Dumb – No, Distracted – Maybe, Impatient & Lazy – Definitely!

Maggie Jackson’s intro to her book Distracted, and Nicholas Carr’s article “Is Google making us stupid” definitely makes you take a step back and reconsider the effects that social media is having not only on our culture but on our physiological beings.  I for one can say that the thought of my brain being altered because of my recent Tweeting, Blogging, and time on the internet is more than a little unsettling.

Do I really believe these tools make us dumb or distracted, I say no to maybe on the short term.  It is something new; we can’t possibly understand what the long term affects might be to our eyes, brains, reflexes, etc.  If the use persists we need to be concerned.  Like the loud music hippies and Yippies of my GenX generation, they really did suffer long term hearing loss…   it was real, even if they didn’t believe it at the time.

What I am positively sure of in the short term, is that these tools have made us lazy.  Does anyone actually walk into a library any more?  How about write a long hand letter on special stationary? I feel that their is value in taking time, taking stock and reflecting in a moment that is all ours.

Definition of impatient: Updating Facebook in the bathroom stall…and sending photos to a friend.  Yep, I heard it all “going on”.

That I am especially sure can wait…

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The Organizing Power of Social Media

For this week’s class we read a variety of articles; from academic papers to pieces from Vanity Fair and everything in between.  The common thread between these disparate writing forms was the notion of the organizing power of social media.  While this was not the first time I had heard or read about social media being viewed as a change agent in enabling social change, there were a couple items that struck me as unique from a couple of these articles.

What is Occupy Wall Street – Washington Post :  “We are all leaders”… REALLY??

In the WP article, Social media was positioned as an enabler of participatory democracy; a vehicle for allowing a wide variety of voices/themes to unify for a cause, verses promotion of shouting over each other for their own selfish purpose. Further, this alternative media is represented as a virtual welcome mat for any would be causes looking for a means to join forces based on “principles of unity”; anti-authoritarian, anti-discrimination.

Up to the point that this article used the women’s rights movement of an example of a similar and “leaderless protest”, I was hanging with them.  Have they not heard of Gloria Steinem, renowned New York feminist and journalist who was the feminist spokesperson of the 60’s?  What about Carol Hanisch, considered a “radical feminist”, a member of New York’s Redstockings group?  She protested Miss American and certainly represented the women’s rights protests as a leader when she came up with the saying “The Personal is Political”.  We can all have voices… we cannot all be Leaders, just like we can all play in a football game, but that does not mean we are all winners when the clock ticks down to zero.

Social media does make for democratic prioritization of issues.  For me however, whether you are using social media or not, a leader to unify the issues is important, and if the cause is really a cause – a clear leader or set of leaders will emerge.  Social media provides the megaphone to the masses for these leaders, and the lack of a leader results in just a bunch of people shouting in the streets & Tweeting on line to themselves.

 Here Comes Everybody – Clay Shirky

Clay Shirky’s article was based on a sad story forced into the light of day by the organizing power of social media.  With a tone of irony, I say THANK GOD for social media in this case.  In this article, the words that resonated for me were…

Social tools do not create social /collective action, they merely remove the existing obstacles.

The old obstacles highlighted in this article were 1) the locality of information and 2) built in barriers preventing group sharing of information.  The notion that social media takes local information global seemed intuitive to me, but how that “globalness” results in totally re-constructing, the borders of organizations had completely eluded me.  Even more compelling was the idea that this restructuring cannot be contained by the “rules of the local”, because they no longer have any relevance or jurisdiction.  A curious quandary for organization rule makers and for sure – another opportunity for our WebLawyer.

Finally, the barrier breaking nature of social media to increase group sharing seems almost Sci-Fi when you think back to the days of clipping paper articles, making copies, and waiting for US Postal correspondence; frankly, in reflection, I had nearly forgotten just how long that cycle took.  In addition, back then when someone sent you a Xeroxed article on some topic, you always wondered if it was real – or if someone had doctored something up using the copier.  I suppose the same is true for the web and social media– you can make anything up and create WebPages out of thin air in minutes, but now so many people have access to the same set of information that the fakers are found out almost as quickly as they release their bogus info.

