Friday, June 22, 2007

Latest on the transformation debate

There are two views currently doing the rounds (with much associated controversy) that touch on the effects that Web 2.0, social computing/networking, etc. are having (or not) on society as a whole and will continue to have in future. They are both decidedly sceptical in their outlook and with many good reasons to be but they still miss the point as I see it.

First, the views are those expressed by Michael Gorman in his articles on the Encyclopaedia Brittanica Blog entitled WEB 2.0: The Sleep of Reason. The second is from the book by Andrew Keen entitled The cult of the amateur: How today's internet is killing our culture. You wont have to go too far to get an idea of the debate these views have stirred up, mostly pitting the sceptics against the utopians and so the arguments are largely skewed.

A balanced contribution is from a normally sceptical voice and although he retains a useful sense of scepticism, he comes close to making the point. I'm talking about Nicholas Carr of Why IT doesn't matter fame. A quote from his article on the Brittanica Blog on the subject:

So while I’m happy to line up on Gorman’s side in battling the hive mind fabulists, I’m not going to kid myself that it’s anything more than a sideshow. We’re not going to see the rise of a superior collective intelligence – those awaiting a higher consciousness will end up, as always, either disappointed or deluded – but neither are we going to see the survival of a way of thinking shaped by the careful arrangement of words on printed pages.

The point? I've made it before or rather I've borrowed someone else's view to make it in this post :) In essence it is this:

Global connectivity, real-time information, and the other usual suspects of visionary business books won't change the business world, they already are changing it, they have changed it in the past, and they've been on their way to changing it for more than three decades, ever since the Pentagon's Advanced Research Projects Agency first successfully tested the ARPANET, the forerunner of today's Internet.

This can apply equally to society as a whole. An important aspect (as Spinoza the great Dutch philosopher once said) is to "view passing events under the aspect of eternity". When you view things in the context of very long time horizons as Watts Wacker and Jim Taylor did (quote in previous paragraph), then you see the real impact of the internet and how it has changed things and will continue to change things moving forward. Some positive and some not so positive as Andrew Keen points out. Change and ultimately transformation is inevitable and we should think about how we can harness it effectively - not harp on and debate endlessly about its merits and demerits.

"Just do it" I say (in the immortal words of that great shoe manufacturer). Here endeth today's lesson...


Roger Anderson said...

I totally agree. Socialnetworking will add to not replace all that we do now. As with all progress somethings pass away. You see very few horse-drawn carriages today.
The World Wide Web, if anyone remembers that phrase, was supposed to eliminate brick and mortar stores. It did not. In fact, what we see is a combination of the two. I think that is what will happen with Web 2.0 and the printed page. SOme will think it is going to change completely and be like eToys. Some will fight change too long and be like Toys R Us, others will embrace change and be like KB Toys and survive.

Stephen said...

Essentially what you're saying is a well balanced approach, effectively managing the transition from one era to another is what's needed. If I'm right, I agree totally with you too :)