Sunday, December 6, 2009

Just Found out out The Monuments Men

Somebody sent me an email introducing me to the Monuments Men. I am making it a blog post and taking advantage of the ability to embed videos. This reminds us that our true cultural history is outside of Web 2.0 and that still takes dedicated people to keep it.

Book Page writes, "an account that moves like a Hollywood action adventure…there are heroes to root for, villains to hiss at and an increasingly pressing race against time…Whether you're a fan of art, military history or stories of real-life heroes, the Monuments Men is a treasure worth the hunt".

I hope your blog will profile these great heroes of civilization and share their story with your readers and supporters.

Thank You,

Robert M. Edsel

The Morning Joe Show features a video clip with Doris Kearns Goodwin discussing The Monuments Men!

The Greatest Heroine of WWII, Rose Valland-

Passing the Torch: Touching video clip of Robert M. Edsel discussing his last conversation with Lane S. Faison.

Robert M. Edsel discussing the amazing story of one of nine living Monuments Men, German born Harry Ettlinger.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Deciding what to do next - How to design a career, business or education

Two article from Penelope Trunk's Brazen Careerist have been lingering in my drafts for some time. They were good articles, but I was not sure how to apply them to anything I was doing. My last post on design thinking and business got me to thinking about them again. This is still framing the question.

One article talked about how to decide what to do next. The focus is career-wise, which is Ms. Trunk's forte, but it can also be applied organizational-wise. The question is how to bridge and combine the two. Her example is Pastor Tony Morgan, chief strategy officer at NewSpring Church, whose blog mixes careers and church. In his book, Killing Cockroaches, he tells the story of when he was a city manager, and he was in the middle of running a meeting, and he heard a woman down the hall scream about a cockroach. So he got up from the meeting and killed the cockroach.

As Ms Trunk tells us, Really, all time management discussion is about this: How to know when to kill cockroaches and when not to. It's about why we spend time doing small, stupid stuff that is crawling around in front of us instead of the stuff that makes life meaningful. The dichotomy between wanting to make big-picture impacts on the world and being immersed in the more immediate issues bombarding us is a question for organizations and the individuals making up those organizations.What do we teach students about finding ways to make life meaningful, while still being able make it in the "real" world?

ALINA TUGEND wrote Shortcuts: Putting Yourself Out There on a Shelf to Buy in
back on March 28, 2009 in the New York Times. The article was about branding yourself in the job market. What caught my eye was Dan Schawbel, author of “Me 2.0: Build a Powerful Brand to Achieve Career Success” (Kaplan, April 2009), advice that “Finding your niche is the key,” Which means:

Discover your passion and put it together with your expertise; create a “personal branding tool kit” (which may include a résumé, online profile, blog and portfolio of your work) that consistently reflects your brand; pitch your brand online and offline; and update and monitor any conversations about your brand.

At first glance this sounds in opposition to what was said in the last post, but not if we look at how to achieve this through his four-step process —

  1. discover,

  2. create,

  3. communicate,

  4. maintain.

All of which can be applied to hybrid thinking. The question is how do we teach this in classrooms? Ms Trunk points out that perhaps we should first consider changing how to lead in the new millennium.

Her reasons are that Generation Y has a lot of great traits, but classic, top-down leadership is not one of them. This is not a surprise: Because gen Y is the great teamwork generation. They did book reports in teams, they went to prom in teams, and they are notorious for quitting jobs in teams.

This should arguably make it easier to teach today's students the concepts of hybrid thinking and incorporate design thinking into students' career path.

Finally, I am including this TEDTalk (video) featuring Dan Pink on the surprising science of motivation which points out that our assumptions about motivation are also questionable. For the same basic reasons he raises in the last post Roger Martin says, What's Thwarting American Innovation is Too Much Science. Dan Pink says that the problem is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. Is the same thing true of education?

Thinking (a bit more) about Design | Designing better Thinking

When I first start this blog, I was surprised at how often the concept of design came up as it was not my usual way of thinking. Although it has been in the background in the musings of this blog and Milestones for a New Millennium, I have not focused on it directly for sometime. Lately though I have been thinking about it from an educational perspective. If we were to integrate design thinking, in its broadest terms, into our economy and culture and wanted to prepare students to contribute to that culture, what would we teach them? This post does not answer that question, it begins to frame it.

Dev Patnaik discusses Mixing Design Thinking With Business with Roger Martin of the Rotman School of Management, who argues for a radical idea: to develop business leaders who are well-grounded in multiple disciplines.

The Rotman faculty aim to mold managers who are equally comfortable and adept at using tools and frameworks from business, popular culture, and design to solve the most urgent challenges of the day--what Rotman calls integrative thinkers and what I call hybrid thinkers.

They discuss The Design of Business: Why Design Thinking is the Next Competitive Advantage, Rotman's approach of integrating design thinking into traditional analytical MBA programs. Rotman believes new ideas must come from a new kind of thinking. At least new for today's analytical mindset. The logical leap of the mind, the apple falling on the head, that you can't prove from past data the American pragmatist Charles Sanders Peirce called abductive logic.

