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The Value Between Us

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The Value Between Us examines groups and the potential value that connects today’s network of networks. The information economy and the derived value is rooted in exchanges which occur not just among …

The Value Between Us examines groups and the potential value that connects today’s network of networks. The information economy and the derived value is rooted in exchanges which occur not just among institutions but groups who may have no legal or institutional affiliation, informal cooperatives. These groups attract attention and participation of those who have similar interests and are guided by kernels. These groups operate between ecosystems as alternative open spaces for collaboration. When informal cooperatives and institutions collaborate they form a collaboration sphere, an independent space of engagement. While informal cooperatives are fueled by similar interests they can infuse diversification through their weak ties. These relationships create balance within groups to mitigate against polarization. The distance between and within informal cooperatives and institutions are structural holes. These gaps require brokering by a new kind of communicator, the new curator. This new brokering role bridges the gaps between today’s network of networks, especially those with dissimilar interests and values. The new curator is an independent actor who straddles between informal cooperatives and institutions. The new curator cultivates environmental conditions conducive for dialogue, cooperation and ultimately, collaboration. Through a multi-discipinary theoretical approach with current qualitative examples, this thesis argues that while we might believe we are in a connected world, we are not. The Value Between Us issues a call to action to invest in new curators to support and protect informal cooperatives, cultivate the value between today’s networks of networks.

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  • 1. THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF PARIS MASTER OF ARTS IN GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS IN GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS The Value Between Us: Exploring Informal Cooperatives, Kernels, Weak Ties, and the Role of the New Curator Heather Blanchard heather@newcicada.com
  • 2. THE AMERICAN UNIVERSITY OF PARIS MASTER OF ARTS IN GLOBAL COMMUNICATIONS AUTHOR/STUDENT APPROVED: Thesis Director____________________________________________ Committee member________________________________________ Committee member________________________________________ Program Director__________________________________________
  • 3. STATEMENT OF AUTHENTICITY I have read the American University of Paris’s policies on plagiarism and certify that the content of this thesis entitled The Value Between Us Us: Exploring Informal Cooperatives, Kernels, Weak Ties, and the Role of the New Curator is all my own work and does not contain any unacknowledged work from any other sources. Number of words: 16,398 Signed:_______________________________ Date:_________________________________
  • 4. Copyright statement: A printed copy and an electronic version of this thesis have been given to The American University of Paris (AUP) for its library collection and to grant scholarly access. As of today, I authorize AUP to archive, perform any needed cataloging, keep records of this thesis and disseminate it in France and abroad. In addition, I authorize AUP to provide free access to the entire work for on-site consultation, loan, and dissemination via Internet/Intranet and for interlibrary loan, for as long as this work exists. The University must acquire my explicit approval before making any additional copies of this thesis. L'œuvre ayant le caractère d'un travail universitaire, un exemplaire dans son intégralité sous format papier et sa version électronique ont été déposés à la bibliothèque de The American University of Paris - AUP. J‟autorise, à partir d‟aujourd‟hui, la bibliothèque d‟AUP à donner un accès gratuit à l‟intégralité du texte de mon mémoire, à le citer, à l‟archiver, à en faire des résumés, et à sa diffusion, soit en France ou à l‟international, pendant toute la durée de vie de ce mémoire. Ainsi je donne à AUP l„autorisation pour sa consultation sur place, sa diffusion par internent/ intranet pour le prêt local entre bibliothèques. En cas de besoin de reproduction AUP doit obtenir mon accord explicit pour toute reproduction ultérieure. ________________________________ __________________________20___ Signature Date Page i
  • 5. DEDICATION "When in the end, the day came on which I was going away, I learned the strange learning that things can happen which we ourselves cannot possibly imagine, either beforehand, or at the time when they are taking place, or afterwards when we look back on them." – Isak Dineson, Out of Africa, 1937 To Mom, Bill, Eric, Jen, Tommy, Ellie & Nateycakes We’ll always have Paris and dinner time Skype. *Sparkles* To the Bank of Atkinson, the Colonel, Tinkerbell and Veep Thanks for being my personal Kickstarter and my role models. Paris would not have happened without your guidance and support. To WR41Thanks for Chuck E. Cheese and Busch Gardens. Where joie de vivre lives in gadgets, art, music and and hamster searching. Thanks for being a rock for Mom. Thanks for being awesome. To Val, Olga, DB, Ida, Russ and Glo Missing you. Wishing you were here. To my friends, all my weak and strong connections I couldn’t have done it without you guys. Thanks for filling my Facebook with love and nonsense. Cheers for Sunday night dinners. #CallMeMaybe #GangnamStyle To the Hawk To my bestie. Thanks for being my beta-tester, COO and Chief Stylist. I couldn’t have done it (...meaning life) without you.
