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The Human Network

We talk these days a lot about networks, platforms and technology, but what are we really talking about? Are we talking about Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube or are we talking about what goes on behind these networks?

Down by the river

I finally understood what these networks were all about after being on holiday in Dominica. Dominica is an island in the Caribbean where there are a reputed 365 rivers, one for each day of the year.
Let’s go back a few years when there was no running water, or washing machines and no cell phones and texting for sure. Let’s go back to when the river was the social network, when it was the meeting place for everyone. The women would go to do the washing there and meet everyday. They would talk, share stories and gossip. If you couldn’t go you would miss the news of what was going on, and risk being the centre of the gossip. The men would fish or go to meet the women there, and the children would play in the water. A complex social network developed where families and friends would meet and share. I am no anthropologist, I am giving you a very simplified story of what the rivers meant on Dominica and you could substitute a market place in Morocco or Paris or a village in Africa. Or let’s come closer to home to a front porch, a coffee shop, a church on Sunday, or the baseball diamond or hockey rink; when our extended families were not so extended and we lived in the same house, same neighborhood, or at least the same city.
When we met what did we do? We told stories. We told each other what had happened to us, what we thought was going to happen to us and what we hoped would happen to us. That started to change as we went away to school, we went away for jobs, we travelled more and we settled all over the world. The telephone helped keep us connected and then eventually the Internet and the World Wide Web.

Reach Out and Touch Someone

At first of course this thing called the World Wide Web was for transmitting data. Then those computer geeks started to talk to each other. Then they let us join in and we did. As computers and the Internet became more accessible, business started to see it as an opportunity to reach more people, make more money, market themselves. They took the same marketing materials they had always made and put it on the web; and it didn’t work. Products didn’t sell; people didn’t stay on their sites. They had to learn how to talk to us. We had to learn how to talk to each other again, and we did.

What did you say?

The social network started long before there was Facebook or any of the other networks we know today: YouTube, Twitter, Stumble, LinkedIn etc. What these social networks have done is bring us back to the river, to the market to the souk, to a family-get- together to each other. They bring us back to community. They bring us back together: period. These networks allow us to tell each other stories, to give and share and to inspire; to have conversations with each other again.
When do these networks work? When they allow us to tell stories and share conversations that are real, when there is meaning behind them and we know, see and feel that they are authentic. Everything works when there is a human network, and when that network is 10% of the solution and the people are the rest.

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One to many becomes many to one

Activate Summit - King's Place London

My trip to London ends today and I head home tomorrow. To say that it has been an awesome trip would be an understatement.

awe·some
adjective /ˈôsəm/

    1. Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear

▪       – the awesome power of the atomic bomb

    1. Extremely good; excellent

▪       – the band is truly awesome!

It has definitely been like an atomic bomb going off in my head because of everything that it has released in there. What I would like to do here is give you a short recap of what I learned at the Activate Summit. The idea being that in my sharing what I have learned, something may inspire or encourage you to do something with this information to affect change somewhere in your life, your family, your community, or on a larger scale.

Activate is all about examining the influence of technology on global society in areas as diverse as media, commerce and economics, the environment, energy and sustainability, citizenship, democracy, governance and accountability, the developing world, healthcare, education, science and humanity.

Not a very tall order is it? It succeeded as far as I was concerned because a seed was planted, many seeds, not only for the possibility of change, but also for the possibility of sharing of ideas, successes and failures. The underlying message was: we must do something with what we have learned; at the end of the day that is key.  It is wonderful to have all of this knowledge, but our responsibility is to make it actionable.

Talking and doing

We have all kinds of content out there now, but what is the service that is going to go with it? We have learned to make our physical world accessible to those around us, now we must make this informational world accessible as well. Content for content’s sake has no value.

Life is a story

With all the information that we have, we need to decide what to do with it if we are to affect change with it. This information must be searchable and accessible, but we need to be able to have storytelling around this data so that we may ask the right questions to be able to come up with the right answers. What am I talking about?
Jonathan Simmons from Public Zone explained it very clearly:
Information (data) is fuel.
The technology, apps and social media platforms are the vehicles.
The people (you and me) are the drivers.
This information that is out there is the new oil (the fuel) , and we need to be able to protect and look after it, as in the end, it will be this information that lets us save ourselves and our world.

Anyone can be a Think Tank

The underlying message in each and ever conference or break out session that I went to was that it all comes down to people, you and me, to make a difference. Did I have to come all the way to London to hear that? You are thinking, “I could have told you that!”
I wonder.
It seems to me that these days we are all so tied up with technology, myself included, that we forget that the real power comes from each and every one of us. What I saw here and what I am hoping to be part of is change on a global scale, but let’s step back a little to our own lives and our own small worlds. What if we looked at our individual actions and the power they have to affect change with those around us?  If we remembered to keep our principles and values true to ourselves; the rest will follow.

One to many becomes many to one

Agency is the capacity of an agent (you and me) to act in our world. How we act affects those around us. If we think small, we will live small, if we open ourselves to the possibilities that are out there, the realities become very different.
If technology, the Internet, Social Media, and apps are simply tools to bring us all together, only tools, they will not solve our problems. If we use these tools to connect, to remember we are global citizens, then the opportunities we may create are endless.

For more information on the Activate Summit and to watch the videos of the keynote speakers, here in the link: Activate Summit London 2011

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