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Now is the "Network Society": Networks and Globalization Paper by Jim Davis

Networks and globalization. by Jim Davis is a wonderful paper building on the network theory and explaining some key network concepts in useable terms and chunks. Jim takes a bleak outlook of the network effect specifically on global trade but has some real zingers packed in his narrative. He ends with a call to the network to swarm intelligence on reworking the law system of globalization. He is a network thinker and a social change advocate. I look forward to connecting with more of his work.

This is a great summary paper. I would love to add a few things and riff with Jim on network purity, cascading failure, etc. Jim is picking up all the right ideas in all the right books and applying the concepts to globalization challenges. Very cool.

There are lots of interesting points and summaries in the paper that should stimulate thinking by network-centric strategists.

My favorite mind bender is "Technology is the means by which we interact with world. Consciousness is shaped by and shapes interactions with the world." This is an amazing assertion that because technology as increasingly dominating interactions (phone, tv, internet, ATM, car, etc) is it shaping the consciousness we can achieve. Do public opinion polls measure out this way? How has the technology shaped consciousness?

How does information overload the individual "nodes" or peoples' processing power so that increases in interaction do not increase consciousness but instead dumb it down? I also interested in exploring the generational "gap" that may create separate consciousness enabled by technology. Will IM influence the way young kids interact with people of different social, geographic and issue networks? Will blogs and the connections online challenge traditional power structures?

"laws" are the necessary, general, definite, stable connections between phenomena that cannot fail to occur given a particular environment or field of operation. In network terms, connections between nodes have a definite quality. The law system constrains a network.

What are the laws that govern advocacy campaigns? Are those laws the same as power and wealth laws? Does the value of preferential attachment decrease as people are able to connect and disconnect more easily from campaigns, parties and organizations?

Networks under specific conditions may undergo "global cascades", where change quickly sweeps through the network. In some cases, the change is a breakdown of some sort, leading to cascading failure. The failure of one node places additional burdens on connected nodes, which in turn fail, passing their burden along, until there is a systemic collapse. Under normal conditions, various controls and feedback mechanisms would isolate the problem and protect the network. If, for whatever reason, the problem cannot be isolated, or the number of links and amount of redundancy in the network is limited, dramatic failures can occur. In the electricity blackout of 2003, a routine failure complicated by a series of mistakes and mishaps dominoed through the northeastern U.S. and Canadian power grid and ended up shutting down power to some 50 million people. While an important logic behind speculative capital is risk management, the tying together of markets combined with the leverage (speculating with borrowed money) that accompanies speculation also introduces "systemic risk" into the financial system. The unexpected event can overwhelm the normal shock absorbers in the system. The rich web of connections helps set up what Saber calls a "financial resonance". Instead of dispersing, the normal noise in the financial system harmonizes, possible culminating in the collapse of the entire systems.

Still, one person's network failure can be another person's network liberation. Global cascades describe the rapid transformation -- a leap -- from one state or phase to another, or even a different, more profound kind of change, from one law system to another. The combination of a node's "change threshold" and its connectivity to its neighbors will determine the possibility of global cascade in a system or network. (Watts, 2003) Since change threshold is itself a dynamic property, global cascade may not be possible under some conditions, but become possible under others

Network-centric advocacy is about developing the strategies and building the framework which will enable the network of progressive social change actors to create and foster the conditions which accelerate "cascading failures" of the political organizing strategies of those that wish put their own self gains above human rights, community health or environmental sustainability.

Technology Fuels Collective Sparring Over Bolton, but to What End? : PDF : Are We Hitting the Wall?

The idea that mass-communications and activations are now canceling out each other should be a call to start to take network-centric advocacy strategy seriously? How many folks sign up for all the issues you care about? How many of you (if you did) would feel more empowered and truly engaged? Are you engaged if you click a link like a monkey that fills out your prefilled action email petition only to find out that the group really knows that strategy won't win but they want you on the "list" so they can email you in the future for money.

