994) was conducted to develop a picture of community assets, community needs and community relationships. Interestingly, the 104 groups, clubs, associations, centres, organisations, etc often interpret their shared social environment in different ways. Acknowledging the existence of such diversity is a central part of beginning to understand and work with it as a source of community strength rather than community threat.

Analysis of the community infrastructure reveals 8 main clusters of groups, clubs, etc and 4 smaller clusters. These clusters, or affiliation networks, are organised by a parent organisation, e.g. community associations and places of worship. Affiliation appears to be based around organisational support mechanisms and the availability of physical space. A number of isolated nodes or didactic networks were also identified, e.g. the two schools are exemplars of a didactic network, although both are keen to develop stronger ties within the community.

‘Informal’ network structures in the community are altogether more open and dynamic than their ‘formal’ counterparts but are also transient in nature. Familial or friendship ties usually predominate and networking often occurs in public spaces, e.g. Stoneham Park, local pubs and coffee shops, or serendipitous street meetings. This agora ‘effect’ provides opportunity for knowledge exchange, comfort and mutually supportive transactions.

Informal social network exchanges tend to be self-organising and mutually reinforcing, falling into one of two categories. 1) Spontaneous, e.g. someone’s cat has gone missing and the neighbours organise a search of the locality; neighbours leave bags of good quality but unwanted clothes/toys on the door steps of families new to the area as a welcoming gesture; groups of people pop in to each other’s houses for coffee and a chat – reinforcing and developing social bonds. 2) Organised but with no formal membership, e.g. networks of baby-sitters and parents requiring ‘sitters’ evolve through the local grapevine; a curry club – where participants try new curry recipes is organised at irregular intervals by email; a book club – run along much the same lines as the curry club is organised by mobile phone; or key holder networks among neighbours in the same street – in which spare keys are cut and distributed among trusted neighbours.

Our study reveals that both network types play a significant role in developing relationships of trust and social cohesion in the community. The communication technologies that people feel comfortable with are increasingly being used to support both network links and exchanges. If community networks are to support the diversity of social realities in community then they must provide safe and welcoming spaces that encourage and facilitate participation and engagement. Enabling people to tell their stories and interact with one another in ways meaningful to them and in comfortable environments is central to effective community networking.

A prototype community communication space (CCS) being developed as part of the CNA project attempts to create such spaces. By working with the community to build both the context and the content for the CCS we have been asked to support video and audio podcasting, digital story-telling, digital art, poetry and music. Local communication forums are being established to support the face-to-face forums of community development/building activities. Blogs, wikis and other social software such as social networking applications are also being explored for potential community benefits.

The graphic , draws on Rogers’ diffusion of innovation theory (1995) to illustrate current stages of the CCS diffusion in Poets Corner.

Working from the centre outwards the first ring represents the Poets Corner Residents Society’s (PCRS) invitation to CNA, and the subsequent invitation from their executive committee to work in partnership with them to map and improve community communications. Much of this period was spent getting to know people in the community, building trust, raising awareness and supporting the activities of PCRS and other community groups. A group of enthusiastic project advocates emerged as CCS innovators. With their assistance the project became grounded in and supportive of community activities and needs.

Slowly but surely trust and respect developed between the partners. A number of community groups displayed interest in the project and began collaborating. The second ring shows early adopters within the community infrastructure. By this time, the project was participating in and supporting the planning and organisation of a second summer festival and family fun day. The third ring illustrates the resultant increased involvement from the community infrastructure and the beginning of some involvement from local residents. We describe this as second stage early adoption activity.

During the project the CNA partnership has been raising awareness of the potential of the CCS and interest within the community is on the increase. We are now in what Rogers’ would describe as the trial and evaluation phases of community assessment. Whether or not the CCS will be adopted, and can be sustained beyond the funding of the project will depend largely on the community themselves. The CNA team will continue to collaborate with the community, but our long term objective has always been to design and build a prototype CCS in participation with the community and to explore how the community will take ownership of and sustain that space.

