Saturday, December 29, 2007

Are social networks communities?

We can of course implement whatever sorts of intellectual property rules we want given the types of governance we operate under. Some will say the rules set are too tight, others too loose, and still others that they are about right. The distribution will not be a normal curve, and no one will care much--few will even understand the basics much less the nuances.

Times will change, but the rules will not change much. Imbalances will tend to occur, and the rules will twist people rather than protect them. Others will attempt "reforms." I don't think it overly cynical to expect that, over time, special interests and "expertise" tend to drive the ship...that is, if there remains a ship to drive.

Increasingly, there will be no ship, no rudder nor rudder-controller (the word origins of the word governor and gubernatorial). That's because the ship had captains with agendas not for the ship but for the captains, and the crew, well, they continued to opt for smaller boats they could sail themselves.

The trouble with the world post nation-state normative controls is that technology must be diffused to grow into world markets but local rules never will be equally diffused. For all the efforts of history, the export of culture has never succeeded very well absent the movement of live carriers to seed and spread it. Remarkably, the world didn't "Disneyphy" with increasing globalization. In fact, it did the opposite, it shattered. Some, like Apple, have been remarkably good at remaining iconic through these challenges, but that's the very rare (and perhaps temporary) exception, not the rule.

It will always be the Wild West out there beyond "one's own," and the low guy who's hungry will cut corners a little more on policing to get the advantage of cashflows from knock-offs, phonies, and counterfeits. Ironically, the people on the run are those who are trying to make brands and institutions endure unnaturally in the face of a shattered planet. They are the endangered species not the cheaters, copiers and scramblers. So more is "free," small, voluntary and close to the passions of the it was with old communities.

But in the face of all this interaction, what stood for the word community usually sells at a pretty low price. Community used to mean standing against an enemy together, hanging together or hanging separately ...with all that Franklin-esque warmth. After a time it meant sharing a place of work and schooling along with playfields and commons like the air we breathe and the waters we drink. Norman Rockwell comes to mind. And now? Are those old times returning? Is the vehicle ...Twitter?

Good actions are just that: good actions. We should hold them high, try to join them, repeat them, or at least praise them. But should we call them community? Well, why not? We all gave at the bar for a new wheelchair for Tommie--we're a community! We all have Lupus, we're a community! We drink the same brand of coffee with 1/3 of 1% of every purchase going to Ethiopian coffee coops--of course that's community. We care about similar things and spread good will! That's all for the good isn't it? It is for the good, and I for one applaud it all.

Community is just a word and I personally don't put much stock in words holding their value for long in these times. I've always loved words to read and write, but I am long since over feeling they can be inherently noble, rich or beautiful. Words are playthings and it is the players who make them noble, rich or beautiful.

The players control the intellectual property of words ultimately because they choose what is noble, beautiful, rich, significant and worthy. The wordsmiths codify the players wit into a role and the rest of us follow suit. At least that's how it was in the time of broadcast news and corporate messages. But that's not the way I think it will be with social networks.

Social networks are frail, momentary and fleeting. Ultimately they become purpose driven as they grow larger and depersonalize...and if they grow, they must depersonalize. That is, I no longer want to have an Andy-of-Mayberry talk with my pharmacist, I just want my damn pills.

As nets grow, they become unwieldy and awkward. Then they break down into sections and interests. What is new about our clever technologies (Twitter, Ning, Facebook, etc.) is that they allow for reforming in an instant, or at least extremely rapidly along lines as thin as playing the same game with thousands of others or sharing an interest in funny movies. We "connect" but in a way that is a weaker tie than Mark Granovetter could have ever imagined.

Social networks consequently morph almost totally when someone is in the presence of a great snow storm or available to help a friend in crisis. They rise with someone energized by the need to promote a book. Other times they drift languidly following personable folks who are easily recognized and gently benign. Those people become our elevator attendants, crossing guards and gas pumpers of old filling life with warmth and connectivity--often with a dram of much more learning and interest if not importance than the milk man I suppose had. That is, we enjoy being recognized by them. But is it community? And is there leadership? I suppose of sort. Virtual world influence seems a faint value on which to build a society. Or is it? Maybe we've built the new town hall meeting structure! But whose town and whose agenda?

The more important question for me is whether the community feeds the insides of people who use it in ways that are long-term supportive, inclusive and open to the constant ebb and flow of members. There's a reason why New York City wasn't Mayberry--even in 1961. Is Twitter an identity around which to gather and build a social organization worthy of being called community or is it something new? ...not community but something ephemeral and leaderless and occasionally able to do good (or bad).

