When I was putting together the materials for the web 2.0 session as part of the strategic communication workshop in Ethiopia (see a couple of presentations from that workshop in this recent blog post), I stumbled across various sayings that seem to epitomise the web 2.0 (r)evolution – I call it the web 2.0 approach here just for the sake of simplicity: ‘share the love, pay it forward, tweet unto others as you would have them tweet unto you’ etc.
I realised then just how much some aspects of the web 2.0 movement are significantly affecting the networks we are part of, the way we co-create and weave these networks together and the ideals and inspiration we bring to them. This is all quite in line with the ‘knowledge ecology’ (1) approach I guess, although I’m not working with this concept (consciously anyway).
At the core of this significant change through the web 2.0 is a powerful thrust of self interest, built and used in a novel way, however. For a few years we have been focusing (rightly) a lot on the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) factor, putting due attention to what others expect from you. Push comes to pull, me comes to you, egocentrism comes to empathy and attention for others.
Oh, ego-tripping is far from having disappeared. In fact, it is even boosted because in the world 2.0, social networks rule, connections (relations) are central, but they link nodes (persons) and emphasize those crucial nodes that lead to more connections. With Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Slideshare and other social web apps, we are becoming central to information flows and we are flattered by this as well as by the following that we create, the influence that we span.
A simple piece of evidence of this renewed ego-tripping is the amount of tools that assess, calculate, calibrate your popularity, fame, recognition, trust in your networks… and help you become more popular (check this useful and funny post from Alex Wilhelm [hello Alex, are you reading this post from the trackback link, lol?] and this social media metrics superlist. Oh, and just as I’m posting this, Robin Good tweeted about John Cottone’s post on tips for improving your social media presence and Brian Solis blogged about ‘There’s an I in Twitter and a ME in social media‘).
The significant change is that ego-tripping is no longer an end in itself. In fact it is becoming the engine for a wider enterprise that in turn fuels or suffocates recognition which our ego-tripping is feeding on: we cannot just be full of ourselves, our following, our ideas… Instead we have to focus on the what’s in it for me but in the network knowledge ecology, WIIFM also means WIIFY, because YOU is the other ME. And it is the other YOUs that make ME famous, popular and cool. In other words, forget about the old ‘Knowledge is power’ (oh, it’s still practiced in many occasions though) and move on to ‘Sharing knowledge is (yielding) power’.
So we have to dig deep to bring the best of ourselves to the front and to share as widely as possible. Sure, we perhaps do that to boost our own morale and popularity, consciously or not, to a large extent or not. But this might even be irrelevant: many excellent humanitarian efforts were also built on the sense of self-appreciation and self-achievement of humanitarian workers. Yet the end result is a positive achievement and ultimately, that is what matters.
What are the consequences of this new knowledge ego-logy?
We cannot afford to serve useless content to our networks because they won’t buy it (and will punish our ego-tripping thirst for popularity with their feet), so that means:
- We try to be relevant, dynamic, fast-spreading, helpful, creative and funny;
- We remain authentic, genuine, off-show, as opposed to our tendency to show off with the corporate facade that may require us to act differently to ourselves;
- We try to be inclusive in our approach (that makes more people follow you by the way);
- We nurture relationships, we listen to others (we have to), we take their ideas into account;
- We try to pay due references to authors we are quoting (as social media have also transformed gossip into a super effective weapon);
- We indeed ‘pay it forward’ by doing things for others, hoping that they will pick up the same red thread – leading by example as it were;
- We ripple up to develop the true networked brain that human beings together represent.
All in all, we strive for greater personal mastery (a pursuit of effectiveness) and aspire to be more relevant to others. Hence, the knowledge ecology that is becoming so fashionable may be based on a knowledge ego-logy…
If I look at all these developments, I would say they’re rather more positive than negative. However, I can already hear some (Calvinists?) moan that it is not a right thing to contribute to the good with a self-serving purpose but hey! To hell with it! I totally believe in people’s personal transformation in a positive way by doing good things, even based on (originally) egoistic motives… We change! We improve! We get driven by our passion! We get carried in the game! Just give us a chance to do some good (oh, and give us some moments of popularity to keep the energy level – but it’s all about feedback really)!
What do you think about this: does it reflect your observations too? If so, does it matter? Is it good or bad? What does it lead to?
All interesting questions to be answered, but I’ll leave it at that (and check my blog stats in the meantime lol ;D )
(1) “Knowledge ecology” is an interdisciplinary field of management theory and practice, focused on the relational and social aspects of knowledge creation and utilization. Its primary study and domain of action is the design and support of self-organizing knowledge ecosystems, providing the infrastructure in which information, ideas, and inspiration can travel freely to cross-fertilize and feed on each other. (Source: http://www.co-i-l.com/coil/knowledge-garden/kd/index.shtml)