Ming the Mechanic:
The Blue Oxen Vision.

The NewsLog of Flemming Funch
 The Blue Oxen Vision.2003-04-15 13:57
8 comments
by Flemming Funch

From Seb Paquet, well worth quoting in full:
Blue Oxen Associates - that is, Eugene Eric Kim and Chris Dent - had a launch party in San Francisco last week with their first official piece of output: a 20-page research report on how open source communities function. The report features case studies of the communities that have formed around the TouchGraph and SquirrelMail software development projects. It was sponsored by the Omidyar Foundation, the very same foundation that awarded a grant to Tom Munnecke's GivingSpace initiative a few months ago.

On the occasion of the launch, Chris wrote a statement of what motivates him in this enterprise. Here it is in full.

We live in a time when the decisions of our governments are made outside any appreciation for reasoned and reasonable consensus. Information is delivered to us, packaged, shiny, and full of persuasive power but often lacking in the awareness of past, present and future required to make wise, lasting and honorable decisions.

I am tired of this. I'm tired of feeling powerless and listening to my self, my friends and my colleagues, filled with good ideas, swing in and out of a lonely and ineffectual desperation.

While it took me some time realize it, helping to start Blue Oxen is my small way of saying I've had enough, it's time to do something. I'm here to suggest that we can make the better world we believe is possible: one where people truly communicate and communicate truly, one where ideas are shared, one where the goodness that is our nature is allowed to emerge, in concert with one another, our neighbors down the street and our neighbors around the world.

I want Blue Oxen to catch and enhance the building wave of people who have acknowledged that sharing ideas, openly and frankly, is a creative force for improving the world and for motivating action. I seek not a free marketplace of ideas, but a free community of people collaborating to create and refine new thought.

Collaboration is a fully buzzword compliant term these days yet it is still an xx discipline. Eugene and I connected over a casually tossed phrase that I made in response to the question of what is augmentation for. I said, "To make me less dumb." It's now several months later and while I still believe this is an important aspect of what collaboration is for, my close association with Eugene and the members of our first collaboratory and the looser collaboration with disparate voices discovered by the simple act of making some noise has revealed a larger focus: Less dumbness emerges from open communication.

When the internet reached the public, it was hailed as a compelling democratizing force. The power of personal publishing was going to alter the face of society. It didn't quite happen like that. I remember being disillusioned as the significance of my own web server faded in the face of the shine, the gloss and the money of centralized media.

We are, today, thanks to motivated and idealistic people, in a new phase of enthusiasm. Systems such as weblogs and wikis and the developing genre of social software are birthing dynamic social networks that produce new understandings. In and of themselves these tools are nothing, it is the people who use them and what they do with them that matters. People are exploring, communicating, generating and accepting feedback; using their freedom to generate more freedom.

I want Blue Oxen to be an experimental gardener in this realm. Our task is to participate in the discovery, engenderment, development, evolution and facilitation of the patterns of behavior and process—and the tools the patterns use—that bring the ecology of collaborative evolution we need as a society. Our challenge is to see that the communication facilitated by collaborative systems continues, stays open, and creates artifacts that are accessible and reusable by others. Openness leads to shared and knowledgeable understanding, shared understanding leads to shared goals. Goals lead to motivation and motivation leads to action. Let's do what we can.

Chris is interested in the politics of collaboration, which seems like a hugely interesting topic. A later post of his is titled Anarchic Emergent Collaboration, and reflects on the ways in which we structure collaboration. Chris speculates that "emergent and loose collaboration is the most natural style." (which seems to resonate fairly well with Chris Corrigan's musings on Open Space Technology). Chris Dent writes,

"So I wonder if there are threads of connection that we can draw between extremist political theory (and history), systems theory and discussions of collaboration. Even if the threads prove ephemeral the exploration will probably be productive."

Right on. Count me in on the revolution.


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8 comments

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