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.

SoCap08: Is there a thread missing?

As I sort through the after math of SoCap08, I think that you might want to check out this post entitled, The Silver Lining in the Market Collapse: Social Capital.  It seems that the theme that Jonathan Salem Baskin & I were trying to highlight last week with our co-authored, co-posted piece entitled Looking for Leadership? Invest in your Networks? was resonating at the conference.

In short, this time of crisis in confidence is a time when business leaders are looking for answers.  It is a time of opportunity for advancing social capital thinking that so many of us are dedicated to.

I am picking up that most felt that the conference captured a gritty optimism, as signaled by the attendance of more than 600 to a first time event that was planning for 300.  While it is clear that Katherine Fulton’s presentation on the state of social capital markets was well received, I am wondering if the observation that social capital markets are at a very early stage of uncoordinated innovation was out of step with the enthusiasm of the conference?

In particular, I am wondering if there was sub-context at the conference about the forces driving a revolutionary rise in social capital that is breaking down the silos between value based management (i.e. the quest to manage sources of stable future earnings, over and above the cost of capital), social capital and social network analysis.

While there were discussions about breaking down silos, I am not picking up any thread extending Nan Lin’s network theory of social capital, that is so useful in connecting social capital to market thinking IMHO.  The money quote from Nan Lin … “social capital, as a concept, is rooted in social networks and social relations, and must be measured relative to its root . Therefore, social capital can be defined as resources embedded in a social structure which are accessed and/or mobilized in purposive actions .”  A merger between individuals, social networks and media has taken place.

In short, since broadband internet connections became more prevalent than dial up in 2004, the dominant media paradigm is shifting away from broadcast towards the Individual as Medium.  Increasingly perception and therefore stable future earnings emanate from IAM instead of broadcast or offline word of mouth networks.  Whereas time on broadcast networks can be easily rented with financial capital (i.e. the 30 second television or radio spot), access to social media networks will only be granted through social capital.

This means that managing these scaled up forms of social capital is at the heart of every enterprise right now.  Not two or three stages of maturity in social capital markets from now.

Were you at SoCap08?

Am I picking up on a missing thread to the conference?  Can you help me elaborate this?  This blog post is unfinished without the input of the organizers and attendees ….

UPDATE: Here is a great overview of the SoCap08 conference from SocialFinance.ca.

Here is the blog round up from Social Capital Markets Blog that I referred to: