In this online seminar Stacco Troncoso gives an overview of the DisCO (Distributed Cooperative) model, which he alternately describes as a brand, an economic LARP, and an open source conspiracy to take over the world. This presentation was part of Metagov’s Groundwork Fellowship. Our friends at Grassroots Economic Organizing made a video upload with upgraded audio and also took care of the transcript.
Source. CC BY-ND 4.0
Cent Hosten: Alright. Hello, everybody. Welcome to another Metagov seminar. Today is November 8th, 2023. Today we are joined by Stacco Troncoso who will be presenting on some of the work that they have been doing on DisCO, which is a decentralized cooperative organizations project. Stacco is a Groundwork Fellow with us. The Groundwork Fellowship is focused on the intersection of internet governance, design, and marginalization. And today we’re going to hear from Stacco on some of the work that they’ve been doing around DisCO.
Stacco also has a background in the commons, peer-to-peer politics, open culture, post-growth futures, platform and open cooperativism, decentralized governance, blockchain, and more; and does this work with DisCO.coop, Commons Transition, and Guerrilla Translation. Stacco is one of four fellows that we’ve worked with this year as part of the Fellowship, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the work that has been done in the months since it started. I’m also going to be moderating the discussion later on. So if there are questions or comments for Stacco as we go on today, please feel free to share them in the chat. If you would prefer to simply speak instead of typing your comments or questions. And you can type the word “stack” and then I’ll just add you to the list of people who are in the queue for speaking. I’m also going to be screen-sharing. And so Stacco, as I mentioned, when you would like to proceed to the next slide, just say “proceed” or “next” and hopefully we can work out the coordination in a kind of smooth manner. So let me start screen-sharing and then I will pass it over to Stacco.
Stacco Troncoso: Okay, let’s make it full screen, Cent. I guess we’ll just go into presentation mode. Okay, so welcome everyone to our second Metagov Seminar. It’s been a pleasure being part of the fellowship and also meeting some folks in person during the event. This is a work that we’ve been doing not only this year but between Guerilla Media Collective and DisCO for the last ten years. So I’m going to talk first about DisCO and then about governance as it pertains to the interests of metagovernance and maybe your work, so you can see where we’re coming from.
So for those not familiar, I’m not assuming familiarity with DisCO. DisCO is a many-headed hydra, so maybe we can chop off a few heads. Explaining DisCO is difficult. It’s kind of like explaining how to ride a bicycle. I can enthuse about the health and transportation benefits of cycling, but until you get on a bicycle, you can’t see what it’s all about. So DisCO is something that in our experience, once people get it, then they know how to articulate it for their own purposes. So instead of a direct definition, I’m going to give you three provocations, or three coordinates of where DisCO comes from and is headed. And then if that doesn’t satisfy you I’ll give you a little snippet. So the first definition of DisCO is…
DisCO is a brand. And brands are memetic complexes that use both social sciences, design, artistry, etc. to motivate people to consume, to buy things that they may or may not need, but that they identify with. So brands are very potent and great drivers of our economy. Brands sell you things. So what does DisCO sell as a brand?
DisCO is selling you what no one else will sell you, which is anti-capitalist, decolonial, and intersectional feminist futures. This is what we want to see on the label. These are the motivating vectors that we want to promote so we can have different outcomes with our economy. And as a brand it’s really inclusive because DisCO is also…next.
It’s an open source conspiracy, which as far as conspiracies goes makes it especially inclusive. Like any good conspiracy, the goal of the conspiracy is to take over the world. And of course, this is funny and ridiculous, but it’s also really serious because I think that we can all agree that we’re in the midst of a convergence of social and environmental crises.
So why would we want to take over the world? Why would we want to have this open source conspiracy to take it back? We come from the generation of Occupy where many of us figured out we can actually do things better ourselves, and self-organize and not be afraid of promoting other visions and futures. And the way to take over the world — well, one of the ways — would be…next.
