Tech Solidarity NL — Amsterdam meetup #7

We once again meet at to continue work on the ideas explored in the previous meetup.

  1. Share resources
  2. “What’s my class?” idea
  3. Next actions
1. Sharing resources

We look at this infographic: ‘Hoe ongelijk is het geld in Nederland eigenlijk verdeeld?’. It shows the facts about wealth inequality in the Netherlands, but in a somewhat convoluted way. It also doesn’t tell a story so it is to be expected people viewing this will not be persuaded of a particular point of view.

We talk about a few resources some of us have collected.

  • Coops and commons to counteract the negative effects of freemarketization: Het Filosofisch Kwintet – Democratie en markt.
  • Critiques of Piketty’s measure of wealth. E.g. pensions not being included in his measure of wealth: Het Filosofisch Kwintet – Piketty.
  • A government project (Discipl by ICTU) which explores the potential use of emerging technologies for addressing social issues.
  • The need for a new story that appeals to a wide group of people. We keep hearing this being said again and again. For example, ‘No Is Not Enough’ mentioned in the previous meetup. This time it’s “Capture the imagination of a wide constituency of people willing to fight for policy change.”
2. “What’s my class?” idea

Next we discuss an idea that emerged in conversations on our chat system: a tool that informs people about inequality by making it personal. In the tool you would input some personal figures and then it shows where you are on the wealth/income spectrum.

The origin of this idea is the observation that most people think they’re somewhere in the middle of society’s wealth distribution when in fact they are somewhere in the bottom. From reading and conversations we’ve had the hypothesis has emerged that if we could give people insight into their actual position this might change their attitude and inspire action. E.g. ‘Ongelijk en onwetend’.

Let’s say we manage to build a thing that will enable people to accurately determine where they are on the ladder. Then what? We should use the energy produced by offering such insights towards a certain end.

We brainstorm some ideas. These include:

  • Suggest parties to vote for in the upcoming city council elections;
  • List policies that would counter economic inequality and offer a mechanism for sharing them with relevant policy makers;
  • Suggest forms of collective action people can engage in at the grassroots (this would require more thought, what options do people have right now, practically speaking?);
  • List groups that do good work in this space and offer ways for people to support them.

We talk some more about how things could work. We could play on the fact that most people overestimate where they are on the ladder. So they could be asked to guess where they are first, then enter some data, then see where they really are.

To make it more meaningful we could also show how their position has likely changed over time. And maybe do some projections into the future.

For people to really care though, we also need to talk about the social impact of inequality. We shouldn’t frame it as a personal, individual problem.

To be inspiring we should tell a story of what a society with less inequality would look like. This would play into the idea of self-interest properly understood. Even if you yourself are doing okay, reducing inequality will improve the lives of the community you are part of, which in turn should benefit you.

If we were to build this we should start by doing it as a ‘lean’ experiment.

Finally, we muse on the question of how to make the thing itself more democratic. It should be of use to everyone who enters data. So we should make the software open source and open up the data we collect. There should be a chat group or mailing list for anyone who uses it. And we should have community editable documentation.

3. Next actions

We wrap up with brainstorming what we should be doing next.

  • First and foremost, get more input from people on this idea;
  • To facilitate this, at some point we might want to make a presentation of some sort – a one-pager or a video of the current state of the idea;
  • Email the group about the idea and ask for their feedback – they should be able to just hit ‘reply’ on the email or respond through the chat;
  • It should be okay if people share the idea with others outside the group;
  • Next meetup we will workshop this idea, flesh it out further through sketches and stuff;
  • Then, the meetup after the next, we might delve into new subjects, such as making the design and technology industry in NL itself more social-democratic, or reclaiming the promise of the internet as great equalizer.

And with that, we end the meetup and leave, energised as always.