Design Principles: Community & Social Norms

This page explores how Cosmos reflects its values, ethics and design principles in the context of its community’s culture and social norms (often in the form of modeled, incentivized or reciprocal patterns of interactions).

⚛Holistic Self-awareness: Modeling after successful structures & behaviors of living systems (from bacteria to human life to ecosystems). “We observe and model successful patterns that emerge in healthy systems.”

Modeled after healthy practices in mature human relationships. Nobody is perfect, yet we could all stand to improve. Cosmos members personally embrace a journey of self refinement. None of us are as skilled in ways of being in relationships and community as we would like to be; yet Cosmos provides a platform for intentionally practicing being in community in healthy ways.

Due to Cosmos’ culture of equity, solidarity and respect, we practice seeking understanding as much as possible. We compassionately tolerate our own & one another’s imperfect realizations of various things—while further augmenting continuous development and improvement (thus, maintaining the integrity of the social fabric).

Some examples of healthful, equitable frameworks we may adopt include: Dialogue Principles (setting clear and fair “rules of engagement” in conversations) Clean Language, Non-Violent Communication, Anti-Oppression, Human-Centered Design, etc. We won’t become liberated until we each and all attain understanding, compassion and nurturance for where we are at–and where we are headed.

Generally: self-awareness is a crucial attribute to achieve success in dialogues, deliberation, and productive collaboration! Learning from feedback occurs at all scales, incl. the individual actor within Cosmos.

Transparent, open, direct. Our strength is in our transparency, honesty, and integrity.  We show up to our problems. As mature people, we tell the truth and seek to make things better. Personality/brand is direct, transparent, open: we are explicit about our norms, transparent of our motives and accountable to our behaviors. This is needed for mature, two-way, consensual human relationships: incentivized to share, we practice transparency and honesty. The realization of personal motives and open acknowledgment of them is important. On Facebook, we don’t announce what we’re up to, what our motives are, but we go about taking acts we hope will improve our social status, etc. In Cosmos, it’s important when there’s alignment between personal motivation and organizational motivation. Articulating where we’re coming from is a good practice.

?Sponsorship. “I take an active interest in you and your work; I see you and I uplift you.”

One type of common member relationship is one member sponsoring another member because they want to see their fellow creatives blossom and flourish. This may take the form of financial capital (paying for a peer’s subscription to a suite of incubation services, or “subscribing” to that artists’ outputs for a monthly fee, for instance). It could also take a more personalized form of mentorship or voluntary personal service. For instance, members may make private arrangements to gift or trade services to one another—like providing feedback on a piece, listening when needed, proofreading something, etc. Certain designated community spaces may function as a place for specific sponsorship behaviors, such as a “guild” meetup to develop practitioners’ crafts, or a forum where authors can expect to receive high quality feedback on their works-in-progress. Although sponsorship, as an ethic, is not typically based in transactional exchange, members are welcome to arrange crowdfunding-type structures and patronage agreements (ala Patreon) however they choose. See also “Refinement” section in PRAXIS section below.

?Amplification. “That which you do, that resonates in me, I amplify by sharing, supporting and remaking.”

A lighter version of sponsorship: amplification ties also in with regenerativity because it suggests that one person’s energy becomes combined with another in such a way that the wavelengths create more impact/influence than the streams in isolation (concentrating energy like a laser instead of scattering it). Essentially that looks like: Person B is inspired by Person A’s creation, and shares, supports, or adds onto their creation. Thus do we celebrate one another, with our internal currency being a major means of showing gratitude, endorsement and love.

?Regenerative. “Energy contributed into the system is not extracted, but rather feeds back into increased benefits available to entities in the system.”

This is essential to the cooperative business design (members own, control and benefit). It is also a crucial design aspect for siphoning off capital from status quo or “legacy” systems (see: financial ram pump) and “capturing” it into a regenerative system that results in spirals of abundance for users.

We urge positive growth. We decline to accept mediocrity; that is to say, we have a culture in which we push ourselves to be our best selves and produce our best works.  The effect is a high quality, high caliber environment, like an academy or a salon, in which the general experience is “I am not wasting my time here… I am really challenged and it feels good here!”  We aim to be simultaneously challenging and encouraging as a general culture and ethic.

☯ Integration & collaboration. “We should strive to integrate our efforts where there is overlap and collaborate to realize the best version possible of what we are creating.”

Cooperation/collaboration. We embrace a participatory ethic that celebrates people’s authentic & creative contributions. To get the most out of Cosmos = involving yourself. Participatory democracy as creative practice (see John Dewey, Creative Democracy). Becoming stronger people through intentional community engagement. Living democratic self-government through cultural practice. Democracy does not require specific beliefs but specific capacities. Dialogue, learning, taking other perspectives, logical argument, etc. “Creative democracy” also refers to an iterative, experimental approach to governance; freedom to rewrite the rules.

Embrace and include. Taking a “yes, and” approach. Recognizing the genius in others, reciprocally. Inviting engagement. Setting ego aside: it’s not about what I came up with, it’s what productive and aesthetic relevance/salience the thing I came up with has… it’s not a competition for who’s smarter or savvier, rather it’s an encouragement of the best in one another and a focus on the resonance or dissonance between ideas. We will succeed if we can integrate the greatest works, hearts and minds of the world, meaningfully.