Solution: 

The potential scope for ICT to support, enhance and sustain community communications is immense but effective community networks can only be built through meaningful and mutual partnerships of knowledge exchange. Communities are contested spaces rich in diversity. They embrace or reject technologies at their own pace and in their own way. These processes cannot be rushed and must be respected. Accepting that they might have to step out of their community ‘comfort zone' in order to embrace 'new' technologies can be threatening . Achieving ‘willingness to participate’ requires patience and dialogue. Community engagement will only be sustained if the community understands the benefits to community life. If community networks are to emerge as significant components of modern community life, external partners must understand this in context and content. Only then can they contribute in a meaningful way.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Community Networks must help support two capabilities. The first is supporting and sustaining the social networks of clubs, organizations, associations, groups, agencies, families and individual citizens. The second is enabling effective organization, planning and enactment of local campaigns when threatened from outside.

Pattern status: 
Released

Digital Emancipation

Pattern ID: 
801
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
60
Gilson Schwartz
Version: 
2
Problem: 

The opposition between local and global as well as the relative de-emphasizing of space and region in the face of the ubiquity, mobility, portability and interconnection provided by numerous digital networks have become major aspects of globalization and the virtualization of life. Yet there is a well-known saying concerning universality: describe your backyard and you will reach humanity. So, on the other hand, these same features of our increasingly digital and connected world also support decentralization, telecommuting and the intangible re-valuation of each local space, of actually "being there" or at least making a connection to a specific spot (a "hot spot") for the sake of material and immaterial interaction. Thus a new space-time dimension, on a "glocal" level (global in reach but ultimately local in its value-producing competencies), creates new human development challenges. This new space-time requires new skills and generates its own styles of employment and ownership, control and freedom.

Context: 

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glocal: Glocalisation (or glocalization), a portmanteau of globalization and localization, entails one or both of the following:

  • The creation or distribution of products or services intended for a global or transregional market, but customized to suit local laws or culture
  • The use of electronic communications technologies, such as the Internet, to provide local services on a global or transregional basis; Craigslist and Meetup are examples of wW applications that have a glocalized approach.

The global and the local may be regarded as two sides of the same coin. A place may be better understood by recognizing the dual nature of glocalization. Very often localization is neglected in the shadow of the omnipresent veneer presented by globalization. Yet, in many cases, local forces constantly strive to attenuate the impact of global processes. These forces can be seen in efforts to prevent or modify plans for the local construction of buildings for global corporate enterprises, such as for Wal-Mart.

Glocalisation as a term, though originating in the 1980s from within Japanese business practices, was first popularized in the English-speaking world by the British sociologist Roland Robertson in the 1990s.

Discussion: 

The "glocal" dimension relates to specific areas of economic development models, such as local productive arrangements (LPAs), industrial and sectoral clusters (from the electronics district in Tokyo to software and IT-related hubs in Bangalore).

It is clear that the combination of local and global, concrete and universal, remote and present, material and immaterial, tangible and intangible are not clearly demarcated in the glocal development model. Other classic distinctions also become blurred, such as private, public, the "third sector" (or philanthropic) and academic or techno-scientific. Telecenters, public spaces in Third World countries that offer free access to the Web as well as other social and educational services are examples of new glocal development tools.

These ICT-enabled hubs of social and economic engineering also tend to create and design new social artifacts, thus opening opportunities for self-knowing, lifelong learning and employability.

Mediatic capitalism is a new regime of capital accumulation regulated by the value aggregation of knowledge-creating activities and the development of intangible assets (brands, consumer habits, technological standards and service-based value chains). This new form of capital accumulation has also led, for policy purposes, to the increasingly relevant clustering of creative industries. Telecenters can also play a role in the production of images (and self-representations) in peripheral regions of the world, given appropriate regulatory and techno-economic incentives and subsidies.

The term “mediatic” stresses not only the growing role of media (ICTs or information and communication technologies) but also the key function of intermediaries in the organization of production and distribution networks.

Infomediaries, regulators and knowledge-based business consortia and local informational clusters are examples of economic agents and institutions defined by their skills in the production and management of information, communication, knowledge and cultural networks in value chains, power dynamics and organizational structures.

This perspective requires new approaches to governance in the context of rapid globalization and emerging organizational semiotics and new forms of finance that value social, cultural and intellectual capital.

