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FOSS Academic

FOSS Finds, Scuttlebutt Edition

This time in FOSS Finds, we’ve got an academic paper on Scuttlebutt, an open source social networking protocol enabling an alternative social media system.

Hermie, the Scuttlebutt mascot

Mannell, Kate, and Eden T. Smith. 2022. “Alternative Social Media and the Complexities of a More Participatory Culture: A View From Scuttlebutt.” Social Media + Society 8 (3): 20563051221122450.

This is an open access academic article discussing Scuttlebutt, a social networking protocol that enables decentralized (and offline!) social media. The authors draw on three years of participant observation on Scuttlebutt: they use it, participate in its governance, and interview some of its users. Their main finding builds on what I’ve found in some of my work – that FOSS-based alternative social media may well offer greater participation than their corporate counterparts. After all, are you invited to discuss Facebook policy with Zuckerberg? Or weigh in on how algorithms sort what you see on Twitter? In contrast, FOSS ASM allow members to not only do social things, but also participate in governance and coding. Mannell and Smith find that Scuttlebutt takes these processes further, actively recruiting people to be in governance positions and recognizing non-coding work (like making user interface design decisions) through monetary contributions. Mannell and Smith use their insights to broaden the now-classic concept of “participatory culture” which was a very popular idea in the early aughts but was put by the wayside as the relatively open Web gave way to closed off, corporate-dominated social media.

This is a must-read for my Goal 2 project of writing a book about ethical alternative social media!

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