Be here when—
the crazy wisdom of

communities and how they use

technology to design themselves
John David Smith
A few ye...
“They don’t get it…”
• What we seek to “get” in CHIFOO
has evolved from“button color
and function” to: “design for
communi...
Emergence & growth of community
• Cesar Hidalgo: How Info Grows
• Community formation enables
growth of knowledge (limits ...
Framework #1

Thinking about computational capacity
Condition,
energy,
or substrate Ingredients
History Resources
Antibodi...
Consulting about communities
• “We’d like 3 of those CoPs…”
• As designed & sold “things”
• Exclusive focus on community
l...
Churches & spiritual groups

are both organizations and communities
They are:
• Ubiquitous & impactful
• Diverse in form, ...
How to compute new insights
• Keeping an eye on
theoretical frameworks
• Being relevant in practice
(but not as a consulta...
Working three stories
Why stories?
• Have just enough context
• Expose frameworks
• Are the food (or drink) of
communities...
Framework #2

Community, Practice, Domain
• CPD is essential model to
understand CoPs (Wenger)
• Communities of Practice: ...
Using CPD to understand Shambhala
• Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche
(CTR) was the 11th Trungpa
Tulku, escaped Tibet, set aside
h...
a. b. c. d.
Midwives
Church-goers,

Meditators, …
Engineers
Legislative
auditors
Framework #3

Configurations of Community ...
Some contrasts between organization
and community
Organization Community
Rests upon Social or economic system Social fabri...
Story #1:
Technology confirms community
• CTR liked to address all his
students on Tibetan New Year
— like the Queen’s Addr...
Roll-call as community platform
• Rooster crowing was for “Year of
the Rooster” — January 23, 1993
• A technology hack exp...
Time (and increasing organization)
Number

of
sites
Audio
cassettes
by mail
Conference

Call
Alternative
Conference
Call
V...
Framework #3

Organizations & Communities + Technology
a. b. c. d.
Midwives
Church-goers,
Meditators, etc.
Engineers
Legis...
Story # 2
Community and organization in
Portland
• In Shambhala, volunteers do
most of the work including
governance
• Sta...
Successive Council Secretaries: 

a poet, an MD…
Tried them all:
• Individual recollection
• Individual hand-written notes...
A college student with new skills tried:
• A monthly Google Doc
Meeting agenda
Individual reports
Real-time minute taking
...
Story # 3:
A 3-way race
• Shambhala database started in
2001 — a European initiative to
help people find each other
• Now a...
Who doesn’t “get” this data resource?
• Reflecting community & 

organization to
• Measure
• Compare
• Budget
• Forecast
• ...
Community & organizational views
• Evolving maturity of
• Data literacy
• Technologies
• Member-leaders
(volunteers and pa...
My current learning agenda
• Power of self-funded platforms
and their limits

• Community self-design

• Technology stewar...
One more story…

Calculating CHIFOO challenges
• Humanity’s future includes many
more
• people
• computers
• interactions ...
What and how are we calculating?
• D: Topics?

• C: Membership? Boundaries?
Leadership?

• P: Methods? Interactions? 

• W...
Thanks!
• You!
• Sources
• Chögyam Trungpa & Co.
• Cesar Hidalgo 2014
• Etienne Wenger…
• Sean Everton (JOSS, 2015)
• Sean...
Enlightenment is the complete
absence of any promises. We have
to give up the tendency to look for
solid, serious, or magi...
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Be here when - communities and how they use technology to design themselves

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Using the example of a church that is both a community and an organization to examine how technology shapes identity, togetherness, and competence. Brings together Hidalgo's framework on computation with Wenger's community of practice theory. Discusses how organizations can be intimately intertwined with the communities that they serve.

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  • A few years ago at Ecotrust, I heard a few people say, “They just don’t get it” several times. I decided that what they meant was: “somebody else doesn’t get it, we do get it, and they ought to.” If we unpack it, it could be a subtitle for this year’s CHIFOO talks. Few “tips” tonight, but we’ll focus on what people “get” or don’t — in CHIFOO and other communities.
  • In 2016 so far we’ve been talking about “who gets it”:
    Presuming we don’t get it but can through the design process
    Mapping what people don’t get
    Connecting and appropriating what others do get
    Mapping pathways that people already get (but we don’t unless we pay attention)

