1st hangout and online discussion: Open Knowledge community identity

Dynamics of identity formation in transnational activism - a growing Open Knowledge Community

How do Open Knowledge members (local groups etc.) around the globe identify with the OK community, do we have a shared sense of belonging and identity at all and what is it triggered by? And what does that imply for OK on its way to a global … movement, network, or other organizational construct?To shed light on those questions is the aim of our

Identity Community Call - March 5, 2015, 3.00-4.00PM UTC
Hangout link: https://plus.google.com/hangouts/_/gvqcsp4bwnlelciy7l6dwkghlia

We wish to explore if the OK community identifies itself differently in relation to each other (e.g. all us activist individuals among ourselves and also in relation to other activist groups / non OK ‘branded’) and in relation to OK Central. Those explorations are part of a broader interest in shifting dynamics of socio-political activism from the perspective of civic motivations to engage across national borders.The session will be directed by Kersti Wissenbach from Open Knowledge Netherlands and doctoral researcher on transnational activism, supported by Christian and Katelyn from Open Knowledge International.

It will be the kick-off of a series of community sessions focusing on the identity and community shaping of Open Knowledge as part of Kersti’s research on community building and identities in transnational activism.

It would be great if you can join the call but there are more ways for you to engage!

If for whatever reason you cannot join our identity call on March 5 it would be great if you could leave your thoughts on the following questions in the response section.
Let us know
How would you define Open Knowledge and why - are we a group, a community, a network, a movement, something else?How would you describe your role in it?

1 Like

It’s starting in less than three minutes. Come and join us.

Minutes final Community Hangout March 5 - Topic: Open Knowledge community identity

These are the hangout minutes, a combination of raw notes taken by Christian and Kersti:

Christian Villum, International Community Manager
Neal Bastek, Network Engagement Director
Kersti Ruth Wissenbach, OK NL ambassador, open development working group
Aaron Wolf, co-founder snowdrift.coop, free culture, open science/open source software organisation, member of OD-community
Naomi Lillie, Network Director
Svetlana Belkin, Open Science Working Group - started Planet Open Science
Mor Rubinstein, OK Israel
Alexandre Hannud Abdo, Open Knowledge Brazil, Open Science Brazil WG
Susanne Kendler, Communications Manager


  • Intro by Kersti WissenbachAmbassador Open Knowledge NL, Open
    Development movement + many other hats
  • External PhD researcher at University of Amsterdam, researching transnational activism
  • Transnational activism, using new information technology > new interactions emerge -
  • How does this shape our identity? Open approach to research, grounded theory, no pre-defined hypothesis when applying grounded theory researchers explore concepts that function as a
    starting point for the analysis > sensitizing concepts
  • Through initial, very open empiric research as well as consulting existing theory to a certain extend I will identify first key concepts to focus on
  • Starting point two more open hangouts on identity and inclusion - Kersti will work on more specific categorizations and dive deeper into the community structure etc.
    Next steps will derive from there
    Further methods will follow
  • Using Open Knowledge as case-study: Community has grown immensely over the last couple of years, presents interesting case
  • OK as case study > became interesting with rapid growth on a more dispersed scale and therefore new questions in terms of > handling such dispersed community online and offline> observing how growth and increasing diversity shapes and potentially challenges a community
    identity and inclusion >> derived from community session during OKFest last year

A forum has been made available
Idea to have discussions here, explore in depth > research >> guided by community evolvement and issues of concern etc. >> therefore forum > as open space to comment question, raise issues, etc. for everyone!
And where Kersti will feedback all research steps back to community
Minutes from hangouts will be put there
Feedback from research will be put there

Topic 1st hangout: Community identity evolved from discussion last year at OKFestival

Discussion: Community identity

Q: What is OK for you…?

  • Concerns over data-centric brand roll-out
  • Community was sort of overruled by decision
  • Knowledge now seems to take a lesser role than data
  • Identity-wise this plays a big role, and there are concrete concerns over that

Q: Overarching question that came from earlier discussions on lists about this: >> What are we? Are we a movement, community, a network?

