Carlo von Lynx is a member of the Berlin chapter of the German Pirate Party and of the Italian Pirate Party. A Pirate since 2009 (the year in which the German Pirate Party saw its membership spike from 1,000 to 11,000 members) Carlo remains a staunch supporter of Liquid Democracy and of its first working implementation, the software LiquidFeedback (LQFB). In this extended interview, which was held in Berlin in several rounds on June 7-9, 2017, Carlo gave me further insights on the inner workings of LQFB and on the political processes that the platform set in motion both in Berlin and at a national level.
In the first part of the interview, we focus on the software usability. In particular, von Lynx notes how, far from being an objective property of the UI design, usability can be facilitated by the particular motivations that users may have in using the software. Simply put, if users know that the stakes are high (i.e. the decisions are binding) they will be encouraged to learn the inner workings of the software even if they have relatively low digital skills. This suggests that a software affordance is never just an objective property of the software, but a third space (I call it a zone of indetermination) emerging at the intersection of the user subjective capacities and the material properties of technical systems.
A second point that striked me is Carlo’s insight on how LQFB could be to allow those who want to amend a proposal to compete on an equal foot with the initiator of the proposal. Borrowing from the free and open source (FOSS) development process he calls this idea of having alternative proposals to compete side by side, a fork. Interestingly, I have used this same term in a theoretical article on technopopulism where I argue that LQFB sets in motion an agonistic politics of forking, by which I mean that the risk that your proposal may be slightly amended and duplicated forces initiators to retain a cooperative attitude towards potential and actual supporters–something that is typical of the FOSS development process–so as to attract resources (and brainpower) in order to compete with alternative initiatives on the same topic.
This means that these platforms do not only shape participation processes, but they also enable the emergence of distinctive technopolitical cultures, which appear to be translations of preexisting sociotechnical cultures such as the one of the FOSS development world. Continue reading “Learning how to use a parliament: Interview with Carlo von Lynx (part I)”