Field Recordings: facilitation as a practice in hearing
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April 11th, 2022

This is Body Language: a weekly web3 serial about human-scale interoperability, and the existential tensions that flow from this pursuit. Subscribe.

New Mental Models

We need to reimagine our mental models for working within decentralized teams. This looks like shifting our orientation to our work from one of team management over to team facilitation. The primary function of facilitation is to remove obstacles, to get out of people’s way so that the people in the room can have the conversation that only they can have at that moment in time.* This requires listening.

When I talk about listening I’m talking about the kind of listening you do in an Adirondack pasture at 5 am in June.

At 5 am in an Adirondack pasture in June the immediate world is only just awakening...or so you think. The story you have is that you’re alone in a field. But when you listen - like really listen - you recognize there is an entire symphony beneath the silence: the shuffle of dewy grass under your boots, the white throated sparrows singing, “Oh sweet Canada,” the flutter of their wings as they fly from the fencepost.

If listening is the ability to answer the question What did this person say?, hearing is the ability to answer the question What does this person mean? Facilitation is listening to what everyone says, but more importantly it’s hearing everything that’s not said.

I wasn’t really hearing until I learned to listen. Hearing happens when you move the listening from your cognition into your body. You hear the sparrow’s song and it leaves an artifact in your mind that you can still recall years later. A field recording.**

What are the field recordings of us, building web3? How are we integrating our learnings into our bodies to memorialize this generationally defining culture shift? I ask this with the recognition that what we do today matters for the people who onboard tomorrow and each successive day ad infinitum.

We’re so Early (Are We?)

Another way to think about digital coordination is the act of listening, hearing, and taking action. Every time we synch over Zoom, Google Meet, Discord, Twitter spaces, etc. we’re engaging in coordination, attempting to collectively decide what is the most elegant next step. We’re doing this with few templates, with literally no precedence. The lack of preexisting case law is what makes the legal implications of our choices so murky. Like a pasture at 5 am, we’re so early.

And yet we’re also not. The hubris to believe that this is the first time humans have attempted to design something revolutionary is painfully foolish. If we listen to one another we may just be able to hear the ways in which we have all done this before. The precedence lives in our bodies.


*adrienne maree brown taught me everything I know about this.

**Field Recordings is the name of one of my favorite winemakers.

This weekly serial investigates the tensions that flow from our pursuit of the next phase of digital evolution. As we’re building the infrastructure, finding shared purpose, and establishing digital coordination norms at dizzying speed, it’s easy to forget that we’re still complex and divergent humans collectively traumatized by a previously unimaginable global pandemic. Body language is here to help us remember.

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