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posted on Sat, May 11 '19 under tag: free-culture

Are there limits to what anarchic systems can do? Can an anarchic system organize an offline conference?

Mozilla mandates that the conferences that it funds directly or indirectly (through sending funded speakers) have a code of conduct. I think this comes from the diversity and inclusion group’s activities.

This led to a speaker asking for code of conduct in the hillhacks mailing list. Some of the initial people who started hillhacks think of hillhacks as an anarchic community that spontaneously comes together with no central leadership or power structures. But of course, this view was fiercely challenged.

Shirish pointed to a helpful post on why CoC is necessary.

That is when the fundamental issue was verbalized by some of the founders - how can a CoC be enforced in an anarchic community? Think about it for a second. In a truly anarchic community, enforcing rules is going to be a problem.

Neha Margosa came up with links about abuse in anarchic community:

(I haven’t read any of these)

They also posted this: My “Theory” of Codes of Conduct which uses inductive reasoning to explain why CoC is important.

Then Kiran Jonnalagadda joined the discussion and brought in some practical points among which one was the necessity of a leadership structure to be able to handle responsibilities like addressing harassment or other crimes.

That brings us again to the crux of the problem. Can anarchies organize real life conferences? I did chat with Kiran off the list for some time and had some more clarity.

Consensus process like that on Wikipedia does not solve this specific issue. To begin with, consensus itself is a process that tend to get dominated by the most loud voices. That is why wikipedia itself is not as great as it is made out to be. Even if this process were to be adopted, there would still have to be some kind of an organizational structure for hillhacks to be able to interface with external entities like police, land-owners, etc.

Would it be alright if the community comes together with a disclaimer that the conference does not have any leadership and that everyone who comes are coming on their own risk? That opens the path to a lot of exploitations from happening. Everyone is on their own, but surely some would want to support others - otherwise what is the point of a conference/community? But what do these “volunteer” supporters get in return? What should a newcomer be expecting? What is the reason people should support such a community/conference? You might say, “well, if you don’t like it, don’t go there. End of story.” But it isn’t that simple. There are a lot of things in the world which you put your nose in even though you aren’t directly involved/affected. This is one such thing. If there is a conference or community where exploitation/harassment is something one has to deal with somehow on their own, then sensible people on the internet should intervene.

It is indeed an impasse. Traditional anarchic communities cannot organize with confidence harassment-free conferences. In fact the sentence itself has a bit of irony hiding in it. How can anarchic communities “organize” anything? The very act of organizing has to begin somewhere. The person(s) who begin this usually become the leaders of that organization. If they do not want to take up the responsibilities of a leader, they pass it on to others who then become responsible leaders with their own autonomy over things. This benevolent dictator can choose to follow the anarchic model of running a community. But then, they also have to take up responsibilities of issues that arise from such a model.