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Lecture: Seeds of Change
Unlearning & Radical Collective Change in Online Communities
Let's explore how online communities of activists can help to bring about forms of radical collective change, through decolonial practices of social (un)learning. What enabling conditions need to be put in place? And what counts as "radical change" in the first place?!
It's plain to see: modern societies need to undergo radical social, political, and cultural transformations if they are to truly evolve away from capitalist and neocolonial structures founded on egregious exploitation and injustice.
In a context of widespread epistemic fragmentation and echo chambers, we urgently need to become better at harnessing the generative power of socio-technical networks to unite our forces as we compost the harmful ways of being, knowing, and doing that are at the root of our our planetary predicament. But we must do so critically, and not view technology as a miracle solution to anything.
What could be the role of the internet, and of online communities in particular, in exploring how such deep changes might happen? And how may everyone's wisdom and skills come together in democratic and sophisticated social (un)learning systems, to figure out the way(s) forward?
In this talk, we will discuss the results of a 5-year participatory action research program which considered this topic within two different online communities of activists. This project led the researchers to tackle the idea of radical collective change as involving a decolonial approach to collaboration, knowledge, and community-building, and to consider the enabling and disabling conditions - both social and technological - that may influence whether change happens... or not.
In particular, this research highlighted the importance of enabling participants to engage on an equal footing and self-organise, while learning to "stay with the trouble" of confronting modern societies' fundamentally unsustainable and oppressive structures, and one's own implication in them. And it also showed some of the pitfalls that come with the use of digital communication tools, as we try to use them to create a better world.
Three of the many insights I will substantiate and examine in the talk are:
- that online communities have the potential to create deep changes in people when they are built in ways that foster deep relationships, criticality and conflict transformation, and emergent leadership;
- that changing socio-political structures must go together with joyful, liberating practices that can help us unlearn harmful cultural patterns that get in the way; and
- that perhaps we should be less interested in becoming experts, and rather find the courage and open hearts allowing us to be fearlessly and fiercely present to the world, with all its shit, its wonder, and its uncertainty.
Feeling curious? Join us for a chat on how to change the world!