I'm actually in the clouds, flying to California on Virgin America using the (not free) wifi listening to Mark Pesce's keynote via Mike Seyfang delivered the other day at Connecting Up Australia the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Australia (see web site for details). I keynoted the conference last year. (This year Peter Deitz and Jay Dedman and Ryanne Hodson are there)
I was going to participate remotely via hologram as Doug Jacquier describes skype for a roundtable with Mark, but my crazy schedule, time zone dyslexia and not realizing that I would actually be on a Virgin Flight with Wifi .. oh well.
The audio is fading a bit, so I've been thinking about what Mark wrote in his essay, "Sharing Power (Aussie Rules)" I read the essay three times, I mind mapped it, and have been noodling on it for an hour or two. Here are the bits that resonated with me.
He talks about the "Cloud" a word to describe how we're all more closely connected through social networks like Twitter, Facebook, and etc. And how our connectedness is resulting in new collective behavior that can't be controlled.
The cloud results from the "human condition of hyperconnection." I came across a study of "hyperconnectedness" about six months, blogged it here. It estimates that 16% of the population is hyperconnected and identifies that hyperconnected people have these traits:
- The boundary between work and personal time is virtually non-existent.
- They use many more devices, channels, and tools then "regular" people.
- Hyper connectivity among employees has the potential to increase security risks due to lost hardware, software, internet transfer of files, etc.
- They are generally early adopters of new technologies and consider themselves to be global people.
- Only 1/3 of hyper connected people see themselves as early adopters
- They are generally always on, always connected and see this as a good thing.
If you want to dive into more details into this condition, see the hyper connectivity blog.
Pesce points out that this condition leads to observational learning from watching other people's behaviors online. Something he terms hypermimesis (which if you google can mean morning sickness) but means that these behaviors can be replicated quickly. He also defines it as the formation of communities of interest can form around particular behaviors, or "clouds" potential. He goes to list some examples and asks "How many examples do we need to name before we admit that the rules have changed, that the smooth functioning of power has been terrifically interrupted by these other forces, now powers in their own right?"
Next he talks about how our online social behavior has shifted the power system, but first defines the old power system:
The entire nature of power has changed, as have the burdens of power. Power has always carried with it the ‘burden of omniscience’ – that is, those at the top of the hierarchy have to possess a complete knowledge of everything of importance happening everywhere under their control. Where they lose grasp of that knowledge, that’s the space where coups, palace revolutions and popular revolts take place.
He describes the power shift that the cloud presents and it's burden of "always on."
This new power that flows from the cloud of hyperconnectivity carries a different burden, the ‘burden of connection’. In order to maintain the cloud, and our presence within it, we are beholden to it. We must maintain each of the social relationships, each of the informational relationships, each of the knowledge relationships and each of the mimetic relationships within the cloud. Without that constant activity, the cloud dissipates, evaporating into nothing at all.
I'm struck by this. I understand it, particularly because I'm writing this at 30,000 ft in the air above Virgin America, literally in the clouds. He goes on to provide some historical context for clouds disappearing by discussing the dunbar number and tribes. He talks more about the cost of maintaining the cloud:
I think this is connected to what Rheingold's Attention Literacy piece, but I have go back and read it again.
He discusses the high price of hyperconnectivity for individuals AND for organizations.
And here's is the most important bit for nonprofits. He talks about the strengths and costs of the hierarchy (organizational structures) and the cloud - and that the two forms are not compatible. But nonprofits need to focus on the interfaces that connect the hierarchy to the cloud. (This is one theme Allison Fine and I are writing about in our book)
The last section of the essay talks about the cloud, tower, and storm, elegantly pushing the metaphors.
All organizations are now confronted with two utterly divergent methodologies for organizing their activities: the tower and the cloud. The tower seeks to organize everything in hierarchies, control information flows, and keep the power heading from bottom to top. The cloud isn’t formally organized, pools its information resources, and has no center of power. Despite all of its obvious weaknesses, the cloud can still transform itself into a formidable power, capable of overwhelming the tower. To push the metaphor a little further, the cloud can become a storm.
He also points out a pattern of how storms get started.
In other words, five people have to take the lead, leading everyone else in the cloud with their dedication, their selflessness, and their openness. This number probably holds true in a cloud of any sort – find five like-minded individuals, and the transformation from cloud to storm will begin.
This is what Clay Shirky was saying during the NTC Keynote when he said there was always a small group in the center of the groundswell. (Ethan Zuckerman recently did an analysis of tweets from Moldova and found this to be true. And, if we look at charity:water, it got started with a small group lead by Amanda Rose as well)
He also describes how the storm grows in intensity - similar to what we have observed with participation in online communities over time, but more powerful perhaps because of the networked effect.
At the end of that transformation there is still no hierarchy. There are, instead, concentric circles of involvement. At the innermost, those five or more incredibly dedicated individuals; then a larger circle of a greater number, who work with that inner five as time and opportunity allow; and so on, outward, at decreasing levels of involvement.
He talks about how difficult it is to stomp out a cloud because of its decentralized nature. But more importantly, he describes the quality of leadership of a cloud or networked leadership. In a phrase, all you need is love ...
What, then, is leadership in the cloud? It is not like leadership in the tower. It is not a position wrought from power, but authority in its other, and more primary meaning, ‘to be the master of’. Authority in the cloud is drawn from dedication, or, to use rather more precise language, love. Love is what holds the cloud together. People are attracted to the cloud because they are in love with the aim of the cloud. The cloud truly is an affair of the heart, and these affairs of the heart will be the engines that drive 21st century business, politics and community.
This reminds of something that Nancy White was writing about a while back about community indicators and the Beatles song, "All You Need Is Love." I think it was 2006 when the entire room of 1400 bloggers burst into spontaneous singing of this song at BlogHer. I couldn't find it, but did find a connection through her writing about slow community which is very un storm and cloud like.
He ends with a call to action to organizations about understanding, working with, and leveraging the cloud.
All of you have your own hierarchical organizations – because that’s how organizations have always been run. Yet each of you are surrounded by your own clouds: community organizations (both in the real world and online), bulletin boards, blogs, and all of the other Web2.0 supports for the sharing of connectivity, information, knowledge and power. You are already halfway invested in the cloud, whether or not you realize it. And that’s also true for people you serve, your customers and clients.
His advice: (1) Embrace the cloud - it isn't evil. Don't be scared of it. (2) Work like the cloud within your organization. I think he's talk about culture change. (3) The Cloud is evolving and changing pretty quickly.
Mark is keynoting the Personal Democracy Forum this year in NY in June and this is the theme of what he is talking about. I wish I could go, but the moving van is arriving that day.
There's a lot more to say about this essay and thinking, but the plane is about to land soon and I have to get out of the clouds ...