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Why IOPS failed

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I was slightly suprised to again find yet another mail about some poll on IOPS' future in my account. I wanted to see what happened since the last time I took a look at the site, so I did, and unsurprisingly, nothing has changed. 

The issue I see with IOPS is the schizophrenic approach to participation. Participatory decision-making implies participatory development of the methods, tools, techniques and policies employed in decision-making. I have no idea how that could be anything but obvious.

Still, back when IOPS was growing relatively quickly, there were quite some discussions where people started threads in the forum and/or stated ideas about possible methods of decision making, only to get some seemingly authoritative reply from some "ICC member", basically saying that despite all the claims about everything about IOPS being interim, how decisions should be made isn't really subject of debate because "Parecon", "Parpolitics" etc. - it's all written down, people would just have to read it, lalala...

Now, why I took a look at IOPS, and why most likely anyone would be interested in something called IOPS, is that such people have sufficient confidence in the idea of participatory decision-making (and their own abilities to take part in an effort to shape a possible IOPS), and that trivially includes decisions about how decisions are being made.

The very last thing you can reasonably do to convince these (of all people) about being on the same or at least a similar page, is presenting a more or less binding blue-print of how the whole planet should be (re-)organized.

Following and taking part in forum discussions I realized, however unlikely and kafkaesque it might appear, that IOPS actually isn't about participatory decision-making, but rather about finding disciples for a single, quite narrow, idea on how participatory decision-making should work. Frankly, it looks more like some kind of inflated book-club about books with titles starting with "Par-" to me, than like an organization that's trying to attract people who think for themselves, and think everyone else should do that too.

Looking back, there are some very interesting people here, which is why it would be a pity if IOPS sank into complete insignificance. To me the only way to avoid that would be to take a huge step back, by starting to focus on a debate about methods, tools and techniques for participatory decision-making, because if you want to build an IOPS that deserves its name, you have to start with the very basics.

If these words sound harsh and/or inflammatory to you, I mean no offense, but I prefer being honest over being unclear and polite.


regards, Johann

Discussion 5 Comments

  • Daniël de Klerk 26th Jun 2014

    If that's true then we have a clear method of proceding based on improving the operation here.

  • Lambert Meertens 26th Jun 2014

    I disagree with almost everything offered above as a diagnosis. I've been one of the most persistent critics of the approaches taken, and yes, I've been beaten on the head by another member's assertiveness, but while that member happens to be on the ICC, this was not in their capacity as ICC member and I did not take it as such. I would agree, though, that IOPS is unfortunately not the "safe space" that it should be, one where you can simply say how you see things without having to fear that you'll be taken to task in ways that may come across as intimidating.

    What I specifically disagree with is the statement that IOPS is about "finding disciples for a single, quite narrow, idea on how participatory decision-making should work." Some members here are advocates for parecon and parpolity, but most are not, and these specific models are expressly not part of the IOPS commitments. As far as participatory decision-making is concerned, the IOPS commitments are not more specific than that each member must have decision-making say proportional to the degree they are effected. How so is this "a single, quite narrow, idea on how participatory decision-making should work"? This requirement allows many models and might instead be criticized for leaving the method completely unspecified.

    A debate about methods, tools and techniques for participatory decision-making should be interesting. There we agree, but it is about the only point of agreement.

    • Johann Borck 26th Jun 2014

      Well, I could have added a "for me" to the title. But I'm not referring to the "IOPS commitments", but to what members said, implied and suggested in forum discussions and comments to blog posts. Look at http://www.iopsociety.org/forum/polity/how-make-decisions for an example. Apart from that, I'd like to hear about the alternatives to, say "Parecon", that are discussed equally prominently on this site (when I google `site:iopsociety.org parecon` I get some 2100 results).

      I'm not sure you're arguing that the basic IOPS documents are not biased towards X, and hence IOPS as a whole isn't, but if you look at what's actually written about on this site, there's clearly bias, and instead of addressing the question of how decision-making or "self-management" in IOPS/ParWhatever parlance should actually work, there's constant talk about "recruitment", which seems to suggest that the question how to go about things is already answered some way.

      It's not like large-scale decision making which includes efficiently identifying problems, exchanging arguments, making the discourse and its history easily accessible, evaluating ideas, dealing with disruptions and privacy concerns in that process, documenting the methods used and working on improving them, and finally deciding on matters, in large constituencies, to name just very few issues that come to mind here, are solved problems. In fact, there has been very little research on these subjects so far, and they're not directly on top the todo lists of the many departments of the many universities that would have to participate in the efforts to do so.

      And now there is IOPS, and the hard and interesting part is simply being ignored. If it isn't for some premeditated solutions that are supposed to work here, I ask you, why is that?

  • Rick New 29th Jun 2014

    ?To me the only way to avoid that would be to take a huge step back, by starting to focus on a debate about methods, tools and techniques for participatory decision-making, because if you want to build an IOPS that deserves its name, you have to start with the very basics."

    A focus on basics, stepping back, seems worthwhile in any journey.

    What do we mean by "Participatory"? This seems a large question and one that, if explored together could produce a coherence of shared meaning.

    Thank you.


  • Sascha Becker 31st Mar 2015

    As long as people are discussing, there is no need to rediscuss the principles of discussion itself.

    Dear Johann, i don't get the point. If you are sceptic with the intellectual "Überbau" of this cummunity, well, start a post and let your arguments fly!
    What about a scientific critique of "parecon" as a economic theory or basic principle?

    IF you feel biased, well, start a new post about the bias you are confronted with!

    Sorry for my clumsy english, a bit out of use... .