    tonight: Trying to get how technology and knowledge work in free-standing organizations and communities. Communities of practice, specifically, as learning vehicles or holders of wisdom and knowledge.
  • Computation is happening around us at many levels of scale, including the moss that “measures” and “remembers” the incidence of heavy metals in its environment. The results of computation are portable, but computational capacity is quite sticky because it’s embedded in networks, which are not portable. From this perspective we are all social computers embedded in networks of computation, interfacing with other computers of all sorts.
  • What we humans compute (aka, thinking, imagining) is not just “products” (like Hidalgo emphasizes) but our identity, our choice of tools, and our position in various communities. Communities, like us, then compute their future. And thus humanity computes its future.
    These 3 levels can be used as a “guiding”, not cognitive notions. “Out of equilibrium systems” means “relatively stable energy sources”.
  • Although I made a living teaching and helping organizations establish communities and to deploy community-enabling technologies, the logics of organizations and communities often seemed to be in conflict. Digital Habitats was an attempt to frame the use of technology on behalf of communities, but we’ve found it’s hard to do and even harder to “teach”. And technology stewardship is almost more sticky than the communities themselves. The question of what I didn’t understand about organizations and communities kept coming up.
  • I realized I had a perfect technology stewardship laboratory close at hand. Churches are spiritual communities and non-profit businesses so they are communities and organizations at the same time. Had already worked with Baptists, Lutherans, Unitarians, Jews, and Buddhists. Scholars like Sean Egerton show how the social network structure of churches are profound, impactful, and often ignored.
  • Over the past 3 years I’ve been the tech steward for Shambhala here in Portland (as well as working at Shambhala’s international level). Able to do a lot of work bridging between the work I did in organizations for 15 years and this opportunity for close study.
  • Apart from the 3 frameworks this presentation is about story-swapping. Hard data and tips are not allowed.
  • CPD is also a guiding concept. Could say that individuals are computing all three. Communities of practice are computing all three at the same time as well.
  • Domain: Buddhist insights from Tibet; how to be a good person
    Community: western students in Boulder (and elsewhere)
    Practice: meditation, “getting a job”
    I took offense in the 80’s at a visiting monastic’s comment that it was “very nice that we had a member of the Sangha in our midst (referring to Trungpa, Rinpoche)”. Different understanding of “membership” as part of the translation process. Effect of technology on membership.
  • Originally, a community of practice was an anthropologist’s device for taking an agnostic look at learning (not captured by the idea of “school”), to understand the social nature of learning in different settings. It turned out to be useful for looking at and supporting learning in organizations like HP or Shell. The first 3 configuration are roughly connected with different books on the subject:
    Lave & Wenger
    Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder ’98
    Wenger, White & Smith
    tonight
  • As we will see, community and organization are more contrasting social forms than completely distinct entities. The reason it’s important to draw the contrast is that technology (which can have a big impact on communities) is almost always owned and operated by an organization.

  • First story, is not digital and computers are not visible at the beginning. A recurring social event was established partly as a result of technical improvisation. Let’s listen in about 12 years after the phone link had gotten started.
  • What happened
    Visibility of “us” (as a community) relative to the teacher’s New Year’s address
    Contributions and failures of a few geeks acquire an organizational role
    As technology and organization evolve, the limitations of improv and of specific technologies start to show
    Organization supports evolution of the event
  • Over 50 years the event was invented, evolved and changed from being a completely improvised community thing to a polished fund-raiser (that was ignored in Portland).
  • Back to the different ways organizations and communities can be configured. Each also has different technology issues. Technology is most often owned and controlled by organizations. It has different functions and is experienced differently by organizations and communities.
  • Second story. Community and organization interpenetrate. How an organizational requirement is met with community strategies. There is an organization within the community and within the organization is a group that governs: a little community of practice focused on governance of an organization and its community.
  • Each Council secretary brought a unique solution to the problem of group memory.
  • Result: from “no computers” in a semi-circle on meditation cushions to a meeting around a table where everyone has a computer and is connected to the internet and seeing what is being written on our behalf.
  • Third example: Organization serves the community by helping people “see” each other with less effort. Technology grows to serve a growing community and organization.
  • What I think others “should get”.
  • Shambhala is a community of communities… Don’t yet have language to discuss data issues…

    What are Shambhala values or views about data? Compared with German or North American values? A new domain topic.
  • Self-organizing, self-funded churches must be vital communities and competent organizations, with technology to serve both. All three components face significant computational challenges.