We can see DisCO as an economic live action role playing game. If you take it neoliberal economics, you can see it as a game with its own rules that you haven’t consented to, and that many people in the world have not consented to, yet this game drives the actions, drives colonialism, drives environmental degradation, etc.. So in this spirit of an open source conspiracy, what if we create a new game? What if we create a new rulebook of economics that comes from the ground up: economics that covers all the innovations of alternative economics to give us something greater than the sum of the parts? So the mission of DisCO is creating the lore of this real life action role playing game so you can get together with your peers and develop your own game.
The purpose over here is to go from segregated economic alternatives to actual economic counter-power. Again, with this belief that in the many, many types of economies which are invisibilized by capitalism actually have more power than capitalist economics. So the gist of DisCO is how do we make these alternatives communicate with each other to have this economic counter-power?
And if those definitions do not satisfy you. I can give you a snippet. DisCO is a methodology for small groups of 4 to 20 people to self-organize with commons economics and feminist economics. First of all, to have sustainable livelihoods, and then to meet up with all of these goals to create more complex economic artifacts. But there’s always a focus on small groups. Okay, so here we come to governance? Sorry…
Unknown speaker: Oh, sorry. I guess I wasn’t muted. I was saying 4 to 20 groups that federate.
Stacco Troncoso: You’ve got the reference over there. So that’s the number that we recommend. Why? It’s because DisCOs are based on care work. You cannot actually activate relations of care in a network of 150 people. So the Dunbar number that we recommend goes down considerably. And you know, it takes two to tango, but it takes three or four to DisCO. This doesn’t mean that you can’t join together into more complex artifacts, but you want to keep this basic group of people that you have a relationality with in these numbers.
So, governance: governance as it pertains to Metagov, etc. and governance in the digital realm. Just the word “governance” comes with its own inbuilt biases that I think are worth examining. So governance comes from the Greek “kybernan” which literally means to steer. By steering you obviously have someone who is producing the action towards others, so you already have a division between the governed and the governors. And of course, in the case of Greece, the governors, the ownership classes, they’re the oligarchs; obviously not the slaves, obviously not the women. So when we talk about governance in political economy, since the 90s, there has been in liberal economics, this notable assumption that there’s an expert class which governs.
And you can see this in the blockchain space, we can have a series of people design smart contracts for people to buy-in and to follow, and to make this great economic schemes; but there’s no culture of legibility where people feel ownership of how they govern themselves, then that’s not the type of governance that we want to see. Although historical examples could be… next.
An Iroquois grand council governed by consensus — which I am critical of, but hey — here we have 75% of the mothers, and 75% of the men actually ratify any decisions. And no decision goes forward unless it has that type of ratification. This gives rise to a very different type of political economy, which I would associate with the commons. The commons, understood as a social process where a group of people gather around a gift or a resource, whether it’s material or cultural, and govern it according to their own norms and protocols, not those of the markets, not those of the state. And the commons is nothing new. I mean, you can argue that this is the de facto mode of social organization. So coming from the commons and towards governance, we want to know what we’re governing towards. What is the purpose of governance?
I would say that the purpose is to articulate value. We want to have agreements on our behavior and on our actions to promote our values. And of course, in neoliberal economics there is a great dichotomy between the purported values of liberalism or the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the actual value that is tracked and measured in the economy.
So to talk about value, here are a few pointers. This is riffing mainly from David Graeber, both Toward an Anthropological Theory of Value and Debt: The First 5000 Years. Value is a collective behavior, is a process guiding collectively our behavior. It can be divided into three components, which are production, what we make; recording, how we tally our productive actions; and actualization, how they manifest.
So in capitalism, production is for profit and extractive, and built on our legacy of colonialism – market driven. Recording is opaque and abstract, and one of the particularities of capitalist recording, is that recording lets you have more capital, meaning numbers make more numbers. So you can see with things like derivatives, etc., that just the act of recording promotes more information that has knock on effects on the real world. And actualization in capitalism is exchange value. The only things that are valued are those things that can be traded and sold in the market.
In a DisCO, in common-based peer production, in the commons, production is communal, both in a sense of ownership and the sense of decision making — we decide together what to produce for need. Recording is transparent based on all the notions which I will speak about. And actualization is for use value and not for exchange value. Actualization means things that can be shared, things that can be used over and over, not merely sold as commodities or services.
