How to create an inclusive, safe and diverse space online?

while brainstorming i asked some people i knew this question. these conversations were extremely important in deciding how to approach this from the beginning.

i now ask for insights from anyone who arrives here with experience on the subject and feels comfortable sharing them publicly. what can we do to improve ? (if you would rather you can message your thoughts to me or @palomakop directly )

an observation from Alex McLean who co-founded http://toplap.org/ , a similar community run space for live-coding (shared with permission):

The problem with rocketchat is that it really privileges presence,
People with a lot of time on their hands drown out everyone else.
Somehow it ends up a very male space.

I really like discourse forums, but it also somewhat suffers from this problem.

So my advice is work with a diverse group of people to make decisions
about how to set up and seed such communities.

2 Likes

i think that like top down policies are definitely necessary at some point but in general are not the most efficient ways to get things done. i think that people generally speaking have the ability to “read the room” in virtual spaces, like you go into an established board/forum somewheres and you see everyone talking about their DIY projects and like collaborating on wikis and making study groups together maybe that would make you want to post different things than if u go into a space and its all just undank memes and south park references. the thing that usually overwhelms groups like this is when you like suddenly get like an order of magnitude jump in users and then whatever tone was set previously can get overwhelmed quickly. so i guess 2 fold approach of trying to keep growth slow (like everyone just personally invite people you think would enjoy a space like this! and please no mass posts/mass invite. i personally just kind of ignore all impersonal mass information i get from friends on social medias and its one of the things that makes me not want to participate in those zones because of how much it seems to want to turn all communication into like press releases or something and individuals into like ‘lifestyle brands’ or whatever?) and also like seeding the garden what we want to grow in here. be the change you wish to see and so on. its like one of those incredibly trite things to say that is trite exactly because it is true

also i would like to lean against heavy top down admin stuff and try to keep the floor open for having this be more community led stuffs. that being said also i have no interest in wasting time with folks who are disrespectful/prejudiced/condescending/domineering and just get defensive when someone says “hey i don’t like that” instead of actually listening.

2 Likes

I propose having a clear and strict COC - no bullying sexism / racism / whatver-ism / be excellent to each other and make it clear that we will have zero tolerance for such behavior. As far as making and keeping an online community diverse I seriously have no idea how to accomplish that. Every online community I’ve ever been part of was male-dominated by no fault of its own.

I feel that creating a community outside of social media is quite hard in todays digital ecosystem. We should deff look into utilizing fb / whatever as distribution / dissemination tool - to get people to come here and not leave any content there.

We could also look at this from a cumunity service perspective - what could we provide to people for being members?
For example we could set up a free streaming forwarder for members with nginx / OBS that forwards to wherever (including a website) and provides the option to password protect your stream. I happen to be preparing a tutorial on how to set that up and would be happy to assist with it. :slight_smile:

5 Likes

i think strict cocs are kind of besides the point. tons of groups/forums still have them and they are still mostly just dudes duding out with other dudes. not that i don’t think we should have one, i just think the boilerplate “you have no right to ever be prejudiced or disrespectful and need to be open it being pointed out that you may not realize all of the time when you are being prejudiced and/or disprespectful because these attitudes are hard coded into many cultures and societies” is somewhat less important than being actively engaged in promoting inclusive conversations. I think theres like some fundamental communication techniques that might be more important to focus on like

  1. if yr in a conversation thread actually read what people have written before jumping in
  2. if someone did not ask for advice or criticism then just don’t
  3. are you adding to the conversation or just talking for the sake of hearing yr own voice? (reading yr own words haha)
  4. if answering a question: ‘did u google’, ‘thats never been a problem for me’, RTFM are usually not helping.

maybe some more things?

