Money, society and gaps – an introvert’s view: or reflections from the Edge of LOTE4

Hey everyone, I finally got this post together discussing some of my thoughts after LOTE4 and some other discussions and experiences. I really enjoyed LOTE4 and meeting everyone. It’s a repost from my blog.

I did a lot of being in large groups last year - in groups within which the members share the belief - and I think we are right here - that communities are the way we will move the world forward.

CC-BY Sam Muirhead
CC-BY Sam Muirhead - That's me looking a bit awks in the hat on the right

Partly, my heart sinks at this. I’m an introvert - most of the time and particularly when I am tired. The idea of spending a weekend with a large group of people, couchsurfing and socialising and working together - I enjoy it and I know it will exhaust me at the same time, so that half way through I know I’m going to find it hard to function at my best. As such, I was amused to come across this BuzzFeed “Problems only Introverts will Understand” while still at LOTE4: The Stewardship.

LOTE4 was held at the unMonastery in Matera, and was really awesome. The people I met were excellent, friendly and welcoming, and I was more comfortable there than I normally am at intense gatherings, which is a testament to everyone’s openness and the thoughtfulness that had gone into facilitating the event.

Wondrous variety

The experience helped me understand better how I function and prompted some thoughts about group dynamics. First, it’s difficult to get space when you don’t have a bolt hole. While at LOTE4 I would go into the toilet and as I closed and locked the door, relief flooded me as I got some solace. It reminded me of our motivations behind the design exercise that led to the 'Scape coat. One thing that might help is having a one-person room …or 'scape box… that can be occupied with a sign on the outside if the person within would like a little time to get back into themselves.

The second is that meetings like this are hard to access for people like me who can who struggle to communicate in a group. I am better on a one-on-one basis, at exploring through conversation than proclaiming to a group, which requires delivery of a consolidated point succinctly and confidently. It’s just not how I usually talk, which is usually “an exploration with” rather than “talking to” others. In a group situation, I find it useful to have time to go away and think about things, form consolidated ideas and then chime in. I think there is something gained in everyone doing this too - one comes to different conclusions and has different ideas after having space to reflect.

There isn’t usually space for slow thought processes in a conference, or an unConference - there’s always too much going on, no time for reflection or repetition. In practical terms, it costs more money (oh that again) to have gaps. But gaps are important. It’d be nice to organise something along these lines where we engineer in gaps for quiet reflection and then return to a topic - not just for people like me, for everyone.

The strain of society

There are a few other things that strike me about this situation of having to get together with people. One is rather tangential and follows a fascinating discussion I recently had with artist Giles Lane about a trip he made to Papua New Ginuea to work on story collection with locals there. He told me that the social interaction was so intense it took a long time to decompress afterwards, that it changed how he viewed our everyday activities back home because it showed the complexities of emotional and pragmatic interactions when all aspects your everyday life depends heavily on others with whom you have an unformalised, emotional relationship. For myself I found my understanding of our social interactions was most changed after a trip to Cuba - but for me I saw social interactions being used as a means to press for exchange of things of value.

Getting back to the intensity - it’s something from which we have sanitised ourselves in the main in the global west mostly through the medium of money. This is a two-edged sword - it facilitates many things, obviously, and it also removes a lot of tricky obligations that might restrict your ability to look out for your own interests. Living without money requires some degree of moving back to these obligations. Money is a formalisation of trust (something I really only saw clearly after speaking to financial hacking genius Brett Scott). Because there are many things for which we cannot directly barter, without money we need much stronger personal ties to foster enough trust for exchange. Or we need to develop a Zen-like universal trust that removes us from our own worldly wants enough for us not to care about getting something back for our efforts, our own needs, or being taken advantage of.

Troublesome trust and the issue of not giving back

There is a lesson to be learned by extrapolating into experiments in communalism. It has surfaced both in practice for me in doocracies and horizontal sociocratic organisations, and which came up in the discussions of hacking care which we had at LOTE4. It’s around the question of how systems based on these principles deal with people who simply can’t give back. Whether it’s someone in a coma, or with a debilitating disease, or someone who is chronically unwell and thus will never be able to give back as much as they take - in a doocracy, or in a sociocracy, your value is in what you contribute. In some senses in fact that is commodifying someone by their actions. In such cases, I can only think that care will come about from loved ones only - and in this case we are at risk of falling into a trap of going backwards in terms of social care. These problems do arise quite a lot from trust - because most of us would care for someone in need, at least in the short term, if we genuinely believed in their need. But there’s a need for trust so that you don’t feel taken advantage of. The consequences of this is something that people with unseen disabilities often lament, being unable to visibly prove that they are experiencing hardship. A complete inability to give back may be an extreme case, but exploring how we might react to it would I think inform the philosophy behind making doocracies and non-hierarchical organisations more accessible.

