Monday, September 11, 2017

What Mastodon needs (and then some)

Mastodon participation requires non-trivial levels of literacy.

I need you to look at this statement. It is not a condemnation, it is not an accusation; it is merely a statement of fact. An important statement.

If we look closely at the statement, we see that it includes five components, which can be parsed thusly:
non-trivial levels [of]

Depending on which part we choose to emphasize, the statement will take on different implications. I suspect that the most immediate reading is to emphasize the "non-trivial levels", and hurry to the conclusion that we need to take action to lower these barriers to participation. While this is by no means a wrong conclusion - removing barriers to participation is seldom wrong - it is not the only conclusion.

Let's look at the statement as a whole. What does it mean that that Mastodon requires non-trivial levels of literacy?

It means that you have to be able to read, and be able to read well, in order to get things done. Not only do you need to be able to look at words and know what they mean - you have to be able to look at who is saying them, when and why, and from all this contextual information piece together what is going on. Above all this, you have to navigate the situation - both as it stands at any particular moment, and in a more general overarching sense - in order to figure out how to appropriately respond to what's going on.

Not to put a fine point on it: this is a non-trivial amount of literacy.

Depending on where we place our emphasis, we end up with different questions and different calls to action. What does it mean for Mastodon to require something? What even is Mastodon, and who gets to define it? What does participation mean, and how do we organize it? Does literacy include the capacity to code?

This post is not meant to answer any questions, or even to pose them in anything resembling a comprehensive fashion. Rather, it serves as something to anchor your thoughts on as the Mastodon project toots forward. And as a reminder that:

Mastodon participation requires non-trivial levels of literacy.

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