The bottom line for social media and the power to organize:  SM is a tool for informing, sharing and growing a cause; it breaks old paradigms but also creates a few new ones.  It is not a panacea but does allow us an opportunity to rethink boundaries of all kinds, including geographic, social, and political ones.

Crowdsourcing – A New World of Work?

This weeks readings offer a broad variety of views on the topics of crowdsourcing and open sourcing.  Through the readings the authors attempted to not only answer the question of what these new phenomena are, but they also tried to place them in contexts outside the expected spaces of social media, and consider rather the opportunities for their mainstreaming.

As some of you might know, the research I have been focusing on for the last couple years involves the world of work, and the impact industry faces due to the transitioning workforce from predominantly Baby Boomers to the incoming droves of Millennials.  Some of what I have learned about the Millennial generation is a bit about their work habits and preferences.  While on the surface you may be asking “so what”, in reading the literature on crowdsourcing and reviewing the attributes of “work” that are finding success within crowdsourcing, it may be that crowdsourcing migrates from “fad supporting social media behavior”, to a possible norm as “a new world of work”.

As the articles point out, there are great benefits and efficiencies that can be derived from crowdsourcing:

  1. Collective intelligence (Surowiecki)- imperfect individual judgement, offset by the scale of many and the aggregation and review of a hundred sets of eyeballs.
  2. Commoditization of “simple”tasks (Kittur, Smus, Kraut)- decreased investment with increased speed and a portion of benefits associated with a diverse solution set, though that is debated due to limited web access related to socio-economic status (Surowiecki).
  3. Worker Flexibility (Oreg-Nov/Haythornthwaite) – Only work on what interests you and what you can make time for; no need for a long-term commitment or even a great deal of in-depth expertise.  Individual contributors not only welcome, but valued in an environment with low coordination requirements.

These are just a few of the crowdsourcing benefits that the various authors highlight, but as I compare those to the work desires of Millennials, many common threads arise;  to work collaboratively, but have an individual voice; to work flexible (and shorter) hours without the confines/trappings of a traditional work environment; to work on things “that matter”; to make work “fun”(Twenge 2006).

The article by Oreg/Nov (Oreg & Nov 2007) also shared with us why someone would be motivated to work for free (or nearly free) in crowdsourcing/opensource work.  Again, the idea of working on what matters (mostly for increased self-development) but also for increasing individual reputation topped the list.  In traditional industrial work environments you are paid for your work (well above crowdsourcing rates), that said – only rarely do you get to choose the projects you work on, determine the flexibility of your own work hours, or control the FUN in the FUNction of your role.  Perhaps crowdsourcing provides a “work re-invention” opportunity to not only endear the Millennial generation, but also increase the competitive positioning of U.S. firms?  Maybe if “novel, rare or coveted” work problems (Brabham, 2008 p.83) were carefully examined within the firm and crowdsourced (rather than outsourced) we could reinvigorate job prospects for our young domestic workforce?

If such a sea change in job development/placement was made not with industrial greed in mind, but rather the sustainability of U.S. jobs in mind, I wonder how this shift might be viewed?  Perhaps crowdsourcing as part of a new world of work offers a meaningful and flexible alternative for Millennials and a new option for our U.S. Industrial base.

Online Identity Management – Crowd sourcing the Marketing Script

Reflections on our weekly readings on Identity Management… from an ENT2.0 perspective

Background 

When it comes to Enterprise 2.o and concerns for SM integration into the business environment, risk management issues reach the top of the list for concerns for using it and or excuses for avoiding it.  Of course this makes sense, as for many firms – their stock value is only as high as their customer’s regard for their brand.  In most traditional large firms, teams of marketing folks carefully craft the brand image, with skillfully chosen verbiage, logos, fonts and images to convey the essence of their product/service.  To use Goffman’s theater metaphor, this group of “insiders” might be seen to operate like a collaborating group of writers idealizing and producing a script for the inanimate actor… the brand.