  • 6. ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS Sometimes you have to go outside to find the gold that is inside. Special thanks to Claudia Roda who went above and beyond the call of duty to provide the coaching I needed to get what is in my head on paper. It is still not exactly what is in my brain, but at least some of it is on paper. We are living in a material culture world, and I am a material culture girl. Thanks to Julie Thomas who opened my eyes to a world that I knew was there, but failed to recognize or fully appreciate. I see things differently now. Americans take their Starbucks to go. Thanks to @PaulRichardset for inspiring me to move to Paris and his tolerence of an American who still hasn’t learned proper French. Thanks to the gang at @LaCantine for giving me a one year student discount. We want to think outside of the box. Thanks to the European Commission, specially CONNECT DG, for including me in their efforts to explore how best to reach web entrepreneurs. Special thanks to @Ringrda, Isidro and Miguel for your time and inclusion. And to @eurohumph thanks for being so welcoming and interested in hearing new ideas. #GirlsInTech: Graditude to the Brussels-based technology policy insights from Alia, Cheryl and Ellen. Special thanks to @MsWz for making the venture happen in the first place. Page ii
  • 7. ABSTRACT The Value Between Us examines groups and the potential value that connects today’s network of networks. The information economy and the derived value is rooted in exchanges which occur not just among institutions but groups who may have no legal or institutional affiliation, informal cooperatives. These groups attract attention and participation of those who have similar interests and are guided by kernels. These groups operate between ecosystems as alternative open spaces for collaboration. When informal cooperatives and institutions collaborate they form a collaboration sphere, an independent space of engagement. While informal cooperatives are fueled by similar interests they can infuse diversification through their weak ties. These relationships create balance within groups to mitigate against polarization. The distance between and within informal cooperatives and institutions are structural holes. These gaps require brokering by a new kind of communicator, the new curator. This new brokering role bridges the gaps between today’s network of networks, especially those with dissimilar interests and values. The new curator is an independent actor who straddles between informal cooperatives and institutions. The new curator cultivates environmental conditions conducive for dialogue, cooperation and ultimately, collaboration. Through a multi-discipinary theoretical approach with current qualitative examples, this thesis argues that while we might believe we are in a connected world, we are not. The Value Between Us issues a call to action to invest in new curators to support and protect informal cooperatives, cultivate the value between today’s networks of networks. keywords: distributive networks, informal cooperatives, kernels, crowdsourcing, weak ties Page iii
  • 8. TABLE OF CONTENTS Introduction 1 Are We Really Connected? 2 Our Ecosystem, Ourselves 3 Chapter One: Informal Cooperatives 8 A Historical Perspective 9 Act Locally, Impact Globally 11 Crowdsourcing Has Changed 12 Motivation 15 New Media Object 19 Common Features 21 Risk, Culture and Intra-preneurs 25 Chapter Two: Kernels and Collaboration Spheres 31 The Light Touch 33 Institutional Kernel 34 Structural Holes 35 Collaboration Sphere 38 Chapter Three: The Value of Weak Ties 43 Gladwell’s Challenge 44 Latency to Sensory Systems 45 Diversity 46 Facebook and Weak Ties 47 Sense-making and Proxy Services 49 Relationship Storage Units 50 Page iv
  • 9. Cost and Value 52 Chapter Four: The New Curator 54 Characteristics 56 Vantage Point 59 The Missing Link 60 Call For Investment 62 Conclusion 65 References 70 Biography 75 Page v
  • 10. Introduction Page 1
  • 11. Are We Really Connected? The Value Between Us discusses the transformation of the networked world from nodal systems to participatory communities which overlap, ebb and flow with interest. Sometimes people who have great ideas and skills to solve problems come from the most unusual places. Crowdsourcing may have hit its stride engaging the wisdom of the crowds, institutions seem to overlook the talents within their own organization. The wisdom of the crowd once famed for its unique problem solving capabilities is dependent on the independent nature of the people within the crowd. Today, we can no longer assume this independence to be true. Through activities like crowdsourcing people form relationships across cultural, language and geographic differences. The need and ability to connect is fundamental to our lives. This thesis breaks down the world into two groups: institutions and informal cooperatives. Institutions have organizational structure, legal boundaries and processes create efficiency. Informal cooperatives frequently lack organizational structure and are often not a legal entity. Informal cooperatives are groups who share a similar interests and values which can drive innovation and problem solving. This can occur without formal management processes and leadership. The Value Between Us asks a fundamental question: “If we are in a world where it is easy to find and collaborate with those who are like us, are we marginalizing ourselves into sameness or is it there an independent space between us where we can cultivate pathways for dialogue and collaboration within and among today’s network of networks?” Page 2
