Cyborg Economy: When Proletariat and Capitalist Fuse

One of the main features of economies over the last four or five centuries has been the separation between labor and capital. That is – because of technological conditions – the means of production had to be separate from the ownership of production.

It may help to read Marx’s Capital and Smith’s Wealth of Nations for deeper understandings of the ramifying influences of capitalism on the world (new conceptions of time, impacts on culture and class, etc.). But what matters most is to understand the key role of the separation of means of production from its ownership.

That separation has always created conflict: labor seeks better wages, hours, conditions; capital seeks lower wages, longer hours, cheaper conditions and more capital.

Until now, technology has been the primary agent in creating and enforcing this fundamental dichotomy. If a printing press cost too much for a writer to own and run, she had to rely on a capitalist to supply the ability to publish.

Now, the Web and cheapening technologies open the possibility of the proletariat and the capitalist to ‘fuse’ – that is, it’s now possible to use *and* own production.

It’s becoming more of a reality that workers (labor) can fund their own endeavors (capital).

You can see this fusion as the emergence of a new kind of cyborg, an economic one – let’s call it the Prolecapatarian.

The proletarian can now embed/extend capitalist features into her presence in the economy. Same thing for the capitalist.

But what’s the effect of these new economic cyborgs? Specifically, what happens to the classic conflict between labor and capital? Does it become internalized?

Does the Prolecapatarian face internal conflict? What does that look like?

It’s something to think about, because those of us who live the 24/7 nomadic life have to contend with being both the user and owner of production.

How about you: do you think we’ll see the emergence of this new kind of economic being? Or do you think we’re in a transition period and that eventually we’ll be back to the schism between labor and capital and the emergence of wholly larger concentrations of capital accumulation and labor surplus?

Are you a Prolecapatarian?

@PhilBaumann

484-362-0451

Ten Bucks

It doesn’t matter if you’re a one-person shop or a multi-billion dollar company, there’s one facet of the Web that puts us all on parity: for ten bucks you can buy your own domain.

You can have a million followers on Twitter but you still don’t own your tweets.

You can have a million Likes on Facebook, but you don’t own your status updates

You can have all sorts of success on consumer social media sites – however you define success – but you don’t own the landscape and you have no control of the media.

Yes, your Website can get hacked and you can get hit by a DDOS attack – but the fact is your domain is the only thing on the Web that belongs to you. It’s yours and you get to decide what to do with it: no conforming to some shady social media company’s rules.

I don’t really care what experts say when they claim social media has displaced websites.

For ten bucks, you get 100% equity in your own home. No mortgage.

For ten bucks, you can host your own parties – public, private or a mix of both.

For ten bucks, you get the chance to launch your ideas, to change minds, to lead movements, to start a new life.

For ten bucks, a homeless person can wield as much power as an agency on Madison Avenue.

The 21st Century – as technology-dependent as it’s becoming – belongs to the artists. The winners won’t be the masters of technology and media.

No the winners this century will be the brave creators who know the value of home when the rest of the world wanders off into infinity.

Ten bucks can change the world.

@PhilBaumann

484-362-0451

Strategic Questions for Proficient Business Blogging

The Business Process Management Life-Cycle
Image via Wikipedia

There’s all sorts of advice on why and how to blog. Everything about blogging has already been blogged about. And yet, many businesses haven’t even scratched the surface to understand what blogging is actually about and what roles it may play in their overall strategy and presence – on and offline.

But all businesses have different going concerns and goals and strategies. Every media, communications and marketing strategy is different from the other.

While helping out a friend, I offered a bunch of questions for her to answer, figuring that the exercise of questioning may be more insightful and valuable than straight tips. I’m publishing an upgraded version of those questions here because there’s a ton of “expert” advice out there which you can find simply by Googling keywords related to blogging and business. The fact is, however, your business needs to do a deep self-assessment of its goals, culture, resources, tactics and strategies before just following a pre-fabricated set of instructions.

NOTE: when I use the word “blogging” I don’t just mean the publishing of content on a website. No, for me blogging is about proficiency in communications, ecosystem awareness, audience building and dialogue: from traditional to emerging media. Blogging involves a new set of skills which business should acquire and hone, to be overlayed on top of their bread-and-butter marketing and communication expertise. Blogging is a constant learning process. It’s also a way to reveal strengths and weaknesses inherent in organizations, their cultures and their processes – and thus the importance of questioning within the larger context of strategy.

With that in mind, here are the questions.

STRATEGIC QUESTIONS FOR PROFICIENT BUSINESS BLOGGING

  1. What’s the purpose? Biz development? Customer availability? A place to house your industrial expertise and knowledge? A place to create a community where ideas and questions can be explored openly? What value do you expect to provide or extract?
  2. Who is your audience(s)? Are you thinking that your only audience would be end-consumers? Or might they be industry influencers or vendors or the public? Will you be able to track the social footprint of your audience – who they are, where else on the Web they interact?
  3. What kinds of content are you delivering? Is it informational? Editorial? Inspirational? Industrially insightful? Action-calling? How might the kind(s) of content and information you publish influence your audience? Are you willing to let your audience help determine your content?
  4. What kinds of media will you provide on the blog? Text? Video? Audio? Slidedecks? Different media have different properties. Have you thought about the properties of traditional media and how they differ from emerging media? How much of your traditional marketing expertise evolved around the properties of print, radio and TV? Given that new media possess different properties, how might your marketing strategies need to adapt?
  5. Do you know what kinds of assets a blog can build? Leads? A small but relevant community of influencers? Street cred? Search engine ranking? Which do you need?
  6. How will you distribute your content? Have you developed other web real estate – outposts on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Slideshare? Which ones make the most sense to invest in? Can you build a visual map of your entire Web presence and how different Web and traditional presences relate to the bigger picture?
  7. If you successfully build your community, do you know how to leverage it? Will you be satisfied to just have visitors? Or will you engage with your community – not only on your blog but elsewhere? Will you continually monitor your efforts and make the best of the connections you make? Will you develop a system to reach your community beyond your blog – either via email or other media?
  8. Do you think blogging is just putting content on a website – or do you believe it is a spectrum of media skills? What’s your conception of blogging? Might there be more to blogging than what you think you know? What skills may you need to develop or build upon?
  9. Do you have a plan on how to distribute your blog content to traditional media (where else is your audience)? What are your overall communications and marketing strategies? How might emerging media not only play a part, but how might their proliferation impact your established strategies?
  10. How committed will you be? Is this going to be a chore “to be done” or will you intelligently integrate it into your business routine? Do you understand the skills and resources needed to become proficient? When thinking about resources, are you considering time and talent and networks?
  11. Do you have the stamina to sustain your efforts in the long-term? Investing in new media is about sustaining long-term capital. Given your resources, will you create the kind of working environment for your employees to enjoy the art of creating content, conversing across different networks and advancing the company’s objectives?
  12. Do you know how to make it easy (and enticing) for your audience to comment? Will you thank and comment back? Is sharing via email & other sources easy?
  13. Are you willing to fail? More importantly: how do you define failure? This is important to know because if you define failure appropriately, then you’re more likely to know what to do when you encounter it: in fact, you may see it as a huge opportunity.

There they are. Take your time answering these questions because they aren’t just about blogging: they’re about your understanding of how media and your business intertwine.

I listed 13 – which some believe is an unlucky number. So if you’re superstitious, you’ll have to come up with at least one more.

What questions do you think you need to ask yourself?

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Digital Vertigo and the Cult of Authenticity

vertigo

When status quos collapse, for whatever reasons, are their replacements necessarily better? Does the demise of traditional media powers mean that new media powers will lead to more Democracy? Will cultivated professions which require years of training and mistakes and experience – such as Medicine – give way to amateurs who can succeed in creating appearances of Authenticity?

Last century, not everybody could publish their thoughts without expending some form of considerable energy. Now, with Twitter, anyone can tell the world what s/he thinks at virtually zero expense (save the time value of their tweets). This is no doubt a radical shift in communications and publishing and connecting.

It’s easy to call this democratizing. But is it? Or is what’s happening a radical shift from one era of power dynamics to another: one where those who accumulate the greatest amount of social capital emerge as the major powers, powers which will dominate and rule over a new kind of oligarchic imperialism? One where a few hold sway to enormous influence while the many busy themselves in self-reinforced delusions of democratic liberation, confusing technological connection with the human kind?

Real-time media like Twitter sure do give off the seductive appearances of level playing fields where I can connect with you and you me. But what are the essential realities of the evolving Web? Are they balances-of-power? Or are they in fact towers-of-power, new status quos which create a condition of what Andrew Keen calls Digital Vertigo?

Here is the Antichrist of Silicon Valley himself discussing the dangers of the  Real-time web and Power.

We are living through the inflection phase of technological evolution. It’s hard to see beyond the exponential curve rising above our heads. Today’s gifts may be tomorrow’s sorrows. With Twitter, I can tell a friend something that makes her day. In the not-too-distant future, though, someone else just might detonate a bomb with a tweet. And then we can say Goodbye to Twitterville.

Is the Web bringing forth more opportunity than danger? Granted, it can’t be stopped at this point. But: may one promise of the Web (Democracy) eventually be betrayed by one danger (Tyranny)? Are we truly creating a Digital Level Playing Field or might we in fact be creating the conditions for chronic Digital Vertigo complicated by the illusion of Authenticity?

What do you think?

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Warning: The Web Is Rubbery

Soap Bubble reflects the sky

It’s good to know how Web 2.0 ‘works’. Or how Web 3.0 might work. Or 4.0. Or…well you get the idea. Marketers and moms and Spiderman are still figuring it out. So are you. Me too.

Picture the web as a rubbery gamer. It links and threads and weaves with a stretchy fiber. As you link and thread and weave, you yourself become a rubbery gamer. Once involved, you’re in a rubbery relationship. You become the web and the web becomes you.

So: the web is rubbery and it grows everyday. There’s countless ways to work with the material. It can be fun to bounce around the moon-walk and play with the other kids. You can blow your own tiny bubbles and watch all the other pretty bubbles float about the carnival.