    Hidalgo reminds us that all three (CPD) need energy sources, add to the world’s computational capacity, and serve as platforms for further evolution. The CPD model reminds us that computation needs to happen along three different dimensions.
  • Many individual ways of participating in the calculation. I’m often evasive or plain old tongue-tied when people ask me what I do at CHIFOOd. But very forthcoming and chatty when it comes to live-tweeting during the talks.
  • Be here when - communities and how they use technology to design themselves

    1. 1. Be here when— the crazy wisdom of
 communities and how they use
 technology to design themselves John David Smith A few years ago at Ecotrust, I heard a few people say, “They just don’t get it” several times. I decided that what they meant was: “somebody else doesn’t get it, we do get it, and they ought to.” If we unpack it, it could be a subtitle for this year’s CHIFOO talks. Few “tips” tonight, but we’ll focus on what people “get” or don’t — in CHIFOO and other communities.
    2. 2. “They don’t get it…” • What we seek to “get” in CHIFOO has evolved from“button color and function” to: “design for community” … from “bad design” to “bounded irrationality” • “They don’t get it” is a bit negative, but implies • assertion of meaning • a regime of competence • a regime of accountability • Talking about “who gets it” (or doesn’t) is a way into the social nature of knowing In 2016 so far we’ve been talking about “who gets it”: • Presuming we don’t get it but can through the design process • Mapping what people don’t get • Connecting and appropriating what others do get • Mapping pathways that people already get (but we don’t unless we pay attention) tonight: Trying to get how technology and knowledge work in free-standing organizations and communities. Communities of practice, specifically, as learning vehicles or holders of wisdom and knowledge.
    3. 3. Emergence & growth of community • Cesar Hidalgo: How Info Grows • Community formation enables growth of knowledge (limits it?) • Knowledge is sticky because communities grow in place, are not really portable • Community is one example of “a system that responds to inputs by changing state and producing a fixed physical output” … much like: cells, moss, knowledge workers, communities, companies, economies — and computers Calculating the 
 incidence of heavy metals Computation is happening around us at many levels of scale, including the moss that “measures” and “remembers” the incidence of heavy metals in its environment. The results of computation are portable, but computational capacity is quite sticky because it’s embedded in networks, which are not portable. From this perspective we are all social computers embedded in networks of computation, interfacing with other computers of all sorts.
    4. 4. Framework #1
 Thinking about computational capacity Condition, energy, or substrate Ingredients History Resources AntibodiesPlatforms Platform, or outcome Products Identities Structure Knowledge Memory Out-of-
 equilibrium systems Accumulation
 of information
 in solids Ability
 of matter
 to compute Network,
 practice or,
 place Connections Belonging Synapses Networks Channels Imagination Ideas What we humans compute (aka, thinking, imagining) is not just “products” (like Hidalgo emphasizes) but our identity, our choice of tools, and our position in various communities. Communities, like us, then compute their future. And thus humanity computes its future. These 3 levels can be used as a “guiding”, not cognitive notions. “Out of equilibrium systems” means “relatively stable energy sources”.
    5. 5. Consulting about communities • “We’d like 3 of those CoPs…” • As designed & sold “things” • Exclusive focus on community launch — “build from scratch” • Wanting arms-length involvement and fast payoff • Over-emphasis on technology (which was “owned by IT”) What did clients not get? What could technology not do?
 
