Is Society 2.0 a world of critics?

It’s the transparency stupid!

So cold coffee in San Francisco … not good too milky … but even worse you can’t escape the news anywhere. Pictures of bombs and images in the UK made their way within 5 minutes to West Coast and rest assured at 2am Hargreaves was still working hard. Then in the papers on the way back reading cc TV pictures of burning jeeps and people it occurred to me that this frenzied media overload is another factor of society 2.0. It’s less about the technology than the transparency that results, the 24 hour monitoring of everything.

This means you can’t hide things anymore and you can’t just say how it’s going to be without some kind of backlash whether it’s the decision to go to war or an Olympic logo. Now while this good and all democratic I am wondering whether it just makes life too stressful. I mean once upon a time people were paid to design or make war and they were the expert and the rest of us had a sense of respect. Today this transparency means we are all expected to have a view, so is Society2.0 a world of critics? And is this truly a good thing? A critique would be welcome …

Jordi Ballera adds his two penneth..

Of course it’s a good thing. That is what we call the social construction of meaning. Both transparency and collaborative technologies help to promote ethical standards and moral values through dialogue and interaction. Maybe this is making life stressful… I don’t know. It’s up to you to decide whether you want to participate or not. But don’t forget that there is no citizenship without participation.

Simon Collister (blogger extraordinaire) also views his opinion…

Agree entirely with Jordi.

The social construction of knowing or meaning is creating a major change in the way we produce and consume knowledge. ‘Experts’ have grown traditionally through our construction of knowledge and knowing which has relied on filtering and sorting information to help us get a grip on the most ‘important’ bits. To decode the ‘important’ bits we needed a top-down process where ‘experts’ made the important decisions for the public (David Weinberger also argues this was a highly political way of evolving knowledge as power was inherent in the process).

As more and more people get the chance to impart their own, personal expertise, traditional power structures of business, politics, etc must adapt to this openness/transparency in order help shape knowledge and understanding. This may be stressful but partly because it is such a sea-change in the way we – as an industry and society – work.

Always one for self-promotion I posted a little bit about understanding the need for genuine transparency (the type Jordi notes is vital for participation in civil society) last week here. I would also definitely recommend reading David Weinberger’s Everything is Miscellaneous).

An argument with myself … so I agree with you both BUT I also disagree. A-political societies don’t have a means of resolving arguments and often tend to chaos that leaves a vacuum into which emotions and extremism replaces rational debate and expertise. See Noelle Neumann’s book Spiral of Silence that looks at this process in Weimar Germany and the rise of Nazism. My midnight fear is that this a-political process could occur in Society 2.0 …

Simon finally adds a final thought:

You’re right again, Jonathan….. but Noelle-Neumann’s Spiral of Silence specifically addresses public opinion as manipulated through media as a mass communication channel. I would argue the internet is a network used by individuals – do traditional media/mass communication theories still apply (I don’t know by the way!).

Perhaps apolitical societies traditionally fell into chaos leading to the rise of super-elites (Nazism?) because individuals didn’t have access to a platform allowing debate…. but… wait for it… doesn’t the internet provide just that?

All good debate… shall we organise a series of briefing events/workshops to explore these issues? Kind of a New Media Academic Summit for the UK/Europe… 😉

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14 responses to “Is Society 2.0 a world of critics?

  1. A-ha! Thanks for the kind words, Jonathan… now I realise what this is all about. I like it… teaser! Fancy adding me to your blogroll? 😉

  2. 12jh

    Sure … and great idea on the summit where should it be Berlin? Budapest? Southampton? Please vote!

  3. 12jh

    Sondi replies with a typical beardie-weirdie comment

    ……….and can I just say that increasingly so, web 2.0 through social networking etc is directly targeting our more narcissistic nature and succeeding……I mean how much more blatant can the branding of ‘MySpace’ and ‘FACEbook’ be…….so…….as much as sharing and debate is good for obvious reasons and constructs society, there will come a point where it will lead to its own downfall. Tis human (and so in turn web) nature.

  4. It’s a balancing act.

    Society 2.0 brings. . .
    — Theoretically broader participation (unless you live on the streets or in Africa, which was always the way).
    — Theoretically more rapid discussion of problems, leading to rapid prototyping of new policies (in politics) and products (in business).
    — An explosion in the market for viewpoints (this market has always been beloved of US political philosophers, but not their European counterparts).

    But it also brings. . .
    — Fragmentation, a move away from communal values (The Long Tail in Society).
    — The encouragement of narcissism (yes, I agree). Both Blair and Cameron are good examples of the leadership we narcissists deserve. They cannot take the decisions we require on environment, or, say, pensions.
    — The destruction of sources of traditional expertise (let’s extend Andrew Keen’s argument from the media, to academia, and the civil service. Once you start to do this, it’s clear that some fairly important sources of power up for grabs…).

    How to react? I’m not wholly comfortable with US-style Panglossian reactions (“Everything will be OK; trust to the wisdom of crowds”.)