One thing about this rubber-sheet geometry is that bubbles go pop every now and then. Once you’ve mastered your bouncing and bubble-blowing techniques, the Rubber expands and the game changes.

In an ever-stretching world, it helps to understand the relationship between surface area and tension. Too much tension: pop. Not enough: flop. When you flop you lose, regardless of the surface area that you canvass.

The worst thing about the web isn’t that you’ll lose. There will always be new games to invent and play within the rubbery web.

No, the worst thing about the web is this: everyday, it’s getting easier and easier to stretch yourself too thin, go pop and disapear.

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Credibility: Unknown

According to a post on Twitter, my credibility is unknown. I (partially) disagree of course because I know what my credibility is. But the online community really doesn’t know what it is (at least not yet). So let’s see what can be known about my credibility (and yours).

I’m glad that I was given an opportunity to have my credibility evaluated out there among the *Twitterverse*. So here it is, that indiscreet Tweet:

Credibility

From this Twitterer’s perspective, the Tweet is true, absolutely true. This person has no way of knowing my credibility. And it aught to be questioned by anybody following my online activity (as well we all should do of everything we encounter online).

But this Tweet raises a particular question: when is credibility relevant?

MY CREDIBILITY
If you read my current About statement, I don’t claim to be an expert in everything, especially social media (as many are famed to do). I simply state the boring facts of my background, as an RN with a pied array of disparate experiences. My claim to social media is simple and unpretentious:

“I am currently interested in how individuals and organizations use social media tools to improve the way things get done.”

Since I don’t claim to be an expert in social media, the relevance of my credibility can only reasonably be expected to be limited to my general character: whether I am a liar, a snake-oil salesman or evil-doer par excellence. That sort of credibility gets determined over time, by users, by the things I say, Google, etc.

OUR CREDIBILITY
If any of us becomes specialized and experienced in a particular field, then our specific credibility becomes relevant. Nobody wants a random schmuck to just walk into your house and fix the plumbing just because he claims to be an expert or have has a website or blog. But that doesn’t mean we all have to be experts in order to speak our minds or to add something to an ongoing multilogue (getting tired of *conversation*).

Wikipedia discusses credibility and specifically references a mouth-watering proposition called Prominence-Interpretation Theory. You can download that exciting product if you’re hot and bothered. (It uses big words and multiplication to establish its own credibility.)

Basically, it comes down to what users notice (Prominence) and their judgment about it (Interpretation). And it’s an important topic, especially since the rate of information flowing our way is accelerating at an accelerating rate. The arithmetic is straightforward:

Prominence X Interpretation = Credibility Impact

Good luck crunching the numbers on that one. Intuitively, though, what’s our Credibility Impact? My number’s pretty low online, but not because I’m a bad person. The arithmetic says that I have to leave it up to computational and human algorithms, and so do you.

So if you’re an expert in social media, make sure you take that bold Twitterer’s implied advice to heart, regardless of his or her intriguing intentions: establish and prove your credibility. It’s good for your health and your reputation. And it will eventually boost your authority.

WESTERN UNION and SO MUCH FOR CREDIBILITY ABSOLUTISM
Western Union used to be a telecommunications authority, likely with a high credibility rating. It’s still doing OK. But the credibility it had in 1950 didn’t exactly get it the gold medal forty years later on the interwebs, did it? What credibility did Google have in 1998? Yahoo! had credibility, perhaps more so in 1998 than Google (just a supposition). And yet Google’s current stock price (one measure of credibility-ranking) suggests that its credibility gap is a lot smaller than Yahoo!’s. Go figure.

The basic point that I’d like to make is that the interwebs (or innernets as I heard once from a credible authority) has given us all a chance to contribute ANYTHING (from original insights to totally random BS and everything in between).

Examples. If you need an inguinal hernia repair, credibility is the difference between a speedy recovery and a painful death from infection or intestinal ischemia. If, however, you want a new perspective, an opinion, a fresh synthesis of old ideas, or a synergistic perspective from the infusion of multiple experiences, then credibility is secondary to your inspiration of that content. It’s up to you to be a good speneralist.

PRIMING OUR INTUITION PUMPS
Credibility is one king in content. Obviously.

But so are: insight, creativity, skepticism, freshness of perspective and the right to be wrong and standing up corrected. And those features of an independent mind are important tools in the ongoing construction of useful and falsifiable intuition pumps.

It’s those pumps that drive knowledge and civilization forward. What are your intuition pumps? Are they credible? Or “merely” inspiring? Could they spring hope? Or leaks? Upset the stodgy status quo? Break a cold heart open and warm it?

This is my credibility: a synestheisa of metaphors. They’re meant to enliven and spread good memes in an often bad world. They’re powerful tools for evangelism, conveyance and leadership. Take them, use them or toss ’em into the drains Lethe-wards to be sunk. Time will tell if my online credibility matters to anyone, including myself.

Be true to thyselves, friends, especially when nobody else believes you. Mahalo!


This post made possible in part by an alert from TweetBeep. It’s a great (free) reputation management tool. I received no payment or solicitation for the shout-out, just remarkable service.