For the peripheral nation-states of the world system, a new threat emerges: there is a growing concern not only with gaps in technology and knowledge, but also with the emergence of a digital divide within developing societies. On the other hand, neo-illuminists preach about the creation of development opportunities led by new technologies (such as the infamous US$100 computer proposed by MIT´s Nicholas Negroponte).

Digital emancipation was proposed as a conceptual horizon for policy-making related to glocal development in December 2005 at the first international conference on digital emancipation, held in Brazil by the City of Knowledge at the University of São Paulo. Human development as emancipation definitely places the burden of action in the local dimension - stressing traditional and informal knowledge whenever possible, so that human development under mediatic capitalism can lead to sustainability, identity and civic intelligence. These characteristics have often been highlighted by development funding agencies, which are increasingly conscious of the rising importance of glocal economics for the appropriate design and implementation of development policies. Micro and nanoeconomics may in this context be more relevant than classic macro and microeconomics.

Solution: 

New forms of exchange, gifts, collaboration and collective action involve not only technical choices but a fundamental consideration for the emancipatory potential of every policy and technological option. Empowerment in the creation of representations may be as important as job creation for youth and actually may be a precondition for jobs to emerge. The critique of local, regional and global as well as other (gender, faith, language) representations of the world in the media becomes as crucial as access to software codes and network engineering. Emancipation is also defined as an antidote to the "digital divide" mindmap, so that a philosophical and political turn moves technological advances into human development tools at both local and global dimensions.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Digital Emancipation, as opposed to digital inclusion, aims at income generation and identity development rather than "bridging the digital divide." While access to digital networks is increasing, there is less confidence and verified outcomes related to job opportunities, entrepreneurship, solidarity, and organization of civil society. Digital Emancipation refers to the liberating potential of policy and technological options.

Pattern status: 
Released

Durable Assets

Pattern ID: 
754
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
58
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Poor peoples dependent upon day labor and other forms of hourly employment can find it difficult to ensure livability for themselves and their families. They have little to support themselves in the event that employment becomes scarce or food prices skyrocket undermining their capacity to feed their families. Similarly, the assetless peoples often find it impossible to acquire credit for the creation of small businesses becuase they are dependent upon fluctuating levels of income.

Context: 

Development that purses an emphasis towards building the durable assets people have such as land, machinery, or livestock can empower peoples to be self-sufficient even in times of hardship, as they posses the materials necessary for ensuring their livelihood regardless of the larger economic climate.

Discussion: 

Durable assets in sustainable development can be summarized within four sections: natural capital (natural resource assets), reproducible capital (durable structures or equipment produced by human beings), human capital (the productive potential of human beings), and social capital (norms and institutions that influence the interactions among humans). The idea of durable assets is that they are capable of generating flows of goods and services (Rust, 1985).

Here is a simple list of some concrete examples of Durable Assets in which peoples can acquire to support their overall economic security:

  • Automobiles
  • Land for cultivation
  • Computers
  • Sewing Machines
  • Tools
  • Livestock

This list is by no means meant to be exhaustive but rather meant to illuminate the types of durable assets that can be acquired to provide peoples and families greater means of supporting their livelihoods, both in times of relative prosperity, as well as in those times that prove to be not so prosperous.

Overall, this pattern emphasizes both a focus (and approach) and concrete goal of engendering livelihood development for peoples left without the means to ensure their own survival. The foundation of a durable assets approach follows from the understandings that fully relying upon one's own labor can be problematic in regions in which the economy is vulnerable to dramatic transitions. By giving peoples the power of ownership over their own lives in the good times as well as the bad yet another layer of protection can be added to avoid situations of furthered "hardcore poverty".

For example, throughout South Asia there is a movement of development driven by the creation of women's Self-Help Groups. In these groups people collectively save in order to acquire loans or assets to acquire the tools to initiate income generating activities. Many start-up shops as seamstresses, or begin poultry farming, some go on to open small stores and others as in the case of the Graemeen Bank's cell phone program, provide cell service to local people. In each of these examples, a common thread is the tools used. The seamstress must posses a sewing machine to pursue her business, just as the poultry farmer needs the livestock and the land. The cell phone ladies in Bangladesh would not be if it weren't for their ownership of the cell phones they use to run their businesses; just as the fisher would go hungry without his tools, so too would farmer without his land, and taxi driver without her taxi.