    For all the talk of the web’s decentralising effects, I’m also conscious that network effects are part of the web’s inner nature, too.

    In other words: what happens when the winner-takes-all effect hits us not just economically (MS, Google), but also politically?

    The result is demotic politics. And Weimar rings a bell there.

    Neither am I happy with rejectionism — partly because none of this is stoppable.

    But it might be shape-able to some extent.

    Perhaps I need to broaden my reading, but I don’t see think-tankers or politicos or columnists addressing these issues.

    They need to.


  5. Uh. Or maybe we need to.

    (Sorry, I momentarily forgot my status as a participant in Society 2.0. It won’t happen again, I promise. . . 🙂


  6. Some excellent points raised here. Peter brings an interesting issue to the table when he explains that Society 2.0 brings:

    Theoretically more rapid discussion of problems, leading to rapid prototyping of new policies (in politics) and products (in business).

    Personally this scares the hell out of me. I am worried that this instant vocal opinion creates an environment where there is a knee-jerk creation of policies based upon reactive thinking. Are people really analysing the problem at hand and giving it good thought before coming to a conclusion or are they just jumping on a bandwagon because it is more important to be heard first rather than to have a late but learned opinion.

    Perhaps that’s the problem – historically the natural way that media was created allowed opinion to formulated over a short period of time before it hit the public domain. In today’s 2.0 world – opinion has to happen instantly. This has innevitably created a loud ‘hysterical’ voice that any number of people can contribute to – and as a result maybe the wrong policies are prioritised by businesses and politicians.

  7. I think Jonny’s point applies equally to rolling 24 news rather than/as well as the internet. In any case a rapid demand for information or policy-making is argubly balanced by the rapid availability of knowledge meaning the decisions or otherwise don’t necessarily have to be knee-jerk.

  8. 12jh

    I think there is a danger that the explosion in information might lead people to be disconnected from one another. Or, to put it another way, as information proliferates and becomes more specialised people will relate to the areas they are interested in – as opposed to knowing the few things everyone is interested in. You see it with television where there are a relatively low number of widely watched programmes: people go and blog/messageboard about the programme they watched because the chances are no-one they know will have watched it. We’re becoming a narrowcast society.

    Will Arnold

  9. Jonny/Simon,

    In business, the idea of rapid prototyping is fantastic — if you’ve got a small cost base and can then rapidly scale your operations to cope with success.

    This is a classic software/information industry model. Google are still doing it.

    Maybe software economics are gradually taking over the world. If so, this causes huge problems for a lot of 19th/20th century institutions.

    In my humble experience, under these circumstances, most large companies end up acting like the grand old Duke of York, forever marching their project teams up hill and down dale, rarely getting anywhere.

    In politics — it frightens me, too, and for the same reasons you mention, Jonny.


    PS: Simon — Of course, rolling 24 hr news, the web, they’re part of the same challenge.

    This whole ball of string is driven by digitised information, in terms of speed of delivery, ease of reporting, and the massive available bandwidth.

    But. . . there’s a lot to be said for slow decision-making. I’m not sure that the “rapid availability of knowledge” makes everything OK in all circumstances.

    That’s because there’s a difference between knowledge and judgment. Where you’ve got real complexity, it takes time to synthesise arguments and come to decisions.

    Arguably, the more knowledge involved, the longer a decision might take.

    Society 2.0? How do we know the upside is bigger than the downside?

    None of us has the faintest clue.

    I’ll imbibe techno-utopianism with the best of ’em.

    But I’ll always complicate things with a side order of leathery sceptical pragmatism (of the democratic European kind).


  10. 12jh

    As you said it all about balance but to quote some close …

    “I want to believe what these guys say. (“Don’t worry about the destruction of traditional expertise, the media, civil service, the old-fashioned ethos of public service… Just trust the wisdom of crowds.”

    But you know what? I don’t like their fervour. Something about their shining eyes unnerves me.”

  11. 12jh

    That was not Steve Loynes btw …

  12. Arabella Bakker

    I think Society 2.0 probably is a society of critics but I don’t see a democratisation of expertise, more a democratisation of opinion – which is frankly terrifying, particularly if one sees a dumbing down of the education system, as the two can be poles apart! The most influential voices are not necessarily going to be the most expert…

    I agree with Sondi on the narcissism point – I think the flow of opinion is largely driven by vanity (for now at least). Is it really vanity, though, or insecurity? Just as business people clutch on to the Blackberry, the adult version of the comfort blanket, for self-importance and a sense of indispensability, does Society 2.0 provide individuals with the (false?) illusion of personal value to society?

  13. Tanja

    to 12jh: next meeting should be somewhere Asian. How about Singapore? Am sure we’d having a grand discussion there.

    Society 2.0 isn’t a-political. It’s split into people who are political, people who are not political and people who can’t (yet) afford to be political, because they are striving to survive. Once the latter get beyond that daily struggle, a larger part will become political as well.

  14. Pingback: Foil Hat Alert!!! « Edelman DERT

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