<CPOV> post-political

nathaniel tkacz nathanieltkacz at gmail.com
Wed Oct 20 02:51:12 CEST 2010

Hi Joseph,

Thanks for your comments. My replies are interspersed:

> 1. One can certainly find instances of hyperbole with respect to Web 2.0,
but I think most scholars appreciate and represent these are not idyllic
pastures where harmony reigns. For example, Shirky frequently talks about
the merits and demerits of openness, as well as the need to balance such
values to take advantage of any shifts that occur from the underlying
technology. However, I do like the use of Mouffe's idea of political as
those things that are irreducibly and radically different and not amendable
to consensus processes. As someone that chaired working groups and taught
conflict management, I would like to think there's frequently more room for
give-and-take than people initially acknowledge, but some things cannot be
decided by consensus even among contributors of good faith, and they must
resort some other means. (Arbitration, Wales, voting, etc.).

Nate: I certainly agree that not everyone is the same on this issue
and Shirky (as well as yourself) is much more sober. There are, of
course, always differences and subtleties that are washed over when
generalizing. However, for me it's a question of language. I think
there is something in the way that collaboration is used that
positions it as post-political. Even many of the better commentators
have traces of this in their writings, and even while complicating it in
other areas. I tried to show through Benkler how collaboration is a kind of
"default" way of talking about the kind of work that gets done in open
projects, but that the term itself is very rarely considered. Everyone
agrees they are collaborating but very few people spend time to think
about what that means. Moreover, I think there is something about the
term that makes it less easy to think about conflict and other
"political" situations. It's like you have to work against the

> 2. I think it is interesting that you compare Wikipedia relative to
Spehr's notion of free cooperation, but at the same time note that probably
no working collaboration could conceivably be "free." This also reminded me
of efforts to compare various forms of online organization against Habermas'
normative ideals -- I don't think anyone assumes that you will ever find an
"ideal speech situation" of actual substance.

Nate: I agree. I wanted to use Spehr because he talks about domination
and because he provides a list of criteria. I also like how he reminds
us that collaboration isn't something unique to open projects. He
reminds us that we are always collaborating (or cooperating, which is
not the same but is very similar in his usage) and therefore our
attention must be drawn to what type of collaboration we are dealing

> 3. Finally, I appreciate your point that we shouldn't assume Wikipedia is
post-political, but what next? Do we need to then examine the values that
are brought to bear in discussions about and within Wikipedia?

Nate: The inevitable "what next" question! Examining values, as you
put it, is worthwhile. It is very difficult to make general comments
about Wikipedia "it needs to do or be this..." because how do you talk
about something that isn't a unity? I would say, for example, that the
idea that universal knowledge can be *collected* is a very naive idea.
This is how Wales talks about it: "we're gathering knowledge". It's a
leftover of the positivist tradition. However, if I were to make a
case against that other people wold simply say "we know that's wrong,
we don't think that". What I'm trying to do in my thesis is develop a
method for talking about "force" and "organisation" (which resonates
more or less with ideas about "the political" or simply "power").
However, open projects are very unique in several senses: new modes of
organising, new terms, etc. This means that many of the traditional
resources of critique don't apply. In fact, open projects perform their
own critique (of the commodity form, for example). And when I say
"critique" I don't mean to criticise or nay-say, but to develop
insights outside the immediate - shall we say, instrumental - concerns
of the project and its members. For me, critique is both a source of
agency and generative of transformation. This doesn't mean we go out
and create another Wikipedia necessarily. Transformation can take many
forms and can be a simple as an altered perspective (the philosophical
equivalent here is Deleuze's notion of "incorporeal transformation").
Thus, my "what next" is to try and think about how force is organised
in things that are labeled collaborative, participatory, open etc.

Thanks again for you comments Joseph. I still trying to get around to your


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