3 min read
Mon 10 Feb 2020 Writing

Weeknotes 8

Labour Together, Left Book Club and our take on the failure of digital technology during the Iowa caucus

A busy week of working on consultancy projects, building out our work on the Labour Together review and writing a couple of pieces for the press.

We didn't do weeknotes last week. Instead we published a blog post about our work on a tool to let activists know what spaces they might be able to use.

What we got up to

Reflecting on the Iowa debacle

We wrote two articles reflecting on the Iowa Caucus app debacle, one for Jacobin and one for The Guardian .

We found the process that went into getting this articles published quite interesting. It's not often that a news event occurs that is entirely in our wheelhouse, so after discussing it for a little while we decided to reach out to a few publications. We found out that there was a lot of interest in the piece, so collectively looked at what had happened from a few different angles.

We're not professional writers and didn't make the "hot take" deadline, so instead went for longer, more considered pieces. This was fine because it suits our approach a bit better anyway.

Labour Together

Our work for Labour Together is considering two major aspects of Labour's 2019 General Election campaign, the ground game and its interaction with technology and how Labour might deepen its commitment to community organising going forward by examining what has come before. There is a lot to do on this, but we are enjoying the opportunity to get really in depth. Get in touch at electionreview@commonknowledge.coop if you'd like to speak to us about this.

Left Book Club

We spoke at the Left Book Club in Dalston about organising for participatory, reflective and accessible forms of political education throughout the country. We wrote the talk up in a bit more detail here .

We also interviewed one of the Left Book Club's organisers, which was great. We love talking directly to activists to understand how and why they do what they do. This conversation reminded us of the importance of personal connections – people become more politically engaged over the course of many conversations, friendships and chance encounters.

Political reading groups can provide space for forming these connections and having these conversations. They should be spaces where people can express that they don't know something about a topic and want to learn more. It's important to be able to listen to each other without judgment or condescension.

Our practices

This week we switched to full Kanban for project management, which has proved very successful. We all found that it felt it made our tasks feel much more manageable. It reflects what we actually did in the week rather than what we planned.

We were happy to learn that our friends at Animorph , a co-op that develops augmented and virtual reality app, have started doing check-ins , inspired by our practices. We though we were just being loud and annoying in the office!

What we're reading

We love these live field notes from the National Lottery's Community Fund's investigation into how micro-organisations might thrive. This week they've been in Derry .

We're looking forward to reading more the new Information Ecology column in Wired, after reading this introductory post:

The name reflects environmentalist Barry Commoner’s assertion that everything in nature is connected to everything else. The same rule holds online: Big things and small things are fundamentally entwined. Journalism, algorithms, bad actors, influencers, the everyday actions of everyday folks—each feeds into and is fed by all the rest. There are no wholly separate things.

Sometimes it feels a little like Lyotard's thesis in The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge , which was written in 1979 (!), has only really kicked in the post-smartphone era.

It is reasonable to suppose that the prolifera­tion of information-processing machines is having, and will continue to have, as much of an effect on the circulation of learning as did ad­vancements in human circulation (transportation systems) and later, in the circulation of sounds and visual images (the media). The nature of knowledge cannot survive unchanged within this context of general transformation. It can fit into the new channels, and become operational, only if learning is translated into quantities· of information. We can predict that anything in the constituted body of knowledge that is not translatable in this way will be aban­doned and that the direction of new research will be dictated by the possibility of its eventual results being translatable into computer language.

This piece on the history of solidarity and the need for its revival in the face of the climate crisis was very interesting indeed.

What we're thinking about

In our retrospective this week, we talked a little about imposter syndrome. We concluded that this feeling can actually be quite a good thing – you can train yourself to listen to the doubt, examine where it's coming from.

We also think that it's important to be humble, to listen to people and to admit when you don't know things. You're not expected to know everything – no one does – but it's better to be honest about this than to overcompensate and serve bad advice. It's also important to recognise that while you may not know everything, you probably do have some sort of expertise and a particular perspective that people can benefit from hearing. Also, there are no adults – everyone else is also improvising and doubting themselves which is worth remembering.

We love our weekly retrospectives as they really help us solve some of the puzzles we've come across over the week. They also keep us on track, remind us of our OKRs and help us recalibrate for the next week.