  • Strategy is an act of design.
  • Highly skilled designers focus on new possibilities rather than the application of existing ideas. Create from data, guts, empathy, creativity, and a little thin air.
  • Balancing the analytical and the intuitive is key to great leadership.
  • Analytical thinking prevents them seeing promising new opportunities and driver of growth, but ideas still have to make sense from an analytical standpoint. Great leadership involves bringing both lenses to bear to find better possibilities.
  • Roger's take on design thinking isn't rooted in design.
  • Surprisingly designers aren't necessarily good at design thinking. A tremendous sense of aesthetics, prototyping, form, and ergonomics doesn't inherently reflect the ability to imagine previously unseen possibilities.
  • Templates, not management theory, are the enemies of innovation.
  • Neither businesspeople nor designers have a monopoly on good ideas because most people, regardless of background, are more comfortable reapplying a formula or using a template from an existing success than generating new possibilities.

Raising Dev Patnaik's question:

If design thinking isn't based in design and the abilities of designers, then the term may need to change. Without any question, increasing any organization's design capability will increase its ability to differentiate from its competitors, to build a more consistent brand, and to create more appealing products. But it's something else entirely to create a culture of innovation. We would do well to make this clear in the terminology we use.

He addressed this question in a previous article, Forget Design Thinking and Try Hybrid Thinking in which he asserts that, The secret isn't design thinking, it's "hybrid thinking": the conscious blending of different fields of thought to discover and develop opportunities that were previously unseen by the status quo.

Hybridity matters now because the problems companies need to solve are simply too complex for any one skillset to tackle. We're in an era when car companies are trying to grapple with massive changes in technological capability and market need, when cell phone companies are trying to own global entertainment, and when snack food companies face extinction unless they figure out how to promote health and wellness. As Lou Lenzi, a design executive at Audiovox, once told me, if you want to innovate, "You need to be one part humanist, one part technologist, and one part capitalist."

According to Patnaik, hybrid thinking is much more than gathering together a multidisciplinary team, it about multidisciplinary people. He uses John Lasseter, the co-founder of Pixar, as an example because he can effortlessly fuse technology, art, and storytelling together to create Toy Story, which is why he is beloved and admired, not because he's good at technology. In the video below from Edutopia Randy Nelson, Dean of Pixar University makes a similar distinction between cooperation and collaboration.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Jung's Red Book

This came from my real world/day job persona. Jung was a major influence in my decision to become a psychology major in college. What are the chances that anybody will ever do with the Jung's Red Book what Elif Ayiter did with with Freud's ideas and her Entre Loup Et Chien?

From SmartBrief on Leadership:

Psychology's most famous suppressed work sees daylight
Carl Jung's "Red Book" is finally being published, after being kept under wraps by his descendants since his death in 1961. The book details what Jung called his "confrontation with the unconscious" through 205 pages of elaborate illuminated text and illustrations of mythological figures. Jung worried that publishing the book during his life would undermine his credibility as as a scientist. previously on Yahoo!/The Associated Press (10/3)

More ideas on Web 2.0 and Changing the World

Now that the Stand Up End Poverty Now! event is over, I am taking another look at the potential impact that the World Wide Web and Web 2.0 tools can have on the world. My latest source is the Fast Company article Can Social Networking Change Our Political Consciousness?

Twitter, Facebook and the many other social networks that have emerged are reminding us exactly how small the planet is, and how seemingly mundane or personal issues (where you live, what you feel) have all kinds of ramifications.

The question of the veracity of this statement has its greatest challenge from Evgeny Morozov. I previously blogged about his Foreign Policy article. This time it is the TED Talk that he gave on the same subject.

TED Fellow and journalist Evgeny Morozov punctures what he calls "iPod liberalism" -- the assumption that tech innovation always promotes freedom, democracy -- with chilling examples of ways the Internet helps oppressive regimes stifle dissent.

This slideshow on How the Net aids dictatorships is also from the TED Talk. First off, everything Morozov says in the talk is in my view could be and often is correct, but I still disagree with his overall argument. In it, Morozov provides his own version of the Maslow hierarchy hierarchy for Internet involvement on slide 21 going from Have Fun, Talk, Share, Learn, and finally at the apex Campaign.

This can also be compared to the Groundswell Web 2.0 usage taxonomy. The difference is that the Morozov hierarchy is basically group-defined and the Groundswell is individual-defined. The top of Morosov's heirarchy is campaign - a group of people working on a common cause. The top of the Groundswell hierarchy is creator - which on the Internet can become collective creation.

Both also have important differences between the Maslow hierarchy in that both, especially Morozov's hierarchy, though he does not make the point, can be re-iterating. Morosov's Campaigners can use the lower levels of Learn, Talk, and Share. Those at the Learner stage have the potential of moving to the Campaigner stage.

Morozov speaks of KGB in the former USSR using torture to find out the means of communication between rebels. Now, Morozov complains that it is made instantaneously apparent on the Web. It is also, however, ubiquitous and there is nobody to torture or everybody to torture. When one person or a few hold to key to an entire organization that organization it is far easier to stop despite romantic ideas of the activist bravely standing up to the secret police. While it is true that dictators will try to find ways to stop dissidents using Web 2.0 tools, this does not mean that they have become ineffective.

A far more effective argument on this issue is made by Clay Shirkey the author of Here Comes Everybody.

Clay Shirky: Social Media vs. the Dictator
Clay Shirky - Clay Shirky is a professor of Interactive Telecommunications Program at the Tisch School of the Arts of New York University, where he teaches courses on the interrelated effects of social and technological network topology.
Full Program

Friday, October 2, 2009

Biggest Science Story Oldest Human Origin Ardipithecus ramidus

Probably the biggest science story out there right now, Straight from Science AAAS.

