Category Archives: Cooperation and Collaboration

Triumph of the commons: a new role for attorneys in "sharing law"

The 21st century has wrought big change in the way communities constitute themselves. Digital technology has produced web sites and tools that enable people to transact business, form coalitions, find jobs, effect political change, connect with resources, and disseminate knowledge, news, and inventions, all from a cell phone or laptop.

The economic challenges of the last several years have also pushed people to rethink the nature of their commercial transactions, seeking new ways to do business and make economies flourish, while concerns about the environment have spurred the development of initiatives and technologies to recycle, share, and conserve resources.

Covering the story of this brave new world, where people strive together to work, run businesses, raise families, and improve neighborhoods is Shareable, a nonprofit online magazine dedicated to spreading the word about the triumph (not the tragedy) of the commons.

What place for lawyers in these creative economies? According to Shareable, in the “Birth of Sharing Law”, innovative, forward-thinking lawyers will be busy:

Contrary to what we see on lawyer TV shows, around half of lawyers primarily work as transactional lawyers, not courtroom litigators. Transactional lawyers advise on, negotiate, and structure the contracts that govern business deals, real estate transfers, loans, mergers, securities, insurance, and so on.

The evolving nature of our transactions has created the need for a new area of law practice. We are entering an age of innovative transactions, collaborative transactions, crowd transactions, micro-transactions, sharing transactions – transactions that the legal field hasn’t caught up with, like: Bartering. Sharing. Cooperatives. Buying clubs. Community currencies. Time banks. Microlending. Crowdsourcing. Crowdfunding. Open source. Community supported agriculture. Fair trade. Consensus decision-making. Cohousing. Intentional Communities. Community Gardens. Copyleft.

To read more about Shareable‘s vision for “community transactional law”, and the ways in which the role of lawyer, the meaning of “client”, and the focus of legal education may be altered, click here. The next new frontier in collaborative law may be about to open.

Playing around: game theory in popular culture

Game theory in popular cultureThere is something irresistible about game theory. A branch of mathematics devoted to understanding social interaction and decision making, it holds relevance – and fascination – for  students and practitioners of negotiation and dispute resolution. Economist Kenneth Boulding once described game theory as

…an intellectual X ray. It reveals the skeletal structure of those social systems where decisions interact, and it reveals, therefore, the essential structure of both conflict and collaboration.

I particularly enjoy examples of game theory drawn from ordinary daily life, and have collected its depictions in popular culture. Some favorites of mine include

More examples of game theory in popular culture can be found at, which offers interactive materials and games for game theory enthusiasts. There’s also a terrific collection of game theory video clips on YouTube (with thanks to the blog Grey Matters).

If you’d like to learn more about game theory from an expert who knows how to demystify it even for the mathematically challenged, get yourself a copy of Rock, Paper, Scissors: Game Theory in Everyday Life, by Len Fisher (who, incidentally, received the Ig Nobel Prize for his studies on the proper way to dunk a biscuit in a cup of tea). It’s an entertaining and highly informative read with plenty of real-life examples of game theory in action.

You be the judge: relying on users, Ameritocracy fact checks and analyzes public statements

Puncturing urban legends To help Americans separate fact from fiction in the media they consume, a new web site has launched, Ameritocracy, which describes itself as

a user-contributed and user-generated content site that allows people to judge the accuracy, credibility and relevancy of claims made by society’s leaders and information gatekeepers such as media and business.

The Ameritocracy community, made up of anyone who signs up for an account, submits and then rates quotes based on several scales, including accuracy, credibility, and relevance.

I’m personally not about to put my trust in the wisdom of crowds to help me assess the accuracy of the news stories or political claims presidential candidates make — not when at one time 70% of Americans believed that Saddam Hussein was linked to the attacks of 9/11 — and a disturbingly significant number continue to. I’ll trust to other sources for fact-checking, thank you very much.

Thanks to the always insightful Sanjana Hattotuwa at ICT for Peacebuilding for the link.

Social networking sites leverage strength in numbers

Connect to social networking sitesThe internet abounds with communal gathering spots — places where like-minded souls can get or dispense advice, make friends or business connections, debate ideas, or share photos and other media.

Mashable, a social networking news source, rounds up an impressive 350 social networking sites where users can tap into the wisdom of crowds.

With sites for book lovers, business owners, sports enthusiasts, oenophiles, or families looking for ways to stay in touch or get organized, there is practically something for everyone.

(Hat tip to Duct Tape Marketing for the link.)

"The Point": web site leverages the power of numbers to solve problems

The Point offers strength in numbersThey say that there’s strength in numbers. And that’s the premise of a new web site, The Point, which bills itself as “a social platform for people to solve problems they can’t solve alone.”

Visitors to the site can register and create campaigns to encourage others to join their cause. Videos on the landing page of the site demonstrate the kind of individuals who can launch campaigns to instigate change: the Frustrated Consumer, the Unappreciated Employee, the Loving Parent, and the Concerned Citizen — archetypes that any of us can identify with.

The values on which The Point are based are straightforward:

The Point changes the way we participate in activities, removing the primary cause of inaction – not knowing if we will make a difference. The Point is a natural adaptation of collective action to the Web, and the most effective model for channeling frustration into coordinated, decisive action…

People want a way to make a difference, but many problems are so large that we feel powerless to solve them. People are not apathetic – most of us will help if we feel like we can make a difference.

