Clay Shirky has spoken at ETech on moderation strategies in social software. Social software developers, who build software that enables conversation and digital identity en masse, haven't managed, yet, to code in good government: people seeking order can be unusually nasty, brutish and short tempered.
Outside application code lies the normative issues of power, freedom and individual liberty in these communities. Shirky, who introduces Hobbes and Rousseau to an audience of what ETech calls "alpha geeks," points out that social software is in reality a proving ground for political philosophers.
Social software is the experimental wing of political philosophy, a discipline that doesn't realize it has an experimental wing. We are literally encoding the principles of freedom of speech and freedom of expression in our tools. We need to have conversations about the explicit goals of what it is that we're supporting and what we are trying to do, because that conversation matters.
Like Edward Castronova, who has pioneered the study of virtual economies, Shirky is on a mission from the humanities to the digital commons. His reports are must reads.