Dialogues/Accountable Community Governance
This session takes place January 20, 2023 at 10:00 - 12:00 PT (18:00 - 20:00 UTC).
How can communities develop and understand accountable governance? So many online environments rely on community members in profound ways without being accountable to them in direct ways. In this session, we will explore this topic and its implications for online communities and platforms.
First, Nick Vincent (Northwestern, UC Davis) will discuss the opportunities for so-called “data leverage” and will highlight the potential to push back on the “data status quo” to build compelling alternatives, including the potential for “data dividends” that allow a broader set of users to economically benefit from their contributions.
The idea of "data leverage" comes out of a basic, but little discussed fact: Many technologies are highly reliant on content and behavioral traces created by everyday Internet users, and particularly online community members who contribute text, images, code, editorial judgement, rankings, ratings, and more.. The technologies that rely on these resources include ubiquitous and familiar tools like search engines as well as new bleeding edge “Generative AI” systems that produce novel art, prose, code and more. Because these systems rely on contributions from Internet users, collective action by these users (for instance, withholding content) has the potential to impact system performance and operators.
Next, Amy Zhang (University of Washington) will discuss how communities can think about their governance and the ways in which the distribution of power and decision-making are encoded into the online community software that communities use. She will then describe a tool called PolicyKit that has been developed with the aim of breaking out of common top-down models for governance in online communities to enable governance models that are more open, transparent, and democratic. PolicyKit works by integrating with a community's platform(s) of choice for online participation (e.g., Slack, Github, Discord, Reddit, OpenCollective), and then provides tools for community members to create a wide range of governance policies and automatically carry out those policies on and across their home platforms. She will then conclude with a discussion of specific governance models and how they incorporate legitimacy and accountability in their design.