Science - Ardipithecus ramidus

October 2nd Issue of Science Featuring Ardipithecus ramidus
Read More

In the century and a half since Darwin first published On the Origin of Species, we have learned a great deal about human evolution. Now, as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of Darwin's seminal work, Science is publishing a set of papers that provide a new view of human evolution.

Produced by an international team of researchers including first authors Tim White, Giday WoldeGabriel, Antoine Louchart, Gen Suwa, and C. Owen Lovejoy, these 11 papers comprise a detailed and voluminous look at all aspects of Ardipithecus ramidus including one remarkably complete specimen (ARA-VP-6/500) discovered in Ethiopia.

Dated to 4.4 million years ago, Ardipithecus ramidus provides powerful new insights into evolution of both early humans and other close primate relatives (the chimpanzee and gorilla) and helps reveal the nature of our last common ancestor with chimpanzees.

Visit to read coverage of this tremendous discovery.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Blogging about Hardship to Ease

Blogging about Hardship to Ease is a new path that I recently took in collaboration with hal786 on BloggersUnite. The path is new, but as happens so often a number of connections to other paths became apparent. My original intent was to try to write something that fit the theme of the day.

Every person's life matters. We should share their stories, to bring ease to their lives, or know about how they got from their tough life to ease.

Trouble is that my Myers-Briggs in INTJ and I am not personally that good at the pull-the-heartstrings stories. I am though impacted by them and seem to find others that are so gifted and incorporate them into what I am writing about. I recognize the importance of imbuing stories with feeling to create greater connections.

The path hal786 asks us to travel on is a personal one of individuals sharing stories with other individuals, but the commonality of those stories helps bind us together. These stories are like the cells of a living creature in that they have life on their own, but they are able to bring a greater and more complex entity to life. These stories are what some have called the "small pages" of the Internet.

I got the idea of uniting "Small Pages" discovered on the journey from Aira of the blog It'll be alright.

It seems a small thing, I know. But the net itself is made of small pages, like mine and like the web pages of the over 10 thousand bloggers part of the Bloggers Unite. Ten thousand stories and thoughts for giving voice to 40 million refugees, for making known an association that help people for real. And to put in practice an expression I read on the Refugees United’s page and – with its simplicity – seemed to me such fundamental: spread the world.

Another important aspect of this blog has been serendipity. Now I am using the word in a very broad sense, it seems though to best describe the aspect of not only finding connections, but having those connections flow towards me without calling. It is what helps me find new connections. The most recent example is that yesterday my niece sent my wife the YouTube video Children Full Of Life. The video tells of the importance of storytelling as a means of traveling a path from hardship to ease.

"In the award-winning documentary Children Full of Life, a fourth-grade class in a primary school in Kanazawa, northwest of Tokyo, learn lessons about compassion from their homeroom teacher, Toshiro Kanamori. He instructs each to write their true inner feelings in a letter, and read it aloud in front of the class. By sharing their lives, the children begin to realize the importance of caring for their classmates."

As in the video, the ability of one individual to tell their story of moving from hardship to ease allowed another to start their journey.

This is not my first journey along a path discovered through others demonstrating the impact that individual stories can have. SAUDADES SERENDIPITY from an Orkut friend in Brazil was another.

Ju teaches a very important lesson why people take up causes such as the Millennium Development Goals. It is not always to make massive political paradigm shifts, but finding personal ways to connect through countless small interactions for a better world. It is through the means of first defining ourselves as the path to redefining the world.

My interest is in how we move from the individual to groups and to society as a whole in expressing the story of hardship and more importantly the path to ease. I can see a similar aspect of hardship to ease in the efforts of people to overcome hardships in the world as is seen in the efforts of individuals in their own lives. We just have to be open to it.

Other Paths Showing the Way From Hardship to Ease

The web journey of this blog has taken many paths and a recent one was agreeing to participate with fellow blogger hal786, an English Muslim girl who writes After Hardship Will Always Come Ease, in her BloggersUnite's event HARDSHIP2EASE DAY which takes place today 23 September 2009.

According to hal786:

The goal is to help bring ease to people who've suffered hardships in life, by sharing their stories and writing stories of how someones life went from bad to good/hardship2ease.

Being ignorant of such matters, I did not realize that the words come from the Qur'an. As is my habit, I did some web-searching to learn more. The blog Far From Home provided greater insight. My sense as an outsider is that this is a very important part of the Muslim tradition of which our Western culture has very little idea. It also strikes me as a very personal idea of finding ease within ones self. The underlining of the quote below is mine.

"With every hardship, comes ease. Verily, with hardship comes ease." (Chapter 94; verses 5-6)

This refrain, echoed twice, stress upon the sometimes "hidden" blessings within a given burden or hardship. In the ordinary words of mortals, "In every dark cloud, there is a silver lining." Sometimes, we are too weary, too burnt out, too depressed to see that "ease", that silver lining. After all, when surrounded by darkness, it is not easy to "see." Usually, we understand the "ease" afterwards and therefore make the mistake that the ease comes after hardship. But note the stress in the refrain of the word "with" which indicates that the ease comes hand-in-hand with the hardship. (Once again, the duality that I was discussing in an earlier note kicks in.)
Another source was Islam.Online.Net Thinking Over the Verses of the Qur'an
Many people read the Qur'an, but the important thing is, just as Allah states in His verses, to ponder on each verse of the Qur'an, to draw a lesson from that verse, and to improve one's conducts in compliance with these lessons.

