'It's a small world '
How often do you hear that when you meet someone and discover you know someone who knows someone you know. Well I am reading 2 books at present to learn more about Web2:0 social networking, which explore this phenomena:
Clay Shirky ‘Here Comes Everybody: the power of organising without organisations’ (Alan Lane/Penguin 2008)
jonny baker has written an excellent series of 4 blogs about Shirkey's book 'Here Comes Everyone' particularly small world theory - what's become known as 6 degrees of separation
Its all about participation
Shirkey talks about a simple three-fold process:
sharing - co-operation - collective action
sharing creates the fewest demands and you can see it happening via flickr (photos), digg (stories), blogs and the number of small niche communities with common interest or concern. co-operation requires a bit more co-ordination especially if there is to be some collaborative production involving decision making. something like wikipedia manages this sort of participation really well. then collective action is definitely a harder step. it needs a strong enough shared vision which binds a group together and people will put effort in for. shirky says this is much more rare.
talks about a 4 fold process:
• naming some practice - a passion/vision that someone has
• connecting with other - finding others with the same vision
• nourishing a network - connecting together an synergising
• illuminating - highlighting what is happening though sharing the story widely.
This ‘life cycle’ happen all the time through networks and they 'change the world', but they are invisible to old ways of doing things.
Jonny tells a story as an example
i was thinking about the truth isn't sexy campaign and have written something about it recently thinking about how networks work (it will be in the next CMS magazine Yes). this is a short version... it began with an idea (or a rage against injustice more like). a friend of mine si had a concern about sex trafficking following visits to bars where girls were visibly being picked up. the first phase of the process was sharing. chatting with a few friends he got connected with a few other people who were involved in care for sex workers or political campaigning. a few e-mails, google searches and coffees later, he begin to build up a picture of the scene and the various economic, immigration, political and cultural factors at play. crucially he also connected with some others - the second phase collaboration - who caught the vision for doing something and a small team was formed with aimie & shannon picking up the baton. the team quickly found themselves part of an informal network of brilliant people working on their own projects but also collaborating together. an idea began to form – no-one seemed to be working at the customer demand end of things, with men who pay for sex. via a few networked connections, a design agency got involved and a beer mat and poster campaign was born called The Truth Isn’t Sexy - the third phase collective action. 200,000 beermats have been distributed in city centre pubs and NUS bars along with other events and media and cross party MP’s have praised the truth isn’t sexy in the house of commons with the minister in charge of this area now publicly stating the importance of addressing demand - the main political objective. the group are going to self publish an activist's handbook for others wanting to take collective action on something...
the campaign cost virtually nothing apart from printing costs. It wasn’t spearheaded by an organisation. volunteers made it happen as networks of people shared the idea, co-operated and joined in collective action. this network of people is not a club you can join – it was much more organic and invisible. It wasn’t something that was led – at least not in any traditional sense – though the people involved had a high level of skill at getting people connected and participating. the technological tools that are available in the world of digital media, all free if you have a computer – e-mail, web sites, blogs, social networking sites and so on - were absolutely crucial to the process. this process is so simple that you can miss it! It’s particularly easy to miss if you are looking for success with an organisational or old paradigm pair of glasses - measurable outcomes in organisational strategy achieved by professionals supported by systems of hierarchy and control
there is more on this in the latest CMS YES Magazine 'Mission in a Post-modern world' in an article by jonny baker