While there are many “stage hands” behind the scenes that enable the brand to play its role as the scriptwriters intended, i.e. (designers, manufacturers, customer service support, logistics, etc.), for the most part – it is the marketing arm of the business, (with some occasional help and guidance from the legal department) that is either credited or cursed for the performance of the brand in the marketplace.  The brand image (i.e. identity), is what the marketing team says it is.

Leap forward

Consider now for a moment a brave new world; a business environment where due to transparency and accessibility of Ent. 2.0 tools, the script for the brand is in the hands of the entire firm (more or less).  Through tools that allow us to collaborate both inside and outside of the firm; with our business partners, customers and suppliers, the brand takes on the role as conceived, written and directed by all of the “stage hands” including marketing;  a sort of crowdsourced script for our actor the brand.  It is at this point, the lawyers and financial analyst responsible for risk management are all running for the doors and selling off their company stock.

Step back

The situation with this forward looking Ent 2.0 business environment is only scary, if we doubt the ability(skill/talent), credibility(maturity/wisdom), and intentions(understanding/ethics) of our workforce to effectively communicate brand value.

It is on that note that Ent 2.0, like other forms of social media, are not innately good or bad – they are rather tools for communicating that if improperly managed, can forever damage the identity of the brand (or person) behind them.  In that way, Ent 2.0/SM is no different than other forms of mass media… use them wisely, they are your friend – do otherwise, and you will be picking yourself up off of the Wallstreet trading floor with the other sell-offs.

Importance to Research & Interests

As was suggested by many of our readings, users of the tools should be carefully trained on the ramifications of information put forth; they need to be made aware of analogies like backstage/frontstage; policies for use and control need to be in place before the first Tweet, Blog or Wiki are created to mitigate risk and maximize reward.  In the busy-ness of doing work in the wide open space of social media/Ent 2.0, people need to be made aware and reminded of the need for a split identity.

As I move forward on my case studies, I will be looking for comments around policy and training to see if this idea of “preventative medicine” is part of the  Ent. 2.0 deployment mindset.  I will also look to see if there is any relationship between the absence of these policy and training perspectives and the success/failure/rejection of Ent 2.0.

Personal Identity

On a personal note, my approach for managing my identity online has been one of conservatism.  Essentially, if I control the amount of material associated with my identity out there, then the likelihood of a negative identity is reduced.  I frequently google various versions of my identity to see what comes up, and monitor that for appropriateness.  As is, I limit my web identity to my professional/academic identity or a “secret identity” that has no relation to me whatsoever, and leave the majority of my personal/private identity to be left invisible to the masses.  This is growing harder and harder to do, but I believe from the perspective of my own risk management, this is the right approach for me.

Marketing – The Industrial low road in the land of Social Media

Ok, so I am the new one around this social media (SM)neck of the woods, but already in my brief scan of SM sites, you just can’t avoid the word “marketing”.  It has to be one of those words that really pops out in many tag clouds; yes – I have actually learned what this is and it is only day 2!

It makes me think about when I first lived in the city of Atlanta, every street seemed to begin or end with the word PEACH TREE…  Couldn’t anyone think of something a little more creative?

Let me give an example of what I am talking about.  In the article Jump on the social media bandwagon, the author suggests that industrial type firms can benefit from social media, but then fails to take the high road to suggest these “for good not evil” purposes, and slides back into only discussing the marketing benefits.

Surely there is a greater, deeper and richer connection between social media and industry than Ms. Van Wyk’s suggestion of making B2B connections through LinkedIn, right?  How about industrial based collaborative learning communities, R&D technical discussions, or perhaps networks of those interested in a particular industry?

Come forth citizens of social media land…  point me toward the HIGH road beyond SM as marketing.