Those who read the verse [For truly with hardship comes ease; truly with hardship comes ease] (Al-Inshirah 94:5-6), for example, reflect upon it. They understand that Allah creates ease with each hardship, and therefore, the only thing they have to do when they meet a hardship is to put their trust in Allah and find the ease that is with it. Allah's promise being so, we see that giving up hope or being stricken with panic in moments of difficulty is a sign of a weakness in our faith. After reading this verse and reflecting upon it, our conduct will go in line with the verse throughout our lives.

I can't help but find it interesting that my last post on this blog dealt with perception and this blog post deals with concepts arguably beyond perception. When BeyondPerception writes of dunya it brings to my mind the Buddhist concept of samsara. Similarly Far From Home above speaks about duality. The concept of "With every hardship, comes ease", also extends to others. This seems to me to be a concept common across all the major religions. It is not merely a matter of how we see the world, but how we take what we see and the shared story we create to make our world.

Verily, With Hardship Comes Ease (Surah al-Sharh,94) posted by BeyondPerception

In the end, love means wanting the best for that other person. But I truly think love shouldn't end with our family and friends, it should spread to everyone, even a stranger. As result, if you have this type of love for everyone, you should genuinely only want the best for them.

The dunya is ephemeral. Change is inevitable and nothing, including this world is permanent. Relationships will always change, feelings will continue to change and it is all because it is God's will. "Allahu Alam" (God knows best). He knows what's best for you even though it may not be in your favor. All we can do is love one another and pray that Allah will bless all of us with goodness in this life and the hereafter.

I thank Allah for making me stronger in times of tribulation, for removing anger from my heart, and turning my negative emotions into peace.

Here is a wonderful youtube video passed along from another xanga member for those going through hardship. JazakAllah Kairun :)

Friday, September 11, 2009

Exploring Pathways of Vision, Sight and Insight

This blog started off as a personal trek to explore new paradigms. It has succeeded in doing that for myself and hopefully some few others along the way. These paradigm pathways have a tendency to cross over one another and create opportunities for serendipity. Even though the rule in blogging is too focus on one idea in short narratives, my habit is to ignore that advice and attempt to link different ideas. Two important sources for new ideas are TED and MIT for seeking pragmatic solutions and personal wisdom in redefining one's self as its says in the header.

Recently, I came across four videos from both sources that had a common set of themes, brain, cognition, vision, but also led to other pathways of compassion and social change. All involved understanding, but used different applications of that word.

In this episode of TEDTalks (video) on Tom Wujec on 3 ways the brain creates meaning - Tom Wujec (2009) -

Information designer Tom Wujec talks through three areas of the brain that help us understand words, images, feelings, connections. In this short talk from TEDU, he asks: How can we best engage our brains to help us better understand big ideas?

Cognitive psychologists now tell us that the brain doesn't actually see the world as it is, but instead, creates a series of mental models through a collection of "Ah-ha moments," or moments of discovery, through various processes.

So making images meaningful has three components. The first again, is making ideas clear by visualizing them. Secondly, making them interactive. And then thirdly, making them persistent. And I believe that these three principles can be applied to solving some of the very tough problems that we face in the world today. Thanks so much.

The next two videos from MITWorld, though longer in length, are well worth watching.

The first continues with the exploration of cognition and vision through - Computers with Commonsense: Artificial Intelligence at the MIT Round Table

Patrick Henry Winston ponders what makes humans different from our primate cousins. His field of artificial intelligence extends that question to thinking about how humans differ from computers, with a goal to "develop a computational theory of intelligence."

"We think with our eyes…vision is the locus of every profound kind of problem solving."

Play Video

Patrick Henry Winston

The next MITWorld video takes us back to the human and to the humane -

Opening the Mind’s Eye-Learning to See

"Whenever we're asked how the brain does X or Y, the impulse is to work with this beloved creature, the human infant, to see how it acquires different capabilities... But there are challenges: Babies are not interested in being experimental subjects. They'd rather sleep than give us good data."

Play Video

Pawan Sinha

The reason the Pawan Sinha video goes beyond interesting to inspiring is because
Sinha found these subjects in his native India, which has the world’s highest number of blind children -- more than one million. They are victims of Vitamin A deficiency, congenital cataracts, and absent or atrocious medical care. But salient to Sinha’s research, many of these blind children could be treated. He glimpsed a humanitarian and scientific opportunity, and Project Prakash (Sanskrit for light) was born .

It’s rare to find research that simultaneously advances basic science and brings immediate good into people’s lives, but Pawan Sinha’s Project Prakash does precisely that. An investigator of human visual processing, Sinha is interested in how these brain mechanisms develop, and in treating India's vast population of blind children.

The final video is another short one from TED and deals again with vision, but vision both from the idea of seeing and the idea of envisioning a new world. Both aspects of our understanding are necessary to bring about this new world, the understanding of our world and nature and the understanding we must show to each other.

Atomic physicist Joshua Silver invented liquid-filled optical lenses to produce low-cost, adjustable glasses, giving sight to millions without access to an optometrist. At TEDGlobal 2009, he demos his affordable eyeglasses and reveals his global plan to distribute them to a billion people in need by 2020.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Digging through Web 2.0 for Feelings and Facts and Fraternity

My last few posts used slacktivism to make a point about online activism, but the lesson that I have taken from my blogging and wanted to pass on to others is that Web 2.0 tools can be used to tell the story of a cause not just the facts. The story of a cause goes to the heart or the meaning of a cause and why someone should join, not merely the facts of the issue.