Perhaps we in society now need a new strategy for dealing with fostering this kind of trust -something that I think is closely related to this intensity of living. How do we build trust while maintaining some distance - or do we do away with this distance altogether?


Different outlooks

Thanks for this thoughtful post, @iamkat. Quite a lot to chew here. For now, I will limit myself to remarking just one point. This: in my experience, everybody has something to contribute back – except perhaps the most extreme cases, but luckily those are not in my experience. A lot of important or pleasurable stuff does not get done because no one will pick it up; a lot of that stuff does not require rare skills either. At LOTE4, helping in the kitchen, cleaning the toilets or documenting the sessions was as important as holding the sessions  themselves; and equally acknowledged by grateful attendees, or at least this was my impression.

I don’t wish to sweep stuff under the rug, but my instinct is to start by making sure people accept that contributions of any kind, requiring any kind of skill, are needed; and that they all will be equally welcomed and acknowledged. That done, we might find that there is enough slack to carry the people who absolutely cannot contribute anything at all.


Thanks Kat, I believe many here, including myself, have felt their introvert side kicking in many events we’re attending… I remember being a student and dreading “scientific conferences” if only for the intimidating name they had.

Come to think of it there was little to no space at unMon this year to relax in peace… blame it on the weather? Truth is, no one had proposed one. From this respect lote3 was richer, @Dorotea had suggested a dojo corner for people to do just that, live decompressing, and someone else held yoga lessons every morning.

As for building trust…who says you need to tick a box immediately when being part of a doocracy?  Some things can be ameliorated by design - an explicit expectation management primer, as Alberto is saying, or maybe let time work its magic - that is, if we are talking real communities not just an online reputation based automated system. In Edgeryders if you look at the graph (unlock the red lock icon and un-check moderators), most of the relative central members (members talking to the highest number of people, and also heavy contributors) have been around for a long time and met others face to face in projects or events. They’re not just making an appearance, they developed reputation over time and in real settings. I think taking time of your life to go meet other people, put yourself in awkward situation before even considering what you have to offer is a contribution, and a valuable one. About those who have also been around for years, and the behavior towards the network stays the same: we shouldn’t do away with distance I think, but there may be other reasons for what makes people contribute more or less, or defect, without anyone bearing any responsibility. Hm, don’t exactly know, but thanks for raising your questions… you got me thinking.

As long as one doesn’t shut the doors, I think we will be able to explore this more in the future…

At the London Hackspace, one of the ways we try to accommodate introverts and extroverts in the same physical space, is we set up one room as “The Quiet Room”.

It’s used as a space where people can get on with what they’re doing without being disturbed. If you’re choosing to be in the main area, it’s implicit that you don’t mind being disturbed by the fact that you’re choosing to work there. When you’re choosing to work in the Quiet Room, it’s implicit that you do not want to be disturbed and people will only interact with you when you’re outside the quiet room.

It also means when you’ve got coursework to finish for a deadline, or just want some space to yourself, then you can get on with things.

It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a hack to work around different people’s mental patterns, and the limitations of sharing a limited amount of space.

Possibly for future Unmonastery’s, this sort of space could be set up.

The different approaches to consolidating your idea’s are also worth considering.

I’ve found that when i’m working on creative-problem-solving, my deep mind is chewing over the problems more effectively than my concious mind.

I’ll work until i hit a block where i can’t get any farther, then go and have a nap, drifting off thinking about the problem, and find that i’ll wake up dreaming of a workable solution.

It’s not a method that lends itself to an office environment or a public space, but i don’t necessarily get my most effective results in that sort of space.

Allowing yourself time to let things simmer is important, whether you’re cooking a meal, designing software, or writing a tune.

As a concrete example, i read this last night, but i had to wait till this morning to be able to give a coherent reply… :))

Private Space

Kat, I perfectly understand your being overwhelmed with the amount of people and talk and things going on at LOTE 4. One of my most valuable experiences was me telling you about my thoughts considering un Monastery, you just listening and thus giving me the feeling that it was not all nonsense. This may be a contribution introverts can give, more than extroverts who tend to pop into a conversation with their own ideas too fast!

My “escape” was one and a half hour cleaning the kitchen on my own while everyone else was attending sessions. Doing something with my hands and let my thoughts drift for me is the perfect way to clear my mind and tidy up my personality so that afterwards I can be open to others again. As @Billy Smith suggests, having a nap or going for a walk can do the same thing for you.

