19 December 2010

What if Twitter & Facebook Were Revolutionary?

When we listened to just a few, we listened a long time. Politicians and pundits were expected to go on at length - speeches and programs of 30 to 60 minutes, essays and books that were hundreds of - or even a hundred thousand - words.

But today's model is less about spending time with a few respected voices than spending time with lots and lots of friends and friendly - or not so friendly - voices. Even if we double the time we spend collecting news and opinion, we have to fragment it over more and more people. This necessarily forces concision, forces us to condense our thoughts into fewer words. 

Brain cells continually communicate with each other, but they are very efficient at it. These cells tend to communicate by exception, minimizing the "I'm here" signal. The brain already burns an enormous amount of energy even with this minimalist model. This efficiency is the only way to allow billions of cells to be connected. 

Facebook status comments, tweets, and texts seem to be moving us towards this model of communication over a broader net of people - a truly distributed model that doesn't dispense long messages outwards from some central point (like radio or TV) but instead sends lots and lots of short messages between nodes, or people. This model is not about hierarchy; it is about connection. 

For centuries, the progression in the West has been towards dispersing power outwards rather than concentrating it in a few. It seems as though we are now rapidly evolving a communication and reporting model that supports this more than ever. 

Stay tuned: power follows the flow of information and communication. Our old institutions that place power at the top - from church and schools to governments and corporations - are going to rapidly evolve as the communication structures that hold them in place shift. In fact, they used to call this kind of thing revolutionary. This could get really interesting. 

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