  • 12. Our Ecosystem, Ourselves Facebook is perhaps the most famous example of how we live and work within a social network of people. Everything we do is social. Just take a look at your friends list. Some people you went to school with others are people you have worked with in the past. There might be old boyfriends or people you met at a party one night. These connections have a new ability to be stored permanently. Some people you may know intimately (e.g., strong ties), others you know at a distance (e.g., weak ties). The same can be said about the institutions which manage society. Governments, companies, non-profits, academia and NGOs travel in their own set of communities and have varied levels of connection. Informal cooperatives and institutions have interpersonal and community ecosystems which they traverse on a daily basis. Through repetition, we begin to foster trust within relationships we hold. The more we engage each other, the more they are familiar and the more we may trust one another. However, the challenge today is that while informal cooperatives and institutions have the ability to connect to those who have similar interest and values, there are gaps within the ecosystem with those who don’t hold those interests and values. For example, would Occupy Wall Street proactively build a long term relationship with the financial sector to support the achievement their goals? While we may believe that we live in an information economy where our networks are connected through technology, this may not mean that we engage with those who have dissimilar interests and values. Informal cooperatives have an increasing ability to attract attention and drive participatory collective action. Informal cooperatives can be borderless, leaderless, and without legal status. Informal cooperatives build and manage a new kind of soft power which can create global movements like Occupy Wall Street or collective action such as Page 3
  • 13. Anonymous and digital humanitarians. The Value Between Us defines a new landscape where informal cooperatives and institutions play new roles in today’s information economy. Today, there is a new kind of brokering role—the new curator—who helps informal cooperatives and institutions navigate the gaps between these two worlds and foster a new space of independent space where dialogue and collaboration can take place. The Value Between Us is broken into four chapters addressing: informal cooperatives, kernels and collaboration space, weak ties and the new curator. These chapters outline today’s new environment where institutions are no longer the only entities who can foster and influence the marketplace. The Value Between Us explores trends such as crowdsourcing and seeks to understand why independent open collaboration spaces are necessary to address gaps (e.g. structural holes) between the information economy’s network of networks. Chapter one discusses the value and characteristics of informal cooperatives. For centuries individuals have clustered together in informal groups to do all kinds of things from transforming the art world through impressionist to regime change in the Middle East. Informal cooperatives transform once strangers into new relationships. These relationships, however strong or weak, are motivated by self-interest through reciprocity, reputation and efficacy. (Kollock, 1999: 6) Participation within informal cooperatives develop social capital for individuals and the informal cooperative alike. This chapter discusses the shift of crowdsourcing, individual motivation and identity through mediation, common features of informal cooperatives and the challenges facing institutions in this brave new world. Chapter two describes the small group of people who drive informal cooperatives, the kernel. These people are often seen as leaders, when in fact they might have characteristics Page 4
  • 14. akin to what Horgen, Joroff, Porter and Schon describe as a process architect (Horgen, Joroff, Porter and Schon, 1999: 56). Mentoring skills are leveraged by the kernel to guide rather than direct a management process. One of the primary activities of an informal cooperative kernel is to attract new participation, while institutional kernels seek to develop a new space for collaboration within their own organization. Within chapter two, the gap between two networks (or within an network itself) is characterized as a structural hole. Ronald Burt first coined the term structural hole which are “...missing relationships that inhibit information flow between people.” (Burt, 2007: 119) Burt discusses that within groups people are likely to think similarly than those beyond their network. Burt describes the advantages of the role of the connector (e.g., broker) between those two relationships. “Information, opinion, and practice are more homogeneous within than between groups, so a manager whose network spans structure holes (call him a network broker, connector, or entrepreneur) has a vision advantage in early exposure to diverse information and a general political advantage as a hub in the information flow.” (Burt, 2007: 119) Chapter two discusses these topics as well as the relationship between the institutional kernel and informal cooperatives and the formation of a new collaboration sphere. Chapter three discusses the value of weak ties. In 2012, Malcolm Gladwell ignited a firestorm with his rejection of the use of weak ties in high risk social activism. (Gladwell, 2012: 1) This chapter argues that weak ties are an important part of the fabric of today’s network of networks, especially within informal cooperatives. Weak ties can transform latent connections into a sensory network. This chapter argues that every tie is a potential communications pathway. We have an unfettered ability to permanently store relationships Page 5
