Part 3: Self-Curation, Ethical Censorship, and Personal Responsibility
“Love is all you need. Love = honesty. You can’t have honesty without unimpeded communication. The best way to improve love is to improve discourse.”– Matt Terwall, Treasurer of PRCPTION Travel, Inc.
PRCPTION Travel exists of a new world in which communication is legitimately open and free. This means that not only people will have the right to share their voice, but also have the right to shut out another’s voice from their own personal reality. We are designing software to allow refined discernment in what you want to allow into your media reality and what you’d prefer to leave out completely. But this discernment in opinion and perspective cannot be accomplished without first learning to fully observe a perspective before accepting or rejecting it, and handling our more tribalistic human reactions along the way.
With this new paradigm our species ushers in, we are obliged to learn personal and collective responsibility if we want to move forward.
Self-Curated Media Communities
PRCPTION Travel’s media network will eventually be an autonomous entity–or dozens of them–not simply a business in the traditional sense but rather a network of self-curated communities able to function cooperatively with a global reputation/verification system, yet remaining completely independent using shared open-source video networking software. Self-curated meaning that if a user chooses to remain inside a filter bubble, keeping comfortable from perspectives different to their own, they will be welcome to do so (just as they will be welcome to use the “rock my world” button :D)
Let’s get this out of the way: this project’s ethos is all about freedom of expression in how it relates to human community. Content involving coercion and content that explicitly violates the freedom of another being will not be tolerated by our organization’s network. But this is distinctly different from content that makes some uncomfortable.
As we develop a platform to offer methods of “digital communion” amongst regionally-disparate individuals, we will eventually expand to encourage the development of refined digital media communities that also encourage the discussion and exploration of their communicated topics & intentions. Our own community started as “smiling positivity media,” but that’s simply one very broad lens to an infinite number of topics. Refining further into specific communities allows us to find the niches that make us feel comfortable, as among friends & family–which, unlike the early days of the World Wide Web, is severely lacking in today’s troll-rampant internet.
True “Free Speech” in an Age of the Decentralized Web
Based on the nature of the decentralized Web 3.0, open source software we will use to develop new community media networks could one day be employed for “bad” purposes, such as hate speech, threats, content involving coercion, violence, or worse. This does not mean said content would be associated with our network, but this is an important to topic to discuss.
A large aspect of our project relates to a very specific cross-network reputation system since, technically, decentralized content can be almost impossible to delete once uploaded and shared. (Decentralized or distributed content does not exist in any one location, regardless of where the software comes from, so all nodes running the software would have to “delete” something in order for it to be gone… an almost impossible point, given that full transparency forever is a grand factor of many decentralized solutions).
While un-delete-able content could be great for the plights of things like journalism or controversial free speech, it is frightening for the horrific happenings with the more nasty side of the internet… yet once again, this opens up a door for solutions to be developed. That bad content is always going to exist in some form, somewhere. In our case, our reputation system and personal network filtering will be journeys into learning to counteract such material; however we believe the true challenge is learning to address the root causes of these behaviors in our society. Perhaps a viral campaign into our societal perceptions could be a portal into this (but that’s a topic for a later post).
“Ethical” Censorship via Self-Curation?
Based on our own premise, we cannot argue that any group of individuals who share common attitudes do not have the right to congregate and share. Such congregation and sharing can remain distinctly separate from those of us who wish to distance ourselves from such attitudes, or behavior, yet the right to use that open-source software to digitally commune as human beings would remain theirs. What happens after that, on government or neighborhood militia scales, transcends the notion of decentralized technologies and instead spans into the infinite experiment of social animals like us humans. Perhaps we may have no control over our desires, but we are forever responsible for our own behavior in this life.
Sticky territory in today’s social media brigading world, I would agree, but this is the nature of open source software and the intentions behind the “decentralized web.” To allow free software and free speech for all. Free expression. From there, it’s up to us as individuals and forward-thinking organizations to create solutions to the nonsense that may come crawling along that web.
And that all starts with taking responsibility. Not only at the personal level, but at the community level. Is it possible to “ethically censor” content as a community, instead of relying/expecting a centralized hierarchy to do so for us? If so, it starts with us.
“The Controversial Video and You”
Based on the context of all I’ve outlined up until now, let’s put our controversial user-submitted video under new light. Imagine you as a user had never been meant to see that video, because you prefer staying away from such content; but say it snuck in on you anyway. You could choose to be offended and immediately click away, thus zapping any potential to spare the next user with a similar mindset. But in the world we are making, you would be encouraged to instead rate the video accordingly using our metrics and rating system. (Meanwhile, others may choose to laugh and rate it accordingly. Others may see it as a super weird project and also rate it accordingly.)
Your rating would then contribute to a complex-but-customizable visualization of what this video reflects for different audiences. Thanks to your vote, the content is “pre-screened” in a way, so other users can be aware of what this content may mean to them and thus potentially opt out of seeing it–before it even reaches their screen, if their preferences dictate. And meanwhile, you would be rewarded for your time because you have contributed to the community.
It’s normal to be triggered, we’re humans. But we stand by the assertion that, at the end of the day, we’re responsible for our own behavior and no one else’s. If someone else is being offensive, or engaging in behavior we morally disagree with, if we can control our immediate reactions and instead observe something for what it is, we may actually be able to [in]directly support others by responding with love. This pretext is the deeper (perhaps more spiritual) purpose of PRCPTION Travel: accepting one another and inciting change by example, not by fighting.
In the case of this last video, it may have very well been the users’ intention to trigger and push as many buttons as possible. Perhaps they wanted to make it as offensive as possible, perhaps not. Perhaps it was indeed out-of-line, perhaps not; that’s up to each individual who watches it to decide.
But for me, and PRCPTION Travel, this scenario exemplifies what could be possible with a platform in which users accept each other’s free expression… an opportunity to discuss and explore together, people from different backgrounds with differing perspectives.
In Conclusion: An Apology.
Maybe now this makes sense why we posted that video. And certainly, none of this was clear because I’d never communicated as much and none of this verification/validation/reputation of users and content is available yet ;-P
As prefaced in the previous parts of this article, we have been working hard to initiate a social storytelling perception platform; you could say that, in my head, PRCPTION Travel has already made the transformation. As far as intentions go, what once began as a place for my travel videos of do-good people and organizations is now officially a platform for everyone to share their voice. That’s what PRCPTION Travel is to me, now: an experiment in the new way of collectively moderating ourselves. We all have our own unique ways of sharing our perceptions, now how do we learn to work together with Pandora’s Box opened? It’s too clear that hierarchical for-profit censorship has more negatives than positives.
With this as my introduction to you, our little intimate community watching the slow birth of this endeavor, please accept my sincere apologies for what, to me, has been a lack of communication on my part. I have spent so much time in the actual production of realizing our vision that I’ve forgotten to keep the rest of the world up to speed with where our collective head has been at.
Undoubtedly, any project ushering in a new paradigm of human interaction will wreak havoc in the present moment. It is perhaps a crucial moment in the evolution of any such project when moments like this must inevitably happen. I am grateful for the opportunity to have a community of people such as yourselves to offer our Board feedback from your personalized perspectives on the world.
I invite your questions, commentary and concerns! Much love, family.