This riff is interesting. It raises further questions about the inefficiencies arising in the current way that we organize. The cost of organizing shifting heavily onto those organized.
Political organizing is inefficient to the end user. They give us support for one issue ..like save polar bears and then the “good organizer” uses the political engagement on the polar bear by extension to advocate for all endangered species work. You like the GOP stand on the 2nd amendment, next thing you know you are part of a “political base” being leveraged to fight against health care or expected to ignore human rights abuse. You support a charity as it works with the poor and then hear your numbers counted among the millions against gay marriage. Parties and institutions have leveraged political capital worse than the wall street traders playing with mortgages. Lackoff, American Environics and others continually point to the complexity of people’s opinions on issues but they are not pointing to the huge institutional interest in convoluting and working to cluster people unnaturally.
Organizers do this everyday. They leverage past organizing to appear more organized on current issues and to pretend they have proxies to engage in anything centralized leaders and experts believe in-line with group brands.
Markets and networks will continue to squeeze these “inefficiencies” out of our system of organizing. Information transparency will expose more of this cycle. Additionally, one-off campaigns and adhoc campaigns will demonstrate that they can assemble resources quickly and make a difference (Actblue, Donors Choose, Kiva, Microvolunteering, petition site, etc.) The “build your own” model to engagement will evolve and eat away at the need to give “vouchers” to let others speak for you. We will see a flip-flop of political weights. It used to be that the size of the groups engaged base was what was more important and that these groups of joiners represented the “super-engaged” and the hardened activists. It will ultimately, be that the groups become the repositories for the lazy activists that would rather trusts a brand while the super engaged will actively shop, engage and focus on a variety of issues without needing to sacrifice clarity that is always much more complex then what our groups can represent. Why will this happen? Because the costs of organizing has now shifted onto the end user AND the most valuable connections you will respond to come form friends that you have relationships with.
Costs Have Shifted to the Consumer
The shift that has occurred is that the relevant costs to the recipient are now the dominant ones. If you think about sending out mail ten or twenty years ago, the cost was twenty five cents, which the sender had to pay. The intelligence used to sit on the side of the sender, for instance, Capital One carefully figuring out whom to target. But, with electronic communication, the costs have shifted to the recipient, our time, our attention, our cost to deal with the interruptions. My belief is that it’s not primarily a technology play, but it’s primarily a people play where people provide metadata, data where they predict how important their communication is for you, and then a model negotiates, over time. Given their reputation, how much you should be interrupted and whether given the situation you are in, which of course you devise measures much more finely than ever before, you should be interrupted or not.
With communication being free and instantaneous, attention is increasingly scarce. Economics is the science of scarcity. So, that’s why we need to develop an economic model of communication. Before, scarcity was on the side of the senders (time, money). It was impossible for firms to communicate effectively with large numbers of people at once, and communication/coordination between customers was even more difficult. There was no way for an individual to effectively reach a broad audience beyond a very limited radius. But the communication revolution has brought about many changes. At first glance, this seemed to be great for companies—it’s now almost free to bury customers in ad campaigns! However, now that the scarcity has shifted to the recipients (time, attention), communication needs to go beyond transactions and move to relationships. In fact, the value of relationships is greater than the value of transactions.