The Social Recovery Movement #95Thesis

 Thesis 9: These networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange to emerge.

All I have to say about this is: This.

Markets? Whatever. Human organization has reached new and dizzying labyrinths of possibility that are both promising and scary.

I don’t even know where I got markets. Perhaps I’m not reading.

Networked conversations are enabling powerful new forms of social organization and knowledge exchange. A conversation is an exchange, and when done rightly, when real conversation is happening it’s a mutualism, a sharing. A good conversation happens when the ideas themselves become the hierarchy and the people both respect their grandeur. At least, if not, forgive me for being poetic.

Anyways, long story short: Occupy Sandy and the Sandy Recovery efforts as well as The Rolling Jubilee prove that activism is branching into new forms of consequential action. It started with conversation, it started with sharing ideas. That’s where it always begins, and without these massive conversations, we’d be less enriched, though we might not necessarily know it.

Globalization has brought about some seriously fucked up consequences, and we have a long way to go to undo the worst of it, but it has also brought a global community. Though, perhaps we won’t really know what lies ahead, without stopping to reflect on War and Peace in the Global Village.


The Strange Loop of Social Business

Thesis 8: In both internetworked markets and among intranetworked employees, people are speaking to each other in a powerful new way.

I probably shouldn’t be writing. Because I don’t want to write about the ways employees are speaking to each other, because it presumes that the employee class is a fixed permanence of the new economics.

So instead, I’m going to write about cats. Because everyone likes cats.

People do lots of talking about cats on the internet. In fact, there’s an entire #hastag dedicated to #Caturday. Sure, humans are sharing cats. And sharing cats is cool. So are bowties. But where is the meaning behind all the bowtie cats and angry cats and laugh out loud moments?

Cluetrain seems to think that it’s in the way we speak to each other, and I’ll grant that there’s even in this little circle of interlocutors a great deal of novelty to some still. But I grew up with international pen pals. I’m a child of the web forum, and a surfer of the multiculture.

Forgive my snide manner, but I just don’t see novelty here anymore. Sure, Google has built a better social network for my generation. And yes, there are more ways than ever to connect with others and things. But as I stated in my previous post, I just don’t get the novelty of it all. Maybe 20 years ago these things needed to be said, and maybe I’m ignorant for taking them for granted, but yes, we’re speaking in new ways. It’s a given.

I suppose now I can blather about what this means for markets, so here goes: Markets are becoming conversations while at the same time turning conversations into markets. Yes, the one thing is becoming the other becoming the other. What a Strange Loop.

Social media advertising and email marketing are just extensions of the human tendency since the invention of advertising, which is, to turn mediums into message. Every advertiser has the same tendency to stamp a medium, to place their mark on it, to in some measure privatize a part of the conversation.

However, given the rise of social mediums as a predominant force on the internet, marketers are trying to leverage community building as business. However, part of me doesn’t see where this is different than the tendency to privatize anything. Privatized conversations are a human fact, it’s why we have the whisper. Private conversation, is important, and we value custom, we like things to be “special,” or “one of a kind.” We prize dissimilarity even as much as we value conformity. Oh humans, what strange yet typical things we are.

In any case, I think one of the good things emerging from the markets becoming conversations is a propensity to try social models of business more readily, and a more open approach to the usefulness of such models. In fact, I have experimented with adding to the social business conversation. I tried a mashup of open source, co-operatives, and tech. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It didn’t really take off, but I tried, and that matters.

I’m not really too keen on answering much of anything, or writing anymore. Just enjoy some thoughts, and take it easy. I know I need to. Have a great night, and thanks for reading.

Can You Hear Me Now? Good. #95Thesis

This is a #95Thesis post. You can find all of the posts here. This one is on the second revolution of the book. Enjoy.

Editor’s Note: You have to see this post that Johanna wrote. It’s epic.

The Internet is enabling conversations among human beings that were simply not possible in the era of mass media. 

Yes, and as I mentioned before, it’s awesome. My fellow interlocutors are from various places across the globe.

The internet is indeed enabling new conversations. However, there are unwanted conversations creeping into the benign and benevolent conversations we’re having. I’m not going to spend yet another post bitching about surveillance, suffice it to say, it’s happening, to all of us, and these conversations are a side effect of the internet’s allowing us to have mass communications.

Is the internet really changing things? Yes.

How those changes will play out remains to be seen. Anonymous and other digital rights groups have mounted protests against various copyright bills, but still can’t seem to muster the power to turn back the tide of digital fascism. I said I wasn’t going to spend this post bitching about surveillance, so I won’t.

The internet has returned humans to the visual age once again. While we’ve been primarily auditory for thousands of years, the internet and the television and the book have shifted the way humans organize information. I won’t labor the point. Suffice it to say, read McLuhan.

I’d like to instead spend some time thinking about the content of the internet’s capacity for conversation and what it means moving forward. The future of human information will be predominantly visual. Youtube and other video media collect more and more hits each day, and while sound figures into the medium known as video, it does not necessarily define it. The reason this is important is because we are, in my opinion about to undergo another “revolution of the book.”


