Yet another insightful question about my engagement with mastodon here.

If I'm going to be honest, my perspective hasn't much changed about Mastodon except insofar as I've learned more disturbing things about the history of users of color and other marginalized groups on the platform. I've also learned some pretty not great implications for the existing affordances of the fediverse, many of which I've outlined in other places.

The primary thing that I've learned about mastodon is that more than twitter, much of our cultural inheritances structure how we use the site and how the norms of using the site are enforced and maintain. This, predictably, has a great deal to do with who is using the site and in what way.

As I have said before, Mastodon is a very white platform. It is also, in many respects, a very male platform and a platform that abides by the epistemic norms of the tech industry.

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Let me be clear what I mean: tech privileges a particular way of knowing, of engaging with problems that is in tension with other modes of inquiry. As I am primarily a philosopher, I am interested in implications, directions, potentialities, while a great many of the replies have demanded "solutions" "resolutions" and so on. This is similar to the demands made of me when working in spaces like AI and algorithmic bias.

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These are both spaces that share the demography of Mastodon and the social norms, broadly construed, of mastodon itself. In essence, some of what I have learned during my time here is about the social dynamics of mastodon and how those dynamics can impede the kind of community formation that many (not all) marginalized groups desire and are looking for.

To put it simply, I have learned more about the social aspects of mastodon since being here than any of the technical aspects.

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Now, what I have learned of the technical aspects gives me both hope and broad concern for the platform. I see that the technical aspects of the fediverse, while enabling freedom from some kinds of abuse, also open up vectors to other kinds of abuse. These vectors are overlooked in the recommendations made by mastodonians to marginalized communities. I have enumerated them in my responses to "build your own instances."

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But there is a hopeful spot there: the possibility to build our own instances and then federate with other instances means that communities can create unique enclaves. This is the strength that mastodonians often tout. However, this strength is organized by a shocking ignorance of or indifference to the ways that this actually enhances the vulnerability of these communities. Further, it contributes to a disinvestment of responsibility for making existing communities safer.

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I've also learned that the choice in instance matters a great deal in being on mastodon: pick the wrong instance and you are open to all kinds of racist violence with no recourse, especially if the moderation team simply does not care or the server does not have rules preventing the kind of abuse.

The above, in combination with the whiteness of the platform means that marginalized users need to be more careful about the selection of instances.

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@shengokai it’s definitely like moving into a new neighborhood: you have to get a feel for the community’s tolerance for public nuisance, maintenance, and general vibe. Also, how does local leadership express themselves abou zoning and urban planning for the future.


@paninid @shengokai In a sense, that's true. But unfortunately in a very real, much more pertinent sense the place has been red-lined from day one, one neighbor has rats and the other neighbor is a literal Nazi. But at least the houses on most sides of the Nazi house have really high fences! I have some hope for the Fediverse but it is tempered by a still probably wholly-inadequate amount of skepticism.

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