Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The networked future

This is the first cut intro to the vision I'm writing up - which seems to be turning into a manifesto...  From here I need to go through references and links, as a first stage of refinement to create something of higher quality.  There are some chronic gaps - like what a 'network' is.  Let it be for now.... but let me know what you think of the start!

We're moving into an increasingly networked future.

Networks are becoming increasingly prevalent - as organisations, institutions, aspects of our day-to-day lives, ways of coming together, and ways to make things happen.

In the past, it was expensive and difficult to coordinate the activity of multiple agents.  Hierarchical bureaucracy was required to coordinate activity as organisations scaled up in size.  But changes in communications technologies mean bureaucracy is less and less necessary as an organisation method - and increasingly expensive and ineffective in getting things done, in comparison to network-based methods.

It's not that other structures won't be around - or have an appropriate, rightful place in the social ecosystem.  But networks will be more important than they are today. They will be much more important and prevalent than we can effectively take advantage of, with our current collective capacity to work in networked ways.

Effective agents of the future will need new, networked modes of operation.  We need to build on current ways of working that run counter to network-agency, and we need to develop our networked methods that are unsophisticated and underdone.  These will depend upon new mindsets and philosophies as well - a paradigm shift in how we think about 'organisation'.  Current mindsets undermine effective action by blinding us to the role of networks, and erecting barriers to using them effectively.

Networked modes of operation are not about 'keeping up' - yet.  These methods present new opportunities to tackle the sticky and wicked problems that are the thorns in the sides of today's paradigm.



  1. I'll keep the background to mention of a book which helped transition my life in the mid 1980s:

    Right now my focus is on an experimental Twitter addiction which has me starting to judge prospective follows by their ratios between pass through (retweet, Tweet button), commented (edited same) and original-looking content. What distribution of those ratios might keep Twitter at least interesting and sometimes useful or, otherwise, ensure we soon enough move on to the next big thing.

    One current hate is naked shortened links, especially those that go to FB, devoid of even a couple of words that might give you a clue.

    1. Sounds interesting Tony. I assume you're not just talking about quality streams at a personal level, but looking at network-impacts of the mentioned parameters? Would be an interesting study to see results of.

      Would be interesting to look at the role of filtering mechanisms too (there's no harm having noise like naked links if you can filter it out). Mind you, I'm not sure what good Twitter clients have good filtering mechanisms at the moment. I don't think the Tweetdeck mobile app I use does.

  2. Definitely focused on network aggregate consequences.

    On reflection, there are a few other key message classes, even before you start breaking down into finer categories. The first other one I thought of I call "grooming" in the sense implied by animal behaviourists. Such messages are essential to community health, but can also become excessive. A complementary class, "flaming", may be easier to learn to avoid, although I have to frequently bite my fingers before I slip into rejoinders which are flammable or too weakly humorous.

    It would definitely be good to place well focused filters on some of the more prolific twitterers, though that purpose is partly served by relying on others. Unfortunately it appears that if you mute somebody, you lose others' retweets that you would have seen had you not followed in the first place. I guess I need to stop seeing unfollowing as potentially offensive.