Something else that Graeber said that I find particularly illuminating is that often the discussion on value is about who appropriates the surplus value. The working class, the precariat, the disenfranchised, people with cool haircuts. It doesn’t matter but this doesn’t strike up the question of co-determining what value really is, and working towards the articulation of new values — again, away from capitalism. What we propose in DisCO is that this articulation of value be centered on care.
And I would say that capitalism is actively anti-care. “Unfortunately, we cannot do this. You may care about things, you may care about the environment, but current economics and current value-driven propositions will not allow you to do that.” Okay?
And to give a definition of care, Here’s a quote from Bernice Fisher and Joan Tronto. And they say, “On the most general level, we suggest that caring be viewed as a species activity that includes everything we do to maintain, continue and repair our world, so that we can live in it as well as possible. That world includes our bodies, our selves, and our environment, all of which we seek to interweave in a complex, life-sustaining web.”
So this is the kind of value proposition that DisCO wants to work towards with its governance proposition. Caring for ourselves, caring for the planet, urgently. Everyone can understand care, and everyone can understand that the application of care towards these actions can remedy many of the problems that we find ourselves mired in. Next.
So, governance modeling. By modeling I mean there’s no one governance model — there’s no perfect solution. And if we’re talking about groups of 4 to 20 persons, governance has to be based on their specificity. Another of the critiques that we have in DisCO, both of blockchain culture but even coming from early internet cultures and common-based peer production is this obsession with scaling, and scaling is the mentality of colonialism. I may have something small and I think that it’s really cool, so I’m going to scale it. And In the act of scaling it I will be razing existing cultural traditions that may not be able to defend themselves against this scaling. So here we propose federation and we propose replication.
So as far as governance goes, we’re going to give patterns instead of blueprints. Blueprints assume that all possible variables have already been worked out, within certain parameters. And again, you can see this as smart contracts, or you can see this as the result of game theory, rather than the messiness of human life, emotions, things that just happen. So a pattern approach is what we suggest for any organization that wants to delve into governance. For a short definition of patterns, here we have an extract by my mentors, David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, talking about Christopher Alexander: “In Alexander’s view, a pattern describes a problem that occurs over and over again in our environment, and then describes the core of the solution to that problem, in such a way that you can use the solution a million times over, without ever doing it the same way twice.”
And this is the ultimate purpose of DisCO governance, mainly you figure out your governance for this situation, and you document it. And you document this with so there’s a precedent that’s accessible, that’s taggable, that has metadata that you can search for, so that other people can be inspired by your solution but then arrive at theirs.
Okay, so the four main parts of DisCO governance. Roles: who’s showing up? Who are the people and what do they do? Elements: how you work together, what kind of social agreements you can enter to make sure that this value proposition towards care is being carried out. Value recording: how do you record the value of contributions? And decisions.
These four elements you can find in any organization, so we encourage people to examine them as they come out and when they’re questioning their own governance. We’re going to go through each of them.
So, roles — this is about your group. Groups are very heterogeneous. It’s not a question of people who show up for 40 hours a week anymore; some people may show up more, other people may show up less, etc. Some people may be more committed. So it’s important to distinguish the roles and the intensity of the relationality within roles.
Within DisCO governance we talk about casual or committed relationships. So if I was to ask Cent about Metagov, maybe there’s X number of people that show up to the seminars, the X number of people that show up in Slack, but there’s densities. There’s densities of those who show up, and often you find imbalances between people who put in a lot of work, and people who just show up with regularity and then disappear. So it’s important to have commitments, and you can see these like relationships.
So you can have casual relationships. Hey, I like you. I check you out. We go out for dinner and then we have fun later, and then maybe see you never. And then you have committed relationships. I expect you to be there for me. And between casual and committed relationships — this time talking about organizations — we have dating. This is where you check each other out.
So in DisCO we recommend a dating phase of nine months, where you incorporate people with intensive and bi-directional mentoring. Meaning when you incorporate someone in a DisCO, you’re not just handing them the rule book, you’re entering in dialogue with them with the assumption that you can learn from people coming in, so that they can also have a sense of ownership. This allows people to accrue contributions to the work that they’re doing, and then be rewarded according to the stage of dating that they’re at, until they become committed.
