Posted by: Gaya | December 17, 2011

Horizontal Hugging

On a given day, we wake up, do necessary survival stuff and take a few breaks now and then for a little horizontal hugging and thumbs-upping. For this is the age of horizontalist expression, like it or not whether its on Facebook or on Occupy terrritory.

I am curious.  Horizontalism is about social relations that aim at equally distributing management power. So without the vertical spokesman, smaller unions and representatives of the different groups, now all participants make decisions by consensus and continuous feedback. It’s a lot of hard work and sometimes exasperating. So it was for the Occupiers and so it is for some of us who struggle hard to get the moderate opinion published via social networking.

Open FB and you ‘like’ a host of photos, comments, statuses and posts. The success of this tool is dependent of many people using it continuously. Why do we do it?

I find a clue in the rise of the recent protests such as Occupy and others. It is simply anarchic. At heart I guess the anarchist in us likes the way we can crawl and trawl our way through hitherto unchartered personal collections and leave our sticker of approval. It is also great to be able to say stuff which does not await moderation by the user. And, it is great to like Sting, Mahatma Gandhi and Adopt a Dog in Sri Lanka when up until now you had no way of expressing your solidarity with diverse values in three clicks.

As anarchists we love to ‘have our say’ but whereas vitriolic debates sprung up on the internet spurred by the use of fake IDs, Facebook makes it a bit more personal and accountable. So we had these forum debates on FB. I personally learnt a lot about the process of forum-commenting in order to allow it to approximate a real discussion. The forums are aimed at sharing all realities, opinions and positions on a host of issues that concern the future of Sri Lankan inter-ethnic unity.

  • Poster 1 posts something and commenter 1 responds with one view thumbs-upping, commenter 2 thumbs-downing the post.
  • Now there’s a commenter 3 who agrees with commenter 1  and bashes commenter 2 and he is joined seconds later with ‘likes’ from Poster 1 and commenter 1.
  • Commenter 2 hovers awhile with more thumbs-down views now goaded on, and is crushed beneath more commenting in longer form by 1 and 3 and poster all liking each other. The result could be that the dissenter disappears from the forum altogether. Is this good process?

I feel bad after such commenting cos i wonder if more damage has been done. Tomorrow I would like to ask commenter thumbs-down to elaborate on his views. Maybe ask a friend of his to find out more about his opinion. This is not possible in this horizontal activity where a ‘like’ is all you get. There should be a ‘please explain’  or can i come back to this tomorrow don’t run away button.

I came across this great article in the New Yorker

“The anarchists immediately agreed to use horizontal organizing methods, according   to which meetings are known as general assemblies and participants make decision by consensus and give continuous feedback through hand gestures. Moving one’s fingers in an undulating motion, palm out pointing up means approval of what’s being said. Palm down, pointing down, means disapproval. Crossed arms signals a “block” a serious objection that must be heard.”Pre-occupied : The origins and future of Occupy Wall Street by Mattathias Shwartz.

Facebook, the preferred social networking tool is rife with horizontal hugs. People lean over and ‘like’ what you do, add a compliment to a photo of your kid or leave a comment that sometimes can make you smile or feel warm inside. But on deeper divisive debates and dialogue groups it would be great to have another option: the crossed ‘block’ smiley that says ‘ I have serious issues with this, please explain’. In this way if a sub-thread was created then the original debate would continue undeterred.

Yet in this new digital world we are in a hurry. As complex humans though, it maybe a good thing to resist the reduction of our social interaction to a mere gesture and stop a while to message, skype and explain, when it really mattered.

Horizontal hugs to all this Christmas season !

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