The World Wide Web may have started transmitting only data, but it has evolved into something more and is continuing to evolve.

Change-agent organizations need to understand and adapt these new means of connection, communication and collaboration. It is a balance between pulling on people's feelings and getting them to be part of some larger cause and providing the facts so that they can make up their own minds and find new means of working together.

From the New York Times TECHNOLOGY / INTERNET | August 24, 2009 By ALEX WRIGHT

Mining the Web for Feelings, Not Facts

The universe of reviews, ratings and recommendations online open a tantalizing window on the collective consciousness.
“Social media used to be this cute project for 25-year-old consultants,” said Margaret Francis, vice president for product at Scout Labs in San Francisco. Now, she said, top executives “are recognizing it as an incredibly rich vein of market intelligence.”

Here are two TED Talks featuring Clay Shirky, who in the first TED Talk looks at how the end of top-down control of news is changing the nature of politics, Iranian protestors streaming news to the world, showing how Facebook, Twitter and TXTs help citizens in repressive regimes to report on real news by bypassing censors (if all too briefly).

The second TED Talk examines how the Internet and Web 2.0 can enhance collaboration.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Appealing to the Slacktivists

In the last post of this blog I made a defense of slacktivists in general, though I ended up agreeing with so many points made by Evgeny Morozov that slacktivists will still not be able to hold their own convention. This post will also be in support of slacktivists, but this time as an essential audience for change-agent organizations.

My last post took the perspective of one who fits into the slacktivist demographic, though I believe that the demographic is more diverse than appreciated. This time I am going to consider the issue from organizations that need large numbers to directly support their efforts through activism and funding, or to support larger scale efforts to initiate change through other government and social organizations. The Millennium Development Goals involve both approaches in bringing them to fruition.

There are numerous organizations struggling to meet the challenges of implementing the objectives of each of the Millennium Development Goals. These organizations often involve professionals on-the-ground seeking to increase awareness and derive support from a larger and usually less expert base. There is also an overall effort to get developed countries to meet their promise of fully funding the Millennium Development Goals. The Stand Up and Take Action event is an example.

The first set and the second set of activism are natural allies. For the organizations seeking to implement each of the particular objectives of the Millennium Development Goals, the struggle to push the larger agenda is no doubt important, but I cannot see it as a defining goal. Whether or not a certain number of people stand up on October 16th, those organizations working in Africa to eradicate typhoid or to provide universal education in India will still be at work. However, for those working in the second category for global political change, which is what we are talking about, having the first group of on-the-ground change-agents is not enough to positively influence the fundamental source of change in the leading developed countries, the mainstream voting majority. This majority cannot be defined by political affiliation alone because no one makes up a super majority. It does have one general defining aspect and that is, for the most part, for most of the time, non-activist.

Here again, I agree with Evgeny Morozov.

Of course, the ideal case here is when one's participation in digital activism doesn't subtract from -- and instead enhances -- one's eagerness to participate in real-life campaigns.

Now that gives change-agent organization two tasks. One to make sure the the true-hearted and dedicated activists don't lose heart and become part of the Facebook generation wasting their time on Mafia wars.

However, it's also quite possible that a significant portion of the activist population would be morally content with the "slacktivist" option alone, preferring not to get too close to more dangerous activities that are likely to get them in trouble with authorities.

I seriously doubt that anybody who was was of the meddle to protest would not because the Internet just made it too easy. The harder task is getting the uninvolved masses on board.

What we are dealing with from the perspective of social or change-agent organizations promoting their cause is social marketing, and as with social-entrepreneurship it takes a degree of business acumen.

It was dealing with issues of marketing, communications and networking the helped to lead me to the Millennium Development Goals. In a previous post on the blog I looked into the book GROUNDSWELL by Charlene Li & Josh Bernoff which makes the case that either Your Marketing Is Riding The Wave or Its Under Water.

More importantly for this post it provides taxonomy for Web 2.0 usage on the Internet. This I submit is also the different levels of slacktivists.

  1. “creators”, who blog on their own web pages,
  2. “critics” who post comments,
  3. “joiners” who sign up for online communities,
  4. “spectators” who read and watch, and finally
  5. the unengaged “inactives”

The general understanding of slacktivisits seems to fit under numbers levels 3 and 4, only a small step above the bottom rung of inactives. I still put online creators and critics as being in the slacktivist pool, realizing fully as I have said that writing a blog does not equate in any way from on-the-ground action of groups like Oxfam UK, ONE, Millennium Promise or other similar organizations. Web 2.0 could hopefully help change-agent organizations recruit the unengaged "inactives" and move each rung of the Web 2.0 ladder up, but it is as likely to be other slacktivists higher up on the rungs.

This may fly in the face of our vision of social activists taking a stand like the revolutionaries in Les Miserables, but the concept of effective political change only coming from sit-ins and the risk of arrest, police brutality, or torture as opposed campaigning in the virtual space is to my mind false for liberal democratic countries. I do not believe that such actions alone will accomplish the Millennium Development Goals.

As I said in my last blog post, demonstrations and sit-ins can force the discussion into the open, but at some point the message needs to be taken up the the majority of voters in the democratic countries to put pressure on their governments to put pressure on other governments. It is the responsibility of organizations such as the Millennium End Poverty 2015 Campaign and anybody else supporting these goals to lead such as effort.

It is our responsibility as individuals participating in causes of our choosing to avoid become political commodities by understanding that you are commodified when you lose the ability to change things.