WTF is this?! Apparently, a blow to the spoken word as a medium, and a horrible branding campaign. Play with my V spot…seriously. So, as you can see, the internet makes for all sorts of interesting conversations, every single day.

Anyways, back to the revolution of the book. I think the internet has and continues to have drastic impact on our culture. 2013 is the year where mobile internet usage will outgrow traditional computer use. It’s been predicted, here. It’s not just that the internet is mobilizing previously impossible conversations, it’s doing so on the go. I’m in advertising and I read a lot of marketing blogs, so I see that really big companies are either taking hits or winning big from their ability to have a conversation. The Play with my V Spot ad proves how VOCO dun’ goofed.

But the rise of social media metrics goes in tandem with the whole idea of conversations becoming markets.

Three years ago, people said there was no social media ROI, even Forbes said so in August of last year. Others now are saying that there is, here and here. Now, the reason this is all very interesting is because what’s happening is that conversations themselves are being forcedly turned into markets. This is the very inverse of the markets imagined by the theses, the markets whose primary ontology is conversations. Social media ROI and social metrics are interesting to me because they show our innate trend to want to measure impact, voice and conversation, even if ultimately those desires are then beaten back into conformity with other agendas through normalization. I suppose it was pretty cool a few years ago, when you could just tweet all day and the suits hadn’t really a clue what was going on, only knowing they wanted a social presence.

What does all this have to do with the second revolution of the book? McLuhan in his Gutenberg Galaxy asserts that the printing press altered our consciousness and made us into beings primed for linear thinking. Such thinking began with the birth of the alphabet but was accelerated by the printing press and visual culture. The Printing press, he argues brought about the cultural predominance of the visual over the aural/oral. In a world where every word is written, each sound carrying a letter still predominantly, is a sound, a verbal conversation transmitted to page. Life after Gutenberg means that each sound is no longer predominantly a sound, but a symbol, the product of moving type, of glyphs whose primary function is now the page.

In this passage [Ivins] not only notes the ingraining of lineal, sequential habits, but, even more important, points out the visual homogenizing of experience of print culture, and the relegation of auditory and other sensuous complexity to the background. […] The technology and social effects of typography incline us to abstain from noting interplay and, as it were, “formal” causality, both in our inner and external lives. Print exists by virtue of the static separation of functions and fosters a mentality that gradually resists any but a separative and compartmentalizing or specialist outlook. – McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy, pages 124-26

All that to say, the internet, represents another rise of the visual culture and the culture of the written word. The late 90’s and mid 2000’s rise of the blogger goes to show this too. What does the second revolution of the book look like? It is centralized on visualization, visuals, and logic. We see this already in data visualization set to be a major trend of 2013, and in the ways in which metrics, logic, analytics, ROI, and the culture of visual representation are spreading again. Video and mobile video consumption are growing and there are fears about running out of bandwidth on the internet.

Either way, the Internet is the Second Revolution of the Book, it is Gutenberg 2.0. What comes of it remains to be seen, but we’ve already had Anonymous and the Arab Spring.

The Medium is the Mass-Age #95Thesis

Is It Any Wonder People Are Afraid of Technology? Marshall McLuhan and Digital Technology

Many people have trouble accepting the idea that the medium is the message. But it’s a matter of integrity that the speaker and the spoken are in the moment of hearing one and the same. A lightbulb is a medium in its own right.

Thesis 5: People recognize each other as such from the sound of this voice

A Medium according to Marshall McLuhan is “any extension of ourselves” has “psychic and social consequences” through “designs or patterns as they amplify or accelerate existing processes.” This change is always considered noteworthy, and completely different from predecessors, even though related. Mediums are extensions of ourselves. Each new medium is both an extension of the self and also an amputation.

As I write these words, I am literally both the words, the human writing them, and the keyboard which they are used to develop themselves through.

It is the medium that shapes and controls the scale and forms of human association and action. The content or uses of such media are as diverse as they are ineffectual in shaping the form of human association. Indeed, it is only too typical that the ‘content’ of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium (McLuhan, 1995, p. 152).

To be human is to recognize and interact with other humans. I’ve touched on this before in posts about Being as Communion. This relational ontology is still at the core of how I conceive human being, and human doing. To exist humanly is to exist in the presence of other humans, in relation to the world we all share. This does not mean one cannot choose to be a hermit, or that hermitage makes one subhuman, but it does mean that at the core of humanity is a relational element without which one is not quite dealing with humans. It is why we consider things like solitary confinement a form of inhuman punishment.

Conversations and community are natural to humans, exchange in some ways is too. However, Corporate Intelligence is obscuring our ability to recognize this voice. People recognize each other, but analytics, data, surveillance, targeted advertising and the other new realities we have to live with are making that distinctive voice harder and harder to hear. They are stepping to those spheres and attempting an analog SQL injection, filling the gaps in our lives with snippets of purchased narrative. Defacing the content of our lives with insertions, filling the spaces and making it harder for recognition to take place.