This isn't meant to negate the role of creativity of individual or group creativity to generate income, but it the pattern highlights a useful view on how to facilitate the inherent creativity of people for pursuing livelihoods for themselves and their families.

However, as long as there exists any durable asset, it is capable of possessing monetary attributes and, therefore, of giving rise to the characteristic problems of a monetary economy (Keynes, 1936). Therefore this pattern could be perceived to reinforce oppressive or unfair economic systems. Yet, despite this issue the reality remains that over a billion people live in extreme poverty without the means to feed or protect their families in times of greater economic hardship; to ignore this fact based upon arguments against the current economic system is perhaps to make a bad situation worse, and only perpetuate socio-economic inequalities.

Solution: 

Development practitioners, community members and individuals can participate in ways to consciously pursue the acquisition and sustainability of durable assets to promote income generation activities and support a greater level of economic security to the most vulnerable populations. Such approaches could conceivable be achieved through the linkage of other patterns such as self-help groups, co-operatives and collectives or a variety of other relevant patterns. Ultimately as a policy, officials in government could, through pressure from social change advocates, develop initiatives to enable individuals and communities to both acquire durable goods, and assist in protecting those assets that they do possess, such as land from external threats.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Durable Assets can empower people and communities to be self-sufficient even in times of hardship. Development practitioners, community members, and individuals can consciously pursue the acquisition and sustainability of Durable Assets. Government should develop initiatives to enable individuals and communities to acquire Durable Assets and to protect those they already own.

Pattern status: 
Released

Intermediate Technologies

Pattern ID: 
758
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
57
Justin Smith
The Public Sphere Project & St. Mary's University
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Often technologies used in development or transfered to poor communities do not fit the needs of the community that these technologies are designed to help. Instead these tools go unused or are not properly utilized to maximise their benefits due to a lack of knowledge about their use or more commonly their relavance to peoples needs.

Context: 

Often the simplest and most benign level of technology that can effectively achieve the intended purpose in a particular location will be the most relevant. These Intermediate Technologies are particularly useful to underdeveloped rural areas, which may lack the specialised expertise or infrastructure to operate and maintain high technology.

Discussion: 

Intermediate technology, as asserted in the book Small is Beautiful by E. F. Schumacher, tends to promote values such as health, beauty and permanence.

The idea of intermediate technology or "appropriate technology" is meant to highlight an approach to the concrete tools pushed in development practice. For example in a rural area, where literacy is low, where there is a lack of communication lines and even electricity it would not make sense to implement a tele-center to promote information awareness, rather a small local radio station by which people could obtain information through battery operated radios would be much more relevant to transfer information.

In essence the role of an intermediate technology is meant to allow peoples to take advantage of technology but in ways that don't drastically disrupt the cultural integrity of the community. It is ultimately respectful and mindful, to the fact that a treadle-pump for accessing water over walking 2 miles to the river 5 times a day is going to be more relevant to rural woman raising a household than a computer. In fact, there are no shortage of reports of technology transfer programs that failed miserably due to inadequate assessment of community needs. Instead, tools that were perceived to be most relevant based upon a variety of biases were given and yet when later evaluated where found to be dysfunctional or not in use.

Again, that was because they lacked relevance to the lived experiences of the peoples it was intended to help. Unfortunately, it is difficult to produce a list of appropriate technologies since by their very nature require their deployment to be context specific. So in some cases a rural wireless network may be very relevant and yet in others a underground water collection stations for use during the dry season will be most applicable.

Solution: 

Therefore when seeking to promote the livelihoods of peoples through the process of technology transfer it is important to be careful and creative in mapping out projects and types of technologies to be placed in a community to reach maximum use and benefit to those it is intended to support. Consultants and development advocates must ensure that proper measures are taken to ensure relevance and usefulness. In these cases it would seem appropriate for communities and technologists to come together in a participatory process for mapping out needs, infrastructure and culturally relevant solutions.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

Often the simplest level of technology that can achieve the intended purpose in a particular location will be the most relevant. Intermediate Technologies are particularly useful to underdeveloped rural areas, which lack the expertise or infrastructure to operate and maintain high technology. Communities need to collaborate with specialists to map out needs, infrastructure and culturally relevant solutions.