Do we really think the American public doesn't see right through the scam? Building new engagement means actually opening up participation in meaningful ways (yes using technology to do it) to millions of Americans. If we can not think of ways to inspire and engage people on better terms the failure is not of the technology but our failure. We need to synchronize skill and intelligence so that we can synchronize resistance and voice. Now we are only working on letting the mass communication infrastructure carry our group voices to the decision makers. Guess what, the decision makers are catching on. The "haves" have figured out how to mass produce the email footprint of a real grassroots movement when no movement exist.

We therefore need to design strategies that really demonstrate the power of people connected by technology and a culture of connectivity. We need to stop doing the same things that robo callers and spammers have been able to do with a few hundred bucks. Great Article! Important Wake Up Call.

Senator Chafee and his staff do pay attention to emails and calls initiated by advocacy groups, admits Hourahan, “but after a while when you have so many calls and emails and blast faxes from one phone number, impact subsides.” Advocacy organizations often call their members, then patch them through to the government official of choice, which some say results in calls from people who have no idea what they’re supposed to be for or against Mobile Active Convergence: Looking for a few Mobile Organizers

Another Ping from the Call phone world highlighting the effort to explore the infrastucture that enables network-centric advocacy: Mobile Active Convergence.

Mobile Active Convergence NGOs Green Media Toolshed and - who's motto is "better tools for a btter world" - are hosting the first-ever gathering of activists and organizers using cell phones and sms in their campaign, human rights, and political work. The event will be in Toronto, Canada. They are still looking for experienced campaigners, human rights, and social justice activists who are using sms messaging and cell phones in their work. Below is the announcement. The "MobileActive" convergence, to be held in Toronto, Canada, will develop guides and best practices for campaign planners and technology staff. A handful of visionaries and activists are convening a working session of global activists, communications staff, technology experts and foundation staff to mine a wide variety of experience, expertise and vision. The goal is to shorten the learning curve and accelerate the use of cell phones as a successful tool in campaigns, human rights efforts and field organizing. Case studies from the field will be explored and a short list of recommendations will be developed for funders interested in supporting campaigns and issue organizing that use mobile phones as an engagement tool. Participants will be invited from across the world including Africa, South Korea, the Philippines, India, the Ukra


Smart Mobs: MobileActive Convergence

A little fun from work where I get to apply the basic concepts developed here into innovative projects. Smart Mobs: Mobile Active Convergence.

NGOs Green Media Toolshed and are hosting the first-ever gathering of activists and organizers using cell phones and sms in their campaign, human rights, and political work.

They are still looking for experienced campaigners, human rights, and social justice activists who are using sms messaging and cell phones in their work.

The Power of the Lie in a Story: New Reading List

Seth always has interesting observations about the ways that stories move in the age of information overload. Seth's basic marketing observations provide a huge challenge to advocacy and political communications.

in an age when consumers are motivated by irrational wants instead of objective needs and "there is almost no connection between what is actually there and what we believe," presenting stolid factual information about a product is a losing strategy. Instead, marketers should tell "great stories" about their products that pander to consumers' self-regard and worldview. Examples include expensive wine glasses that purport to improve the taste of wine, despite scientific proof to the contrary; Baby Einstein videotapes that are "useless for babies but...satisfy a real desire for their parents"; and organic marketing schemes, which amount to "telling ourselves a complex lie about food, the environment and the safety of our families." Because consumers prefer fantasy to the truth, the marketer's duty is to be "authentic" rather than honest, to "live the lie, fully and completely" so that "all the details line up"-that is, to make their falsehoods convincing rather than transparent.

Pitching Blogs: Is there a difference between a PR hack and political or advocacy strategies?

Here is an interesting riff on the role the pitch, news and bloggers in the world of information flows. It is a very good read for all the political campaign hacks itching to build blog campaigns. It is also an effective overview of common communications campaign failures and a good discussion of the why (how) pitching is not conversation, relationships or engaging in a way that effectively targets the norms of blogs.

It is not surprising that folks are still feeling around int he dark on how to engage the blog world with campaigns. It is like early ads on radio, TV or the internet. People are still feeling out the limits of the channel. Applying one channels norms to another has always been a disaster. (Radio personalities did not convert to TV and TV stars are not the kings of the Internet.) Pitching or flacking for a campaign in this new world is different. The challenge is to figure out how to spread news and stories in the blog world (set up a circle of blogs, publish the story in lots of places, push it into lots of online places and then comment on it from a handful of blogs, encourage people to modify and distribute the stores that move your message, include private email pushes,etc.)

This is an interesting because it is targeted at corporate PR hacks but is a bit telling about the ideas that may leave wiggle room for advocacy and political conversations.

Some of the ‘A List’ bloggers command sizeable audiences and can justifiably claim to hold considerable sway in certain spheres of influence.

Technorati’s “attention index” ranks online news sources using a variant of Googlejuice (the more inbound links to a site, the higher the assessed authority). The top ranked news sources on Technorati – the ones most often pointed to by other writers in the blogosphere are, as one would expect, sites such as The New York Times, CNN, BBC News, and The Washington Post.

No big surprise here. All this tells us is that if news breaks anywhere, it’s likely to appear on one of the big media sites fairly early on, and lots of people who follow these sites (or click through from Google News) will point to the stories they read there; either as their prime source, or because they’re choosing to comment on the source’s take.

After the top five, as J.D. Lasica noted recently, things get a little more interesting:

“No. 5 on the attention index is, followed by Britain's The Guardian newspaper and another community news site, Plastic. This means bloggers are having conversations about items found on Slashdot slightly more often than they're discussing stories found on The Guardian's Web site ... Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo and Dave Winer's Scripting News come in ahead of the Los Angeles Times ... while midsize online newspapers such as the Chicago Tribune, The Dallas Morning News and The Miami Herald don't make the list.”

Bloggers talk about blogs, blogging, and other bloggers. Big traffic blogs get a lot of their traffic from the fact that other bloggers are constantly referencing them. Again, no big surprise.

So if the word-of-web movement of news and gossip through the blogosphere can be seen as an analogue for word-of-mouth buzz through meatspace – clearly setting the blogvines burning is a worthy goal for any flack wanting to spread their clients’ news.

But is pitching blogs a bad idea?

In general, I’d argue: yes. It really is. But then, I should probably confess that I find the whole idea of “pitching” to be an insincere, outmoded approach anyway – in the traditional flack/hack dynamic as much as in the blog world.

Cuke Skywalker, Ham Solo and Chewbroccoli: Viral Store Wars builds on Star Wars Release to Highlight Industrial Farm Practices


Here is a cool new story from Freerange working to spread the "good side of the Farm".

Meet the heroes of the Organic Rebellion: Cuke Skywalker, Ham Solo and Chewbroccoli. With guidance from wise old Obi Wan Cannoli, this small band of vegetable puppets (yes, vegetable puppets) is battling against Darth Tader, evil lord of the Dark Side of The Farm. Can Cuke rescue Princess Lettuce and destroy the Death Melon in time? Or will he be seduced by the Dark Side, an empire of pollution and pesticides that has taken over the market with its arsenal of genetic engineering, irradiation and toxic chemicals?

I will be interested to see results and the impact of a five minute flash movie. How well it spreads and the way it ties into Star Wars media push.

It would also be nice to link to them and pass on the link... in your blogs.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet: Pushing Power to the Edges

In what will be the first in a sequence of papers on the concept of network-centric advocacy, I will try to spell out more effectively what has happened to our culture, where things are goings with advocacy in this new context and what strategies social change leaders should be adopting in the connected age.

In this paper, Jillane Smith, Allison Fine and I look at the state of the field of civic engagement enabled by technology, changes in our culture and the impact that these changes have for the community. The paper is really geared to explore and explain some of changes that folks (who read blogs get but traditional planners are struggling with) who plan campaigns seem to be missing. As the "online action" moves on land and energy and story built across the Internet is channeled into community action, we need to spend time digging into the implications to advocacy work.

