i wonder if it is at all possible to come to a conclusion as a group. Or whether the environment itself precludes such a thing.

My contention would be that the lurkers, transients, etc., are definitely part and parcel of the medium. However, if the core group were to agree to a given process, those who have not participated in the discussion or decision making regarding the process would likely be the most apparent source of distraction from carrying it out.
I wonder if social contracts aren't in fact, the currency of experience, and therefore a practiced part of our decision making process. We would therefore likely translate any abstraction (in comparative terms) into social contract terms before analyzing it.

. Here at Netdynam we can afford to be fairly democratic because no one has felt the need to push the limits of social norms and because we have nothing truly significant to decide. Freed from even the biological and social pressures that force real life groups to come to a decision, we can simply talk on forever. If that is democracy, it seems rather sterile even when compared to something as dull as a local school bond election. I wonder if being free from the pressure to end debate and act, rather than enhancing the democratic process, simply frees us from the need for the process. Unfortunately, real life is not so kind, nor should it be.

In most situations with which I'm familiar, when decision making has not been discussed, the default is the democratic decision making method. This is in contrast to the autocratic and consensus methods. However, with every method, the possibility exists of well-meaning individuals acting on behalf of the group without requisite permission from whatever decision making process.

Interestingly, this is almost always a recurring topic in the "Bid for Power" stage of COG's Ladder. If these symptoms are being correctly interpreted, it could mean that this group is making progress toward the "Constructive stage."

Autocratic: One person or body makes the decision for others who are affected by the decision.

Democratic: 50% plus one, majority prevails.

Consensus: 80 to 85% of the people support the decision, and the rest can "live with" the decision.

In summary, what is the role of lurker, if any, in group decision making?

Stage I: "We're all friends. We don't have to worry about rule of law, a constitution, list governance, policing etc... We're all good people, nice to eachother, etc... That (whatever that is fill in your favorite problem) won't happen here."

Stage II: THAT happens. Whoops....

Stage III: The hierarchy emerges. Heck, it was there all the time wasn't it. It consists of the most senior members, sometimes founding members, sometimes the ones who post a lot. They get together and pretty much decide what to do in a crisis.

Stage IV: Taking action. This was done FAST without a lot of forethought or (in my case) advance notification.

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