State governance systems prioritize systematic justice over interpersonal justice. As such, people must go through lengthy and expensive negotiation processes to create a customized contract that due justice to their interpersonal situations. Because ReUnion Network is designed for the scale of the interpersonal, it allows for more adaptive applications than does a legal system for mass governance.
Our proposition is that the Agreement Site can lower the individual cost for making unique interpersonal contracts and better accommodate for unorthodox relationships and new kinships - especially the new types of relationships that are enabled by new technologies and contemporary social conditions. Through these unique interpersonal contracts, more people will be able to receive legal protection.
Modular Social Contracts
Making a contract is one of the core functions of the ReUnion Network. Technologically we expect an easy-to-use, efficient contract making process, including introducing modularized agreement templates.
Although we expect a relatively simple contract-making process as ReUnion Network develops, contracting a commitment is still an official moment that often changes the nature of the relationship. The digital environment has the responsibility to offer good conditions and reasons for users to start a commitment-contract conversation. We are researching three angles to consider this responsibility. First, the context and the reasons for the users to make an existing care relationship official. Second, how the negotiation will take place and in what way a piece of digital technology can help deescalate, instead of escalate, an intense and vulnerable moment of a relationship. Third, the sense of safety and protection during and after making a contract.
Dimensions of Care in Practice
A CC is the only currency that has monetary value within ReUnion Network. Its monetary value will be linked to a domestic currency, or fiat, such as the euro. It can be used to purchase goods and services from local cooperatives, provided both PT owners consent to the transaction executed through an Activity within the Relationship. As such, ReUnion assures that the payment serves the interests of both parties.
Additionally, the steps for Activity contracts, of any length of time, and Relationship contracts, with a one-year minimum, include the self-reflective steps of color marking and check-points, the latter of which is also a meeting point for dialogue and review by both users. These steps, with awareness requiring some commitment and interest from the users, provoke the consideration if the act executed adequately fulfilled to the need and were appropriately received, how that may differ for each user point of interchange and why (giving/receiving, and not through institutional intermediaries), not just monetarily executed.
What Does it Mean to Have a "Relationship"?
Putting aside the question of design requirements for a functional technology, let us look at what is required to have a functional long-term relationship. In ReUnion Network, the value that is shared among all parties of the relationship is not universally legible - users define together the particulars of their contract, which creates intimacy. As well, ReUnion supports and expands upon existing intimacy in interchanges of care that are beyond typical relationship narratives of a domestic partnership or immediate family.
As ReUnion aims to initiate in existing communities that conduct care interchanges, intimacy will be present. Exchanges that happen between these people are not intended to be equal to one another. ReUnion does not focus on care as dispositional, but rather, as an attribute that is practiced and a basic, ongoing active commitment in what we mean by long-term committed relationships.
The design of the Checkpoint embraces the changing nature of every individual and relationship and the importance for active consent and renegotiation - not as a threat but as skills to be continuously practiced, crucial to the ongoing investment in the relationship.
Within the scope of an interpersonal relationship, non-transactional exchanges create an ongoing contributory exchange between the relational parties, which helps the binding process. For example, two people take turns paying for each other’s lunch, rather than splitting the bill each time. The payment of the lunch bill indicates a following lunch occasion between these two people. This meeting becomes a shared ritual in which each person takes a turn: receiving and giving. This indicates the ongoing nature of the relationship, where power or debt is kept in a dynamic balance and is not accumulated. Importantly, this back and forth, a mutual contribution, is an embodied willingness to play (at least) two different roles of engagement that constitute the relationship. In ongoing relationships, our positions of need and ability to give always change over time and periods of life. Too easily in individualized and user-based systems identities can become static within relationships and power roles, abilities, and needs become naturalized to certain "types" and embodied in self-comprehension.
Therefore, if a system wants to support relationships, it must not appropriate agency, but return the agency to the users and help to rebuild the primary separation that allows us to separate and belong. Only then, users can return to a fully capable person that can respect one's own world and others', and navigate their relationships by being aware of but not afraid of those gaps in our own vulnerability and others’ worlds.