  • 15. —either strong or weak— through social technologies. These storage units allow us to call upon these relationships when they are needed, during high risk events (e.g., crises). There is mounting evidence, despite Gladwell’s assertion, that weak ties can transform themselves from latency to action such as becoming a proxy agent and sense-making. This chapter argues that weak ties are necessary to maintain a healthy balance within informal cooperatives and that every relationship comes with a value and a cost associated with its storage and maintenance. Chapter four discusses the missing link between informal cooperatives and institutions, the new curator. While the profession of curation is well established, a new kind of curation is emerging across every domain to help address structural holes within the networks by brokering across two group (e.g., informal cooperatives and institutions), catalyzing collaboration, preserving and sharing widely actions and knowledge of the groups engagement. While this role ideally would be independent of the institution and the informal cooperative, resources suggest that the role of the new curator often is picked up by kernels. The new curator role is different than that of the kernel. The new curator brokers between informal cooperatives and institutions who had dissimilar interests and values. They are independent of either group and foster environmental conditions which allow for dialogue and engagement within the collaboration sphere. Burt discusses the role of the connector between these groups: “Opinion and behavior are more homogenous within than between groups, so people connect across groups are more familiar with alternative ways of thinking.” (Burt, 2004: 349) This chapter presents the role of the new curator, its characteristics and unique vantage point (Burt, 2004: 351). This chapter issues a call to action Page 6
  • 16. for investment to support new curators who are needed to bridge today’s information economy. The Value Between Us concludes with a call for investment to mitigate against the potential effects of connecting to only those who share our interests and values. The thesis presents three areas where investment should be made to potentially lessen polarization in today’s information economy. First, we must invest in new curators to be the bridge builders between groups and fill the structural holes which exist today. Second, we must invest in greater understanding the value of and utility of weak ties. Third, we must invest the creation of independent open collaboration spaces. These investments may develop the first steps to recognizing the shifting landscape of today’s information economy and begin the discussion on the value of informal cooperatives, kernels, new curators and the rise of the new collaboration sphere. Page 7
  • 17. Chapter One: Informal Cooperatives Page 8
  • 18. People like to do things together. We eat together. We learn together. We work together. The ability to connect with one another is a fundamental need that many of us have. When people get together to share information and potentially collaborate, an informal cooperative is born. Informal cooperative work defined by Richard Fikes within a systems engineering context as “the challenges involved in constructing computer-based systems for supporting such work.” (Fikes, 1984: 345) This thesis seeks to adapt informal cooperation to define an entity with today’s network of networks, the informal cooperative. Informal cooperatives can be as little as two people or can fuel movements to create production beyond what any one individual could ever accomplish. Informal cooperatives can be temporary such as an afternoon Meetup, (Meetup.com, 2012) or can ignite a global movement like Occupy Wall Street. (Occupy Wall Street, 2012) Everyday there are barcamps (Singal, 2012) (Caulfield, 2012) and hackathons (Krueger, 2012) which serve as temporary open spaces of collaboration. There are more long-term groups which may evolve over time such as fan communities (Jenkins, 2012), digital humanitarians (CrisisCamp, 2009), car clubs (Santa Clara Corvette Club, 2012), fantasy football (Hutchins, 2009: 89) and technology user groups (Ruby User Groups, 2012). A Historical Perspective Informal cooperatives have probably existed for centuries. As an example, we can examine the Parisian café culture of the nineteenth century which fostered the Impressionist movement. “In the beginning the café was a place where young people could meet, mix freely, speak openly of politics and literature. Often the proprietor of the establishment participated in these informal meetings, sometimes even presiding, not particularly concerned Page 9