The paper stays away from the most controversial ideas, direct and clear directions, and many of the other hot headed attitudes I normally like to promote. It is designed for a wide audience and should not be very controversial. The paper should serve as a good introduction to key concepts and is backed with interviews and case studies to strengthen the story.

Future papers I want to work on include a guide to network-centric advocacy and finally a collection of essays exploring the key concepts of building networks, measuring network performance, leadership in networks and a list of recommended pilot projects.

I will clip out a few sections for feedbacks, trackbacks and comments.

In the face of a decades-long pattern of low voter turnout, declining membership in associations, decreases in volunteerism and drops in percentages of individual donations to political parties and political campaigns, it seemed an unlikely time for the beginning of a revolution. Yet that is what has occurred online in the past few years.

The time for change was ripe for many reasons, chief among them:
* As the cost of technology and access continues to drop, and although a digital divide persists, it is closing and will continue to close over the next decade. Internet usage continues to broaden both in terms of who is online as well as what they’re doing online.
* The coming of age of a new generation of tech-savvy people has created a tipping point in the use of the Internet for commerce, conversations and group association.
* The “organization-centric” model that has traditionally dominated the civic engagement landscape has begun to show cracks. Often organizations serve as the primary intermediary through which citizen engagement occurs. The pressure that these organizations experience to build membership and revenue in order to sustain their activities ultimately competes with the organization’s ability to engage and listen to the very individuals they need in order to accomplish their mission.
* A growing tide of frustrated individuals is tired of being talked at and only asked for funds by political parties and organizations. With the Internet’s ability to create and sustain many-to-many conversations, more people are seeking authentic engagements and opportunities to be more fully a part of campaigns and causes, not just check writers or names on a membership list.
* People increasingly express a willingness and enthusiasm to connect online to others around an issue of mutual interest, with 84% of individual Internet users having joined at least one online group. The rise of Friendster and other social networking sites demonstrate the interest that people have in becoming more connected with others across geographic, economic, racial and social divides.
* The growing popularity of open source software, and its increased application to online activism and citizen engagement, is a natural fit with the values and leveling effect of Internet –based organizing.

To better understand the implications these new approaches have for civic engagement organizations and those who support them, we will first examine Internet usage across several sectors, and provide an overview of the different approaches to online civic engagement.

The U.S. Army Professional Writing Collection: Food for Thought

Here is a fascinating look at network-centric warfare lessons. The release provides some real food for thought on the network-centric advocacy strategies. I have clipped it to tease out the points to ponder.

It is at least arguable that the service has concentrated so much on operational-level battles-new brigade organizations, theories about rapid deployment and air-mechanized operations-that attention to winning wars, particularly insurgencies, has gotten short shrift. Perhaps instead of a campaign-quality Army, a war-winning one would be a more appropriate aim.

The second lesson to emerge thus far from the Iraq war is that civil populations can no longer be overlooked or disregarded in war strategy. Civil uprisings against corrupt governments or invading armies are an old story in war, but modern conditions empower populations to play a more central role in warfare for a number of reasons. First, most of the world is awash in arms anyway, and technologies and techniques that are adequate to offset much of America's technological advantage on the tactical battlefield are available in the shops and bazaars of the developing world.

Lesson Four: The locals have to win their own war. Nothing is so important in counterinsurgency as to understand that, eventually, local forces have to beat their own insurgents.

As a consequence, war planners must consider the recruiting, training and fielding of local security forces as essential for the attainment of strategic objectives, and the links between the two efforts-operations

I really dig the implications that on the big picture they have failed to focus on the importance of design strategy to win rather than merely focusing on the effectiveness in each engagement. I also see the same strategic failures creeping up in many political and issue campaigns.

1. Design to win the big picture not merely individual engagements.
2. Modern conditions empower the average citizen to play a more central role in the campaigns.
3. Grassroots can only be countered with more effective grassroots it is smart strategy of the central powers and players to provide capacity to the grassroots.