Week 1: forks in the road; constraints; complications.

Publish Date: 
Wed, 03/14/2012 - 22:34

[Summary: in the first week (plus) of the project I have done some conceptual work and clarified connections to existing research on constraint satisfaction problems. I've distilled several important issues to consider in parallel with the constraint satisfaction approach.]

My first-week report for March, a bit late.

I've made a series of steps that I've written up on the research wiki and/or here on the lab notebook blog. Here I'll mostly just list those, and sum up a little.

As promised, I wrote up my thinking about the difference between focusing on a proposal and focusing on a problem:

"Issue vs. proposals", http://leeworden.net/lw/node/115.

Writing it up helped me understand how these two orientations are reflected in the literature on consensus process, and raised at least one new question about a possible reframing of the deliberation strategy as one of narrowing down from generalities to specifics.

To help me take stock of the various possible ways forward that I've noticed along the way, I went over my notes to date and collected all the "things that are left out of the models" in one place:

"Forks in the road", http://leeworden.net/lw/node/118.

Given that list, I've clustered them roughly into two piles, corresponding to two lines of inquiry: philosophical/empirical questions about important aspects of deliberation that aren't acknowledged by the simple model framework I've spelled out; and making sense of the simple model framework and laying groundwork to make sense of whatever complications to it may arise. The simple model framework fits into the field of distributed constraint satisfaction problems, so I plan to look into that literature. The complications I'm looking at right now are about people changing their preferences during the deliberation process; interactions of oppressive institutions such as racism and misogyny with the deliberation process; and the general subject of strategy, in which individuals' interests come into conflict with the common project of finding a satisfactory proposal.

Now I'll be pursuing both branches in the road to some extent. I've already done some good reading about constraint satisfaction problems, particularly Boolean satisfaction, a classic problem in computer science, which I hope to write up soon. I intend to pursue the complications via both literature searching and conversations with people I know, possibly including you.

This past Sunday I had the honor of presenting this project to the Occupy Oakland Research Working Group, a very impressive and productive group of scholars who have been doing surveys, public records searches and investigative work relating to Oakland's finances, police abuses, foreclosures, real estate ownerships, public officials' involvement in the Port of Oakland, and other knowledge relevant to Occupiers. My project is somewhat different, though it clearly has a relation to the goals of the Occupy movement. The conversation was good, productive, and mutually supportive. Here are my notes:

This Thursday I'll be giving a lightning talk at Noisebridge in San Francisco, at the opening of this weekend's horizontal organizing event, as I mentioned last week: http://5mof.net/

More to come!

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