‘If we define ourselves we restrict our power’

  • Comparison to Free Culture Foundation, talks about many of the same
    issues - less science, less tech, more culture

  • But Open Knowledge as organisation has been much more robust (in comparison) - gained more
    audience due to coordination and operations

  • Would like to see Open Knowledge (organisation and/or community?) continues to be the
    overarching organisation for everything open, very inclusive, very holistic Nature of knowledge
    as a broad concept (open, free, respect people …) as an identity
    issues sort of key issue is the broad scope of the community rather
    than being tech or data centric

  • So to certain level OK should be able to be all > network, movement, community and
    organisation >> holistic approach that tries to be not just an organisation and not just a movement OK network of networks, different network in all kind of communities and one big community.

  • also, thematic options, regional options, which makes it very complex
    layers and layers of identity, commitment and activities within the
    network we are doing a history, looking at how we can gain from one
    another without being siloed who gains from what? challenge but a
    good one!

  • Hard to make definition of open knowledge Structure of governance
    should be open to many definitions, loose networks, many topics

  • Defining ourselves restricts us

  • Open Knowledge is a network of networks, but also an overarching community (identity) -

  • makes it complicated to talk about a shared identity. Different layers of
    identity and involvement. Intense discussions last year about this,
    prompted by brand roll-out - is a sign of passion, commitment and
    engagement. > although intense it was a good sign

  • one chapter recently discussed definition and saw that they need one that enables
    to include a variety of characteristics! >> ‘If we define ourselves
    we restrict our power’

Wish expressed to try to describe what the shared interest of people is?Still sense of belonging to each other

Q: How do we relate to each other? What ties us together, what is the common denominator?
Thematic relation?Value based relation?

  • It’s okay for people to have different identities, different reasons
    to engage.
  • How do we interface? Hard to define, but would be useful.
    It seems we need several interfaces, very context specific. the
    variety of possibilities to connect with the community is what makes
    it interesting for people. But question how to interface with
    different things
  • We are a network that happens to have an organisation connected to it >> so an interface that helps people join the movement but not needed for the movement to have its own identity
  • There is clearly a shared set of values Are they?
    Discussions last year showed divergence!! very important that people
    interact with people outside of their bubbles (e.g. working groups)
    and this is possible due to the community structure but we have to
    foster it and remember that there are people working in different
  • whole data focus thing was a symptom of making sure to think
    about what other people’s views are.
  • Idea that it is a diverse community has to be clear / recognized
  • Open Knowledge website does no longer reflect the diversity, it now
    only circles around open data, appears very tech-centric everything
    looks like we are data driven, everything is about data > people who
    join the website today would never guess that there is anything not
    data driven
  • Lots of topics are no longer represented, i.e Public
    Domain Review, OpenGLAM New visitors will get a totally different
    impression than what, members in the call confirmed this. Tangible
    level vs. discursive level, for instance many of the events are
    centered about doing (often technical), but there is a lot of other
    activities (ie. OpenGLAM community)
  • Branding process did not invite community input, diversity should be communicated much more clearly.

Q: How do we (as community newcomers) make our way into the community?

  • Local Groups or more via the main/general materials
  • Hard to figure out how to get involved
  • Too much information on the main website and still
    information is also very scattered
  • Much information on site sometimes
    causing reluctance to suggestion new projects
  • encouraging people would
    help them to speak up…Handholding is important, and that is why the
    website is so important as a communicative tool
  • Looking at the site doesn’t make you want to join, whereas talking to someone often helps (ie. locally)
  • Many don’t have someone locally who can introduce them
    and show them around
  • Often topics are the gateway people use to become
    acquainted with the Open Knowledge community, ie. open government
    people invite other to join a specific group
  • There are many clicks from okfn.org to any of the working groups - and even further from the discussion lists (interaction windows are very hidden)
  • entrance point into community often online but difficult to figure out how to
    really connect with people > from online to offline main dynamic into
  • face to face contact to get to people is quite hidden in OK
    online architecture, which is not the case if you go to people
    directly…on the ground

For community managers would be interesting to know why it is difficult to join groups, what are the obstacles

how you get from local to global or the other way around is how you make it accessible…

Q: How are we mainly connected within the community?
R1: Entry point on global level and then eventually hearing about someone locally doing sth similar
R2: found OK via google search, didn’t know anyone from the community. network in own country not so strong but still moving. local group not an OK group but very active.
R3: on national level also other movements representing openness that are not necessarily related to OK but what is happening now is that OK Brazil is trying to make things more accessible