By bringing people together in numbers sufficient to create change, The Point aims to “to empower people with an easy way to make the world the one they want.”

For those who say you can’t fight city hall, The Point may offer some hope.

(Hat tip to Bill Warters.)

Antisocial networking sites link you to your enemies

Tag your enemies at antisocial networking sitesAs an antidote to the superficiality of social networking sites, a new trend has emerged: the rise of antisocial utilities that lets users connect to the people they can’t stand. Based on the premise that “you keep your friends close but your enemies closer”, sites like Enemybook and Snubster allow users to name their nemeses and list their offenses.

You can read more about it in this article from today’s Boston Globe, “New apps put the hate in online networking.”

Dropping Knowledge: Global initiative brings the whole world to the table for conversation

dropping knowledge is a large-scale public conversation projectOne of the best of the new conflict resolution blogs that have emerged this year is ICT for Peacebuilding, a blog based in Sri Lanka “exploring the use of technology for conflict transformation”.

Dispute resolution professionals eager to gain a glimpse into the future of the conflict resolution movement will want to follow this cutting-edge blog, particularly those seeking a global perspective.

Its author, Sanjana Hattotuwa, shares with his readers news of an extraordinary project: dropping knowledge, an international initiative for social change using the medium of the web to bring people around the globe together for what may be the world’s largest public conversation about important issues. From the dropping knowledge overview:

dropping knowledge is a global initiative to turn apathy into activity. By hosting an open conversation on the most pressing issues of our times, we will foster a worldwide exchange of viewpoints, ideas and people-powered solutions. However knowledge is defined, by dropping it freely to others, we all gain wisdom…

dropping knowledge is a way of asking and answering questions that respects other viewpoints and leads to a meaningful exchange. When you ask in order to understand, when you answer in order to share, you are already practicing dropping knowledge.

The dropping knowledge project includes a Table of Free Voices scheduled on September 9, 2006, in Berlin, for what will be a gathering of “scientists, social entrepreneurs, philosophers, writers, artists and activists from around the world…, renowned for their lasting creative, social or humanistic contribution” who will respond to 100 questions from the global public.

You can post your own question for these experts to answer or find other ways to support this large-scale public conversation project by visiting the dropping knowledge web site.

Million Artists to create world's largest collaborative abstract work

Million Artists web site an experiment in collaborative artFans of James Surowiecki’s The Wisdom of Crowds, a book that celebrates the problem-solving and creative powers of groups, will want to visit Million Artists, a fundraising project which invites donors to play a role in creating the world’s largest collaborative abstract art work.

Visitors to the site can choose a color, make a donation to the medical charity of their choice (either Médecins Sans Frontières or SickKids Foundation), and then place their pixel on a digital canvas.

Although it is far more likely that the end result will be more Jackson Pollock than Whistler’s Mother, so far the project has attracted 161 donors and thousands of curious visitors. (For some online fun, visit this web site that allows you to create your very own digital Jackson Pollock by moving and clicking your mouse.)

To view (or to support) this work in progress, visit the Million Artists home page. To donate, you can click here.

(Via Collision Detection.)

Since Sliced Bread: Web site taps into collective wisdom in search of ideas for economic growth and job creation

Since Sliced Bread taps into collective wisdom in search of ideas for economic growth and job creationWhen it comes to solving problems, the internet can be a sure-fire (and inexpensive) way to reach out and access the collective wisdom of the web-surfing multitudes. Since Sliced Bread is one such experiment in tapping into the wisdom of crowds. It describes itself as “a national call for fresh, common sense ideas. A call for ideas that will strengthen our economy and improve the day-to-day lives of working men and women and their families.”

To commemorate Earth Day, which is celebrated tomorrow, Since Sliced Bread is seeking help finding and tagging ideas to conserve energy and promote the environment.

(By the way, in honor of Earth Day, take this quiz to determine your ecological footprint, courtesy of the Earth Day Network web site. And maybe you want to think about trading in that Hummer while you’re at it.)

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Web site offers anonymity and privacy for resolution of workplace disputes Earlier I had reported on, a web site allowing employees to post anonymous ratings and comments about the companies they work for.

But another web site, Anonymous Employee, has taken this concept many leagues further by offering employees a confidential online dispute resolution mechanism for raising and addressing workplace concerns. As the web site explains: provides employees with the opportunity to express anonymous problems and concerns in the workplace. Employees can inform their employer of the issues they face in the workplace, without needing to reveal their identity. As an employee, you can recommend solutions to problems so that your employer can better understand your needs…The entire process can take place within the privacy of your own home, library, or friend’s house…

If your issue is serious enough, we can contact your company on your behalf so that they are doubly aware of the problem. If your issue has escalated beyond the point where communication can solve the problem, then Anonymous Employee also offers you the ability to request assistance such as professional mediation or legal advice. Issues such as corporate fraud, harassment, workplace bullying, pay inequities, unjust termination, workplace safety and more should be resolved in a positive, constructive setting where you can speak out without jeopardizing your job.

Thanks to Colin Rule and the Center for Information Technology and Dispute Resolution for reporting on Anonymous Employee in CITDR’s ODR News Blog.