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We join spokes together in a wheel, but it is the emptiness of the center hole that makes the wagon move.
We shape clay into a pot, but it is the emptiness inside that holds whatever we want.
Pope Francis, Communication at the Service of an Authentic Culture of Encounter - Pope’s Message for World Communications Day
This is a great man, who calls the internet a ‘gift from God’, and a means to bring the world closer together, through the power of open dialogue:
People only express themselves fully when they are not merely tolerated, but know that they are truly accepted. If we are genuinely attentive in listening to others, we will learn to look at the world with different eyes and come to appreciate the richness of human experience as manifested in different cultures and traditions.
Francis is an advocate of ‘strong beliefs, loosely held’, meaning we have to remain open to hearing others’ ideas, and to be willing to see the others’ legitimacy:
To dialogue means to believe that the “other” has something worthwhile to say, and to entertain his or her point of view and perspective. Engaging in dialogue does not mean renouncing our own ideas and traditions, but the claim that they alone are valid or absolute.
Open dialogue — which the internet supports — is perhaps the larger gift, and Francis lives in that spirit, an inspiration to us all.
(h/t David Weinberger)
Maureen O’Connor has the exactly right tone in this piece about exes in a social world.
There was a time, I am told, when exes lived in Texas and you could avoid them by moving to Tennessee. Cutting ties is no longer so easy—nor, I guess, do we really want it to be. We gorge ourselves on information about the lives of our exes. We can’t help ourselves. There’s the ex who “likes” everything you post. The ex who appears in automated birthday reminders. The ex who appears in your OkCupid matches. The ex whose musical taste you heed on Spotify. The ex whose new girlfriend sent a friend request. The ex you follow so you know how to win him back. The ex you follow so you know how to avoid her in person. The ex you watched deteriorate after the breakup. (Are you guilty or proud?) The ex who finally took your advice, after the breakup. (Are you frustrated or proud?) The ex whose new partner is exactly like you. (Are you flattered or creeped out?) The ex whose name appears as an autocorrection in your phone. (Are you sure you don’t talk about him incessantly? Word recognition suggests otherwise.) The ex whose new partner blogs about their sex life. The ex who still has your naked pictures. The ex who untagged every picture from your relationship. The ex you suspect is reading your e-mail. The ex you watch lead the life you’d dreamed of having together, but seeing it now, you’re so glad you didn’t.
Joyce Carol Oates, cited by Frank Bruni in Tweeting Toward Sacrilege, after causing a brouhaha by tweeting about the apparent relationship between Islam and the mistreatment of women in Egypt. Oates is apparently unaware of the deeply repressive undertow of the web.
Karen McGuane, Don’t Let Paper Paradigms Drive Your Digital Strategy
It’s not just paper paradigms we need to avoid, it’s the paradigms of the pre-social web. Here’s a talk I gave in 2010, anticipating liquid media’s future dominance: Social Media Blur | Blogs, Networks, Streams. A quote:
Now, we are headed into the fourth phase of social media, where the growing market impacts of streams will begin to impinge on computing in general, so we will see streams become primary design elements of operating systems for computing and mobile devices. As this advance spreads, the premises of the earliest phases of social media can begin to be considered as layers in an architecture. Old school blogs and other publishing models that create static web pages will increasingly be treated as an archive, or as a source for social objects referenced by URL, but where the URL is used to fetch the content and display it in the stream, just as today photos are being resolved in Twitter clients. In the near future, all media types will be resolved in place, in the stream. This will create interesting issues with advertising revenues and other media control issues, but in the long run, ads and other metadata will be pulled along with the context-free slow media into the socially-embedded context of streams.
These are the chunks McGuane is alluding to, and the OS-based streams are finally appearing in iOS 7. It’s coming on.
Tom Smith, Social media now more popular than TV
The rise of digital has been supercharged by social media. Out of the 5.6 hours that we spend with online media, an average of 48% is spent with social media (which is 26% of overall media consumption, compared to TV’s 23%).
I was surprised by the results of a recent Wall Street Journal survey. While 60% of small business owners said social media tools are valuable to company growth, Linkedin was highest rated and Twitter came in a distant third.
My sense is that using Twitter to simply post information is a weak approach. […] It can’t be used as a simple broadcast, or as a replacement for radio ads or coupons.
