on acceptance in freeform

Yesterday, Jim was rolling out an all-requests show on DS106, based on the theme “love and loss.” I caught part of the show, and it was pretty amazing. Then, some requests came in and I complained.

I was a jerk. I apologize for complaining about the content of a user-powered freeform Internet radio phenomenon.

For freeform to be truly freeform, the community needs to feel able to experiment and play anything, without fear of judgement or condemnation. My snark broke that trust.

But, the thing about DS106 Radio is that even when I don’t like or get the music that’s being played, I love it because of what it means. Someone in the community chose (or made) a track, and said “hey! I should share this!” And they did. That’s awesome, in the most non-ironic sense of the word.

In thinking about my snarky complaint, I started wondering about what people have told me about perceived barriers to participating in various online communities. About inner circles and statements perceived as jokes by some and insults by others. It’s messy, confusing stuff. I imagine someone just coming to the DS106 community, seeing my complaining tweet, and feeling less willing to take a risk by contributing something to the stream.

Man, I hope that didn’t/doesn’t happen. The community is so incredible because so many different people take risks and share parts of themselves – even/especially people who are not originally “edubloggers.”

I’ll try to stifle my snark in the future. DS106 for life!

18 thoughts on “on acceptance in freeform”

  1. Didn’t really mean to razz you so much re: closed comments- but sometimes 140 characters just can’t contain all my thoughts on a particular issue.

    First, “Free-form” means never having to say you’re sorry. Which includes both the song requester AND you for having an opinion.

    Second, @sleslie was equally offended by that choice of song and said something equally funny against Jim’s decision to play it.

    If I recall correctly, the song was Atlantic Starr- Always. The theme of the day was LOVE and LOSS. Both, I believe. That song has no loss- just love- it’s “we will love each other for aaaaaaaalwwaaaaays”. Pfft.

    After @sleslie’s and your tweets, I literally laughed-out-loud;
    I had wanted to immediately reply “MY ovaries ARE offended by this song” but I’m hesitant to say things like that in such a public space as twitter…

    So- although I hate the song, I also appreciate the spirit of all-request: “the people’s radio”. I guess what I’m saying, in short is don’t sweat it but thanks for providing a venue where I don’t have to tweet about my ovaries publicly.

  2. High Five, D’Arcy. I think you are right to give yourself a (gentle) rap on the knuckles. Now, that song truly was wretched (grin). But we don’t know what it meant to someone, and it was over in three minutes. Crowdsourcing a playlist has by nature fuzzy boundaries on what is acceptable or appropriate for the playlist. And so it brings us unexpectedly genius song selection, but occasionally, like the odd Monty Python sketch, something that falls flat. And then the wonder continues!

    When I did my hour of dj-ing, someone (who I don’t know), said something on twitter that I interpreted as a bit snarky. And I chose not to take it personally, because Jim and Grant were being super helpful and encouraging at the time (and that persons twitter handle was stupid – smirk), but I was initially bummed. My selection wasn’t to everyones taste, but it was steeped in nostalgia and dreams of sunny days for me.

    So here’s to everyones expression of love, loss, risk and community!

  3. D’Arcy, your tweet was way more offensive than mine. You are clearly a fascist.

    Kidding of course. Actually, this was brave and insightful of you to comment on, and picks up what I was trying to say last week (and promised to write up in more detail but haven’t.) I think you very accurately identify a dynamic that can stifle participation, though not specific to #ds106. There are two dimensions to this – one is simply the phenomenon of groups and the difficulty in participating and belonging, sometimes exacerbated, sometimes ameliorated, by online communication. While there may be practical limits, in theory we can always be more welcoming, more sensitive, more inclusive. And this isn’t a particular comment on #ds106 which, in its very openness, makes a good start towards allowing others to participate. But open isn’t the same inviting.

    The more subtle point I was trying to make is that this dynamic of groups, belonging and inclusion is actually exacerbated by the generally single channel synchronous medium of ‘radio’ that we’ve latched on to. All I was trying to point out is that, when it is used in a way that demands people to “grab the mic” and solo broadcast, it is building on top of a social dynamic that can already feel hard to break into, and as such, can further inhibit participation.

    Now that said, what has been interesting to me is all the ways in which the community has found to broaden what can be a very narrow broadcast channel. As Alan pointed out in twitter, the interplay of twitter and #ds106radio itself is one example of this, as are the ‘call in shows’ and live, multi-location jams. And the dropbox/auto-dj is to me the best example, where everyone, regardless of their visibility, can contribute.

    So yes, we do have to be aware that our words, especially when public, can effect others’ sense of trust and willingness to take risks; and doubly so when the channel we are asking them to take risks in demands a certain bravado to “take the mic.” But we also need to be conscious that the fragility of the community is both a feature AND a bug, and figure additional ways for people to be critical or ‘do their own thing’ in a way that not only doesn’t wreck the community, in fact helps it get stronger.

  4. I personally have been thinking a lot about this topic. Like what are the limits; and so far I think there are some really fundamental limits to what is acceptable within a given discourse; I mean this individually not politically like the overton window.

    Like for instance liberals like to claim all these fundamental freedoms; but those freedom are usually exclusive to those whose opinions they find acceptable; usually exclusive of the religious nutters or people that are too left of the left, etc. Or people who are fans of science being annoyed by those who are not fans of science; which usually are right wingers; but may be hippies or even possibly envioronmentalists. There is really no room for any sort of across the board agreement on anything; they are just living sort of things that travel around in people and live and die over time and place.

