Decentralized social media is a hot topic these days, also for us at Liberate Science. In an attempt to stimulate conversation around this and help us decide what to do with these developments, I hosted three livestreams back in February to dive into the topic.
These livestreams are a new format part of the Labs experiments, where we try out new things and see how they help us imagine next steps. We consider this a great way to engage on topics of ongoing interest - and are exploring how they may contribute to our virtual-first event policy.
In these first three livestreams on Mastodon and the wider Fediverse, we discussed potential implications of decentralized social media for research. In this blog post we collect the conversations (in case you missed them) and reflect on what actions we are taking as a result.
Zoe Wake Hyde (Hcommons.social)
Zoe is responsible for jumping in on Mastodon with both feet, resulting in the now popular Hcommons.social server (home to over 1500 people and 64,000 posts). Hear more in our unedited conversation about what running a server means, beyond just the technology.
Vincent Traag (Centre for Science and Technology Studies)
Vincent is a researcher with a keen interest in what role organizations can play in the shift towards decentralized social media. Should we start our own Mastodon servers as organizations? What roles do organizations play and what are the benefits? Vincent talks about the opportunities and the challenges in our unedited conversation. Note that the first few minutes of the conversation were not recorded due to a human error 😅
Hilda Bastian, freelance writer, scientist, and cartoonist, talks about a personal journey from Twitter to Mastodon. Hilda is known to me as incredibly nuanced, diving into the evidence-base of any claim (see her PLOS Blog Absolutely Maybe). What are some of the personal thoughts and experiences from a scientist in migrating from Twitter to Mastodon?
These conversations helped us better understand the ongoing developments and the need for decentralized social media. Mastodon, and the wider Fediverse, allow for a substantial culture change and the context is ripe because of the handling of Twitter. We already shut down our preprint bots because of this too.
The principles of the Fediverse are potentially ripe in other contexts as well, like in research. We are inspired and full of new ideas for how ResearchEquals might evolve into the future (we will percolate that during the rest of the year). What would it mean and require to make the ResearchEquals software easily deployable by anyone, and to allow these different servers to talk with one another? We will be thinking about this more deeply as we move forward - and maybe this will be a part of our 2024 strategy. We will closely monitor what Humanities Commons does on this front.
Concretely, we decided to do the following.
- We set up a Mastodon account for ResearchEquals and Liberate Science.
- We are shifting our entire social media strategy away from Twitter and will start signposting to our Mastodon accounts instead.
Since the acquisition of Twitter, the situation has gotten worse and worse. We no longer want to invest in something that is creeping away from our values quickly. The changes in the past five months have been substantial and consequential (our social media management tool no longer works for Twitter even!).
Finally: We remain undecided about setting up a ResearchEquals Mastodon server. We played with the idea a couple of times, but we do not know whether this is necessary right now. We think it is important to make spaces, yet we also need to be real that it takes resources. We will only commit if there’s a want - so make yourselves known if you’d love to join a ResearchEquals Mastodon server.