  • 19. about making money...[T]hese social gatherings brought together future men of letters, painters, sculptors and students, a scene which brings to mind the café Momus.” (Dees, 2002: 7-8) Indeed this open collaboration space was important to the work of artists who would eventually lead the Impressionist movement. Cafés provided the open collaboration space to bring together Impressionist artists that shared a similar view: they rejected the drawing-focused teachings of the art institution, Ecole Beaux-Arts. Artists such as Degas, Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Cezanne and Sisley would gather together each week to discuss topics of the day. While the physical space of the café may have existed previously, the open space of dialogue supporting color-oriented art had not. Dialogue gave way a collaborative effort to launch the first independent exhibition of Impressionism. (Dees, 2002: 9-10) The institutional high art culture of Ecole Beaux-Arts valued economic interest over art freedom. A leader within the art institution remarked of the challenges between the Impressionists (e.g., informal cooperative) and the Ecole Beaux-Arts (e.g. institution) The Salon (e.g., institution) stifles and corrupts the feeling for the great, the beautiful; artists are driven to exhibit there by the attractions of profit, the desire to get themselves noticed at any price, by the supposed good fortune of an eccentric subject that is capable of producing an effect and leading to an advantageous sale. Thus the salon is literally no more than a picture shop, a bazaar in which the tremendous number of objects is overwhelming and business rules instead of art. (Dees, 2002: 11) Page 10
  • 20. The dialogue amongst the artists produced a collaboration to launch the first independent public display of Impressionist works. The independents may have not come about if the artists had not a play outside of the Academy. The café gave them the freedom to be independent artists, event if it meant facing hurdles. Their little group offered the support to bear the harsh criticism and public opinions. A solitary artist would not have been as able to defy the system. (Dees, 2002: 38) While the exhibition may have failed in the eyes of the art institution, the ability of the Impressionist artists to create their own space to showcase their work may be seen as a success. The Impressionists were able to establish their own independent space of collaboration external to the art institution. Act Locally, Impact Globally Today, the Internet acts as a global communications platform. The use of technology makes it easy to find like-minded individuals across the world. When people share an interest, they begin to form relationships. Initially, these relationships may be weak, but as time goes by, they may strengthen, especially when there is a physical space for collaboration. It is just like working with someone whom you have only exchanged email. You both have a shared experience but when you meet, that experience and relationship can be heightened. Informal cooperatives are able to expand beyond geographic and organizational boundaries. “Suddenly, in the blink of an evolutionary eye, people not longer must be in the same place—collocated—in order to work together. Now many people work in virtual teams Page 11
  • 21. that transcend distance, timezones, and organizational boundaries.” (Lipnack and Stamps, 1997: 1) While in the nineteenth century informal cooperatives, such as the Impressionists, might have centered around the social halls of Parisian cafés, today the Internet allows for billions of people to create their own social halls where they affiliate and dialogue with others who have similar interests and values. Today, there are countless examples of online collaborations. For example, musicians from four countries collaborate together to play cover songs by the rock-n-roll band Rush. Although the collaborators may have never met in-person, each member contributes to the band by recording his or her part of a song which is then layered into a music video and posted to the Virtually Rush YouTube Channel. (Virtually Rush, 2012) Another example is Apache HTTP Project, a cooperative of software developers who contributed computer code create the open source Apache Web Server. (Apache Foundation, 2012) As of 2010, Apache powers over fifty-three percent of the Web servers online. (Netcraft, 2012) The Internet provides a platform which allows for offline collaboration and assembly. For the last twenty years, volunteer hackers (e.g., DEFCON Goons) created and managed the world’s largest annual hacker conference, DEFCON. (DEFCON, 2012) In 2012, the conference attracted over 12,000 participants and hosted the Director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander. (Mills, 2012) These examples showcase not just the social nature of online collaborations, but the ability to create production value and participation offline. Crowdsourcing Has Changed Often we use the term crowdsourcing (Howe, 2006: 1) incorrectly to attempt to describe how people participate within informal cooperatives. The Wisdom of the Crowds, Page 12
  • 22. written by James Surowiecki, advocated that the online crowd “under the right circumstances, groups can be remarkably intelligent, and often smarter than the smartest people in them.” (Surowiecki, 2005: xiii-xiv) The sticky wicket is that crowdsourcing participants are independent, they do not hold relationships with each other. Discussing independences and other characteristics, Surowiecki defined “...four conditions that characterize wise crowds: diversity of opinion (each person should have some private information, even if it’s just an eccentric interpretation of the known facts), independence (people’s opinion are not determined by the opinions of those around them), decentralization (people are able to specialize and draw on local knowledge), and aggregation (some mechanism exists for turning private judgements into a collective decision).” (Surowiecki, 