Elements are modular working practices that we’ve been experimenting with for the last ten years that we suggest that collectives can explore, incorporate and make their own to, again, smooth both their productive and their reproductive work. And some elements are:
Community Rhythms. It’s very important for working collectives to have set rhythms. When you show up, do you have a daily rhythm? Do you have a daily check-in? Do you have a weekly check-in? Do you have a bi-weekly call where you’re examining, I don’t know, whether it’s KPIs or purposes, how you’re doing and how you’re feeling? Do you have a quarterly evaluation? So it’s very important to have this rhythm stated for everyone according to the level of contribution, to be more or less present within these rhythms.
Mutual Support is all the invisible work that’s routinely done in organizations, and usually highly gendered, of how people feel. Here we would suggest that if you are working in a group that every month you take an hour and you have a call with someone else from the group who just listens to you for an hour. It’s just for you. No questions asked, you just show up. And you can do a conga line of mutual support. This is good because you get to know people away from their productive matrix and you also have a space just to be yourself and have someone to listen to you.
Commitment Statements are something that you can do quarterly, and this usually follows a template where you basically write up what you will be doing, what your commitment will be to the organization. And the commitment statement is self evaluated, no one’s going to be evaluating your work but you, on a quarterly basis. So after three months you say, “Oh, I did this, I held my commitment,” or, “I couldn’t carry it through.” Which is a very important litmus test for organizations to see what’s working, what isn’t.
And Working Circles are permeable areas of specialization. So an organization may need to have someone doing the finances or the taxes. You may need to have someone doing social media and communication; maybe someone else is doing research. This will pertain to economic democracy — which I talk about in a minute — but these areas of specialization are, to be clear, in the kind of work that you feel compelled to do, but also in the kind of work that you don’t want to do, red lines, etc.. So we make sure that there’s a balance: there’s a balance between desirable and less desirable work, and you know who to attend to when you want to work in a specific area.
Okay, Value Tracking. So we spoke about the recording of value earlier, and in DisCO rather than basing ourselves solely on exchange value, or on abstract notions like GDP, we encourage people to measure three types of value. So the first one is the work that is recognized in the market: Livelihood Work. If you’re a co-op that itself is offering goods and services, this is how you cover your nut. This is what you get paid for. If you’re a nonprofit, livelihood work is the funded work that supports whatever project proposal you’ve been awarded a grant for. But part of this goes to cover Lovework. And Lovework is voluntary work done for the commons. Voluntary work, or sweat equity, is done continuously but it’s often invisibilized. Sometimes in groups, some people do this love work while other people appropriate it to get livelihood.
And again, this is nothing new and you can routinely see this in the creator economy, or YouTube people that are doing things for free to then be able to promote products, etc… But in DisCO we codify it. So Livelihood work and Lovework are both types of productive work. The first is recognized by the market, the second isn’t, but it is recognized by the DisCO, and there’s a value distribution mechanism that I’ll talk about in a minute.
The third one is where reproductive work, care work happens. And Carework — there’s two types of it — is caring for the mission of your organization. If your DisCO, if your co-op has a spirit, has a set of values that you want to work towards, you want to make sure that you’re caring, that you’re feeling them actively so that it vibes. And it’s also caring for the people in the organization with practices like mutual support. And carework is really important. Away from capitalism and in activist circles, you often find that a lot of people doing the admin are doing the work because there’s no specialized administrative staff doing that. This is the less showy work, but it’s important. It’s work that’s vital to keep organizations running. So we want to visualize it.
And the fourth pattern of DisCO governance is decision making. And here I want to quote Robin Hahnel of Parecon. If you’re familiar with Parecon, Parecon is a really cool participatory economics. It’s a really cool concept that I find unrealistic. DisCO is a way to build bridges towards futures like Parecon in the here and now. But still, it has great value.
So what Robin Hahnel says about economic democracy is that, “The problem with majority rule is simple. When a decision has a greater affect on some people than others, by giving each person an equal vote, those more affected by a decision can find themselves overruled by those who are less affected.” And this is something that you can see in co-ops with one person, one vote going on. “Economic democracy should be defined as decision making input, or power in proportion to the degree one is affected by different economic choices. We call this economic self-management and believe that thinking about achieving economic self-management for everyone is the best way to think about achieving economic democracy.”