A better characterization might be that small business owners find LinkedIn a good resource because it matches the way they currently do marketing, which isn’t very social yet.
Go read the whole piece if you like.
In a piece ostensibly about Marissa Meyer, her famous sleep habits, and her ‘having it all’ lifestyle of rich CEO with newborn baby, Sarah Leonard uncovers a dark truth about the technorati using social tools to ‘brand’ themselves:
Sarah Leonard, She Can’t Sleep No More
The practices in Silicon Valley power centers put the lie to any concept of work life “balance.” As theorist Kathi Weeks likes to say, this is a site of contradiction, not mere imbalance, the contradiction between production and reproduction that has long existed for women. How one combines the two is dictated to a great degree by the economy; you can bet that if it was popularly believed that the American economy was suffering due to a lack of female middle management, all efforts to relieve working women of home duties would be celebrated, rather than held up to “but is she a good mother?” scrutiny.
Silicon Valley adds another twist to this formula — many of the women rising to the top are doing so in an office culture that is relentlessly sexist, but also dedicated to building products that focus on the “social factory.” The term sounds coined for and by people seeking degrees in media theory, but it’s a useful descriptor for the work we do commodifying our social relationships: think Facebook profiting from our clicks and Twitter from our tweets. AsJacobin contributing editor Melissa Gira Grant points out in a forthcomingDissent essay, Facebook was driven from the get-go by men’s relationships to women. It originated as Facemash, a sort of “hot or not” for Harvard women, in Mark Zuckerberg’s dormroom.
Employees at such social media companies now are required to maintain profiles themselves and operate as model users. Grant notes that Facebook hired a photographer to take their workers’ social media photographs, and employed photographers at all events so that the glamour could be shared in a brand-building exercise premised on the attractiveness of employees. The post-Fordist workplace makes more porous the barrier between personal and professional, and therefore the boundaries between work and home.
The second shift is now something of a permanent shift. Even after every job is done for the day, one updates Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter. Free time is enclosed for an uncompensated personal branding exercise important to a corporate world eager to use up workers’ personalities alongside their skill sets. Users may not perceive their experience this way, but social media companies profit directly from clicks and the impetus such sites create to “keep up” are a form of subtley imposed labor. And it means that there is absolutely no time that cannot be dedicated to work. There is no work life balance because work makes its way into life and life is the raw material with which to brand oneself for work.
I often say that I have given up on balance: I’m going for depth instead. But it appears that most people are pulled the other way: they lose balance, but are stretched out across too many social connections and too many contending social contracts.
One of the characteristics of our time is a fragmenting of identity, what I called ‘networked identity’ for some time. However, the psychologist Kenneth Gergan was one of the first in discuss these thoughts, and he used the term multiphrenic identity:
Gergen conceptualizes a new sense of self, contending that “the social saturation brought about by the technologies ofthe twentieth century, the accompanying immersion in multiple perspectives, have brought about a new consciousness: postmodernist”. Thus, Gergen believes that the proliferation of communication modes and of mediated products have contributed to what he terms the “multiphrenic self.”
Further, “cultures incorporate fragments of each other’s identities. That which was alien is now within”. In other words, the self may be interpreted not as a monolithic construction, but as a set of multiple socially constructed roles shaping and adapting to diverse contexts (cf. Weick). Rather than assume multiple identities pose a deviant condition, I prefer to assume their existence, moving toward an understanding of how these are constructed and supported within a media-saturated setting.
My sense is that the transition from the postmodernist era — post WWII until 2000 — into the postnormal is only accelerating this trend, and we are all becoming multiphrenic. We invest ourselves into relationships that are shaped by the affordances of the tools and the particular social contracts of the contexts. Through these relationships new and perhaps unexpected insights into others and ourselves arise. And we participate in dozens of these social environments, possibly with non-overlapping constituencies.
At some point for many, a complete blurring takes place, and there is no balance, no modulated transition from one situation to another.
And our willingness to live this way means that we are offering up our selves, one fragment at a time to different constituencies, like a product placement in a TV show.
I disagree with this article, but I liked the graphic.
If the web was going to change the business of music, where would we see that change? Would it be deep in the bowels of established music labels, rapidly innovating to self-cannibalize their old business models? The established distribution channels, like radio? Uh, no.
