The Law Of Mobility

Posted on 2021-12-13

Open Space Technology is a means for organizing meetings, discussions, seminars, and the like. As opposed to other methods which depend on lots of pre-planning, Open Spaces ask the participants to create the agenda and the ways of carrying it out. The idea is to recognize that those who are most interested in a particular topic are also most likely to want to foster discussion of it.

This post isn't really about Open Space Technology, but about one of its central tenets. It was once called the Law Of Two Feet, as in the two feet you should use to move about, but since that's discriminatory to those who don't have feet or can't use them, it's now usually called the Law Of Mobility, and it goes something like:

"If you find yourself in a situation where you are neither learning nor contributing, go someplace else."

The intent here is to convey the agency that each participant has over their own participation. If you are enjoying the conversation, contributing to it, and/or learning from it, that's a good place for you to be, and you should stay. If you are not, then it's time to go and find something else that is more fulfilling.

I feel like the Law Of Mobility is applicable to, and should be applied in, much more situations than just Open Spaces. Really, it applies to any kind of community in which you have the choice to participate. If it's fulfilling to you to participate in said community, that's the place for you to be. If it's unfulfilling, then it's probably best that you leave.

This becomes especially true if the community has some code or rules that make you uncomfortable. If you cannot be fulfilled in a community while following its code of conduct, then it's not the right place for you. It is instead the right place for people who can abide by that code and reach fulfillment through being active there. No community is right for absolutely everyone. No community that is wrong for you should make an attempt to accommodate you, nor should you change to fit in there.

I bring this up in the context of the various public access systems that I've been active in this year. Most of them have codes of conduct. Most of them are somewhat similar; they are variations on a central theme of "don't be an asshole", with the differences basically coming down to an enumeration of the ways one could be an asshole in contradiction of the code, and how such assholedness would be dealt with. The point, though, is this: these are all free systems, operated by people (usually at their own expense) who have a certain outcome they hope to achieve by operating them. They are using the Law Of Mobility to contribute to something they find enjoyable or useful. They are writing the codes of conduct to ensure it stays that way. But at no point are they requiring you to follow a code of conduct you disagree with, when you have the option under the Law Of Mobility to go elsewhere.

The moral of the story is this: if you disagree with the way something is run, use the Law Of Mobility to find something else. Create it yourself, if you need to. Leave the thing that is wrong for you to the people for whom it is right. Let them seek fulfillment there as you seek fulfillment elsewhere. Simple, right?

And you need not feel remorse, anger, sadness, or obligation towards a community that is not right for you. Consider it an experiment that didn't yield the desired results. Remember, there is no such thing as a failed experiment, as long as it yields data; even if that data is "Don't do that again."

Find the things that work for you. Shun the things that don't. That's the way to happiness, really.

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Copyright 2021 Mark Cornick. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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