Unequal power relationship

    From Consumerium development wiki R&D Wiki

    An unequal power relationship is the basic component of a power structure. The person with superior power, either due to trust or to technology access or superior knowledge, does not necessarily have superior ethical judgement, just because they are trusted, technologically enabled, or better educated. Very often, such a position is an open door to abuses, e.g. sysop vandalism or ad hominem deletes, to which the lesser powered have no recourse. For instance the sysop power structure

    is based on unequal power relationships between sysops and their victims, whom they call trolls. Quite often, those on the victimized end of such an unequal power relationship claim and co-opt the label applied to them by their controllers, jailers, masters, owners, regulators, doctors or bosses. For this reason, rap musicians may refer to each other as "nigger" and so-called trolls may refer to each other as, well, "trolls". This is one way to reclaim the power of labels.

    Technological powers are however only a symptom, usually, of some other power based on knowledge or trust. The concept of social capital is important to understand unequal allocations of power based on trust - effectively those with more 'social capital' can perform more power grabs and power plays without any consequences to themselves, than those with less. This may appear as hierarchy but is actually subject to change if someone uses their power too much, and is perhaps reducing the overall power or respect granted to the others with the same level of power. For example sysop vandalism makes the rest of the sysop power structure appear to be simple a bunch of friends doing damage to a project to please each other personally, ignore the end user's needs. Which is, of course, exactly what it is, and demonstrates contempt for users. The ultimate expression of this is a GodKing who claims that his "virtual community" and its needs are more important than demonstrable needs of users of a large public wiki - here we have all the claims of openness and lots of contributions and volunteer effort poured in under the false pretenses that the project deals reasonably with unequal power relationships. This kind of claim, when not backed up by action, is what tends to make enemy projects. Trust that is not directly allocated based on ability to find and serve end user needs is not going to consistently serve those users, and it will kill projects.

    Knowledge distribution is even more important. Theorists of the w:sociology of knowledge often say "knowledge IS power", and they are largely correct... we can all think of many situations where a small bit of knowledge provides a great deal of power, and effectively creates a trust hierarchy on one issue - "The Lady And The Tiger" is one famous example of a story illustrating this.

    In some projects, language skills and ability to argue are necessarily unequal because of the projects' mission, e.g. a Simple English project which will necessarily involve more English-fluent writers and less fluent readers to some degree. In these projects, overcoming unequal power relationships and allowing ethical relationships to form requires some extra effort, for instance, the concept of a social network or power network or contact network and the difference between them, might have to be fully explained so that someone new to English can discuss a power structure and expect to be understood... these being the terms that the most fluent English users adopted for this use. Without this "equalizing" effort, unequal power amplifies itself, and users are put in a "just trust me" position as power issues are resolved in language they can't unravel easily, and decisions are not justified with reference to any type of interpersonal network, and so each decision must be challenged alone, impossible if there are many such decisions, and challenging each carries some risk of exclusion and perhaps drawing the attention of some inquisitor. So for this and other reasons, Consumerium Governance Organization must make a special effort to ensure that its glossary is defined in Simple English.

    External links[edit | edit source]