As usual, the disruption starts at the edge, with independent artists, new music scenes, and music lovers who are looking for something not pushed like toothpaste or dog food, something authentic:
The Year in Pop - Viral Stardom and Martial Dance Music- Jon Pareles, Ben Ratliffe, and Jon Caramanica via NYTimes.comJON PARELES Well, what is the mechanism? I think what’s going on is that audiences like to find music on their own. You’re having so much stuff thrown at you, like you have Rihanna just blasted at you from all directions, and you think: “Wait a minute, I want something that’s mine. I want something that I’m curious about, where my curiosity hasn’t been smothered by the barrage of marketing.”
RATLIFF That’s the new authenticity. You found it by yourself or with a few of your friends online.
BEN RATLIFF We were talking about Tumblrs last year — sort of little online boutiques that don’t sell you things but shape your taste. Now this year something’s been proven: Pop performers can become truly famous by building their careers themselves online, maybe more efficiently and faster than a major company can help them to do.
JON CARAMANICA Especially if a major company is secretly helping them to do it: 2012 was probably the year when you started to see people who were birthed of the Internet, in about as true a sense as you can, become equally successful in a hard-dollars sense as people who have been birthed from of a major label.
RATLIFF Give us an example.
CARAMANICA A couple of things jump out at me this year. One, you look at the first-week sales numbers of someone like Kendrick Lamar, who had an independent album that was digital only and is now on [the major-label] Interscope, but basically has no major radio hits, even if he is well-liked by mainstream hip-hop. He comes out and sells about 240,000 in his first week. A couple weeks later Rihanna comes out — not her first album and at the height of her pop fame — and sells a few thousand less than Kendrick did.
RATLIFF It’s incredible.
CARAMANICA If I worked at Def Jam [Rihanna’s label], and I’m looking at those numbers, and I had just flown a bunch of journalists around the world to make sure that my pop star had a tremendous amount of presence, and she can’t even sell as many records as a guy who basically can’t crack the Top 20 in the Billboard R&B/hip-hop song chart, I’m really stressed. I think another good example is Lana Del Rey. This starts in 2011 with Lana Del Rey as an Internet thing, and then there’s an Internet backlash, and then there’s an Internet backlash to the backlash. And yet when she comes out [with “Born to Die,” her major-label debut], she not only does respectable numbers, she is someone whom people, for better or worse, took as seriously as any number of pop stars who were born inside the major-label system this year.
JON PARELES Well, what is the mechanism? I think what’s going on is that audiences like to find music on their own. You’re having so much stuff thrown at you, like you have Rihanna just blasted at you from all directions, and you think: “Wait a minute, I want something that’s mine. I want something that I’m curious about, where my curiosity hasn’t been smothered by the barrage of marketing.”
RATLIFF That’s the new authenticity. You found it by yourself or with a few of your friends online.
CARAMANICA Right, but when it turns out that a few of your friends are actually as many people as enjoy Rihanna, that says a lot of things about trends that maybe were there all along, but there wasn’t a frictionless way to serve that kind of interest. And now with the speed with which Internet things are turning into real-life things, it’s not going to make a lot of sense for a label to spend $1 million in development upfront on a pop star who may or may not succeed when you can find someone with a tremendous following online, put a little bit of cash in at that end, and then get the cream off the top.
These writers are so close to the show that they can sound just like the executives that run the labels, who could be tone deaf but have calculators where their souls are supposed to be. Deciding to shift their model to what’s working, partly because it will save them money, but mostly because it speeds everything up: there will be hundreds of artists building followings out there, all in parallel, much more happening in a shorter time than all the entertainment capital in the world could do in the old, ‘fly journalists around the world with Rihanna’ push-based marketing. Instead, stand back and watch (or seed fund from the shadows) social media marketing, and monitor what’s working.
It’s a shift to trying to create and control a market, to becoming brokers and investors *in* a larger, more social world with ten thousand smaller, denser, social markets.
I won’t go so far as to say that the folks behind these labels have moved to the edge themselves, but they have certainly turned their radar in that direction, and we can anticipate a continued hollowing out of the old, cold label-driven music business in 2013 and beyond.
Facebook has leveled off, Pinterest is exploding, Google+ seem to be growing fast, and Tumblr is up 55%.
Bye bye, MySpace.
via Nielsen Social Media Report 2012