We should deff look into utilizing fb / whatever as distribution / dissemination tool

i would vote against fb or anything really as large scale dissemenation tools. part of cultivating communication vs the kind of commodification that social medias encourage could involve making this a more personal zone, starting off by just letting word of mouth and personal invitations get folks in vs mass posting. i don’t think the goal is to get large numbers of people in here ASAP, id rather let things grow slowly and then we can all figure out stuff together as a small group vs having 1000 ppl show up tomorrow and then all of a sudden the admins like all of sudden have to just admin the fuck out of things.

For example we could set up a free streaming forwarder for members with nginx / OBS that forwards to wherever

i am definitely interested in how we can integrate streaming with this site! twitch embeds are a go, i think this could be really useful for like doing tutorials or trying out little online live shows, or just screen share hangouts or whatnot!

thanks @v3d and everyone for weighing in ! i’ve already voiced my thoughts in our discussions when organizing this project, but i will try to add and expand some more here.

first off, regarding diversity / inclusivity. this is something i have thought about, both as an organizer and participant of community run things. many people have noted that these groups tend to be very white & male. this can, in itself, be a deterrent to people outside that narrow slice in the venn diagram from joining or participating. however, this is due to larger problems in society and the gendered and racial codings of interests and roles, and there is only so much we can do in influencing the demographics of people who join - aside from creating a private, dedicated space for people of a marginalized group, which differs from the publicly accessible model of this forum. additionally, the aim to create an inclusive space goes deeper than trying to tick boxes of demographical diversity - as someone who has been invited to participate in things for that exact reason, i want to avoid this kind of tokenism. not saying that has come up here, but just need to be explicit.

that said, there are definitely things we can do to foster positive communication and make people of all backgrounds feel more welcome. this includes being welcoming to people who are new to the areas of technical experimentation and art, openly sharing information to help people who want to get started, and in this way, helping to lower the barrier for entry. the goal would be to have un-welcoming behavior flagged by the community rather than requiring a strong hierarchical enforcement. of course, this is an optimistic perspective, but i also think it’s important to be able to learn as we go and adapt as needed.

i hear your point, vedran, about the difficulty of getting people to participate in social spaces online outside the big ones. there are definitely people who won’t participate in anything outside those, and that’s ok by me if that works for them. however, i imagine there are also other people like me who are there simply because it’s a good way to broadcast information, but don’t much enjoy spending time there, and want a place that feels better for actual communication. perhaps we can use facebook and others as a way of spreading the word eventually, but for now, we are sticking to letting people invite each other on an individual basis, to avoid flooding the channels too quickly as we get things established. even if the community remains small, that would be ok with me - to me, the goal is not to replace other media, but to offer options.

i do think it’s beneficial to look at it from the perspective of, how can being here benefit people. to me, the biggest benefit would be ability to share information in a place that lends itself to more long form posts (like this one i’m writing which is getting very long wow), collaborate, encourage projects and see interesting things, and ask questions. hopefully that’s enough in and of itself. i think there is some intention to create sub-forums for help with projects and devices created by people here (like r_e_c_u_r and video_waaaves), but hopefully those wouldn’t be the only conversations taking place here.

in order to remind people of the site’s existence, it might be nice to organize some sort of monthly live stream by a different person or people each time, or some other kind of event or ritual. this wouldn’t have to be something high pressure, just maybe a twitch stream we embed in the header or something temporarily once a month.

theres always the possibility the space will quickly fade into obscurity, and i don’t think that’s something to fear - if it doesn’t fill a niche, trying to fight to keep it alive is pointless. the graveyard of dead forums on the internet is vast. but that doesn’t mean there’s no point in giving it a shot. i wanted to be a part of this because there is a place for this kind of thing in my life, especially right now, when it’s difficult to feel connected or collaborative. all spaces are temporary, both online and offline, and embracing this is the most powerful way to operate. i have been a part of some projects influenced by the concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone: spaces that exist outside formal structure or control can exist in a liminal space for some amount of time. setting out to create a permanent space it fruitless; trying to extend something outside its spontaneous lifespan means it will succumb to the exact structure you are trying to avoid. the goal is just try to make some cool stuff happen in the meanwhile!