There’s not one type of decision. You’re going to make decisions that are going to have knock-on effects on the people implementing them, or the people affected by them. So we need to seek out mechanisms so these decisions are made in proportion to how they will bounce back on you or on other groups.
So in this code, governance decision making can be differentiated between casual or dating members, and committed members. So everyone is invited to vote, but only committed members have veto power or make binding decisions. It’s also based on who’s showing up on the rhythms. If someone hasn’t shown up for three months and the decision proves to be a hindrance, maybe you can say, “Well, you haven’t shown up and you’re not being as affected by this decision, so we’re going to prioritize other people’s decision.”.
Who’s affected? If it’s a decision which is within one person’s proven expertise and experience within their working circle, maybe it’s — again, this is all with the supposition of conflicts, and when everyone is not making the same choice — so working circles, another important distinction that can help you fine grain this type of decision making.
Multi-constituent consultation. Co-ops are really good at democratizing ownership and decision making for those involved in the productive process and the legal entity, the co-op, but not so much on those who are affected by economic activity. So here we took inspiration from social care co-ops in Emilia-Romagna and Quebec. So, for example, in the areas of medicine and caretaking, you have all types of stakeholders. You have the state who is providing the funding, you have the professionals, the doctors and the nurses, you have the patients and you have the family members. So this is a much richer conversation on what actions to partake rather than something directly from the top down. In DisCO we encourage — again with logic and rhythms — if you have a board, you check in with the board every three months; or when you’re stuck in a decision, you go to them.
Another is historical credits. This has to do with the measurement of value, that I’ll come back to in a minute. Those who have invested the most in the DisCO, when there’s a conflict, will have a bigger stake and should have more decision-making power. But again, in principle, in our experience, it’s mostly one person one vote, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a casual or committed member because when you build a good culture of collaboration, when you have clear communication, the sessions tend to go smoothly. But having all these mechanisms which are based on your investment in the working collective can be quite helpful in getting unstuck.
Cent Hosten: We should start to move to the discussion questions, so maybe like another 3 or 4 minutes.
Stacco Troncoso: Okay. Yeah, I think that in five minutes I can give you a practical example of DisCO value tracking, and then we can move it to the discussion.
So re-imagining value in action. This is an infographic that we made on how this DisCO value tracking works and how value is distributed. I have discalcula, so this was checked by someone who knows their math. So DisCO economics and governance are determined by each individual DisCO, and how it works is that each member in a DisCO is a shareholder, whose votes are counted in three ways. These are value streams. I’ve spoken about them: livelihood, love, work, care work. So these shares determine, instead of what happens in a corporation where you get the payout of the shares at the end of the year based on your economic access, your payout is based on your contributions.
Open value accounting. When you’re doing productive work, we recommend that the productive work is based on tokens, meaning if it’s translation, if it’s lines of code, that’s something that you can count, and that care work is measured in time and hours. But you can explore the tensions between tokenization and time tracking, and also discuss your notions of value. Recording and speaking about what you value.
Care work is all the reproductive work done to maintain the DisCO and keep its members happy. So when work in all three streams has been accounted for, its type of share is paid — out on a monthly basis, we recommend — based on current liquidity. So if a DisCO has €10,000 of cash available in one month, 75% is going to go towards livelihood shares: what you’ve accrued as productive work recognized by the market. 25% goes to love work shares, which is the type of commerce creating work that is not recognized by the market.
So each bucket is divided according to individual member shares in livelihood. Here we have these three characters. Joaninha has 25% of livelihood shares and 40% of love shares. So they’re paid this much. I’m going to go quickly through this, but you can… I can share the infographic so you can check the math. Gayatri has 50% of livelihood shares and 25% of love shares. Julio has 25% and 35%. What this means is that those who are doing more voluntary work are not penalized over those who are doing work recognized by the market. It evens out.
And care work is like a tax. So if everyone has done the same amount of care work proportionally to their time investment, then the payment remains the same. But if there’s been — if you see over there where it says eight hours, four hours, three hours because there’s differentials in care work, those that have done less will compensate, those that have done more care work. So if a person is working 20 hours a week and they’ve done five hours of care work and everyone else has, that’s great. If a person that’s working 20 hours has done two hours, they have to compensate those three hours to those who have contributed more.