    There are also people, who can be intellectually annoying; for instance I was hearing a girl the other day talk about her opinions and it soon gave me a headache and I understood what that actually means. Going on and on in an obscure direction gets to be annoying soon enough, especially when you don’t agree with some of the points being made.

    These days I think it is very difficult not to pass judgement and simply accept things for what they are. And really be free and open to all of it, the left, the right and so on. But that always is very difficult if not impossible if any sort of decisions have to be made. It takes a special person to embrace it all and to actually understand all of humanity for what it is.

  5. Okay, I tried to make a lame joke by posting a “nice blog post” comment…. I for one thought your snark was hilarious, and pulled back to far to the “be nice” extreme, all we’d have is a series of saccharine “nice song, man” conversation.

    Free form goes both directions in that people are free to broadcast what they want, but also IMHO, they should not take remarks personally. Yes, there is probably a line not worth stepping over, but if we step so far back, well, I would be bored.

    I vote for bringing back the snark.

    1. yeah. the flip side of barftastic vapid niceness is pretty bad, too. I’ll try to find a happy medium. well, likely one slightly skewed in the direction of snark…

  6. If we lose the edge, we lose the vitality. I played it cause I’m the people’s DJ, but you don’t have to like it. And both sides can speak their mind, fact is you’re never gonna please everybody, and Twitter is a medium that only heightens such differences. I think it’s fun to throw down over culture, and it is in keeping with who we all are, and I don’t think your responsive was particularly offensive. Like Alan says, it is the nature of the web and open, and we don;t have to like ti and we can have strong opinions and dig in, if we didn’t we would suck. We can’t live a wrong experiment like ds106radio rightly, and if we try and make this everybody’s radio all the time, it is gonna suck. And to that end, I was forced to pull the plug on the Whitney Houston request because even I have limits for bad, even though it may not show in my personal song choices 😉

  7. “and both sides can speak their mind” – actually Jim, that’s exactly the point, not everyone can or does, but the various media we’re using privilege those who do over those who don’t. To which we often just reply, c’est la vie, but if we really want to be inviting and not just open, engage with the radical other, it takes more than just assuming there are no inhibitors to participation.

    Listen, D’Arcy raised this in the context of a song and a snarky remark, and in my case it was something similarly miniscule, so I don’t want to blow this into something major, nor make it out that #ds106 is some how an egregious example when, far from it, it’s actually engaged it in a number of interesting ways. All I was trying to do in tweeting (and then commenting here) was raise this, first generally and then specifically in terms of how “radio” can amplify this effect, of only the loudest getting heard, so that it could take its place alongside all of the fantastic things going on in this experiment.

    D’Arcy, apologies for hijacking your comment thread. I think we were on about the same thing, but hopefully by doing so I’m not turning a molehill into a mountain.

    1. No hijacking necessary. This is really another angle of thinking about the issues I wrote about after the last Open Education conference I attended. Those of us who are “in” don’t see barriers or intimidation, but they are real and tangible for many people.

    2. Scott,

      I’m not sure I follow your argument, how does the fact that anyone can choose to get the server info and start broadcasting exclude folks? I mean they have to want to do it, but once they do, where is the issue? Is this a larger question about the digital divide? Seems to me you focusing on the seemingly large cost of involvement (and cost not necessarily monetary, but psychic), but not sure I see this has played out as silencing many. In fact, I’m part of an even greater community as a result. What’s more, ds106 radio is one small little community, and it seems pretty open and welcoming to me, but I may be missing something key here—what is that I am missing?

      As for the whole boys club of Open Ed 09, that argument seemed to me both valid and unaccostable. I was quiet on that because I recognized it sucked but had no sure fire solution without immediately sounding defensive or guilty—and I felt neither at the time. In my mind ds106 has been an attempt to challenge that model and some of those dynamics we were all called on. It is not perfect, but it feels good and it makes me think it would be unfortunate to group the two together as the same, I see it as a move in some cool, new directions.

      1. I think in any medium there are limits to participation and eventually despite the rhetoric of democracy et. al. there is a limit to participation where participation is meaningful.

        It is probably in terms of the number of individuals involved, more than the number of ideas or spectrum. Humans tend to become socialized in small groups, and embracing the other; even the radical other, I think is possible in a small group — say less than 150 people (pretty standard Greek grouping). After a certain point it becomes impossible and the individual is reduced to the masses, and then ideas like channels work with certain themes and the masses participating in that experience. I would also say that for it to be really meaningful the work being appreciated should be produced by the people participating in the process.

        Also, like mentioned above there are individual orientations to openness and participation that are at play… so each of those 150 individuals have to be open to the experience and I guess more over willing (or even coerced) to participate in the creation and consumption; or more accurately the process.

      2. The technical barriers are still there – they are about as low as physically possible, but they are still there. There are people who simply won’t install a broadcasting app because they don’t feel like they’d be able to (even though they could definitely do it, and the community would help them)

        But there are also social barriers. There is a definite culture that had built up, and that shapes what people are (and aren’t) comfortable doing.

        As a concrete example, someone felt unable to respond to my snarky tweet on Twitter, because they didn’t want that response seen as part of their public twitter stream. But they felt comfortable responding here. Still public, but separate.

        I’ve been brooding over this for years now. I still don’t understand it. I don’t see the barriers, because of who I am and the things I’ve done, and the people I know. But that doesn’t make the barriers any less real or limiting to others. That’s what I’m trying to get my head around.

        1. Half of it is in the other blog post about bridging and bonding. The other method is coercion. It’s employed everywhere from parenting to education to work. If you can’t coerce and there are no other mediators; you’re SOL.

  8. In the case of the OpenEd post Indian News was the radical other. It was embraced by the Bava. Just thought I would add that…!

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