Contribution and trust

When we put an end to using money to value things other people do for us, we need to stop thinking that assistance has to be mutual as: You do sth. for me, I do sth. for you. Often at the moment I need help, I’m not in the state to give an equivalent back. In my experience, giving and receiving is running in circles. To know this keeps me from worrying about being taken advantage of too much. A person who requests assistance from me and is not able to do me a favour in return can do something valuable for someone else I even don’t know and on the other hand I might need help from someone who has no need for the things I can contribute. I learned to accept this as a fact and not to feel guilty about it anymore.

Talking about care: There are people who simply like to nurse others. Maybe they love humans. No need to rely on your relatives and friends to care for you when you’re old or ill. The sad thing in nowadays society is that it is all mixed with the money question. The only proper solution I can think of is  Unconditional Basic Income. (Why is this not discussed on EdgeRyders more intensely??)

Even a severely multi disabled person can give something back to those who care for them, if only the feeling to do sth. of value with their lives.


All human transactions are floating on a sea of altruism.

Anecdotally, and both have loads of people signing up to do altruistic giving, but are having a hard time finding enough recipients. So that’s the opposite of what’s you might expect, except that if you think about LOTE etc, there are lot of unconditional contributors all over the place.

“Perhaps we in society now need a new strategy for dealing with fostering this kind of trust -something that I think is closely related to this intensity of living.” – Amen to that.

Unconditional giving is stable in the short term or perhaps for longer for some people but in many cases I’m guessing it requires some recognition. If it’s not money, it might be respect or some other quid pro quo.

On the flip side of that, many people we meet are contributors because they’ve self-selected to come to whatever event we are at. But for these types of projects to affect many lives they have to work for lots of people, beyond on those with a high propensity for altruism. Whenever I’m at community oriented events everyone expresses this massive desire to get to know their neighbours. Why doesn’t it happen? Because most people don’t want to know their neighbours, but I don’t hear that because they don’t come to the community event. Those people might still want some lower-level engagement - to act together to have to speed limit on the road changed, or to meet the one other neighbour on the block who they would like to speak to. They are the section that interest me.

Time banks too

Anecdotally, most time banks report similar problems. People offer time, but they do not demand it as much.


So much to think about…

‘Getting back to the intensity - it’s something from which we have sanitised ourselves in the main in the global west mostly through the medium of money’ – this for me gets at something really important. The more you are bound into some kind of communal web of trust then you might have got away from the avarice of money, but on the other hand you’ve lost some kind of freedom, your actions all have to be directed to servicing your relationship to the group.

Money is a massive tool for liberalising your actions, even if you only have a bit of it, because it takes those duties away from you. There is a upside to individualism in terms of your personal freedom.

Money and bureaucracy

Yes, @jimmytidey. The very same point is convincingly made by David Graeber in his new book (called The Utopia of Rules), and extended to bureaucracy. The butcher does not need to know what your credit history is, as long as you show him cash; and the librarian will give you access without too many inquiries into your reputation and reputation, as long as you show her your state-issued photo ID. De-personalization will make you free, whatever else it does to you.

More Graeber

Not more… I’m only half way through the 500 pages of Debt.

Gus O’Donnell has made a similar point about the blind, mechanical nature of bureaucracy – when bureaucracy becomes flexible and sensitive to context that’s how discrimination occurs.

Its ( for me ) not only about “Quiet” …

I tend to be Ambiverted, or an Introvert that knows how to be social at specific times.

I realize that for me it all depends on the other person, on their state of mind, their energy, their inner intentional and emotional space, etc

I’ll feel straight away if being near a person, let alone interacting with this person , directly or indirectly, exhausts me or not.

It is often easier for me to be in a larger framework with even more people so that I can freely move around to find and/or interact with people I feel there is the space for me to interact with, or enough people for me not to ( need to ) interact with anyone , do whathever feels good at that point in time, moving wherever it feels good to be.  Like in Open Space Technology “Law of Two Feet” ( )

A lot can be shared or expressed contextually, beyond words.

I like cultures where introverts are accepted and understood.

I like being in Finland.

Unfortunately I will not be there, but here is an umpcoming gathering in Helsinki :

I do not know if introverts will feel comfortable there, but certainly it would be interesting to bring up the subject at such kind of convergence, for future shared living ( temporary ) space creation ?

Navigating in between

Agree with Dante, there’s something to be gained by exposing yourself to diverse environments… the question is how do we navigate them skilfully without the pressure to “speak up” or “contribute” as measures of how fitted we are to a group. I find it becomes easier with time and the familiarity of finding one’s tribe.It’s almost like friendships, they don’t immediately grow on you.