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Communication is about flows of information.

Information flows are strongly influenced by social relations.

The organizational structure is in fact the structure of the information system.

Traditional organizations

Information and communication systems for traditional organizations are designed with the following considerations in mind:

  • Market:
    • economic competition,
    • image,
  • Internal:
    • control of production assets and processes (who runs the show),
    • allocation of benefits (who gets the profits),
    • efficiency and productivity,
    • culture.
  • ...

Internal communication

Flows of information among members of organization, mostly relevant to the inner-workings with the organization or its positioning within its ecosystem. People have a limited capacity to process information, they need to focus on the problems that they need to solve, and they don’t need to know everything to complete a simple task. But very often, hierarchical organizations miss opportunities when their information systems aren’t well integrated or is too compartmentalized. In a world with rudimentary information systems (when information was stored on paper) channeling information made sense.

Traditional hierarchical organizations, by their structure, determine rigid pathways of information (for example, from the regular employee --> supervisor --> manager --> director --> president etc.). Information is compartmentalized (within departments for example), and it is labeled with different degrees of transparency, from top secret to public, with some mechanisms for horizontal communication for overall coordination. To reduce noise (non relevant information) and to increase efficiency (of teams) there is tension (need for compromise) between vertical and horizontal communication.

External communication

In a competitive setting, compartmentalizing and keeping information secret makes sense. Traditional organizations communicate through carefully crafted interfaces such as public relations, marketing and advertising departments. The information put out is carefully designed by specialists, together with the organisation's branding and culture. Traditional organizations "speak" with one voice.

Open network organizations

Information and communication systems in open networks are determined by crowdthinking (social intelligence) and crowdsourcing processes that drive their innovation and production capacity.

Internal communication within open networks

Open and p2p networks require many-to-many communication systems, which often generate information overload. Communication comes from all the nodes and must be made available to all nodes. There are no pre-established lines of communication following chains of command (like in the army), relations of power or functional structures (like in corporations). Somehow information must get structured and affiliates need tools to access it whenever they need it, while maintaining low noise levels (information that is not relevant at a particular time in a particular context).

Fundamental principles for internal information systems for open networks

  • Autonomy: the environment must not erect barriers to entry in front of any affiliate. Any affiliate is considered as a potential and is encouraged to act in the benefit of the network. For this to happen, we need to recognize other secondary principles
    • Transparency: all affiliates must have access to all information (to databases, where information is stored) and communications (to channels, or to exchanges of information among peers)
    • Openness: all affiliates must be able to communicate to any other affiliate.

Since information can propagate from any affiliate to any other affiliate, networks develop problems related to information overload (affiliates are swamped by information and communication).

Corollaries and requirements

  • Topology:
    • Communication needs to be many-to-many
    • Fractal (can filter domains of activity, can zoom into different sub-networks of a super-value network)
  • Time:
    • Communication needs to be synchronous and asynchronous
    • Communication needs to be persistent
  • Relevancy:
    • Communication needs to be curated and filtered by affiliates or transparent AI systems.
  • Medium
    • Multimedia

External communication for open networks

Fundamental principles for external communication systems for open networks

On managing discussions

There was a discussion on tools for managing discussions - see video.

Ishan started a metamaps map of tools.

proposed by Bob

See also Netention

"Conversation for Action" see Bob

link provided by Bob

Bob also suggests Harlan T Wood

Helenne's ideas, see also on navigating linked data for learning and to explore where new knowledge emerges

Tools considered for managing conversations/discussions

Types of discussions

General considerations

From Joanne G. Kurfiss Critical Thinking: Theory, Research, Practice and Possibilities, ASHE-ERIC Higher Education Report, no.2, Washington, D.C. 1988, p. 67 extracted from

Different discussions have their own dynamics and serve different purposes. The following is relevant in a learning environment.

  • Quiz show: participants answer information questions posed by a facilitator. Such discussions reinforce dualism and received knowledge.
  • Rambling bull sessions: These are opinion-sharing conversations, where participants share their own views without necessarily engaging with the views of others.
  • Wrangling bull sessions: If the discussion takes a controversial turn, the discussion can become an argument in which each person takes a position and defends it. Bull sessions reinforce multiplicity/subjective knowledge and no true exchange or thoughtful evaluation of ideas take place.
  • True discussions: can have different types: informational, problematical, dialectical, and reflexive.

In informational discussions, the facilitator/mentor encourages participants to speak, defers controversy, and lets participants know their ideas will not be evaluated.

In problematical discussions a problem-posing query has the participants consider the information and/or values needed to address the issue intelligently.

In dialectical discussions, the request is made for participants to state opponents' views accurately and sympathetically (i.e., take a "devil"'s advocate's view). This encourages participants to "synthesize diverse opinions into a new formulation of the issue or to agree to disagree but with a better understanding of the nature of their differences."

In reflexive discussions, participants discuss their own discussion in order to learn from the process.

Discussions can also be

  • spontaneous or
  • planned.