2005: 10) Jeff Howe, writer for Wired Magazine, followed up Surowiecki’s book with his own discussion of the crowd in Crowdsourcing: Why the Power of the Crowd is Driving the Future of Business. Howe uses examples from companies and their experiences asking for ideas, production and other outcomes outside of their organizational boundaries. This book forecasted that crowdsourcing (Howe, 2006: 8) would be the future of how businesses would gain competitive advantage and value. While Howe provides examples such as iStockphoto and Threadless, Howe mixed the approach of engagement between individuals contributing, and groups of people who have similar interests who co-create together. This mixture of approaches and Howe’s inability to have a meta view of the ecosystem beyond business, challenges the notion of crowdsourcing that we have today. Six years since its publication there have been countless examples of how people work together to create value, whether or Page 13
  • 23. not a business (e.g., institution) asks for their help. While not the focus of this thesis, the definition of crowdsourcing may need to be updated to incorporate lessons learned, effectiveness, sustainability and best practices experienced online. (Tice, 2009) This chapter discusses how actions of people who cluster together through similar interest should be defined as a different kind of group, the informal cooperative. The primary difference between informal cooperatives and the concept of crowdsourcing is that informal cooperatives are not independent actors, but people who have identified common interests and seek to collaborate with others who share those similar interests. This often is confused with crowdsourcing due to its poor definition. (Kleemann, Voß and Rieder, 2008: 1) Individuals who participate in crowdsourcing activities cease to be independent when they begin to form relationships and collaborate with each other. While there is an assured number of independent actors, today the ability to connect with those sharing common interests is as easy as a Google search. People who are interested in a particular topic are not part of an independent crowd, rather they have transformed themselves by working with others into an informal cooperative. Today, independent actors may be harder to find. Just like when you move to a new town, you might not know your neighbors initially but over time you might build a relationship with them. The same is true with crowdsourcing. People are attracted to events and communities who share their interests and might begin to form relationships with people who they find there. Crowdsourcing is a beacon for common interest, however, when a request for assistance (e.g., problem solving or tasks) is over, individuals may connect with Page 14
  • 24. other participants to dialogue and continue the collaboration. When relationships are formed between individuals, crowdsourcing ceases because the actors are not longer independent. Today, crowdsourcing often serves as a point of entry catalyzing common interest within the ecosystem. Crowdsourcing often can transform strangers into collaborators. Jennifer Wright Cook, Executive Director of The Field describes the collapse of independence among people after they begin to connect to one another: “They exposed their ideas to each other and to the public, and demanded fearless analysis. They progressed, their art progressed, and their businesses moved forward. They are no longer strangers.” (The Field, 2012) Motivation People use informal cooperatives as extensions of themselves. Like a brand, they see their affiliation as a reflection of their values and interests. In fact, informal cooperatives can be aspirational in nature. For example, if someone wants to learn how to code in Ruby they may join the Ruby User Group and participate socially with those who know Ruby better than they do. (Ruby User Groups, 2012) This relationship suggests that while common interest may drive participation within the informal cooperative, it is the ability of the individual participant to see a reflection of themselves within the actions of others. The basis of an informal cooperative is rooted in self-interest and affiliation with those who have similar interests and values. In The Economies of Online Cooperation Peter Kollock discusses three key motivational behaviors of individuals participating in virtual communities: reciprocity, reputation and self efficacy. (Kollock, 1999: 6) Indeed, it could be argued that much of the Page 15
  • 25. behavior described by Kollock of individuals within virtual communities may have been observed behavior of individuals who build informal cooperatives. Reciprocity Kollock begins with the idea of sharing where “...it is sometimes the case that reciprocity will occur within the group as a whole in a system of generalized exchange. This kind of network-wide accounting system creates a kind of credit, in that one can draw upon the contributions of others without needing to immediately reciprocate.” (Kollock, 1999: 6) This describes an informal environment where there are no checks and balances about who is contributing more or less to the group. “If each person shares freely, the group as a whole is better off, having access to information and advice that no single person might match. A loose accounting system can also serve as a kind of insurance, in that one can draw from the resources of the group when in need, without need to immediately repay each person.” (Kollock, 1999: 6) Informality plays a key role in reciprocity. Within informal cooperatives reciprocity is an important cultural norm of individuals who participate. When exchange within the informal cooperative is stifled, circulation cannot occur. This can challenge the development of an open collaborative space conducive for exchange. A co-worker from La Cantine in Paris discussed the tragedy of formality: In economic environments like today which can be austere, the concept of sharing and creating is a challenge. People don’t want to help each other in an environment which is focused on optimization. Information is power. When the economy is booming it’s so much Page 16