Pattern status: 
Released

Peace Education

Pattern ID: 
584
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
56
Helena Meyer-Knapp
The Evergreen State College
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People seem always to have studied war more than peace. Whether in school history classes or in the allocation of government research and university budgets, the energy devoted to peace studies is commonly so small as to be virtually invisible. Furthermore, an interest in peace-making is often taken as a sign of weakness. Hence peace education is unattractive to people with power. On the largest historical scale there is a strong correlation between the acquisition of the full rights of citizenship and warrior status. Furthermore, the right to command violence and wage war is a core prerogative of governments and political leaders. So peace education is easily defined as anti-government and in many places there is constant pressure to sustain the commitment to patriotic sentiment.

Discussion: 

Young people are encountering peace education in a variety of modes: Volunteer lawyers in Washington and other states teach mediation in the public schools. Community groups working with teenagers in trouble teach “straight talk,” a system for engaging directly with potential critics. Families too, have a choice between authoritarian parental powers and developing their members' negotiation skills, although if children are to learn to negotiate, parents must really be willing to change in response to their child’s arguments.

Since peace and justice are intertwined, peace education requires also that the younger generations learn also about achieving justice. Addressing topics relating to economic, ethnic, class, religious and other injustices remains controversial in US public education, but many schools and colleges have begun to open discussion of these issues.

Japan makes a significant investment in peace education for the young, through a large network of museums and peace sites. Most school programs are focused in on peace as it relates to World War II and indeed some of the facilities Japan describes as peace museums, others might label war museums or memorials. Nonetheless, through the cities and citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan has been a world leader in reminding people of the urgent perils of nuclear weaponry.

Peace education and peace research are linked and in 1981, under the leadership of Sen. Matsunaga of Hawaii, the US government set up an Institute of Peace. Since the ending of the Cold War, when it became legitimate once again think more about peace, US universities have founded significant programs, including undergraduate studies at Hampshire College, and graduate programs at George Mason University and Antioch. Europe, too, has seen considerable investment in university level education in peace studies and Europeans seem more willing than Americans to take an assertive stance in favor of peace. One outstanding program in Britain is at Bradford University, another at Lancaster. Among international institutions, Vienna is host to the UNESCO supported European University Center for Peace Studies and the United Nations Peace University is centered in Costa Rica with affiliated institutions in Geneva and Toronto among other places.

Large scale, institutionalized settings for peace education are complemented by dozens of of smaller venues in temples and shrines, churches and mosques, in peace camps for youngsters from war zones, in anger management courses and other therapist communities, in contemplative practices and even in martial arts training. The right environment for peace education can be found to match almost any age, mood, and orientation.

Still, the agressive, competitive and vengeful energies in most societies are given precedence over the peaceful in the media, in business and commerce, in sports, in law and even in education.

This pattern links to Teaching to Transgress, Education and Values, Citizenship School,

Solution: 

Parents on behalf of their children and adults on their own behalf will find they must make an explicit and continuous effort to get enough access to peace education and also to hold back the strong militaristic energies in most contemporary societies. Control gun play of course, but also teach peaceful negotiation and challenge the notion that the good citizen must be ready to go into combat.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

The energy devoted to Peace Education, whether in history classes or through the allocation of government or university funds, is miniscule. Since peace and justice are intertwined, Peace Education requires that people also learn about achieving justice. Schools can teach negotiation skills and empathic respect for different perspectives, using in-class simulations, theater, and other action-learning methods.

Pattern status: 
Released
Information about introductory graphic: 
From Hiroshima to Peace, Seattle, August 6, 2012. Photograph by Douglas Schuler. CC BY-SA 3.0

Mutual Help Medical Websites

Pattern ID: 
778
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
54
Andy Dearden
Sheffield Hallam University
Patricia Radin
Formerly, California State University-Hayward
Version: 
2
Problem: 

People suffering from chronic medical conditions need both information about their condition and the support of others who share their problems. How can such groups of people use the Internet to address their needs, and how can they design and operate a website for the best possible outcome?

