(2018-12-11) Constantin Norms Of Membership For Voluntary Groups

Sarah Constantin: Norms of Membership for Voluntary Groups. One feature of the internet that we haven’t fully adapted to yet is that it’s trivial to create voluntary groups for discussion. (Virtual Community, Civil Society) (tldr: there are a variety of types of norms available, which we should consider based on what our goals for a community are)

What we don’t seem to have is a good practical language for talking about norms on these mini-groups — what kind of moderation do we use, how do we admit and expel members, what kinds of governance structures do we create.

lots of people who don’t have any experience in founding or participating in traditional types of voluntary organizations are now finding themselves engaged in governance without even knowing that’s what they’re doing.

When we do this badly, we get “internet drama.”

It’s a traditional observation about 19th century America that Americans were eager joiners of voluntary groups, and that these groups were practice for democratic participation (Alexis De Tocqueville)

what will be the institutions of the future?

It’s also relevant for the future of freedom

Thinking about, and working on, governance for voluntary organizations (and micro-organizations like online discussion groups) is a laboratory for figuring this stuff out in real time, with fairly low resource investment and risk.

The other place to start, of course, is history

I want to start generating a (non-exhaustive list) of types of norms for group membership, to illustrate the diversity of how groups work and what forms “expectations for members” can take.

It’s useful to have an idea of the range of formats that we might encounter, so we don’t get anchored on the first format that comes to mind.

Civic/Public Norms

Examples: “rule of law”, public parks and libraries, stores and coffeeshops open to the public, town hall meetings

Guest Norms

Examples: private parties, invitation-only events, consent ethics for sex

Kaizen Norms

Examples: competitive/meritocratic school and work environments, sports teams, specialized religious communities (e.g. monasteries, rabbinical schools)

Coalition Norms

Examples: political coalitions, proselytizing religions

Tribal Norms

Examples: families, public schools, governments, traditional cultures

Some comparisons-and-contrasts:

Honor and Shame


Examples of debates that are about what type of group you want to be in:

Not A Taxonomy

I don’t think these are the definitive types of groups. The idea is to illustrate how you can have different starting assumptions about what kind of thing the group is for. (Is it for achieving a noble goal? For providing a public forum or service open to all? For meeting the needs of its members?)

I suspect these kinds of aims are prior to mechanisms (things like “what is a bannable offense” or “what incentive systems do we set up”?) Before diving into the technical stuff about the rules of the game, you want to ask what kinds of outcomes or group dynamics you want the “game structure” to achieve. (Game Rule)

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