Reclaiming the stacks: August 2023 roundup


Welcome to the latest monthly roundup of my explorations at the intersection of ecosocialism and ICT. I look at the problems of digital capitalism and positive actions that embody digital ecosocialism, along with a look at the systemic side of things and how we can transition from (digital) capitalism to (digital) ecosocialism.

It all comes from the angle of reclaiming the stacks - expropriating information and communications technology from Big Tech and returning it to the people.

1. Systems

"It's not about your footprint, it's about your point of leverage" says Simon Sharpe. It's been clear for a while that carbon footprint isn't a good frame for how individuals can contribute to a climate transition. In his article Sharpe reiterates that idea, and suggests that its better to think about one's leverage points instead.

Sharpe talks about leverage at a few different levels : the individual, the organisational, and the national, and, in another article, discusses leverage points at the sectoral level:

In any individual sector, we can identify leverage points: actions that are relatively low cost or low difficulty but that have a high impact in accelerating the transition.

Super-leverage points

He also talks about super-leverage points:

In the whole system, we can identify super-leverage points: we define these as actions that are high leverage in the sectors where they are taken, and that influence transitions in other sectors in a way that is positive in direction, high in impact, and reasonably high in probability.

Super-leverage points

Leverage points are a key part of systems thinking.

how do we change the structure of systems to produce more of what we want and less of that which is undesirable?

Thinking in Systems

What are the leverage points in ICT? What are the super-leverage points? How do we change the structure of ICT to produce more of what we want and less of that which is undesirable?

From an ecosocialist standpoint, we want more digital ecosocialism and less digital capitalism. We want to identify actions in ICT which can have a positive, impactful, and highly probable influence on agency, social equity and planetary stability. I started to review work on this in Reclaiming the stacks: how ICT workers can contribute to a transition to ecosocialism. Some sources of inspiration:

Together, these contain quite a number of actions and initiatives and possible leverage points1. There's a few common themes that stuck out - things like deprivatisation/(re)socialisation of infrastructure and platforms; knowledge commons, tech cooperatives and public-commons partnerships; libre and open software, data and access. And the notion of resist, regulate, recode as a triumvarate of types of leverage. But it's not clear which of these, if any, are key leverage points, or even super-leverage points. A systemic analysis of how they all connect together could help.

I recently came across "A leverage points analysis of a qualitative system dynamics model for climate change adaptation in agriculture", which has an interesting methodology for surfacing leverage points within a sector. It would be interesting to see how the same could be applied to ICT. It all starts off with a qualititative system dynamics model, so that will be where to look next. The references above each contain their own informal, qualitative system dynamics model of ICT, so a starting point will be to look through them again with that lens.

2. Problems

Some problems from digital capitalism recently in the news. To help map them out, I'm tagging them with some of the criteria I defined in my OU research.

3. Actions

Philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.

– Karl Marx

Some latest news on concrete actions that are part of an ecosocialist ICT movement.

4. Inputs

Finally, a few other things I've been reading, listening to, and watching that are adjacent to the topics of ecosocialism and ICT.

4.1. Reading

4.2. Listening

5. Until next time

That’s it! See you next month. Until then, you can find latest streams of thoughts over at my website.

6. Elsewhere

6.1. In my garden

6.3. Mentions



Which I've partially documented in a ramshackle way in my digital garden at ways to reclaim the stacks, and am currently trying to put a bit more structure around in Anytype.

This page last updated: 2023-08-06 Sun 14:00. Map. Recent changes. Source. Peer Production License.