Thursday, December 25, 2008

Guest blogged at the P2P Foundation blog

An extended version of my previous blog note here was published by the P2P Foundation.


John Powers said...

I'm horribly superficial. My reading of Girard is quite scant. Yet as interesting as mimetic desire is, it's Girard's turning upside down, which the Gospel narrative provides the model, that's most interesting to me. (I'm a religious skeptic.)

So okay, we've all got an unconscious tradition of solving conflicts with violence against a scapegoat. But Girard says we've got it all wrong, the way out of the violent spiral is imitation of Christ. Anthropologist who take up Girard stick with mimetic rivalry and gravitate away from the rest.

Your interest is in creating ways to avoid the degradation of online communities to violence. I may be wrong about this, but it appears you are suggesting that hierarchies are essential for this. At least you propose that mimetic rivalry is "a powerful argument against the Peak Hierarchy idea."

When we turn to comparative religion, especially when attending to Christianity, it seems that hierarchy is only one of several approaches for dealing with conflict.

Rather outside the religious domain, John Robb has been paying attention to resilient communities. One approach to inter-religious dialog is to view communities relationally rather than ideologically. I find some commonality in this with Robb's vision of resilient communities. And for that matter with Rene Dubos's "Think Globally. Act locally."

You always use few words, Zbigniew, forgive me for prattling on. But I wanted to point to a link for a paper by Rudolf Kaehr, The Category of Glue (PDF). Alas, I don't think I understand much of it, but at least it seems relevant to the problem you're addressing about online communities.

You might already know Rudolf Kaehr and the ThinkArt Lab. I only found them because Kaehr has put up some papers by Gotthard Gunther online.

On one horn we seem unconsciously driven toward scapegoats via mimetic desire. But on the other horn what happens when we bring an awareness of this into consciousness?

I'm superficial, but impatient with architectures of control, or rather biased against them. It seems to me that Kaehr's work on polycontexturality offers an approach to containment of rivalry through communication.

There are many advantages of the essential models being unconscious. But my sense is the way out of the conundrum forced on us by mimetic rivalry is not by tweaking the unconscious, but rather by more conscious awareness.

zby said...

Thanks for that long and interesting comment and the links (I have to admit that both are new to me). First I need to add that:

1. I cannot aspire to be well read in Girard, I am sure I'll read more, but for now my list is rather short as well.

2. I am also religious skeptic.

At this stage I am mostly interested in validating my intuition that - indeed what happens (and destroys) in the many online communities is the mimetic process. Finding solutions to that would be the second stage. I am not proponent of strict hierarchy - I am more stating that there is this mimetic rivalry problem that traditionally is (at least partially) solved by hierarchies - so before rejecting them we should be prepared to cope with mimetism in other ways. I am sure there are other ways - and first all the important thing about hierarchy is not the ordering - but only that it is a social difference, because difference is what makes people incomparable - i.e. destroys mimetism. One practical advice from this for online teams - try to gather people with different skills so that they don't compete. I am also fascinated by the girardian analisis of the Gospel solution - this is a grand theory - but what I am seeking now is just practical advice - how to organize people.

Now I am going to read the links :)

John Powers said...

Zby, thanks for the response. Those links may make you pull your hair out! The "Glue" article is all over the place, but, I think, working around the problem you're addressing. There surely is some interesting stuff at the ThinkARt Lab site.

I find your sustained attention to the problem of online communities great. There seems too little serious attention to the dynamics of online communities. Your approach via mimetic desire seems quite promising.