Context: 

The Internet allows us to become content providers as well as users. A medically based Web community can become a powerful source of collective intelligence about a particular medical condition, with thousands of people sharing research results, articles, and personal observations with each other, thus breaking down the monopoly that doctors once held on medical information. Such a community also can be a source of comfort, wisdom, new friendships and material assistance. However, the nature of the medium also allows for casual, even abusive use of the information space.

Discussion: 

Breast Cancer Action Nova Scotia's (BCANS http://www.bca.ns.ca) interactive site is the world's largest and oldest breast cancer discussion site, indeed one of the oldest medical mutual-help sites in existence, dating from 1996 when it was started by a volunteer. The site began a period of fast growth in 1998 and in 2002 was reported to have about 400 closely involved "regulars", a wider circle of people who drop in now and then, and an unknown number of lurkers, some of them long-term. Not only women but a few men with breast cancer post to this group, as well as husbands, sisters, brothers, mothers, fathers, and friends. Although the majority of users are American, with about one-fourth Canadian, the site also hosts visitors from all the other continents, notably a large and active contingent from Australia and New Zealand, numerous Europeans, and participants from Turkey, South Africa, India, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.

Participants in the website can give and receive:
• reassurance and caring;
• informal advice to cope with the myriad sub-acute problems that arise;
• encouragement to stick with medical treatment regimens;
• professional medical information, such as details of new clinical trials;
• support for questioning conventional medical wisdom;
• material goods such as cards, gifts, and funds.

The site also includes tributes to those who have died; a collection of links to specific breast cancer topics; and a glossary of more than 400 breast cancer-related terms.

Since its launch with a single discussion forum, an interactive calendar for local (Halifax, Nova Scotia) activities, and a mission statement, BCANS has grown into a community that has written books, given conference presentations, appeared on TV and radio, launched a fundraising arm, and formed numerous in-person friendships.

To account for the success of BCANS, Patricia Radin turned to social capital theory, which analyzes the elements of beneficial social networks. According to the literature, trust is at the heart of a "virtuous circle" of activity wherein people voluntarily help each other, receive benefits in return, and again reach out to provide assistance. Although social capital theory was developed by looking at networks of people working face-to-face in bounded situations, it appears applicable to any context where mutual assistance is being rendered, such as an online medical mutual-help group.

Some specific features of site design and operations help to move visitors progressively toward a state of greater trust and reciprocity.

• An alert webmistress fiercely protects the community from hurtful messages, spam, and exploitation, thus promoting a high level of trust and goodwill.
• As well as the main forum discussing breast cancer issues, there are now additional sub-forums: e.g. one to accommodate groups planning get-togethers and one to allow for the swapping of recipes, jokes, and so on.
• A "prayer chain" section is available for users to post spiritual messages.
• Chat rooms are open 24 hours a day, but particular times are specified when a ‘host’ will be available to welcome newcomers to the chat room.
• There are two ways for participants to post permanent self-introductions (including photos): by filing a profile, which is then automatically linked with each message; and by posting an autobiography in a password-protected section accessible only to others who have filed a "biog." Many personal friendships have been formed and some community members visit the discussions as often as three times a day.

These features allow new visitors to size up the costs/benefits of participation in a risk-free environment; it allows longer-term users to stage their level of self-disclosure; choose from many ways to contribute and receive from the group; and to take part in shared experiences, both virtual and face-to-face; and it gives the more established community members chances to develop personal relationships and initiate projects of mutual benefit.

This pattern is in memory of Patricia Radin who is the original author.

Solution: 

Seek to build trust in stages:

1. Attract and reassure new visitors by giving visual messages explaining why the website was built and who for. Avoid advertising and show sponsorship from individuals clearly. Provide messages from others who share the condition.

2. Allow users to choose when and how to give out personal information. Separate publicly available profiles, from password protected areas where more personal information might be shared. Chat rooms can allow a more ephemeral form of "conversation". Sites should also permit people to send personal responses to posted comments, instead of posting to the whole forum.

3. Be alert to the potential problems of lurkers or abusive material. Active editors are needed to edit out abusive material, to act as hosts in chat rooms, and to maintain the site as a safe space.

