Friday, November 23, 2007

Power to the Community

"Power to the Community" was the title of one of the main sessions prior to Rod Beckstrom's presentation on the Starfish and the Spider at the "From Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0" conference in Utrecht last wednesday.

I liked this presentation, not because Patrick Savalle is a Sogeti colleague, but I like his way of thinking. It was what you could call a boardroom wakeup call. The essence of the presentation was moving the crowd from version 1.0 to 2.0.

One of the things to churn on was explaining the Peter Principle which often occurs in centralized organisations (the spiders) which pionts out that a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his level of incompetence.

His second thought focussed on emergent behaviour; In a crowd we all do things we wouldn't do as individuals. We've all been suckered into buying things we don't need by early marketing guru's like Edward Bernays who laid the foundations of mass manipulation and crowd control.

His final thought was called Social (web-) Design. When looking at social networking sites you have to find what makes these things attractive. How do you build communities? It's in little things, it's in poking, it's in listing events, in smilies, profile pictures or tweets: all these little things are a frameset in which the crowd interacts and grows into a collective community. This collective community will eventually return to emergent behaviour so we have to be carefull. Edward Bernays, much like his uncle Sigmund Freud, wasn't all that happy with what he did to humanity. Maybe in 20 years we'll have a generation of social webdesigners looking back at how they manipulated the masses.

In my opinion that's a pretty spooky thought. Walk along that path and we might even end up with Asimov's famous Psychohistory;

The basis of psychohistory is the idea that, while the actions of a particular individual could not be foreseen, the laws of statistics could be applied to large groups of people and used to predict the general flow of future events. Asimov used the analogy of a gas: in a gas, the motion of a single molecule is very difficult to predict, but the mass action of the gas can be predicted to a high level of accuracy - known in physics as the Kinetic Theory. Asimov applied this concept to the population of the fictional Galactic Empire, which numbered in a quintillion. The character responsible for the science's creation, Hari Seldon, established two postulates:

  • That the population whose behaviour was modeled should be sufficiently large
  • They should remain in ignorance of the results of the application of psychohistorical analyses.

So my question to Patrick would be: Shouldn't the title be "Take power from the community" instead of "give power to"?

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Anonymous Patrick Savalle said...

Hey, nice you liked it!

I like you interpretation of my speech also.

I would like to point out that emergent behaviour is behaviour that is not deductable to any idividual in the crowd, it IS the behavour of the crowd as it own entity in this context. My message is, in a hierachichal / top-down organisation individuals are being addressed. Next to this there is also the crowd-aspect of any organization which should be adressed differently because you cannot use a top-down mechanism.

So every hierarchically organization is also a crowd. And needs 'crowd-control' mechanisms. Which by the way: we can provide (a word of our sponsor)...

Friday, November 23, 2007 11:06:00 AM  

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