5 Likes

The COC suggestion was a response to cyberboy666’s specific appeal for an inclusive, safe and diverse space. Letting people know that this is such a space is the first step towards it actually being one. Declaring an afk space as anti-fascist and LGBTQ-friendly definitely keeps right wing people away from meetings and such (but opens you up to potential attacks from such groups). This is why i think a COC is important.

100% agree with the focus on communication techniques and using a positive reinforcement is deff better then a crime / punishment approach. Only problem is I really have no idea how to accomplish that in practice but in theory it sounds great. :slight_smile:

@palomakop yes! Periodic events running on our own infrastructure and disseminated to big platforms is just what I had in mind!

I have to say I mostly agree with everything you guys wrote so far, which is kinda boring. =D

2 Likes

i agree that having an explicit statement of our intentions as a space right upfront is important. in terms of hard and fast rules, i’d like to keep them to as few as possible, but we don’t want there to be any question of our values as a group regarding discrimination etc. this could be in the “welcome” sticky that shows up at the top for everyone new.

1 Like

i think what i’m trying to say about COCs in general is that they are passive, its something someone reads once and then glosses over like the “employees need to wash your hands” sign in a restroom. Its necessary to have but also sometimes necessary to personally remind people that if you have even tiny amounts of feces on your hands and touch someone elses food you could potentially literally kill someone. Much the same way I think it’ll be handy and helpful for everyone in this group to actively practice the same communication techniques they would like to have extended to them!

i think something worth articulating is why we don’t want to hang out on facebook, so that we don’t just create a non fb space and then bring all of the same communication tactics over with us and end up with the same frustrations. For me its just how much it encourages impersonal communications. “creative” groups where its just people dumping links to their soundclouds/youtubes with cut and paste “like and follow” posts, mass invites, emphasis on “followers” instead of friends; all these things seem to me like just a natural evolution of how fb has made their main focus on being an arena for businesses to advertise to people with the side effect being that it encourages individuals to communicate with their friends as though they are businesses trying to entice clientele.

regarding temporal autonomous zones: this is also pretty important to keep in mind! DIY communities ebb and wane for diverse reasons outside of any individuals control. I think the cool thing that we can do with this space tho is to have a community compiling resources for video artists in a wiki format that could potentially outlast whatever kind of TAZ we get happening here. A big part of why video art worlds remain so small and dude zoned is the general inacessiblity of the tools and information necessary to get started. I think a lot of non white non dudes have learned from experience it’s not always the most fun to hop into any kind of “boys club” with no experience and ask for help getting started. But if we can make some kind of lasting resources to help people figure out stuffs on their own then that could actually make a huge difference in breaking down the dude barriers in the future.

1 Like

This isn’t true of everyone. For people who might otherwise feel put off, seeing that a site has clearly stated inclusive principles can be very reassuring. While you’re right that actively promoting inclusion is more important than a list of rules, I would not expect someone who is concerned about feeling excluded to go digging through forum posts looking for examples of inclusive behavior.

1 Like

to reiterate: cocs are necessary but far from sufficient. a coc happens once, posting and communication happens on a regular basis. i am of the impression that a significant reason that tech centered art groups have a tendancy to be white dude focused is a tendancy among white dudes who enjoy tech focused arts to have poor communication skills, esp to non white dudes. i think it would be great to encourage everyone to think about the following before they post:

  1. am i adding to the conversation?
  2. did i read the whole thread before responding?
    3.if i have a disagreement, is this disagreement based on some kind of empirical external data or based on the fact that i am coming from a different context? they are both valid forms of disagreement but informing someone they are mistaken about facts is one thing while sharing the observation that folks have different contexts and different interpretations is another thing. and under no circumstances is it really ok to tell someone their perspective is incorrect as tho that was fact

theres probably some more too, but if ones first principles of communication are just “am i adding to the conversation” the rest can be extrapolated from that

1 Like
chat.scanlines.xyz