[iDC] Toward a Literacy of Cooperation

Trebor Scholz trebor at thing.net
Sun Dec 5 09:52:04 EST 2004

Fwd from: Geert Lovink

Stanford Course Open to Public, January - March 2005

Toward a Literacy of Cooperation
by Howard Rheingold


Course Description:

Darwin had a blind spot. It wasn't that he didn't see the role of
cooperation in evolution. He just didn't see how important it is. So for two
centuries -- a time during which the world passed from an agrarian landscape
into a global post-industrial culture of unprecedented scale and complexity
-- science, society, public policy and commerce have attended almost
exclusively to the role of competition. The stories people tell themselves
about what is possible, the mythical narratives that organizations and
societies depend upon, have been variations of "survival of the fittest."
The role of cooperation has been largely unmapped.

Now is the time to finally build this map, not because we're feeling
altruistic, but because scientists are beginning to see how cooperation
actually works in biology, sociology, mathematics, psychology, economics,
computer science and political science. And in the last two decades, we've
seen a variety of new challenges to business models that stress competition
over customers, resources, and ideas. Companies in emerging high-tech
industries learned that working with competitors could build markets and
help avoid costly standards wars. The open source movement showed that
world-class software could be built without corporate oversight or market
incentives. Google and Amazon built fortunes by drawing on, even improving,
the Internet by facilitating and building on the collective actions of
millions of web publishers and reviewers. Thousands of volunteers have
created over one million pages of the free encyclopedia Wikipedia - in over
100 languages. Collective knowledge-gathering, sharing economies, social
software, prediction markets - numerous experiments in technology-assisted
cooperation are taking place.

In this lecture series we want to begin to put these pieces of the puzzle
together to build a practical map of cooperative strategy, starting with the
basic social dilemma that has forever defined the tension between
self-interest and social institutions. Social dilemmas arise when you or I
act rationally... in our own self-interest...but our individual rational
acts add up to a situation in which everyone is worse off. That is, our
choices add up to less, not more.

Readings will include Peter Kollock, Elinor Ostrom, Steven Weber, Garrett
Hardin, David Reed, Bernardo Huberman, Howard Rheingold, and many others.
The class will begin with a first hand game experience. A wiki and a blog
will continue discussion and group learning online between classes, and
enable participation by others off-campus or on the other side of the world.
Guest lecturers include Jimmy Wales (founder of Wikipedia), Peter Kollock,
Bernardo Huberman, Ross Mayfield (social software entrepreneur and one of
the authors of "Emergent Democracy,") Howard Rheingold, Zack Rosen (creator
of Deanspace and civicspace.org), and others.

Howard Rheingold http://www.rheingold.com http://smartmobs.com

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