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Defense of Slacktivism (Not Really)

I linked an article critical of slacktivism by Evgeny Morozov in Foreign Policy to a blog post I did on actions being taken on behalf of Aung San Suu Kyi Support getting thanks but not results. Despite having admitted to being a slacktivist, I wanted to look closer at those parts of the article I agreed with which are critiques of my actions and the actions of the vast majority of us.

Morozov provides the standard definition of "Slacktivism" as, “an apt term to describe feel-good online activism that has zero political or social impact.

It gives those who participate in "slacktivist" campaigns an illusion of having a meaningful impact on the world without demanding anything more than joining a Facebook group. Remember that online petition that you signed and forwarded to your entire contacts list? That was probably an act of slacktivism

Admittedly this is true for me. A good number of worthwhile online petitions come by email, on which I quite honestly don’t want to spend an inordinate amount of time. I would rather spend that time on causes that I have chosen to put more time - the Millennium Development Goals. So I click and move on.

The main point is “that media attention doesn't always translate into campaign effectiveness” was made by my blog post Aung San Suu Kyi Support getting thanks but not results. The web can be a catalyst, but it can not make a difference in the "real" world on its own.

He offers his own argument for slacktivism as a Straw man through the "long tail" argument.

...the dramatic fall in transaction costs of organizing activist campaigns has simply opened up the field to many more participants and issues, there has been no drop in the actual quality and effectiveness of these campaigns.

I also wonder if "nano-activism" for specific campaigns easily thrown up on the web and send to thousands of people, most previously not involved in activist campaigns, benefit from the increased public attention. There has to be more to these campaigns then how the website is designed.

Morozov goes on to write about "activism for a lazy generation”. Again I cannot argue with this on its face. I don't believe that Morozov means the protestors in Iran using both demonstrations for which many meant arrest, beatings or death and Web 2.0 tools like Twitter, but for campaigns such as the United Nations Millennium Development Goals there will be a point where they need to reach the mainstream masses of the developed countries. The Millennium Development Goals as far as I can determine are not mainstream in the United States.

Morozov challenges the basic slacktivist narrative by asking the question:

are the publicity gains gained through this greater reliance on new media worth the organizational losses that traditional activists entities are likely to suffer, as ordinary people would begin to turn away from conventional (and proven) forms of activism (demonstrations, sit-ins, confrontation with police, strategic litigation, etc) and embrace more "slacktivist" forms, which may be more secure but whose effectiveness is still largely unproven?

The answer to whether the utility of the very public work of 1000 "slacktivists" equals that of the very quiet and often unattributed work of one traditional activist is that it simple does not.

However, this seems to me to be a very unpersuasive argument. How often has demonstrations, sit-ins, confrontation with police, strategic litigation, etc worked without either a democratic system of change through voting or a sufficiently large militia to bring about the change? Vietnam did not end because the demonstrators convinced the government, but because they finally convinced the voters who changed the government. The demonstrators forced open the discussion, main stream then took it up, perhaps with false turns and setbacks but they made the final decision.

The real issue here is whether the mere availability of the "slacktivist" option is likely to push those who in the past might have confronted the regime in person with demonstrations, leaflets, and labor organizing to embrace the Facebook option and join a gazillion online issue groups instead.

However, I disagree with the idea that ordinary people, of which I am a fairly good example, would be out demonstrating and confronting police if not for the Internet. Today, I worry about family, mortgages and my job while trying to participate when I can through online activism and voting. The young have far less problem doing both online and on-street activism.

If this is the case, then the much-touted tools of digital liberation are only driving us further away from the goal of democratization and building global civil society.

The argument fails from my perspective. This blog and Milestones for a New Millennium have found too many resources and too many connections beyond Facebook to give any credence to this argument. Still in the end, Evgeny Morozov makes a number of points we need to think about, and each of us needs to re-examine what they are doing to determine for themselves if they can do more to make a difference and still live their own lives.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Letting Serendipity Seek You

DAMON DARLIN wrote in the New York Times section Ping: Serendipity, Lost in the Digital Deluge. After reading the piece, I can only conclude that serendipity is within the traveler and not the pathway. There has been a great deal of serendipity during this endeavor and it has changed my own paradigms.

I also don't believe that Darlin has a firm grasp on what serendipity is in truth. Truth seems a better word than fact. Serendipity is magic without the magician, the third wish without the genie or even the wish. It is more than randomness and blind luck and in its best sense can not be calculated or anticipated.

Darlin gives UrbanSpoon, as one example which depends upon randomness to find a restaurant.

But a funny thing happens with frequent users of the app. They start relying on its search engine or the “Talk of the Town” feature, an algorithm that generates suggestions that uncannily echo local sentiment.

So most of us don't stick to the path less traveled most of the time. Here he is right, the algorithm becomes a high-tech crowdsourcing, substituting for the serendipity that customers are seeking. Trouble is that you cannot seek serendipity. You have to seek, not even necessarily seek, but be open to the unknown and let serendipity find you.

But this does bring up the question of individuals finding new pathways and larger groups finding new pathways. As the TED Talk below shows - The group-think of social networks isn't good at delivering those magical moments of discovery.

James Surowiecki: The moment when social media became the news
James Surowiecki pinpoints the moment when social media became an equal player in the world of news-gathering: the 2005 tsunami, when YouTube video, blogs, IMs and txts carried the news -- and preserved moving personal stories from the tragedy. Watch this talk >>

James Surowiecki, the author of The Wisdom of Crowds, argues that people acting en masse, are smarter than we think with one important caveat.

