I run an online community called Barbelith. Or to put that another way, I maintain the software and the community – for the most part – runs itself. This community doesn’t have an over-arching mission or subject that everyone talks about – although there are sections on philosophy, science, mysticism, politics, literature (and many more). But the attitude and approach is the most important thing about the board – it endeavours (and in places succeeds) in being a place where you can have some of the highest quality discussions online with people who are prepared to engage and interrogate without being insulting. Members of the board tend towards the left or towards libertarianism, tend towards atheism or mysticism and are a real mix of creative individuals – from university lecturers, psychologists, artists, screen-writers, novelists… I think it gets its value from having such a lot of different perspectives able to work and engage with each other – and I like the fact that the various forums within it have incredibly distinct atmospheres while still allowing people to cross-polonate and move between its various areas. That’s not to say it’s perfect, by any means. Not every conversation goes brilliantly and not every thread is as engaging and thorough. But when it’s good, it’s really really good.
One area of the board that I really think could do with more rigor and more enthusiasm is around the area of science and technology. The culture is a little too heavily weighted towards philosophers, social scientists and humanities graduates at the moment, and I think it could really benefit from having other perspectives and knowledge of the kinds of innovations and developments that you can read about in publications like New Scientist or on Slashdot or Boing Boing, Pasta and Vinegar or We Make Money Not Art.
So I’m putting out a call for renaissance geeks, scientists, webloggers and technologists with a wide range of interests to come and join our little community. I’m looking for a group of twenty or thirty people who could really take hold of the Laboratory forum and push it in exciting areas – and who think they could use the extraordinary enthusiasm and multiplicity of perspectives from the rest of the board as personal inspiration.
The board’s membership at the moment is highly limited and pretty much invitation-only, so if you’re interested in joining then let me know by e-mail – my address as ever is tom@ and then plasticbag.org. If you could put in a few lines about the work you do and about your interest in science and technology that will make everything easier (and I’m afraid I really need people to have work or university or personal domain-name-based e-mail addresses – no gmail or hotmail ones will work). And as soon as I’ve got a decent number of people, I’ll send out an invitiation to all of you at once.
If you are not a technologist or scientist and still want to join then don’t despair. There is another approach to getting on the board at the moment as outlined in this thread: The practical facts about our new system for membership ‘by invitation only’. I’m particularly keen to see people interested in art, design and fashion join up along with young film-makers and – as ever – political activists / indymedia types. But my personal preferences aren’t going to stop you joining. That stuff’s up to the rest of em.