Note — Jan 12, 2020

Mediating Consent

Seen in → No.108

Source →

Renee DiResta on our current state of un-shared reality, on the unprecedented tensions around building consensus and preserving harmony. How can we find ways to achieve consensus or how can we find ways to “preserve harmony within a pluralist dissensus?” The piece ends up being more of a recap of the evolution from old media to today’s faction-rich media landscape and tribal realities than an opening towards new ways of mediating consent, but it’s a useful look at the landscape and framing of the problems.

This portends a societal transformation: our information ecosystem no longer assists us in reaching consensus. In fact, it structurally discourages it, and instead facilitates a dissensus of bespoke pseudo-realities. […]

Today, there is no institution with the legitimacy capable of bridging these gaps and restoring our capacity for achieving consensus, and neither are there credible technological means with which to create and preserve harmony within a pluralist dissensus. […]

Anyone — not just the powerful media companies of old — can now create pseudo-events. Within some of the echo chambers of the internet this happens with such intensity and regularity that it creates what might best be termed a full-on pseudo-reality: an unending stream of fabrications, truthiness, and distraction, filtered to reinforce and strengthen the beliefs of the members. […]

Can we redesign or create an information ecosystem that engenders sufficient consensus for governance functions? If not, how do we transition to a non-toxic form of dissensus that can sustain governance at least as well as older processes of manufacturing consent, for all their faults, did? […]

The path forward requires systems to facilitate mediating, not manufacturing, consent. We need a hybrid form of consensus that is resistant to the institutional corruption of top-down control, and welcomes pluralism, but is also hardened against bottom-up gaming of social infrastructure by malign actors.