Ideas Need People to Spread

Hey, Happy New Year.  All the best for 2009.

If you are reading this, you have been a great source of support as I have tried to bring attention & resources to Social Capital Value Add over the past seven months.  THANK YOU!

I would be grateful if you & your networks would consider two new initiatives.

Firstly, please click through and vote for my friends on Triiibes who have been great contributors to that network and are competing for an opportunity to head to the global TED conference in Oxford.

Next, I have submitted Social Capital Value Add to Ashoka’s ChangeMakers.net competition The Power of Us: Re-Imagine Media.  You can comment on and rate the submission now and vote for it after January 21st. http://www.changemakers.net/en-us/node/14479

What goes around, comes around.

IAM or “Social Media Man”

One of the central concepts of Social Capital Value Add is the Individual as Medium (IAM).  I also considered using the more anthropological “Social Media Man” but wanted readers to steer past the buzz words and/or gender concerns.

Which one do you like better?  I don’t care what you call it, as long as the dog brings back the bone.

I am realizing that the IAM concept may not come across very strongly in the e-book.  I dripped references to IAM throughout the e-book.  Let me try to draw them together in this post.

Perception is reality.

Shared perception requires some form of media.  I.e., thoughts must be communicated through some form of artifact whether fleeting or more resilient.  Examples include gestures, words, text, audio and visual … anything that can be sensed among parties.

For most of history, our ability to communicate was relatively geo-spatially limited.  We could communicate as far as our voices could be heard (town criers) or our eyes could see (smoke signals). Perception was very locally oriented.

Then along came technologies that Marshall McLuhan taught us to understand as Extensions of Man.  The printing press, radio and television are a few of the biggies.  These are essentially one way, broadcast forms of media. The telephone is another biggie, it is interactive & reaches far, but does not scale well to large audiences and requires synchronous connection.

McLuhan explained to us that “the medium is the message. This is merely to say that the personal and social consequences of any medium – that is, of any extension of ourselves – result from the new scale that is introduced into our affairs by each extension of ourselves, or by any new technology.”

He also said, “Our conventional response to all media, namely that it is how they are used that counts, is the numb stance of the technological idiot. For the ‘content’ of a medium is like the juicy piece of meat carried by the burglar to distract the watchdog of the mind. The effect of the medium is made strong and intense just because it is given another medium as ‘content’. The content of a movie is a novel or a play or an opera. The effect of the movie form is not related to its program content. The ‘content’ of writing or print is speech, but the reader is almost entirely unaware either of print or speech.”

When digital media started to really emerge with the introduction of the browser in the mid-1990s, it naturally incorporated many previous forms media.  But bandwidth, computing power and storage were still scarce and expensive.  A lot has changed since Netscape came along.

We have arrived at a point in history where the effect of IAM has been made the strongest and most intense form of media we experience because it has been given all other media as its content. The movie, the play, the opera, the newspaper, the television, the radio, commercial music, print and photographs, even the brand (a broadcast concept), have all been given over to the Individual to be reincarnated as the YouTube video, the prosumer indie, the blog, the blog comment, the forum, the Tweet, the IM chat, rating & review, the Flickr album, the podcast, the viral email and the mashup.

Real world social networks (and social network applications like email and MySpace that facilitate) are the infrastructure of these new forms of media that emit from the Individual.

SCVA argues that the effect is a new scale of social capital that marks a point of inflection for business and it is this new scaled-up version of social capital that SCVA is determined to highlight the value of.

Whereas, the network infrastructure to shape shared perception could be rented with great flexibility in the broadcast era (i.e. the 30 second spot), access to social networks is a function of social capital.

This new scale social capital is a critical corporate asset.

I spent the first half of the e-book illustrating how these entirely new scales of social capital are evidenced by new scales of the intrinsic elements of social capital which are individual assets (remember, the corporation is a form of individual).  These include: information flow, exertion of influence, certifications of social credentials and reinforcement of identity and recognition.  These are observations that are consistent with Nan Lin’s network theory of social capital, whose approach enables us to link the thinking to social network analysis and economics.

Technologies have evolved and mapped so tightly to the way humans transact, form relationships and create self-identity that it is time for business management to adopt the thinking of leaders in social network theory, such as the University of Chicago’s Ronald Burt.

Like it or not, the shift from broadcast media to IAM has implications throughout the corporate ecosystem.

Almost all of the changes highlighted in the illustration above have occurred exponentially, which is why we experience them as a sudden shift.  The “more of the same”, “everything that changes, stays the same” mentality will not derive competitive advantage from change like this.  It may not even survive change like this.

Does it not seem natural? Project and scale up the power of the individual, and that value of human connection of which we are all so instinctively aware, emerges in amplified forms as well.

In addition to the new scales of intrinsic social capital elements examined in the e-book, I would like to study further the extrinsic variables of social capital that aggregate into collective assets such as trust and network structure.  I am sure that there is similar evidence of new scale that would shed more light on social capital formation, access and use.