LIFT07: Communication Revisited

In my much too long, much too Möbius-strip-like logic of the previous post there was much that I did not address, there are many missed chances to reference the excellent presentations that I did witness and to connect a bit more to what the whole of what Lift is about. The whole may seem that it went by me in a blur, but… well, there are always surprises.

This post by David Galipeau that I have referenced briefly before has however struck quite a chord with me for in it many of the elements of what evolving dynamic systems are about are included. I like it indeed. For any body interested in understanding this in any more detail I do recommend reading C S Holling “Understanding the Complexity of Economic, Ecological, and Social Systems” which presents quite a few useful ideas about adaptive cycles.

I hold the view that the present technology – hardware and software – is still rather rudimentary to be used as a social interaction tool that empowers individuals and communities into the next evolutionary stage. This may be a particular bias from my side produced by having read one too many patent specifications that deal with such tools and that tend to bore the living daylights out of me not because of the complexity, but because of the lack of ingenuity and the continued obfuscation of the disclosure.

If we are going to address the challenges and opportunities of technology in our society, perhaps one should have gotten clear first as to what the challenges are and what the opportunities are. I think that technology and law are both here to serve humans, i mean, the collective society, not the other way around. We being wonderfully complex as a system do self-organize spontaneously and build communities along various types of ideologies from nationalism to buddhism passing right through A-Z in -isms. Furthermore most members of one community are also members of other communities, so there is a super-structure of communities that builds up.

All these communities or social systems communicate through the communication that its human members produce, and a lot of noise is produced and broadcast along side with all the ambiguities, disconnects and plain dead antennas and disruptive channels. It is messy really. We do struggle to keep one’s own attentional resources manageable, and somehow squeak through with our emergencies to that of others. I know that I deal with this by checking email on the hour, or depending how prone I may to distraction, less often. On occasions I also go off the internet, and produce what one would call real disconnection. I have always been fond of two buttons in my mobile, the off-button and the silent button. I keep the fixed line phone plugged in easy reach of a master switch. On occasions I also love to just listen to the ring tones, but mostly they irritate me. People have complained and written me snail mail about their frustration in reaching me. Snail mail does not really help, I am notorious about not checking my post office box, not always without unpleasant surprises. I have used IM from constantly to not at all for months and I have used it in a variety of setting from work to home, using my civil identity or a variety of nicks or handles. Of course I get some warm fuzzy feelings when somebody dear to me is online, be it my brother, or cousin, or friend, but I do not always interact. Some goes for Skype. I have met people face-to-face first and I have met people on the internet first, and I am convinced that there is a bit of a difference on the way that initial relationships get formed depending on which channel constituted the first encounter or the way of learning about each other. After all social interactions do involve learning about each other, even if all you want is to strike a good business deal.

I have had quite a mixed bag of reactions when it comes to LinkedIn that I happen to like, and to me the verdict is still not out on Facebook as there are elements of it that find irritation buttons with me all over the place, and some features seem really cool. The lack of permeability between LinkedIn and Facebook is obvious but it would be so desirable. Facebook’s email import tool sucks.

When it came to LinkedIn, I have taken my contacts from the mac address book and sent invitation to my real life contacts and the results have been surprising. Some, a minority, took to it without any resistance and was glad to see me using it and what not. I was myself initially invited to join by Jean-François Groff – whom I think still does not have a blog, brave soul! – but it took some convincing from his side. The interface is at best unfriendly, although once one has become familiar with it, there is a lot of good features. However I have gotten reactions that have included questions about it being spam or what on earth was I up to, and this from people who are otherwise rather cool and good buddies of mine in the face to face system. But I also have had many people simply not reacting to it, and I do suppose it is because it may have landed in their spam; this is a problem with my colleagues that are in edu environments and something that I do not take any pride in trying to figure out. One particularly interesting report from the users of LinkedIn was when one of my more reluctant LinkedIn invitation acceptors, and who happens to have a company producing some rather cool internet enabling software, discovered that there was somebody in my contacts whom he would like to be reintroduced to. I had already introduced them many years ago, and this person being modest, thought that a reintroduction was called upon. We then exchanged a few emails, I accommodated his request, then we exchanged a few more emails and I told him my two bits about LinkedIn. A few days later I get an email and find these words “I went on my long-dormant account on Linkedin and saw about 36 invitations over the last several years. I also learned a bit more about the service, cleared up some of my misconceptions, and I see the value. So I think I’m going to activate my account and start accepting all those invitations.” If this happens within the geek community, what are the rest of the folks facing?

