In March 2021, Alek Tarkowski and Paul Keller published an essay on the “Paradox of Open” on the occasion of launching their Brussels-based Think Tank Open Future. While sketching an agenda for their adovacy work, the essay offered a more sober perspective on the promises previously associated with openness:

While Open works as a strategic (and narrative) approach in specific fields of application, it no longer provides a more general vision of a more just and egalitarian digital society.

More recently, open future published a collection of essays responding to this text. I had the honor to also contribute a response essay entitled “How Openness Becomes Exclusionary” on imported, created and path-dependent diversity deficits in online communities that explicitly describe themselves as “open”:

Taken together, imported and created diversity deficits of open organizational forms demonstrate that not only certain forms of closedness (e.g., through formal or informal access barriers), but also certain forms of openness can be (co-)causal for (undesirable) diversity deficits. At the same time, both categories of diversity deficits are complementary to each other, insofar as they are based on mechanisms that are independent of each other, but may well mutually reinforce each other over time. Thus, it is not only conceivable but even probable that a “merely” imported diversity deficit, such as an industry-typical low proportion of female contributors, leads to the emergence of an organizational culture that tends to solidify these diversity deficits, while radical openness prohibits countermeasures through targeted recruitment policies. Thus, a diversity deficit that was initially imported becomes organizationally entrenched through radical openness. And this leads us, third, to the issue of path dependence in exclusionary openness.

Check out the full essay over at