I think it's the latter...a leaderless cloud of proto-organizations that can enable if they want the pleasures, learning and smiles of its barely attached patrons. They may even enable the rise of new forms from the murky froth. This is something new, even something wonderful, but I don't call it community...not even by dumping that academic favorite of an adjective in front..."new community."

Friday, December 28, 2007

What is Failure? | Garrick Van Buren .com

What is Failure? | Garrick Van Buren .com

Sounds like Garrick is a learner... not a fighter.

Wirearchy :: Geert Lovink on Blogging

Wirearchy :: Geert Lovink on Blogging

Jon Husband on collaboration, the arts, and social networks. Very "enabling."

Elitism, Democracy and Design

Elitism, Democracy and Design

Curious posting by Dale Carrico...thoughtful but somehow...not quite...something...

I'm going to have to think about this one. I agree at one level and disagree at others.

Vivian Salama at PostGlobal: PostGlobal on

Vivian Salama at PostGlobal: PostGlobal on

The phrase I like in this article by Salama... "moderating influences of globalization." The paradox of her phrase is implicit in her article.

Myth and narrative in leadership

People need stories. Roger Schank taught me that. Stories become mythic when they become structural--a part of our culture. They teach in such a way as to create the absence of thought... To tell a story can be a process of enabling a learner, in this avatar a listener, to reduce their own dissonance. But a story can also be used to avoid the dissonance necessary for real learning to grow with its own energy--the ultimate goal of leading as enabling.

We hope that the learner satisfies themselves rather than being satisfied by avoiding investigation while accepting mythical foundations. Our own philosophical investigations, where philosophy means the love of knowledge, form the basis of being able to cope and the basis of helping others to cope. Myth is always a part of that, but never a barrier. The mythic spawns creativity, allusion, language, hope and confusion...all essential to learning.

The mythic is a sort of story told that borders on helping the listener to cope while also potentially creating dissonance when the myth is exposed to further investigation. And investigate we must...particularly when our structures melt. Melting caused by globalizing interaction exposes myths because others we contact reject them, point out their silliness, or question mythic conflicts with their own traditions of structure which raise a sort of shared dissonance.

Old leadership uses myth and narrative to build and push agendas. Myth and its acceptance become the foundation of identity--often with much beauty. This is the beauty the anthropologist revels in, for instance. Sadly, it is an identity that can be a social distortion. It is this identity and its beauty that melts rapidly as we interact. In the present age of markets and rapid communications, a retreat to mythic identity is the politics of isolation. In the long run, mythic worlds savored in isolation are unsustainable--at least for those who hope to learn, innovate and explore.

The leader as enabler is open to myth as a learning instrument and as a means of aiding with learner coping, but such leaders won't tighten myths as a boundary around learners. I believe the enabler opens prospects and uses narrative to illustrate--that is leadership.

Stories become neither sacred nor sacrosanct; they are pictures like an artist draws in an ephemeral medium--here now then gone. We love them, even treasure them, but we do not live by them alone and we certainly do not live for our myths.

A life given over to the hardening of structure seems obsolete. But that is a very dissonance-causing statement for me--a great opportunity to learn.

Is accountability a real leadership objective?

Accountability is the notion that we report to someone who judges. This of course begs the question of who might be authorized to judge. In democracies this weight often falls to "representatives." Judging at least from U.S. opinion polls about Congress, few seem to hold that term in much esteem these days, and perhaps with some cause. Representatives and their ancillary hollow institutions classified as "the press" seem to be in general retreat. Both seem to suffer all to often from their own ethical crises to be much in the way of shepherds and tenders.

Then there is accountability to "the public." This notion of the a-word seems to verge on an ideal of transparency. But few would equate the two outright I fear. Transparency is more about method. Accountability seems to be more about power. No one speaks of transparent power. Moreover, no one (at all) speaks of method when addressing accountability.

You might gather that I don't much care for the idea of accountability and that bias may well shine through to any of my related writings. It's not that I dislike reporting or hold it in disdain. On the contrary, I have generally found that having well-delineated superiors tends to reduce the risk of a job considerably. Only a fool or an over-confident person would want to face fire when cover is readily available. In this age of sniping and fault-finding, it truly takes a naive sort to prefer riding alone. Though hierarchy's time seems to be quickly passing as well.

The reason I dislike accountability is because I think it obviates the moral imperative of leading. It pushes leadership toward agendas and identity politics...exactly where I think it is naturally moving away from at a furious clip. It takes leadership out of the hands of the leader's mind and conscience and puts it in the hands of an unlikely-to-act abstraction. Boards matter and transparency is crucial, but leadership is found in the mind of a stressed decision maker.