Markets aren’t the only party responsible for this though. Racism is an older form of this very same process. Diffferent rhetoric, near identical praxis which breaks down as follows:   An identity (in this case, race) is rewritten in a new way, by a new narrator, who delineates new boundaries, identities, and associations allows. The ideological underpinning is the same: rewriting identity for various economic, social and cultural purposes, with economics at the fore. Once, for plantations; now, for advertising. Both for profit.

Markets in their natural state, as conversations perhaps* do not obscure the deep connections that we long for. In my last post I discussed the difference between thin and thick markets. I believe that this thesis is about that thick market connection I mentioned previously.

The obfuscation of this recognition of the human voice, as noise crawls into the spaces once shared by quiet voices, the listening that creeps into our lives through Siri, and smartphones in general, and the new standard of warrantless spying for anything and everything are rewriting the rules of interaction for some, and changing the way we handle information the entire planet over.  McLuhan said “Every new technology necessitates a new War” and while looking for some sources on that, I found this.

The ways in which we can understand each other ‘from the sound of this voice‘ are being obscured, made more incomprehensible. Surveillance and information fascism are creating the general anxiety of a generation that socially shares everything information related, but can’t seem to feel relevant, heard, or significant. Perhaps we feel instinctually what McLuhan has said. Perhaps we know that we’re losing ourselves.

We feel our conversations becoming markets, as markets look less and less like conversations. But what if we imagined another world? What does a world with markets where we recognize ourselves and each other really look like? The world we find ourselves in operates in ‘thin markets’. These thin markets aren’t conversations, in fact they’re barely markets at all.

Using only the immediate, the choices we’ve made, the trends we engage, they ignore the deep, communal nature of being. Perhaps, as we think about Being, markets, technology and fascism, it is best we try to delineate a path for thick markets, and business models that could do this. If we would dare to have a better world, perhaps it is time we admit our fear of technology, and confront the abuses along the way.

Please Check Out Les and Johanna and Jakob too.


Technology OH MY GOD McLuhan

*I emphasize perhaps, because I am not certain.

Thesis Two and Three: Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice

In my previous post I started blogging through these theses.

The point being presented to us is: Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

When one shifts the word conversations back to markets, the point becomes immediately clear: “Markets among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice.

One can see my mutual interlocutors on thesis two here and here.

Thesis three from the project from other blogs is here and here.

I addressed point two in brief at the end of my first post, and thought to highlight them through my fellow interlocutors and their efforts.

Suffice it to say, in brief: Markets are a human medium, and as such, their control is not a nebulous divinity to which we ascribe wisdom and power. Markets are in fact the opposite, they are earthly, grounded in transactions, and conversations, and that as markets conduct themselves, they should do so with a human voice.

This is not to say economics is the locus of humanity, but we do an awful damned lot of trading, and to pretend that ethics and consumption have no interaction is silly. Even though most people don’t actively deny the link between ethics and purchase, we tend to avoid it. We tend to defer the impact of our economic choices, or cloak ourselves in the mask of the indignant when factory workers producing cheap goods die in fires.

Markets conducted in a human voice take stock of themselves and their participants, recognizing that the ethical choices made by such markets are in fact not only good for participants, but as we expand these examinations in the near future, they may even be good for business.

I’m no expert, but when I conduct business I have found anecdotally, that being honest and direct about expectations, trade offs and etcetera have made for better business for clients and myself.

When a market chooses to have ethics, it can put aside the binary bullshit of Left vs. Right and start to address real issues, like: What sort of market are we? What are we saying as a market? What sort of markets shall we be? What is our market’s purpose? What needs does this market meet? Who has access to the goods of this market?

Of course a market by itself cannot answer these questions. That’s silly. Which is why in the digital age we must accept the market as culture, and at the same time defer this market as it currently stands from being tomorrow’s culture through injections of rupture, deferral and cultural disobedience.

The entrepreneur calls this disruption, but often his disruptions are the self-same method of doing things, under the guise of a new idea, or product. Instead of being caught up in the glitter of such uselessly nebulous marketing artifacts, and their difficulties, let’s instead think honestly about rupture in the market that is a conversation.

On the one hand is a glorious utopia where everyone considers human rights, the environment and actually does things to make the market more human. On the other is that place which is nearer where we find ourselves, where the market uses its attempt at humanity to mask the barbarism that fuels it.

Neither is correct. We must always be wary of what the current market would assert is humanity, because that selfsame human voice is often the product of our own self-imposed ignorance, blindness, and greed.

Just because the defense market passes itself off as humanitarian, and for the safety of all, shall we accept this human voice? Shall we accept the cascading indifference that marks our sentiments about drone warfare, spy technology or the nano-weapons arms race? What do we do with all this seeming benevolence? And what about surveillance? Should we accept that Big Brother is a human market like all others? No.

Instead the market has to recognize its own humanity, (which is a clusterfuck since the market is never technically outside humanity, but we’ll get there down the line,) admittedly, this is the great and overwhelming challenge of our era.

Markets are a human medium, but what is their message?