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Decentralized and Open Organizations


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In this class we delved into the work of Clay Shirky (Here Comes Everybody) and Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom (The Starfish and the Spider), and looked at the rise of "starfish" organizations that are …

In this class we delved into the work of Clay Shirky (Here Comes Everybody) and Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom (The Starfish and the Spider), and looked at the rise of "starfish" organizations that are taking advantage of the Internet's affordances. We closed the class with a discussion of Mark Pesce's work on "hyperpolitics" and "hyperempowerment."

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  • 1. DPI-665 Politics of the Internet Feb 27, 2012 “ The Potential of Decentralized and Open Organizations” Micah L. Sifry Audio: CC-BY-NC-SA
  • 2. Topics for discussion
    • What is the dilemma of collective action, and how does the Internet help resolve this dilemma?
    • What are other examples of “Starfish” organizations?
    • Do open, decentralized organizations lack leaders?
  • 3. Here Comes Everybody
    • What happens when the cost of communicating and collaborating drops and the speed increases?
    • -Lateral connections, “shared awareness” take off (lay Catholics, airline passengers)
    • -Small groups + urge to share isn’t new; scale is
    • -Social tools don’t create collective action--they merely remove the obstacles to it
    • -Tech change + strategy on how to use
  • 4. The Starfish and the Spider
    • Centralized vs decentralized orgs
    • -Record companies vs P2P file-sharing platforms
    • -The Spanish vs the Apache
  • 5. Starfish organizations
    • No one in charge
    • No HQ
    • No head to kill
    • Amorphous division of roles
    • If you take out a unit, the org is unharmed
    • Knowledge/power is distributed
    • Org is flexible
    • Units are self-funding
    • Can’t count the participants
    • Working groups communicate laterally
  • 6. Other “Starfish”
    • Alcoholics Anonymous
    • The Tea Party
    • Occupy Wall Street
    • Do these open, decentralized organizations lack leaders??
  • 7. Hyperpolitics?
    • Mobile phones in the hands of 5B+
    • Hyperconnectivity + hypermimesis = hyperempowerment?
    • Are we heading into a digital state of nature?
    • Collisions between hierarchic and networked systems rising? (cf, Anonymous)
    • Or can they find ways to work together?
  • 8. The Internet’s Unlit Fuse
    • What didn’t happen in 2004: real expansion of local group coordination
    • “ The Bush campaign used the Internet brilliantly to connect supporters to voters in their precincts and to give them a clear message to deliver (unlike Kerry), but not for creating new communities. The Dean campaign used the Internet to create new offline communities, but not in Iowa where it mattered most. And the Kerry campaign and MoveOn chose not to create new communities at all.” -- Zephyr Teachout
  • 9. Due Wednesday, 3rd blog post
    • Discuss the readings covered between Feb 15-27
    • Evaluate the potential or pitfalls of open, decentralized organization by focusing on at least one case (either from the readings or a related example)