  • 26. easier to collaborate and work together, but when jobs are being threatened people tend to keep to themselves. They are scared to lose their job or their status. (Blanchard, 2012) This underscores the importance of reciprocity within informal cooperatives. Chen underscores this value where “Building up the social goods (e.g. rationality and reciprocity) (Turner, 1991), establishing trust and creating norms (Coleman, 1988) are important cornerstones for the success of a virtual community.” (Chen, 2006: 114) Reputation Social capital is a derivative product of reputation building. Portes describes social capital as a valuable non-monetary form of capital where “...it places those positive consequences in the framework of a broader discussion of capital and calls attention to how such non-monetary forms can be important sources of power and influence, like the size of one’s stock holdings or bank account.” (Portes, 2000: 2) Social capital can be exchanged. Within the informal cooperative this exchange occurs between those who have similar interest via participation within the group. Kollock discusses this exchange as a motivational factor to increase “...the effect of contributions on one's reputation. High quality information, impressive technical details in one's answers, a willingness to help others, and elegant writing can all work to increase one's prestige in the community.” (Kollock, 1999: 7) Reputation building creates social capital from the relationships within the informal cooperative. Brass and Krackhardt discuss the fragility of social capital and the dependence of its worth on participation. “Social capital is the property of relationships; if either actor withdraws, the relationships and the social capital Page 17
  • 27. dissolve.” (Brass and Krackhardt, 1999: 180) As an extreme view of the importance of social capital, Brass and Krackhardt claim that social capital is the interdependency from which all capital is derived. Without it, the other forms of capital can fail. “Without social capital, human capital and financial capital (money, credit and so forth) may be worthless.” (Brass and Krackhardt, 1999: 180) Efficacy While contribution may be paramount to the energy and growth of informal cooperatives, the ability of people to see their impact (e.g., efficacy) is of great interest and value to participants. Kollock describes participation which results in “...valuable information because the act results in a sense of efficacy, that is, a sense that she has some effect on this environment” (Kollock, 1999: 7). While there may not be a wealth of literature specifically discussing informal cooperatives, Kollock argues that there is a great deal known about the value of efficacy within informal groups. Efficacy is common and an important motivational factor of online participation. Kollock describes research “...has shown how important a sense of efficacy is (e.g., Bandura, 1995), and making regular and high-quality contribution to the group can help a person believe she has an impact on the group and support her own self-image as an efficacious person.” (Kollock, 1999:7) Kollock cites Constant, Kiesler, and Sproul (Kollock, 1999: 7) in his argument that efficacy is an important element to online cooperation. “If a sense of efficacy is what is motivating someone, then contributions are likely to be increased to the extent that people can observe changes in the community attributable to their actions. It may also be the case that as the size of the group increases, one will be more motivated to contribute because the Page 18
  • 28. increasing size provides a larger audience and a potentially greater impact for one's actions” (Kollock, 1999: 7). By including this argument, Kollock emphasizes that while people may contribute more if they can see the impact of their participation. In terms of informal cooperatives, the more people participate, the more their contribution is seen as meaningful within the community, the greater potential for growth. (Kollock, 1999: 7) The more growth, the more others will be attracted to jump on the bandwagon to participate in the informal cooperative. New Media Object Informal cooperatives establish an identity through social capital contributions of others. Informal cooperatives may be an object of mediation, specifically a new media object. Celia Lury, author of Consumer Culture, gives the example of how brands become new media objects: “In media theory, the terms ‘frame’, ‘window’, ‘mirror,’ ‘screen’, and ‘interface’ are used in many discussion of media such as architecture, painting, cinema and computing. The most basic definition of the frame in media theory is ‘a window that opens onto a larger space that assume to extend beyond the frame’ (Manovich, 2011: 80); alternatively the frame is said to separate ‘two absolutely different spaces that somehow coexist’ (Manovich, 2001: 95).” (Lury, 2011: 152) Similar to what Lury discusses as “...brands organize the activities of the market by acting as a dynamic frame or interface of communication.” (Lury, 2011: 152) Adam Arvidsson takes Lury’s argument that brands are new media objects and applies her argument to the information economy. “I would like to expand on Lury’s suggestion to argue that brands can be understood to exemplify, not only the status of objects in the Page 19