But there's also a downside to this -- a kind of dark side, in fact --and that is that the more tightly linked we come to each other, the harder it is for each of us to remain independent.
One of the fundamental characteristics of a network is that once you are linked in the network, the network starts to shape your views and starts to shape your interactions with everybody else. That's one of the things that defines what a network is. A network is not just the product of its component parts.It is something more than that. It is, as Steven Johnson has talked about, an emergent phenomenon.
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Iran and Twitter Shaping A New World

I have come to the point that many on the web find themselves where I have more resources than I can keep up with. Resources from my Milestones for a New Millennium blog include dgCommunities "a collaborative space for professionals working to reduce poverty and promote sustainable development worldwide", from the Development Gateway Foundation.

Development Gateway is an international nonprofit organization that provides Web-based platforms to make aid and development efforts more effective around the world.

One of their one of the online publications is which deals with information and communication.

Recently, though they had a post of the Twitter phenomenon from another member which caught my eye. I have been on the look out for such articles. They have been pretty easy to find coming from numerous sources.

The original article was from Mashable demonstrating how information can be reshaped, in format not content, and used again to help form understanding and policy.

News #CNNfail: Twitter Blasts CNN Over Iran Election
Twitter users blasted CNN this weekend for a lack of coverage of the Tehran protests, with Iranian citizens claiming ballot fraud and taking to the streets.

Twitter has proven a powerful tool for spreading news of developing events in the country, but it has also taken on the role of media watchdog: thousands of Twitter users adopted the hashtag #CNNfail to highlight a lack of Iran coverage from the news organization.
Language: EnglishSource: Mashable: The Social Media Guide
Added by John Daly
June 15, 2009 Archive Date: June 15, 2009

News of Iran, News in Iran, New by Iran Bringing Change

The news coming out of Iran has been disturbing and fascinating at the same time. What has been particularly game changing is the use of social media, especially Twitter. My real life/day job persona now has its own Twitter account, though it took me a while to get what seemed to be a fluff application. For many, probably most, it still is, but it can be a powerful tool. This article from the Boston Globe indicates how great of a tool.

News of Iran, edited in Newton - The Boston Globe
The website is called Tehran Bureau, but it is not housed in the Iranian capital. It’s edited from Niknejad’s parents’ living room in Newton

The English-language site has generated a lot of attention over the past few weeks as tensions escalated over allegations of electoral fraud by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government. When demonstrators were shot and communication with the West was curtailed in a government clampdown, Tehran Bureau’s stream of news alerts and Twitter feeds became a valued source of information cited by The New York Times and other Western news organizations.
Shows what one person can do with two Apple Powerbooks. The Internet can be an Archimedes Lever for communicating with the rest of the world. The difference is that we can all hold on to the lever. If enough push the same way the world can move. This doesn't mean that Twitter is going to topple the regime in Tehran and I profoundly hope that there isn't a bloody crushing of the people's uprising. Even if the Resistance is forced underground Twitter and other social media tools provide a sieve for the regimes attempts to block information and support from the outside world. Iran is not Burma where one of the primary forms of control is the impoverished conditions of the people. Even though it will not be in the open, people will still be communicating and collaborating in Iran, slowly building up and slowly changing.

There has been a flurry of stories coming out of Iran and the Twitter phenomenon. This blog is not a news breaking resource, but my way of exploring and understanding issues. Particularly those dealing with social media and its affect on our global community. So I will be going back looking at this some more through some articles I have saved in drafts.

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Sunday, May 31, 2009

Privacy versus Authenticity Keeping My Online Personae Straight

I have often alluded to my "real life/day job" when writing for this blog. This blog started out as an experiment and as part of that experiment it was decided that it would be kept separate. One, to see how it fared completely on its own without outside assistance, and two, to keep my "real life/day job" uncomplicated with personal viewpoints. Being in public administration means to a large extent that you put your opinions on the backburner and respect the democratic process that put those making the decisions in power.

Because of personal and policy changes at the "day job" my virtual and more openly idealistic online persona, which was borne of this blog, is now getting short shrift. My day job has its own online persona and is getting benefit from what I have learned during my sojourns into the World of Web 2.0 through this blog. The separation still exists, but now more tenuously. It is also getting harder to maintain because while I still have some desire to maintain the private space there is also a sense of being inauthentic or at least fragmented.

There are points of connection and it is possible to discover one of my online personae through the other, but so far nobody has seemed to have noticed any of them. Do I want to make them more obvious?

Monday, May 4, 2009

Navigating Our Lives, Our Economy, Our World with the Cellphone,

The cellphone has been a basic tool of micro-enterprise in numerous countries for sometime now. On a local level, it provides a relatively cheap means of communication, organization and control. Now it is beginning to create a new paradigm on a global scale. Two articles, again from the New York Times, provide a contrast between the potential of world connection and the realities of global markets, one although abstract is becoming a reality, the other a reality could change how we think about doing business.

SCIENCE | February 17, 2009 The Cellphone, Navigating Our Lives By JOHN MARKOFF
Cellphones have changed how we communicate with others, and now they are changing how we think about information.

The cellphone is the world’s most ubiquitous computer. The four billion cellphones in use around the globe carry personal information, provide access to the Web and are being used more and more to navigate the real world. And as cellphones change how we live, computer scientists say, they are also changing how we think about information.