What does DisCO governance accomplish? It encourages and rewards all types of work: care, love and livelihood, per each DisCOs value agreement. It values forms of power to act — not power over, but power with — centered around the commons. It highlights effective and movement building work, which is often hidden. It optimally balances the workload to avoid activist burnout. It creates community empowered platforms for sustainable activism. Activism is a privilege for those who can be willing to be activated and have their needs met. DisCO puts activism where we feel it belongs, which is in the workplace. It enables economic resistance. The DisCO governance economic model enables federated mission oriented co-ops to practice value sovereignty, and address urgent social environmental crisis.
The purpose of this, the purpose of having many governance patterns and many governance models and many DisCOs is federation, so we have an economic syntax. So we have- if we’re talking about livelihood, if we’re talking about care work etc., so we have mutually legible terms to design and federate — again, not scale — our economic systems. We want this to be modular. We want to be able to have value streams and a syntax that allows us to communicate in these new ways, and to promote mutual recognition. If we want to get away from normative neoliberal economics and normative crypto economics, we need signs and we need the cultural solidarity before we design technical systems to implement them.
The way to make bigger, more complex artifacts are SuperDisCOs, which are stable circuits of value creation composed of several DisCOs, and DisCO Clusters, where you can get together with various DisCOs, various co-ops, to do a specific project. Each of these has their own value flows.
What I recommend if you’re new to DisCO, is that you check out the DisCO Basics. So this is an interactive site with pop-up glossary definitions that has been optimized for mobile, where we talk about What is DisCO? DisCO Principles, Origins, Journey and LABs, DisCO Futures, the DisCO Project, how to get involved, DisCO terminology, and more on DisCO.
If you’re not familiar with DisCO or you haven’t checked in since the manifesto, this is what I would recommend is your first stop.
And finally, again, DisCO.coop. You can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Do you want to write to me? You can go to my website, stacco.works. Follow me on whatever Twitter is called these days, or preferably on Mastodon, where I’m a proud member of social.coop. And you can find me there. Thank you. I want to thank Cent because this is an example of invisible work, and care work. I was a translator for many years, so I’m very used to being part of the people behind the scenes that actually make those who are up front be able to do the things. That’s it.
Cent Hosten: Well thank you, Stacco. Thank you. We’re very happy to be able to support you as you pursue this work. So we have two comments coming in already: one from Ian and then one from Steve. I’ll let each of them voice it if they like. And then as a reminder, if you have more comments or questions on anything of this topic just presented, please type it in the chat or type the word “stack” and then I can add you to the list of speakers. So, Ian…
Ian: Sure. Thanks for this great and really interesting discussion and presentation. So I went to the — I forget the exact name — it was the Radical Care Economix for Rotten Systems event in Berlin back in July. And I was thinking about it then, because we spent a lot of time talking about care and the value of care. I’m a social worker by professional background and, you know, it was my experiences in some ways, after finishing undergrad and working a lot of low wage jobs, and all these kinds of undervalued things, that made me interested in that field. And I think something that came out, but I don’t know if it’s as explicitly articulated — maybe it’s somewhere in the manifesto — but this valuing of care work, and shit work, and seeing care work, particularly in organizations, or even administrative work, in some ways, it seems to me that’s the crux of an alternative to a DAO model, right? Where a lot of work can just be seen as delegated to smart contracts, or other kinds of automation or, agents or entities that are not human because it doesn’t need to be done by humans. But in some ways, what DisCO is arguing is that work is also vital and essential, right? And must be valued, and can’t just be automated out or designed in such a way where we don’t need to do it. Is that a fair understanding?