One is accountable only to personal scruples ultimately. Whatever eschatological beliefs one holds, those mores seem rarely powerful enough to dissuade the grossest perversions of any ideal. I don't mind that people fall back on faiths. That seems natural enough...just the sort of cover I mentioned above as making a lot of sense. We must find leaders amongst those who suffer over action. Indecisiveness is a well-overplayed red herring. Inaction...that's a threat. Indecisiveness, no.

What I do mind above all is the denuding of a sense of responsibility by invoking cover from above of whatever sort. "Executive privilege" is just such an abomination overplayed probably 99 times out of 100. Those who lay their decisions at the hands of a "higher power" lie to us and themselves. No god who would esteem free will would then advise an actor in some puny decision with only mortal stakes.

In the concept of leadership as enabling the emphasis returns again and again to making the unclear decision with a heavy heart. Leaders must choose what to enable. Even the most learner-centric teacher deploys a constant moral rudder. That rudder is never sure because moral compasses are notoriously faulty. That is, "true north" found with a so-called moral compass is about as reliable as depoliticized funding. I argue again and again that without pushing an agenda, leadership can only occur in areas of moral cloudiness. The leader must be near a tipping point to make an honest decision or else no decision is made at all beyond merely accepting responsibility. And that is where the whole fault of accountability, as I see it, begins again. Accepting responsibility is a phrase rarely backed by currency.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Relativity and Definition -- Careers

People with careers furthest into the 2.0 world will have the most difficult time explaining what it is they do for a living. Explanations will require a story--a narrative. In that narrative a great deal of sensemaking will occur. For example, "I 'do' Twitter so that I can keep up with rapidly evolving trends among Technorati types..."

In fact a person may have no idea why they may be a combination of fun, habit, interest, a need for validation by well-known people, etc. It may be something that is "part" of their work or not. Nothing is clearly in or out.

It will also be unlikely that a person will be able to quickly express a linkage to one institution--as in...I work for X. People will be confused when you ask them to explain their affiliations which will be blurred and overlapping. This is the melting of definitions.

The recent cell phone commercial where people explain that they need a network that works in...and then goes on to combine 4 or 5 well-known places into one an example.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A manifesto for the new PR

A manifesto for the new PR

This from Paul Gillin's blog impressed me... It is a form of leadership as enabling. Transparency is the most enabling action an institution or conventional organization can take in my view.


Institutions are networks with the past. We expect ties to transcend potential change. We hope earned reputation transcends future weak points or that it inspires the present to press on in the face of challenges.

As networks melt, it will be harder to maintain institutions. Identity politics is suffused with "we" in our schools, our nationalities, faiths, brands, races, etc. These alignments must melt with interaction, and the best people will be least likely to matter how "best" comes to be defined. More will be in the pool of the weakly aligned. Speed and interaction do that.

Globalization at first heightens tensions and causes a force something like magnets repelling. But greater familiarity dissolves. It must.

Alternative cases of coming together using technology (say a wiki or Twitter) are much more fluid and weakly bound groupings. One thinks of Mark Granovetter's work but also something continuously reforming in ways I have not seen Granovetter describe.

The "social," such as it is, sits at the precipice of a phase change--like water freezing or ice melting. It bounces back and forth in the presence of phase change with little or no discernible trend. For there to be a trend, phenomena would demonstrate a social that is wholly more unitary (what I call structural) and singularly progressive (rather than amoeba-like) than what likely will exist or what I see now in places where things are moving relatively fast.

For institutions to thrive, they must lead, but in high velocity frameworks, they are likely only to be sources of security and resource banking.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ulrich Beck: A new cosmopolitanism is in the air - signandsight

Ulrich Beck: A new cosmopolitanism is in the air - signandsight

Ulrich Beck (I saw it first on 3 Quarks...) also gets it just right...excellent.

Once again where I can offer the highest praise...I wish I had written it.

WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: From State-Based Sovereignty Towards Bright Green Governance

WorldChanging: Tools, Models and Ideas for Building a Bright Green Future: From State-Based Sovereignty Towards Bright Green Governance

One of the very best blog posts I have ever read. Dead on with what I am trying to say. Concur, concur, concur.


Towards the co-created society » P2P Foundation

Towards the co-created society » P2P Foundation

Very cool graphic in this excellent post about social evolution...awesome picture!

One could argue convincingly that morality is relative to where one sees the world from in terms of this chart...

Objective versus Reflective

We say, with appreciation, that good journalism is "objective." In this case biased is the contra. But in an objectivist sense of objective, its opposite isn't subjective or biased but reflective.

What do we mean when we say something is opposite?

Leading as enabling is reflective. Agenda-based leadership is more objective.