 What could I do? Technology
 Stewardship Although I made a living teaching and helping organizations establish communities and to deploy community-enabling technologies, the logics of organizations and communities often seemed to be in conflict. Digital Habitats was an attempt to frame the use of technology on behalf of communities, but we’ve found it’s hard to do and even harder to “teach”. And technology stewardship is almost more sticky than the communities themselves. The question of what I didn’t understand about organizations and communities kept coming up.
    6. 6. Churches & spiritual groups
 are both organizations and communities They are: • Ubiquitous & impactful • Diverse in form, size, scope • Persistent But also: • Community and organization confounded • Taboo to investigate? • They themselves mis-recognize • Over-emphasis on “domain” • Nested, network structure • Important physical heritage • Lack of technology stewardship Photo: Steve Morgan
 from Wikipedia But what do they compute? I realized I had a perfect technology stewardship laboratory close at hand. Churches are spiritual communities and non-profit businesses so they are communities and organizations at the same time. Had already worked with Baptists, Lutherans, Unitarians, Jews, and Buddhists. Scholars like Sean Egerton show how the social network structure of churches are profound, impactful, and often ignored.
    7. 7. How to compute new insights • Keeping an eye on theoretical frameworks • Being relevant in practice (but not as a consultant) • Detecting blind spots as well as noticing insights Mi blind spot es su
 blind spot? Over the past 3 years I’ve been the tech steward for Shambhala here in Portland (as well as working at Shambhala’s international level). Able to do a lot of work bridging between the work I did in organizations for 15 years and this opportunity for close study.
    8. 8. Working three stories Why stories? • Have just enough context • Expose frameworks • Are the food (or drink) of communities of practice Minimum viable frameworks 1. Information growth (Hidalgo) 2. CPD (Wenger) 3. Organization & Community configuration (me) Tonight’s stories 1. Membership & phone bridge 2. Memory practices 3. Tech, CoP and Org in a race Yea, that reminds me
 of the time that… Apart from the 3 frameworks this presentation is about story-swapping. Hard data and tips are not allowed.
    9. 9. Framework #2
 Community, Practice, Domain • CPD is essential model to understand CoPs (Wenger) • Communities of Practice: about “getting” knowledge or skill • For CHIFOO: D: Computer / human interaction P: Meet & talk about design C: Portland, members, friends • Each affects and depends on the other two • CoPs need legs are seen as platforms by enterprises
 (e.g., Framework # 1) Domain Practice Community Three very different kinds of computation CPD is also a guiding concept. Could say that individuals are computing all three. Communities of practice are computing all three at the same time as well.
    10. 10. Using CPD to understand Shambhala • Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche (CTR) was the 11th Trungpa Tulku, escaped Tibet, set aside his robes, settled in Colorado to teach, founded Shambhala • After reading 2 of his books, I arrived in Boulder, Colorado on August 10, 1975
 • “Am I a member?” becomes an important element of identity https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crazy_wisdom • Domain: Buddhist insights from Tibet; how to be a good person • Community: western students in Boulder (and elsewhere) • Practice: meditation, “getting a job” I took offense in the 80’s at a visiting monastic’s comment that it was “very nice that we had a member of the Sangha in our midst (referring to Trungpa, Rinpoche)”. Different understanding of “membership” as part of the translation process. Effect of technology on membership.
    11. 11. a. b. c. d. Midwives Church-goers,
 Meditators, … Engineers Legislative auditors Framework #3
 Configurations of Community and Organization Now for some of my stories about the
 Shambhala 
 meditation centers Originally, a community of practice was an anthropologist’s device for taking an agnostic look at learning (not captured by the idea of “school”), to understand the social nature of learning in different settings. It turned out to be useful for looking at and supporting learning in organizations like HP or Shell. The first 3 configuration are roughly connected with different books on the subject: a. Lave & Wenger b. Wenger, McDermott, & Snyder ’98 c. Wenger, White & Smith d. tonight
    12. 12. Some contrasts between organization and community Organization Community Rests upon Social or economic system Social fabric Roles Contracted / appointed Negotiated / evolved Entity boundary Coase’s Theorem Legitimate peripheral participation Legitimacy A legal person A long tradition Representation Hierarchical organization chart Texts, places, events Outcomes Adding to a value chain Belonging, identity, learning As we will see, community and organization are more contrasting social forms than completely distinct entities. The reason it’s important to draw the contrast is that technology (which can have a big impact on communities) is almost always owned and operated by an organization.
    13. 13. Story #1: Technology confirms community • CTR liked to address all his students on Tibetan New Year — like the Queen’s Address to the Nation on Christmas Day • Geeks hacked a Radio Shack speaker phone - instead of mailing recordings on cassettes in 1981 • Volunteers made it up & collected the money to do it • “Roll Call” was a technical protocol that became an important community experience Can you hear me now? First story, is not digital and computers are not visible at the beginning. A recurring social event was established partly as a result of technical improvisation. Let’s listen in about 12 years after the phone link had gotten started.
    14. 14. Roll-call as community platform • Rooster crowing was for “Year of the Rooster” — January 23, 1993 • A technology hack expanded the awareness of community • Recognizing voices, recognizing improvisation, tolerating and celebrating bloopers • Self-design and self-discovery on many levels and dimensions, including funding practices • Persistent glitches as a stimulus to innovation Happy New Year! What happened • Visibility of “us” (as a community) relative to the teacher’s New Year’s address • Contributions and failures of a few geeks acquire an organizational role • As technology and organization evolve, the limitations of improv and of specific technologies start to show • Organization supports evolution of the event
