Rebooting the EDC forum: an invitation

When we launched the Ecological Design Collective about a year ago, we made a commitment to rely on open source platforms for our digital communications. We felt that profit-seeking corporate platforms and social media were inconsistent with the spirit of ecological design. The recent cascade of troubling news about Twitter, Facebook and other corporate media brings home the need for more truly public online space. With this imperative in mind, here’s an invitation to help us reboot and revitalize our EDC forum.

Forums are old tech, with roots stretching back to the 1970s BBS systems that were little more than digital versions of bulletin boards. Longer than Twitter and slower than Instagram, we envision our forum as place to hang out, muse, bear witness, and learn from each other. A place somewhat shielded from what Byung-Chul Han calls the “shitstorms” of social media, where everyone is whipped into a frenzy of perpetual rage and narcissistic oversharing. Such frenzies are profitable, and communicative capitalists like Elon Musk and Donald Trump have mastered the form.

Finding other ways to convene is a small but important gesture towards the possibilities of what we (perhaps idealistically) call ecological design. Forums often have an endearingly corny, community-minded spirit. They can of course turn dark – sites like 4chan have radicalized lonely men for decades. But, in a perverse way, this is why we might want to take them more seriously, and explore further what else they could do. A recent post on our EDC forum explored the case for building cities underground. We might think of such forums as small digital warrens, patches of refugia damp and cool enough to nurture new ways of communing.

Do take a look at our EDC forum if you haven’t lately. Read, respond, share what you wish. We let this space lie fallow for a little while, but things are percolating again. We’d appreciate your company as we try to build such small alternatives to the corporate communication platforms that so many of us are turning away from these days, in weariness and frustration. We’d love to see this forum of ours sputter back into more active life.

We’d also like to take this as an occasion to think and talk together once again about what our collective could be, as a community for radical ecological imagination. Join EDC curators and anthropologists Michael Degani and Anand Pandian next Thursday May 19th for a informal chat about corporate social media, alternative online platforms like ours, and what we might do together to cultivate new forms of virtual community.

You’ll find Mike and Anand via this video link at 6pm EST on 5/19, or via the Chat channel of our Commons. You’ll also find the two of them, and others, puttering around more generally on this EDC forum of ours. One way or another, hope to see you around.

Some notes on the excellent conversation today about the forum, on social media, on the kinds of communications we are trying to foster.
–We’re awash in the sea of social media, without enough anchor points. Could a space like ours make available such anchors?
–Questions of value are also important, the values that animate the coming together: going slow, building trust, learning how to work against hierarchy, cultivating a sense of belonging, more active and encompassing than connection.
–Rituals of entry and exit are important, how people come into and out of a space, what it means to enter or leave
–Barriers to entry are also real
–There is also the temporality of the experience, the time together that events can make, but also the time away, in between. All that capital invested in getting us to engage with social media, the drip drip drip of connection and “engagement.” How to build and sustain relations in some other way?
–The importance of slowing down, meeting folks where they are, cutting off the sugar high of rapid-fire response and quick takes, so it becomes more of a place than a network, and also wards off the overstimulation and its effects
–The value of talking to people in person too. We have physical, embodied, forms of communication, like conversation circles. What would it mean to lean in this direction?
–The interest in building an archive over time. A collaborative archiving, a forum as a quasi-interactive archive.
–But also becoming more trustworthy in terms of being responsive to that archive, over time, rebuilding more thoughtful and mindful habits of engagement, tilling the same soil again and again, revisiting.
–The right to be forgotten? How to give people a measure of security, that what they share would not just be plucked and manipulated out of context?
–Spareness of forms like books, so simple in structure, and yet so persistent over time
–How to make explicit the break from corporate forms, to make them radical and also concrete?
–Moving forward in different directions, both building archives that accumulate over time, like the forum, as well as more ephemeral and in-the-moment forms, like audio conversation and chat spaces, which we will be exploring.
–In the meantime, see you on the forum!