Invitational approach–“what are you all about?” Not persuasive–“Let me tell YOU what’s what!” Leaderful organization—we cultivate leaders through encouraging people to step up and lead conversations/activities, as well as share responsibilities and cooperate effectively.

?Diversifying. “Diversification of culture infuses vitality into the community: we embrace difference and creative tensions.”

Conflict is a natural effect of discourse; it presents opportunities, not problems. Conflict is super generative in surfacing “edges” of one another’s viewpoints or assumptions. We must expect conflict, and not avoid it or view its emergence as symptomatic of failure. On the contrary! Conflict is a key ingredient in healthy ecosystems. In Cosmos, we strive to harness the generative energy inherent to conflict and move it toward whole-making resolution.

♺ Experimentation. Equanimity/willingness to fail. From Agile, “fail small and often.” Also, being a learning organization. Iteration. Adaptability. Using feedback loops to rapidly inform action and growth. Heuristic—building off of our best ideas “as of now,” progressively. See also: Human-centered design.

Reflexive & Ongoing Questioning. A key approach is inquiry itself. We recognize that coordinating questions shape the kinds of answers sought. One of our coordinating questions, borrowed from Clean Language, is “What would you like to have happen?” (Clean Language is a technique we are exploring practicing.)

Safe to fail. Recognizing we are all in a process of learning. Encouraging one another to test one’s ideas and derive lessons from failures and successes–lessons that could be helpful to all.

See also Transparent, open, direct.

⚒Praxis. Cosmos is a praxis playground for visionary ideas. When faced with stimulating theories, Cosmos urges the question “what is its use value?” That is, can people use it to live better lives? If an idea cannot be used or realized/implemented effectively, what are its merits? How could it be combined or reworked so as to have applicability to the human situation?

Also REFINEMENT: “as sword sharpens sword,” we hone and shape each other to be our best selves: we expect to see transformation/change as a result of our use of the platform & engagement with the community.

As a culture we discourage critique-only discussions which lead down semantic spirals and may challenge people’s minds but do nothing to transform realities. This ties in with “experimentation” in that: we urge to test ideas, not elaborate them in theory only, and learn from the mistakes. To do so we need to create flexible but also safe spaces for testing and iterating.

Being the filters for one another, so we are sharing exclusively and explicitly the highest quality content we can find. So, if we only have time to read X articles per week, we know we’ll be receiving highly nutritious or nutritive content in our attentional feeds by virtue of what others are passing along.

?Reciprocity. “We develop trust by circulating our gifts generously–and in ways that benefit each and all of us overall.” Fairness. Equity. Honesty/transparency. You get what you give.

Equity. When we recognize that our own self-realization is tied up with the destinies of our communities/society, then we recognize the “I-Thou” principle, that “the other” is a mirror for ourselves, and thus each self is as equally deserving of power, dignity and legitimacy as I am. This is a crucial recognition that is conditioned by engagement with the cooperative enterprise, by dialogic norms and spaces on the platform, etc.

Our co-op is structured for reciprocity in these ways:

  • Those who give the most have the potential to receive the most, because sustainable relationships are symbiotic. Any profits (or, more accurately, surplus) derived from the business’ activities are to be distributed back to co-op members either through enhancements to the platform’s usability, functionality or features, or to individual users in the form of “patronage” on the basis of how much they meaningfully engaged the co-op.
  • Member-to-member solidarity. Members must commit to helping each other as they wish to be helped (aka The Golden Rule). To build the platform of our dreams, we must be willing to step up. We are a “do it ourselves” organization! This breaks down accustomed consumer-vendor relationships into co-creator, mutual relationships.
  • As a cultural norm supporting the integrity of the community. We establish with members upfront upon entry into Cosmos that we interested in what they have to say, and we expect them to reciprocate that mode in relationship with others. We offer members sacred attention (which is what any person really needs to thrive) and we encourage members to reciprocate/feed that vital energy back into the system.

⚖ Dynamic balancing. Cosmos would be a set of functions contained in programmed algorithms, the tweaking of which would enable various changes (and cascades of effects) in the system. The more self-aware and self-monitoring the system, the more likely it is to improve and develop. Cosmos will enable autopoetic learning through member participation in adjusting the control algorithms, but it will strive to avoid allowing catastrophic errors that might undermine the whole of the inputs invested.

We aim to strike a work/life/art balance for ourselves, that is: time enough for work that pays, time enough for life responsibilities, and time enough for art to be made!  You’ve heard of the work-life balance, no doubt… We take it a step further by declaring that our art is fundamental to our lives being fully lived, and so it deserves to be foregrounded and balanced reasonably with work and life, too.  This shouldn’t be a problem… if we are paid adequately for work (which would be much more attainable in a regenerative, cooperatively owned enterprise than in the “race to the bottom” competition of late capitalism), then it would make sense to either work-less, art-more or get-paid-for-arting.  That’s the ideal we are striving for!

Enoughness. As a general ethic, Cosmos strives to empower its members to achieve “enoughness.” It asks each of its members “what they need” to attain a healthy work/life/art balance. This is a core frame with effects on the user’s experience (whose enoughness standard is set, modified and reflected on the user’s dashboard and in filtering opportunities to a user), and is factored into hiring. Gaining a perspective on enoughness is one outcome of a general ethic of practicing reflection and self-awareness.