    15. 15. Time (and increasing organization) Number
 of sites Audio cassettes by mail Conference
 Call Alternative Conference Call Vendors Video
 Conferencing Alternative Streaming
 Services Pre- recorded videos + slides Pre-
 recorded
 speakers Evolution of the New Year’s event Being Together Broadcast Broadcast Over 50 years the event was invented, evolved and changed from being a completely improvised community thing to a polished fund-raiser (that was ignored in Portland).
    16. 16. Framework #3
 Organizations & Communities + Technology a. b. c. d. Midwives Church-goers, Meditators, etc. Engineers Legislative auditors How do communities &
 organizations overlap, benefit or limit each other? Can technology
 (that is owned by organizations) serve communities, too? Back to the different ways organizations and communities can be configured. Each also has different technology issues. Technology is most often owned and controlled by organizations. It has different functions and is experienced differently by organizations and communities.
    17. 17. Story # 2 Community and organization in Portland • In Shambhala, volunteers do most of the work including governance • Staffing & skill set constraints • Memory requirements of the organization • Enough details remembered • Agreement • Non-repudiation • Cost • Timeliness • Accomplished within the community’s resources Communities and organizations have
 different memory practices Second story. Community and organization interpenetrate. How an organizational requirement is met with community strategies. There is an organization within the community and within the organization is a group that governs: a little community of practice focused on governance of an organization and its community.
    18. 18. Successive Council Secretaries: 
 a poet, an MD… Tried them all: • Individual recollection • Individual hand-written notes • Shared agendas on paper with hand-written notes • After-the-fact transcription • Individual Google Doc for “minutes” • Finally landed on a shared Google Doc “Any bad policy can look good if only considered over a short enough period of time” ~ Jay Forrester Each Council secretary brought a unique solution to the problem of group memory.
    19. 19. A college student with new skills tried: • A monthly Google Doc Meeting agenda Individual reports Real-time minute taking Links added on the fly Preserving history Publishing (redacted) history • Shaping • organizational memory • produced by members • much greater detail Result: from “no computers” in a semi-circle on meditation cushions to a meeting around a table where everyone has a computer and is connected to the internet and seeing what is being written on our behalf.
    20. 20. Story # 3: A 3-way race • Shambhala database started in 2001 — a European initiative to help people find each other • Now a centralized data base for calendars, registration, membership, contacts, email • Implemented with MySQL, WordPress, MailChimp, home grown functions, etc. • Designed & managed by part- time paid staff, but operated by 100s of volunteers Basis of community & organization memory Third example: Organization serves the community by helping people “see” each other with less effort. Technology grows to serve a growing community and organization.
    21. 21. Who doesn’t “get” this data resource? • Reflecting community & 
 organization to • Measure • Compare • Budget • Forecast • Tried alternative • Delivery channels • Formats • Audiences • Shambhala can’t see itself in its data Growth 
 comparisons Yet… What I think others “should get”.
    22. 22. Community & organizational views • Evolving maturity of • Data literacy • Technologies • Member-leaders (volunteers and paid staff) 
 • Views of data “ownership”: • Organization vs. community? • Europeans vs. North Americans attitudes about privacy? • Governance evolves along with everything else Straddling community & organization but not the Atlantic Ocean Shambhala is a community of communities… Don’t yet have language to discuss data issues… What are Shambhala values or views about data? Compared with German or North American values? A new domain topic.
    23. 23. My current learning agenda • Power of self-funded platforms and their limits
 • Community self-design
 • Technology stewardship • Polarities • Organization & community • Local & federated • Change & preserve M.C. Escher, “Drawing Hands”
 from Wikipedia What about us? Self-organizing, self-funded churches must be vital communities and competent organizations, with technology to serve both. All three components face significant computational challenges. Hidalgo reminds us that all three (CPD) need energy sources, add to the world’s computational capacity, and serve as platforms for further evolution. The CPD model reminds us that computation needs to happen along three different dimensions.
    24. 24. One more story…
 Calculating CHIFOO challenges • Humanity’s future includes many more • people • computers • interactions between them • Growing expectations of all three • CHIFOO’s attention embraces • very small scale (e.g., buttons) • business models • larger aggregates & more complex interactions (e.g., communities) • We have a long history • We have Portland!
    25. 25. What and how are we calculating? • D: Topics?
 • C: Membership? Boundaries? Leadership?
 • P: Methods? Interactions? 
 • Who “doesn’t get it”? (from our perspective) • “That client” • “Those engineers” • “Management” Photo: Ann Marcus Many individual ways of participating in the calculation. I’m often evasive or plain old tongue-tied when people ask me what I do at CHIFOOd. But very forthcoming and chatty when it comes to live-tweeting during the talks.
    26. 26. Thanks! • You! • Sources • Chögyam Trungpa & Co. • Cesar Hidalgo 2014 • Etienne Wenger… • Sean Everton (JOSS, 2015) • Sean Murphy • Wikipedia, Twitter, and Ann Marcus (for images)
    27. 27. Enlightenment is the complete absence of any promises. We have to give up the tendency to look for solid, serious, or magical results. We have to give up trying to manufacture results through gimmicks. 
 - Chögyam Trungpa, Rinpoche

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