Three discussion configurations By Helene

  • Either an existing structure (project/hub/network/pull platform in the enabling sense) 'attracts' participation and resources to it because it has the right visibility and momentum, and it has a 'proposed' structure people can decide to join or not. There conversation to action is tactical and usually quite focused.
  • Or something is in its generative creative stage, or at its infancy stage, and the start discussions begins totally open. And there you need some ideation, and sniffing each other around to know a bit more what possibilities exit and what point of views are, and this is done through iterative processes, from which a structure should at some point emerge and consolidate, and we are up to the previous case.
  • Or it's an ongoing open ended conversation and you need to capture the essence of what passes through and put it to work, and this is not necessarily done in real time as the flow passes, because you may need to identify patterns and understand things better before things can fork off or be 'extracted'. There you have opportunities for multiple structures to be created. It could almost be a commons in itself...

Discussions on OVN

Three main areas of concern - Proposed by Fernando Fachin

  • design, definitions, decision-making (where issues concerning value, the value equation, evaluation, and more specific aspects like solidarity mechanisms - in short, the OVN in itself)
  • internal social dynamic implications of introducing OVN (barriers to entry of new members, engagement, poison, ethics, behavior regulation, frustration, friction)
  • the OVN within its broader context (the "old" market economy, licensing, comparison to other systems and platforms)

Discussions on Infrastructure development, based on development cycles

Proposed by Yasir, in relation with his doc on Strategy

A general list of category or framework that I had thought about before:

Communication and coordination mechanism

  1. Connecting (ability to connect with people)
  2. Information searching / sharing (ability to find and share information)
  3. communication/coordination (ability to communicate and coordinate with people)

Production, accounting and evaluation mechanism

  1. Co-creation (ability to create stuff -- tools, space, resources, etc)
  2. Accounting (ability to account for individual contribution)
  3. Evaluation (ability to evaluate work and provide feedback) - includes reputation
  4. Internal governance (Ability to change the processes, resolve conflicts and take decisions) - including roles and responsibilities; and process and network health-check mechanisms

Exchange and governance mechanisms

  1. Exchange (Ability to exchange the value created)
  2. External Governance - market rules and regulation, quality control, liability and legal framework, market health-check mechanisms, etc
  3. Interoperability - ability to do all of the above with a person outside of your present entity (exchange with another member of country, trade, etc)

Some explanations

I think of above as non-linear and iterative steps in the value flow process -- imagine a clock, the second hand moves the minutes hand, minutes hands move hour hands, etc. For example:
1) People would need to connect, share information, communicate and coordinate prior to start producing use-value (connection and communication in itself is valuable but it is not consumable use-value)
2) As the use-value is produced, there is a need for mechanism for accounting, evaluation and internal governance (along with communication, connection, etc) until the value matures into exchange value
3) As the use-value is matured, there is a need for mechanisms for value exchange, liability and inter-operability.

Pre-requisites for discussion

[Yasir] Pre-requisites to having a deeper, variant and rich conversation, at a larger scale.

  1. availability of tools for conversation
  2. availability of a framework for discussions

Need for a common framework for discussion. This framework needs to be constructed. Ishan proposes a process of mapping or an attempt to increase coordination (of thought) between those who engage in the conversation.

Perhaps the framework approach is top-down but if the discussions around the framework are inclusive, open and transparent then I don't believe that it would be top-down but I am open to additional criticism.

Discussion practices

Discussions require a code of conduct which depends on their type and purpose.

Functions that a discussion needs (either roles in platform-based system or in "pure" p2p):

Communication needs

Sometimes we need to communicate and sometimes we don't. Communication is required when we need to:

  • transfer information and knowledge
  • build rapport, reinforcing human relations
  • build consensus
  • make decisions
  • etc.

The need to communicate can be greatly reduced by

  • good governance: if everyone knows the rules of engagement we don't need to ask how to do things.
  • good methodologies of work: if everyone knows what to do, when to do, how to do, we don't need to ask for guidance.
  • good IT infrastructure: if every thing has its proper place we don't need to ask where to find it.
  • good culture: if everyone is accustomed to the environment we don't need to ask why do things in a certain way.

Walk in a restaurant kitchen. If the team is very professional and the restaurant is properly organized you'll only hear keywords flying here and there, mainly for coordination. Everything is in its place (infrastructure) so everyone knows where to find stuff. Everyone knows how to do his/her task and coordinate with others (methodology). Everyone knows what they are allowed to do (governance). a poorly organized kitchen is a noisy environment.

Communication and vitality

Tools for monitoring and analyzing communication in a network inform about the network's vitality. This can be applied down to the project or task level. These are essentially services built on top of communication systems.

Interoperability between different types of communications systems

At the basic level we have signaling system. They send notifications when events occur or are about to occur. The next level is messaging systems, which allow for exchange of data and information. These are similar to Twitter for example. See also Holochat. On top of that we can find social networks,which allow diverse forms of information sharing and communication. Higher level, we have blogs, to communicate more.sophisticated ideas or knowledge, and have a discussion around that. All these systems can be integrated vertically.


This section presents different examples of communications systems, their features as well as their problems.

See also