Stacco Troncoso: Yeah. It’s not a question, but I agree with your statements. In blockchain culture you only — if we talk about the invisibilization of care work, it’s what’s off-chain. In the off-chain side you both have power influences by those who design the mechanisms, and then you have all the other work that’s not recognized by the protocol. The shitwork that yes, we do want to automate, but there’s also beautiful artisanal work that you may want to do with more slowness, and more care, more process, and being able to share the journey of that. So I think it’s finding a balance between that which in one organization— like, I hate accounting, so I would love for accounting to be more automated. To me, there’s no artisanal contribution to it. In another organization, maybe there is, maybe there is a poetry in accounting that I’m not seeing. Again, this is not for me to determine, but for each organization to say “what do we want to spend more time on?” And this is what the design of our tools should be, so we can spend more time on care work. And care work again, both for people, and for— if you are in a collective of designers, to making your designs more beautiful, if you are a collective of makers to make whatever, whether it’s furniture, whether it’s an installation, to be able to do them with more intentionality, and save up on the work hours of this stuff that really doesn’t inspire you.
Cent Hosten: Thank you Ian. Steve.
Steve: First I’d like to say I love the pattern language stuff. I mean, the original book is woefully lacking in non-urban planning examples. In fact, I just kind of agree with everything overall. So I’m sort of fishing for a critique here. But I would like to discuss with you your model of balancing some people working more, and some people contributing financially more. I think the way you have it set up, you could possibly stumble on loss aversion. And I think I just have some ways to avoid that by tweaking it here and there, potentially. Anyhow, so as far as the question goes, you can respond to that. And also what I wanted to ask about DisCO CAT, as well. I don’t know if you mentioned it specifically and I missed it, but I just like algorithms.
Stacco Troncoso: So if you find Alexander boring, and I do, where we got most of the inspiration for pattern language — I think I quoted it — was from Free, Fair, and Alive, by David Bollier and Silke Helfrich, where they’re really applying Alexander to commoning, commoning has always left behind a trail of patterns which we can recognize. But they use Alexander to be able to extract- they actually also published a compilation called Patterns of Commoning. So if you want to approach it in a more convivial sense then we really recommend that book.
In DisCOs there’s no power held over by financial contributions, it’s sweat equity. It’s contributions, whether it’s in care work or in voluntary work. So again, it gets you away from nominal shareholding based on economic privilege. I would like to have a dialog on what you’re proposing, because there may be an- there can be, like in the sense of a nonprofit or something that does funded work, where there’s always an influence by those that hold more economic power, even if this influence is not directly manifest it’s something that’s — so that’s something worth taking into account. But again, it’s not how many tokens you’ve put on an ICO that gives you the power, it’s the work that you’ve actually done.
Steve: Yeah. What I was specifically concerned with is that when people who don’t do as much work as other people in the group get penalized money, that hurts people even if it’s a tiny amount. The loss version is just the fact that losses are felt much more than gains. So that could be poisonous to the group, potentially. So that’s what I’m particularly concerned about.
Stacco Troncoso: Absolutely. And I can tell you our personal experience in Guerilla Media Collective. All of this is really good, but this is to have more clear discussions. This is not to have a smart contract go into the bank accounts to determine payments or levy penalties. So we have situations where someone couldn’t pay the rent. The value proposition said “this is what this person gets paid, this is what we get paid,” and then we pulled together so that person could pay the rent, and then that person came back. And this is the importance of care work, and this is the importance of small group dynamics. And with a blockchain, with a DAO, you know- the legality, I have no legal recourse; it’s automated. It’s the famous vending machine analogy: you’re not going to argue with a vending machine. Well, unless you thump on it really hard.
So again, all of these value visualizations are mostly visualizations so that normal people can get accustomed to talk about value, and to talk about value and make decisions in consequence according to real life circumstances, because the exception will always be the rule. The shit will always be hitting the fan. And again, you cannot predict everything by a blueprint. So there’s a reliance on dialog and on good communication, but also on tracking, because if you’re putting up a resistance box continually for one person, then it’s time to have a discussion. Also, when people are not able to contribute more it highlights the factors that do not allow them to contribute more. And again, here we have a ableism, here we have lots of things that get left out of many digital domains, that we think that it’s worth talking about.
Cent Hosten: Great. Thank you, Steve. Thanks, Stacco. James is next on stack and then Mel has a raised hand, so I’ll put you on stack. Go ahead James.