Q: From activist to OK or OK and then becoming activist?
goes both ways
not specifically OK project that he is working on but if it turned out to be a more formal OK thing could be great
Had already been involved with his stuff and then got involved with OK through reaching out to like minded people…Was finding ways to connect with like-minded people and show what people are doing in open science context, when coming across OK

Next steps

Follow-up session:
Community Inclusion
There will be a Hangout about this, details date will be announced on forum and mailinglists minutes will be shared in forum
stronger engagement activities for people to make use of forum
planned: extracting main questions from hangout minutes and post one every 2 weeks to stir discussion

Forum needs better email integration

Summary, next questions - identity hangout

On Wednesday, March 5 we gathered for the community hangout discussing the OK identity. This was the point of departure for a wider series of discussions and other methods of engagement dealing with Open Knowledge as fast and vast growing network of activists driven by potentially same values to engage with each other on such dispersed scale.

This first hangout took place with a small group of people joining but has yet been a great and insightful starting point with interesting thoughts on what we as OK might be. It also surfaced some potentially underlying triggers and issues which we can now explore further.

The raw minutes can be found in the identity hangout topic in the OK community section of the forum. It would be great to see many OK community members sign up to the OK community section and actively engage in the discussions and explorations of our identity as we move along!

Below you can find a summary of the hangout and the deriving issues to be further explored.

The main intention of the hangout was to shed some light on the self-perceptions of OK community members as part of the community as well as the community as a whole.

  • What are we?

‘If we define ourselves we restrict our power’

This was a great comment of one of our participants and something worthwhile exploring indeed. Open Knowledge is a complex construct of an organizational body as well as a broad network which again is a mesh of various thematically and geographically aligned affiliations. The existence of the organizational layer of OK was normatively perceived as an overarching, inclusive and holistic entity. However, recurring concerns regarding the rebranding do not give empirical support to same. In how far the normative connotation is and can be ensured requires further investigation, especially given the remaining queries of the rebranding and a continuously expressed consequent misperception of what OK’s core business actually is.

Concerning the identity of Open Knowledge as a whole, core emphasis was put on the broad scope of the community as a conglomerate of engaged people. Importance here seems not to lie with the actual thematic affiliation or tendencies of people but rather the potential complexity or richness of such multiple layers of identity and diversity of engagement forming various networks in diverse communities and at the same time potentially being one big community. As such the consideration arose that potentially OK should be able to be everything - a network, movement, community and organisation. This let to the expressed wish to explore and describe what the shared interest of people is and if, despite the diversity, there is a sense of belonging together.

But do we have clarity of the distinctions of those forms of engagement and is this really something to aspire? Is it even possible? And if it is, is it empowering or slowing us down? This would relate back to the opening statement indeed

  • Does defining ourselves restrict our power?

This leads to two main issues at stake

  • The challenge to define shared identity - is it possible and if, what
    is the common denominator?
  • The potential challenge to define actual characteristic of structure

    network, movement, etc.

In order to dive deeper into the issue of shared identity it will be a valuable exercise to explore further how we interface. We touched upon same question in the hangout, such as if it is the variety of options to engage that makes it interesting for people to belong and engage, but in such small group we were not able to get a strong enough idea. The question if the organization part of OK as one interface is needed or can be seen distinct from the communities identity formation arose. The importance to foster and communicate the diversity as an essential condition of the OK community was raised.

Whilst it may not be a barrier for people to have different identities and diverse interfaces it would be valuable to map out how we interface

  • which are the entry points of engagement
  • which are the drivers of engagement
  • which are the levels of engagement
  • which are the scopes of engagement

Lastly, although the hangout did not intend to discuss the brand identity of OK, the issue kept surfacing throughout the conversation. It seems that the changed brand identity is remaining a worrying issue for community members from different strands. It also seemed that OK members who joined our community after the rebranding do indeed have the idea that OK is a strongly data focused (consciously not saying driven) organisation.

>> It might be worth for OK central to explore such perceptions further to ensure the organisation is publicly perceived in all its diversity and therefore potential.

1 Like