4. Seek to build "thick trust," by supporting joint activities - doing things together, this gives people the opportunity to size up each other in a variety of situations.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People suffering from chronic medical conditions need information and the support of others who share their problems. A web community can be a powerful source of collective intelligence, of comfort, wisdom, friendships and material assistance. Trust must built in stages through communication, privacy, and planning. Moreover, the organizers and the community itself should work together to build "thick trust" through collaborative activities.

Pattern status: 
Released

Alternative Media in Hostile Environments

Pattern ID: 
433
Pattern number within this pattern set: 
53
Douglas Schuler
Public Sphere Project (CPSR)
Version: 
2
Problem: 

Despots despise the visibility that a truly free press can provide. It is their unchallengeable iniquity that would receive the most intense airing. Under oppressive regimes, the circulation of information, literature, and other art forms can be dangerous. People can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession of forbidden information — or the means to create, reproduce or distribute it. Journalists face even greater challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out to all who need it.

Context: 

This pattern focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with the forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community. The future of reform often depends on the success of this collaboration between journalists and citizens. The ideas in this pattern (including new distribution practices, for example) also can be used in the US or other countries that have a nominally free press yet one that is dominated by a few strong voices with deep pockets.

Discussion: 

The world can be very hostile to independent and alternative journalists and to people who read and think. Even countries where there are no legal restrictions to a "free" press have major problems. The journal Index on Censorship and the organization Reporters without Borders regularly report on the barbarities visited upon journalists worldwide. Despots know that the truth can damage their reputations and ultimately their regime. Although the truth is difficult to hide forever, postponing its arrival, limiting its exposure, and casting aspersions on its accuracy may be adequate for their purposes.

A hostile environment is one in which coercion or force — either formally through laws and police — or informally through thugs or contract killers is employed to stifle the free flow of ideas. The most common form of choking off the flow of information that could be damaging to the government, corporations or wealthy individuals is distraction. Serbian media during the Milosevic years with its breezy lightweight confections of schmaltzy pop as well as nationalist songs and slapstick served up in many cases by scantily clad women, provides a good example of this.

One appendage of the unfree press (at least as conceptualized in the U.S.) is a ruthlessly efficient secret police that stomps out every aspect of alternative point-of-view the instant that it surfaces. This modus operandi seems to be uncommon in practice (and would no doubt be the envy of all the despots). The defenders of the status quo, though loutish and dangerous, are often capricious and incompetent, and they are generally stymied by insufficient resources. The ambiguity of the laws and the ambiguity of the presumed offenses also can work in favor of the journalist.

The former Soviet Union and its satellites provided the fertile soil for an independent press that operated on the margins of the law for several decades. This is the classic "samizdat" distribution in which readers painstakingly and secretly copied by hand or via typewriter and carbon paper, multiple copies of entire books which were then passed on to others who would do the same.

In the "developed world" journalists and other media workers are specialized: one person intones the news of the day, using video clips that another person edited which was shot by another person during an interview conducted by another person as ordered by another person. When the political climate turns nasty and journalists are beaten-up, threatened or killed by government soldiers, paramilitary troops or thugs, when resources dry up or when disaster or wartime situations erupt, journalists habituated to the strict division of labor may be unable to adopt the more flexible and improvisational mode of news production when that becomes necessary. Journalists with overspecialized, deep but narrow, skills will find that they are unable to respond quickly and flexibly when their tried-and-true practices fail due to unexpected circumstances.

Alternative news distribution involves a canny cat and mouse game between those who believe in the free distribution of information and those who don't. Living within an actively hostile environment, it will be necessary to keep changing the way that business is done to meet new challenges. Unlike journalists in the US or other developed countries, journalists must adept in many modes of reporting, many approaches to distribution, a variety of tactics and strategies and the inventive use of what's available to get the job done, as befits what B92 journalist Veran Matic calls a "universal journalist, not an encyclopedic polymath who is informed in different fields, but a professional familiar with print journalism, radio and television, online journalism and information distribution mechanisms." This is what I call a bricoleur-journalist who sends the sounds that accompany the scene at voting station in Africa can go directly over the air via a cell phone with an open line to the radio station. Audio cassettes, printed broadsides or, more commonly today, DVDs can be distributed when the plug is pulled on a radio station (as it was three times during B92's early years of confronting Milosevic). And bricoleur-journalists in different cultures and settings, such as Chinese pro-democracy or environmental activists, will assume any number of local variants.