With the dominance of the cellphone, a new metaphor is emerging for how we organize, find and use information. New in one sense, that is. It is also as ancient as humanity itself. That metaphor is the map. “The map underlies man’s ability to perceive,” said Richard Saul Wurman, a graphic designer who was a pioneer in the use of maps as a generalized way to search for information of all kinds before the emergence of the online world.
TECHNOLOGY | April 28, 2009 In China, Knockoff Cellphones Are a Hit By DAVID BARBOZA
An industry building look-alike mobile phones for as little as $35 is tickling China's pride in rebellious creativity.
“Five years ago, there were no counterfeit phones,” says Xiong Ting, a sales manager at Triquint Semiconductor, a maker of mobile phone parts, while visiting Shenzhen. “You needed a design house. You needed software guys. You needed hardware design. But now, a company with five guys can do it. Within 100 miles of here, you can find all your suppliers.”

Even Chinese mobile phone producers are losing market share to underground companies, which have a built-in cost advantage because they evade taxes, regulatory fees and safety checks.

There are environmental dangers posed by this black market technology, but their is also a sense of backroom disruptive innovation going on as well.

Some experts say they believe the shanzhai phenomena is about being creative, Chinese style.

“Chinese grass-roots companies are actually very innovative,” says Yu Zhou, a professor at Vassar College. “It’s not so much technology as how they form supply chains and how rapidly they react to new trends.”
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Being There, Being Everywhere, Being Where It Counts

Social media is a the same time both very personal and global in its reach. It provides an opportunity to reach millions, but can connect one-on-one regarding the challenges we face in the world. The two articles below demonstrate the span of influence of this medium, from the poetic to the political. The potential of this medium has not been even glimpsed to my mind. The financial potential is only the tip of the iceberg.

MAGAZINE | February 15, 2009 The Medium: Being There By VIRGINIA HEFFERNAN The subtle art of the Facebook update.

“Unlike ALL other walks of life, status updates are the appropriate places for spontaneous bursts of joy and being. You shouldn’t do it at work, you shouldn’t do it in the middle of a conversation, you shouldn’t do it on the street, you shouldn’t turn to a stranger on the bus, you shouldn’t leave it on someone’s cellphone. But on this grand constantly updating Christmas card that we are all free to access or withdraw from at any time, we FINALLY have a polite space for ‘My sponge smells like a hot dog.’ ”
MAGAZINE | January 25, 2009 Revolution, Facebook-Style
As the street protests went on, young Egyptians also were mobilizing and venting their anger over Gaza on what would, until recently, have seemed an unlikely venue: Facebook, the social-networking site. In most countries in the Arab world, Facebook is now one of the 10 most-visited Web sites, and in Egypt it ranks third, after Google and Yahoo. About one in nine Egyptians has Internet access, and around 9 percent of that group are on Facebook — a total of almost 800,000 members.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Boao Focusing on the Financial Crisis from an Asian Perspective

Although I have a strong tendency to use the New York Times for inspiration for posts, I do read other online newspapers including the China Daily. Although it can be just as or even more slanted it provides a perspective, different from Western journalism, of a rising major economic power. Most of the attention in the West has been on Davos, but Asia has its own economic summit. Both are facing the same issue articulated by the World Bank: Economic crisis turning into calamity.

Boao conference begins with focus on financial crisis

The Boao Forum for Asia Annual Conference 2009 officially opened in Boao, Hainan Province Saturday, focusing on the role of Asian countries amid the global financial crisis.

Here are some other articles featured in the China Daily Wen: Stimulus Package Paying Off $10B ASEAN Fund Banker: IMF Needs Improvement

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Reconnecting to Why To Connect

I have decided to reconnect to why I started this in the first place. It was to learn and share. The learning was whatever interested me with more specific focus on issues being dealt with through the Millennium Development Goals. The sharing was with whomever was interested. It is not going to change the Web 2.0 world, but I was quite happy when Youth for International Human Rights is clicked 61 times, or 36 clicks for the MIT video Technologies Changing Communities, Communities Innovating Technology or 34 clicks for my own post Designing Your Future and Your Success as a Team Effort.

Another aspect of blogging that was enjoyable was seeing people across the globe connect with what I was sharing. People find me through Google. One popular search is "millenium development goals obama", and I take satisfaction that Milestones for a New Millennium comes up on the first page. Another from the UK was "web 2.0 on social impact" at which I was at last look at the number one spot. Now this does not mean I am now taking the Web 2.0 world by storm. Much of this is the fact I focus on areas without much competition, which is unfortunate because they are very worthwhile causes, and luck in choosing the right words.

The other measure is how long people will spend interacting with one of my posts. Most visitors don't even register, though hopefully they read some of it. I figure two minutes on web time, equal to about 20 minutes off-web time indicates some engagement. Somebody spent a couple of minutes at my Making Hope Last Longer Than Hunger that I did for BloggersUnite and then clicked to their site. Which is part of the whole idea, getting others to find interesting, informative and inspiring sites. Somebody from NYU.EDU found my blog Milestones for a New Millennium through Google "Business and human rights: Towards operationalizing the 'protect, respect and remedy' framework", though admittedly not on the first page, and through it connected with the Business and Human Resource Centre. That took them 14 seconds. Somebody in Oklahoma City visited my Milestones for a New Millennium blog. and found TED talks Rethinking Poverty on the site. The trouble has been that I have been getting far fewer of these connections lately and could only come up with a couple of examples to share. That is going to change.