I really wonder what it really means when somebody does not accept your Facebook or LinkedIn invitation. Can one really make any conclusion about it? Well, you can, if you take it personally, and that one hook does get me too. So when I deal with this kind of software it is always a good place to be reminded of being Zen. It really does not mean a thing… muuuh!

Where is this all going? To me face-to-face interaction can not be replaced, and the tools to provide some sort of virtual record for those real encounters are still at an early stage of development. I do think however that there is a great deal of social disruption that can be caused by reading in too much into any of these virtual communities, for as far as the eye can see they are infested with dys-functionalites. I think that the role of communication and information flow need to be addressed from the fundamental point of view of what challenge, if any, we are addressing. Or is the challenge just having fun? What on earth are we building here?

Still first, we need to understand just a bit better how it is that relationships are formed and how they are nurtured and cultivated in an internet obsessed environment,, and what purpose, if any, this all serves society.

Happening at a place near you: Lisbon September 27, 28 and 29

Together with Henriette Weber Anderson I am co-leading a whole day workshop on creativity September 27 prior to SHIFT (28-29 September, 2006) in Lisbon. Besides this I will also be giving a presentation about intellectual property and knowledge ownership during the SHIFT event.

About the creativity workshop:

“The creation of something new is not accomplished by the intellect but by the play instinct acting from inner necessity. The creative mind plays with the objects it loves. Carl Jung”

We are all born very creative and screaming. We go to school, learn to add and do other fancy stuff, and most of the time forget how be creative. In this “Creativity Workshop” we will playfully provide you with a remedial one day crash course aimed at having you claim back some of that creativity that you were born with, and borrow some more from your own resources. We will not solve all your creative problems and we do not promise that you will see God, however we do plan to have some fun looking into several aspects of creativity that are important in technology and life. This is an applied workshop, do come prepared to work on your own goals and to scream.




When it comes to SHIFT, Lisbon, Portugal and Creativity I am totally biased. My view is that creativity can be a can or worms if not handled properly, however there are some serious people who have been methodological about looking into it, so I feel sage – or as sage as any of this can feel – about tackling creativity in an interactive workshop where we, trainers and participants, get to do some fun playful thinking about what creativity means to them, and what use, if any, it could possibly have in their daily lives.


I have found myself recently trying to pick the brains of an Italian venture capitalist about this thing called creativity. I was fascinated by the fact that he responded that it is very important that the managing teams of the ventures that he looks into be creative, however I was unable to extract from him how he judged the presence of that creativity or what criteria he used for his assessment. So, how do you assess creativity?

Why am I biased when it comes to Lisbon and Portugal? Well, I was born in Portugal and if there is one thing that I have ever regretted in my life, that is, to have left that country. I hold no nationalistic views, however it is one beautiful piece of real estate! I love the language, and language is culture. I love the food, and food is culture.

SHIFT is being organized by Pedro Custodio and his team in Lisbon for the first time this year. He has been inspired by events like lift06 and reboot and I would like to think that this is the Atlantic coast flavour of these two great events (conference, unconference).

Coming up

LIFT was a truly inspiring and upLIFTing experience. I have attended many conferences over the years, and this one even after a week has left me doing something that I call thinking… maybe.

On the following three topics I would like to share some of my explorative thinking within the next few weeks:

1. Transform-actors and Comsum-actors: an interesting concept, the bare words evoke a few pictures. I happen to think that the road ahead is otherwise decorated not by substitution, but by complementarity. I like legacy, antiques and tradition. Call me old fashioned. (Comtesse, Jones)

2. Transparency, authenticity, integrity and privacy or what all of this has to do with open source and paradigm shifts and what our human needs are and what it has to do with sustainability, if anything. (Scoble, and a few others)

3. Spimes, memes, and spin or whatever that might be. I need to read the book “Shaping Things” first since my ego prevents me from revealing my total ignorance on the subject. I may be a writer and write fiction, when it comes to literature and my reading I often feel like a jack of all trades and master of none, that is, being fluent in four languages is a bitch if you try to keep up with the literature.  I keep away from science fiction, perhaps only because I have had the privilege of examining patent applications, and after that experience there is very little that  can surprise even a solid state physicist with a quantum mechanics background. Alright, I confess to a certain interest in complex quantum systems.

Clearly I am looking into things like the semantic web, and what goes beyond. What if the the web is a linguistics problem, not a technical one?