Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Beginners Guide to Consent

Yesterday I participated in the Beginners Guide to Consent workshop. Under the guidance of Eleanor Greenhalgh we experimented with different voting methods to make group decisions. It was an interesting and pleasant experience.
I especially liked the manner in which the discussion was initiated. First voting session. Then all text fragments we had consensus about were put aside. The discussion continued about the fragments we did *not* have consensus about. In this way two hours passed quickly. The most interesting insights (for me) were:
  • There exist many voting methods, more than I thought.
  • All of them are logical and defensible.
  • They all lead to different results. Sometimes the differences are striking.
  • Interesting feedback loops exist. The voting results of one member influence the voting results of other members.
  • The results of voting don't always produce satisfaction in all group members.
  • Discussion about the results does produce more satisfaction than straight voting.
  • Voting is scalable to large groups. Satisfying discussion is difficult to scale.
The exercise raises some interesting questions about group dynamics:
  • Can consensus be reached in all situations and for all group compositions?
  • Do groups strive for an optimizing or a satisficing strategy?
  • Does discussion and voting bring groups closer together? Or can it create factions and harden the differences between them?
In hindsight these results might seem obvious. But there is a big difference between reading about group decision processes and experiencing these processes. My awareness of these processes has been sharpened. I like self-experimentation, and this was an interesting experiment. And I also have a nice zine booklet, as a tangible result of our work.

The Beginners Guide to Consent is a zine-making workshop. Come and create your own edition of The Beginners Guide to Consent: A pseudo-democratic group experiment on consent, curation and collaboration, facilitated by Eleanor Greenhalgh. (In V2_Institute for the Unstable Media.) [1]

What do you think should be included in a beginners guide to consent? Come and create your own democratically-edited print edition of The Beginners Guide to Consent zine. During the workshop we will explore the problem of editing a zine democratically, and experiment with different 'consensual' systems. By the end you will have three different zines to take home. [2]

References: [1] [2]

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