An interesting, unexpected issue seems to surface from time-to-time by the underground media (and society in general) after the fall of an oppressive regime. (fate of art and literature) Ironically, many people who worked closely with clandestine media over the years now feel unsettled in the post-soviet environment. After communism fell the former trickle of information became a tsunami of mostly commercial offerings. When information was scarce and in danger of extinction possessed an almost sacred allure. Now the same type of information is lost in the flood, just more anonymous flotsam and jetsam in a torrent of images and sounds.

Samizdat or clandestine journalism doesn't always succeed of course. Translating the success of the samizdat or underground press to other regions under oppressive regimes is far from automatic. A potential audience that is interested in the material must exist — as with the media in any situation — and there must be some way to get the material to them. Some of these people earnestly want social change and believe there is some degree, however small, of hope that this outcome is achievable. Interestingly, and somewhat contrary to conventional wisdom, some people in the potential audience are motivated by their desire to know the truth whether it helps to actually change the situation or not. At any rate, the larger and more active and supportive the audience is, the more likely that the alternative press will succeed. On the other side of the equation are the journalists — potential and actually — and the absence of either audience or journalists can prevent the enterprise from being successful.

Although precarious, alternative media production actually builds civic capacity. According to Anna Husarka who worked for Poland's Solidarity Information Bureau in 1989, the journalism they practiced "was a political blueprint for the democratic struggles that dismantled communism." It is also important to note that traditional "news" is not the only "product" of an alternative media project. The B92 enterprise (which started as a college radio station in Belgrade) now includes Radio B92, Television B92, B92.net (Web site), B92 publishing (books and magazines), B92 music label, B92.Rex cultural centre, B92.concert agency, and B92.communications (Internet provision and satellite links) amply illustrates the rich potential of a "media" that chooses to embrace the widest range of outlets. One of their biggest and most successful projects was "Rock for Vote," the biggest rock tour in Serbia's history, "a traveling festival with 6 to 8 bands playing in 25 cities and towns throughout the country." The tour was organized while organizers and activists "were being molested, harassed and detained by the police on a daily basis." In spite of that 150,000 citizens attended the concerts. Most importantly the results of the 2000 elections demonstrated that their main objective was attained: "80% of first-time voters did go to the polls after all ... casting their ballots to bring about fundamental changes in the country."

As mentioned above, some media operations that developed during a period of hostility have had a difficult time making the transition from a post-war or post-oppressive regime. On the other hand, Gazeta Wyborcza, one of Poland's leading underground newspapers in the 1980s, which was started in a kindergarten classroom became one of the most influential and commercially viable dailies in Poland [Smillie, 1999].) B92, in least in the immediate aftermath of the troubles in Serbia, continued innovative programming that reflected their terrifying past. For example, they launched a Truth and Reconciliation process that included radio shows and a series of books about the wars (including the Srebrenica crimes) and disintegration of former Yugoslavia. They also convened a conference "In Search for Truth and Reconciliation" in 2000 that was attended by journalists, intellectuals and representatives of NGOs from all former Yugoslav republics took part and another conference "Truth, Responsibility and Reconciliation" the following year that featured experiences of other countries in similar processes. Radio B92 also set up a special documentation archive on the wars which included testimonies, documentaries, video footage, books and other documents. They also arranged "exhibitions, screenings of documentaries and public discussions on these topics are being organized throughout Serbia" (Matic, 2004).

Solution: 

Producing — and consuming — or other types of cultural or journalistic media with hostile societies can be hazardous to emotional as well as physical health. It is often a unrewarding enterprise at the same time it can be absolutely critical.

Verbiage for pattern card: 

People in oppressive regimes can be harassed, beaten-up, imprisoned or even executed for possession or circulation of forbidden information, literature, or drawings. Journalists face grave challenges and require an extensive collection of techniques to get the news out. Alternative Media in Hostile Environments focuses on journalism during hostile conditions in which citizens have a greater need to engage with forbidden knowledge and share it with members of their community.

Pattern status: 
Released
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