Earlier this year, I set out to create an intentional co-creation space, a place where people can show up with their creative surplus and use it. A place to learn together, but different things; a band practice for solo artists. The hope was to set up a space where communication and discourse come before roles and transactions.
I wrote an extensive essay on the process and how circles (meta communities) are different from online communities. The ways the group meets changed on a categorical level, and I wanted to share this in case it is generative to others bringing people together online.
As distanced connectivity continues to compound our creativity and spaces of discourse, I changed to Thirdness’s activities and the places we meet.
Namely, I closed Slack and am focusing exclusively on synchronous meetings (Zoom).
This resulted from a few things I saw happening in the group’s vitality and our digital culture at large. The technologist mindset we carry around trained us to think about amassing knowledge. Capture, index, and document what is being said as a repository, which can be searched at any time, as a promise of value.
Thirdness, as a concept, and the named community looks at not what is said, but the context it is said.
The analytic third, the psychological idea of co-creation, believes that when two individuals meet in a meaningful discourse they create something else (thirdness), independent of both.
In other words, a link shared with one person could have a different meaning than when shared with another person.
Slack (or Discord etc) operates on a broadcast mentality, masked behind a promise of transparency. When a space asks and delivers on co-creation, transparency is no longer an issue, and broadcasting becomes a hindrance to tending to the ecology of communication.
From an information technology perspective, synchronicity is incredibly tricky in the digital space. When we use connected computers, we expect to know what is going to happen next.
Visiting a site, opening an app, or joining a new Slack comes with an implicit idea of what can and should happen. The physical affordances of seeing something in the corner of your eye in a physical space or otherwise adapting to a changing input field do not exist on our laptops.
It is almost impossible to not be transactional in the way we use computers today. And COVID exposed the issues of being transactional.
Online transactionality–defined as digital habits for predetermined outcomes–are the source of Zoom fatigue, solutionism, and loss of creativity.
I want to deposit that Zoom in and of itself carries no fault on the fatigue we’re feeling. The same way that a boardroom table is not at fault of too many meetings.
It is scale and cybernetic thinking we should be examining. What is the purpose of a 400 people grid of faces, using synchronous time, to view a performance? Would not that performance be better viewed as an asynchronous video on YouTube?
A technologist might respond by saying that we all together create a shared experience in the digital space, but digital space is an oxymoron. There is no matrix; there is the desk you’re sitting on reading this, and the respective 399 other sofas, dining table, and phones.
A product mindset asks us to accept the digital simulation and its pseudo-ism. A binary space, of inputs and outputs, is, by definition, transactional.
We type in a Zoom chat instead of moving our foot to convey a message to the room; looking at the screen, when we might look away and ponder in the physical space. The digital space allows for little or no tacit knowledge transfer (a meta-message).
There are categorial issues with the medium, that I am not claiming to solve in this piece.
What I propose is acknowledging the tailwind in this situation and breaking away from a (1) Slack + knowledge and (2) Zoom + scale dynamics.
The current hypothesis for Thirdness is that spontaneous and inter-contextual co-creation happens in small, synchronous setting, where goals are not set. Its prompts, guests, and conversation are based on context and not any direct corrective.
# Main Group Activities Weekly standing call: Monday 12:30 ET Prompts, check-in, and discussion Semi-weekly share outs Share-outs can be (1) a talk (followed by QA), (2) an ask (guest posing a question, relevant to their practice), or (3) a mix of both. Weekly 1:1 coffees Other Ad Hoc activities
Our updated activities, from the invitation document
In the current swarm of abundant links and connectivity, we should remind ourselves that connecting is not the same as being connected. In digital spaces, knowledge and scale are inexpensive; context and co-creation are harder to design, and ask for reflection and intentionality.