James: Yeah, hi. This has been very interesting. And I also valued seeing Chris Alexander brought into the discussion. But I guess my question is, just like there is off-chain discussions and activity that undermine DAOs, I wondered if there is any outside-of-the-DisCO process activity that has the potential of undermining the DisCO. And I’m thinking in terms of consensual decision making, where in DisCO it’s consensual, but are there any things like coalitions forming, or something like that, outside of the DisCO process? Or any danger of that that you see?
Stacco Troncoso: Yeah. What we recommend — and again, this is up to each individual organization — is consent. I find that consensus brings with it power influences, where people are obliged to- you know, like, “Let’s unlock the decision, we must reach consensus.” Consent lets me say, “I fucking hate this,” and then it may give me the pleasure of, “I told you so,” when something goes wrong. And I don’t think that dissent is something that should be sanitized. So it’s more complex than that. With “the outside” we do propose multi-constituent governance, meaning that it’s not just the people — again, to go back to a very loving critique, of co-ops, because we love co-ops — we don’t limit the decision making on economic decisions that may affect others to just the people working on the co-op, but also being in consultation with others.
The big vision, the big purpose is to articulate these practices so they become second nature. So you can interlock and you can enter into an economic relationship with other people. And to me economic relationships are not just transfers of value, but also transfers of information, transfers of intentionality — what you want to do. Pernicious outside influences: when you mention that to me, I would say, “well, like the market or capitalism, or the legislative and normative realities that we keep crashing against, noble as our attempts may be.” So we do live in this atmosphere, which is permeated, if not dominated, by capitalism. What we want to do is highlight the power and the actionability of all the alternative economics, which we think- again, if you see capitalism in a process of catabolic collapse, part of the mission with DisCO is raising the ground. We also talk about syncretic economics. Yes, you can have a legal form, you pay in taxes, you’re in the market; but you’re ready to step away, you’re being naughty. You’re practicing the other religion that they will not allow you to do, to be able to step into this next system. But it’s not easy.
James: Yeah, right. I agree. Thanks very much.
Stacco Troncoso: Thank you.
Cent Hosten: Thanks James. Mel?
Mel: Hey, I just want to say thanks for the presentation. It was hard to get to a question on this, but I think the choice of the word ‘care’ is a good one, in my opinion. I think, and this might be a personal question, but I’m hoping you can kind of relationally help me understand the selection. And the other words that came to mind are like ‘stewardship,’ ‘defense.’ Like, why stop at care? Why not just call it love, as an overall concept? So how did you arrive at, memetically, the shared sense using the word ‘care,’ given it contributes so heavily?
Stacco Troncoso: It’s very simple: feminist economics. Both feminist and ecological economics are routinely ignored, we find, in blockchain cultures. And again, if you’re talking about decentralization, to me that decentralization is not only an informational topology or a series of transactions, but a decentralization of power. And the trifecta of power is capitalism, the patriarchy, and colonialism. So again, feminist economics has investigated the concept of care. Why not love? Because love can be uncomfortable for some people. Love — there’s this subtle manipulation sometimes that the word ‘love’ is attached to. But again, the usage of care is because there’s a well-documented economic tradition that talks about it.
Sorry, because Steve, you mentioned the CAT — the DisCO CAT — so this is Community Algorithmic Trust. This is a way to to use the logic of a community land trust, where a group of people with a shared intent find a legal way to perpetuate what that intent is. So we get a piece of land and we make sure that this isn’t exploited for luxury apartments, but it will be a park. So this is what you want to do with your program, and with your technical design. You want to have a trust that continually reflects the inclinations of the group. And I mean continually reflects, so this is why we insist every three months checked that your value equations are actually coinciding with lived reality.
Cent Hosten: [Indecipherable], I see you have a hand up, but I think we have a minute left and probably don’t have time to fully address this. I’m going to share a link that I created in our Slack where we can continue the discussion. So if you want to post your question over there, if Stacco gets a moment, perhaps we can continue the discussion there. With the remaining time, I’d like to thank everyone for coming. I like to thank Stacco in particular for presenting today. And we also have a tradition of applauding our speakers. So on the count of three, everyone can unmute and clap, or provide some kind of affection of care into the space. So 3, 2, 1.
Stacco Troncoso: Thank you for being my DJ.
Cent Hosten: Yes, of course. That felt like a whole collective effort.