There is a common myth that self-organizing peer-to-peer communities can collaborate together by sheer virtue of the fact that the individuals involved are rational and reasonable human beings. When conflicts occur, and they inevitably do, there are no mechanisms to deal with it, and those with invisible power, higher up in a hierarchy that everyone denies is there, tend to use their power to maintain their position or rise higher, often buoyed by charisma and the ability to proselytize.
In some cases conflicts and flame wars can ultimately be healthy, leading to forks and new pathways for social or technological innovation. But often the costs are higher than the gains, with people simply leaving – usually women, BIPOC, LGBTQ and other folks marginalized by physical disabilities or being neuro divergent.
There is also a collective amnesia with regard to self-organizing. Current peer production social movements appear to ignore the long history of, for example, anarchist organizing in favour of an abstract concept of a rationalist meritocracy that is free of ‘censorship’. Some groups do acknowledge this important history, however, and have worked to integrate better patterns of self-organizing into their socio-economic activities. Community guidelines and Codes of Conduct play an important role in this.
From the position of Science & Technology Studies, I have observed particularly the materiality involved in how DIY maker-activists try to get things done and distribute group governance. By collaborating with experts in media psychology and conflict resolution recently, I have also learned an immense amount about how peer groups can better manage their own self-governance. (And I have painfully recognized the mistakes I have made in the past in my own activist experiences.) This process was initiated and first materialized in a process of writing a Code of Conduct for a group I’m involved in (in my other life as an activist). We wrote about this Values-in-Design (VID) process for a short exploratory paper for the NORDES Nordic Design Research Society Conference.
You’ll find the paper here: Nordes_2019_paper_81
The Caring Community Guidelines are open and free for anyone to copy and adapt to their own needs: https://github.com/ckohtala/community-guidelines/blob/master/CaringCommunityGuidelines.md