I’m not referring to explicit communication (sure this happens), but I’m referring more to just being aware without necessarily having to directly communicate or push a message to one or multiple people…directly communicating can often happen once you become "aware" of something.
In that post I mentioned that my inlaws swap long Christmas letters with their friends (once a year), so basically at the end of the year in one big gulp they become aware of what a family has been up to.
Sure they could be aware of many points shared in a friends Christmas letter if they had phone contact throughout the year, but you are not going to ring, SMS or email every person on your Christmas list each time something happens in your life…and ringing them to tell them about minor events like "I just landed in Hong Kong" seems ludicrous.
The difference here is that online platforms like my Facebook network operate on a different paradigm, we become ambiently aware of each other. Sure we can have directed conversations like phone calls, SMS and email, and in the Facebook context we can send direct messages, leave comments on updates and photos, but the big shift is that we talk about ourselves or something that has happened to us out loud, we broadcast this to a spot, and whoever subscribes to that spot, ie. our network, will see that in their stream. This is a shift in how we communicate, and an off-line version of doing this would make you seem a bit crazy, but in the online realm it works.
In fact, we are so ambiently aware of our friends lives via Facebook that when we meet up offline, we don’t have much to say to each other in the way of "how you been?"…this kind of becomes a non-question.
The other day I was on the phone to my mum and she told me my cousin landed in London. And I said I know. And she said, oh, have you talked to her. And I said no. She said well who told you. And I said she did. She was a bit confused. I then told her she broadcasted this on her Facebook profile, and people in her network like me get to pay attention to these updates, if we choose not to pay attention it just streams by. I said I can also choose to leave a comment on her update, or a gesture that I like it. If my mum were to ask, I wonder how long the plane trip took, I would say well the flight was split in two, earlier on she updated that she landed in Hong Kong. My mum was so amazed that I knew this stuff without having to be personally contacted. And from my cousins point of view, broadcasting it is much more doable than sending an SMS to a hundred people each time she wants to say something, and then one-to-one comments splintering the conversation.
In fact without these new online networks you wouldn’t have this type of awareness, it’s as simple as that…technology and it’s use affects and changes culture.
As you can imagine this happens all the time. My mum telling me on the phone about photos or a family friend having a baby. And I already know all this by being ambiently aware, unlike my mum I know this without having to have one-on-one contact (direct communication), or waiting to hear it from someone else.
I told her I even know what others say about my cousins update, even from people I don’t know…all without having to be in a tele-conference or email chain conversation. I told her when someone leaves a comment on an update it will appear in my stream that this happened. I told even when my cousin adds a new friend to her network I will also be updated about this, in this case my cousin doesn’t even need to broadcast this, she wouldn’t have any motivation to do this anyway, but instead the system automatically posts this update. Further to this I can leave comments on this update ie. we can have a chat around the fact my cousin has added a new friend.
I mentioned that whenever someone in my network uploads a new photo to the system they appear in my stream and float on by, but if I’m in one of the photos I am more explicitly notified of this.
Anyway, my point is why do I have close to total awareness of people in my personal life that requires low effort, but yet in the workplace I don’t have this ambient awareness!
In my personal life the “how you been?”, translates to what we hear in work meetings or weekly tele-cons eg “let’s go round the world, starting with Perth, John update us on what you have been up to in the past week”
In fact it may be more crucial to have micro-blogging/activity stream networks in the workplace as we share and work on the same/similar/related goals and tasks within our teams, across teams, workgroups, and enterprise wide…so the more we are aware, the more we can be on the same page, and have better coordination, cooperation and collaboration…surface opportunities (emergence), have the best people on the right tasks, and generally have the ability to be more responsive and adaptive.
This is impossible to do with email, phone, face-to-face…these all have their place, but now we can really do something new, or enhance what we do or what we have always wanted to do, that doesn’t require centralised coordination. Now our classic organisational problems of communication and awareness can for once realistically be addressed. Further to this it cascades into self-organising social productivity, much better than email which is our current self-organising tool.
I said once before we are moving from PC to SC ie. from Personal Computing to Social Computing.
And we are moving conversations from private by default to public by default.
Hopefully this comparison by story in describing this concept is useful in explaining online networking to people in the workplace as an alternative or a pre-cursor to: what it is, the benefits, how it works.