  • 29. information age, but the very logic of information capital.” Arvidsson argues that “Like the factory times of Fordism, the brand stands out as a central institutionalization, a concrete manifestation of the abstract logic of accumulation that drives capital in the information age.” (Arvidsson, 2006: 124) Like brands, informal cooperatives attract attention and circulation around those who see themselves or seek to affiliate others who have a common interest. While brands are contrived objects by institutions, informal cooperatives are organic objects which serve the special interests of individuals who seek affiliation with others. In the information economy, informal cooperatives garner social capital through the reputation of the individuals participating and the reputation of the actions of the group as a whole. Ridings and Gefen describe the connection between identity of informal cooperatives and the self “...according to social identity theory (Hogg, 1996; Tajfel, 1978; Turner, 1978, 1985), people form a social identity of values, attitudes and behavioral intentions from the perceived membership in distinct self-inclusive real or imagined social groups. An individual’s self-identity typically results from the membership in a preexisting self-inclusive social group, including vocation (Hogg & Terry, 2000) and avocation (Underwood, Bond, & Baer, 2001).” (Ridings & Gefen, 2004) This underscores Kollock’s argument that individuals participate through self-interest. Informal cooperatives, similar to other mediated objects, depend on circulation for their value. The circulation of informal cooperatives is supported through: (1) attraction to a common interest; (2) provision of an open collaboration space where mediation with the shared interest occurs; and (3) participation of others to share skills, knowledge and Page 20
  • 30. resources. Informal cooperatives create their own worlds of distinction where affiliation and participation take place. Whether informal cooperatives seek to establish an identity or not, they become a new media object within the ecosystem which others may be required to mediate. While the ecosystem may focus on recognized legal entities, clearly these ecosystems are filled with informal cooperatives who generate value in today’s information economy. Informal cooperatives are mediation points for individuals and non-economically viable interests where circulation occurs through the pooling of skills, knowledge and resources toward a shared interest to create peer production projects. Benkler writes about this shift, “...likely most radical, new, and difficult for observers to believe, is the rise of effective, large-scale cooperative efforts—peer production of information, knowledge, and culture. These are typified by the emergence of free and open-source software. We are beginning to see the expansion of this model not only to our core software platforms, but beyond them into every domain of information and cultural production...” (Benkler, 2006: 5) This circulation competes for attention within the information economy beyond institutional borders or even the ability of individuals to act on their own. Common Features Today, there are probably hundreds of models of how informal cooperatives work. Informal cooperatives have an unfettered ability to create ideas, share knowledge, and make decisions for themselves. Informal cooperatives provide open collaboration spaces for participants to share skills, knowledge and resources. Often participants are affiliated and participate in several informal cooperatives at the same time, including ones who seem to Page 21
  • 31. compete with one another. Informal cooperatives are often free (i.e., without cost) to participate and use common tools such as wikis, IRC and Google groups to communicate. Informal cooperatives require little capital investment. Levels of participation range from those who want to merely be updated to the group’s activities to those who are active participants. The following are eight features of informal cooperatives: 1. Informality: Informal cooperatives offer an environment of informality with little barrier to entry to participate. Conditions which exist around these groups can foster experiential learning, rapid prototyping, market insights, and trend identification. “Environment plays a major role in shaping his ideas and intentions. Learning occurs primarily through the association between stimulus and response.” (Kolb, 1984: 24) 2. Trust: Trust is established through the relationships within the informal cooperative that supports the social norms of the group and reinforces the reciprocity ethos that drives open collaboration culture. The ability to trust first and ask questions later is a common characteristic of online communities. A level of trust between participants enables an environment where creativity is nurtured through open collaboration. 3. Independence: Informal cooperatives are not governed by external agents, rather they are guided by participants within the group. Participants are attracted to the informal cooperative because there is a space where they have autonomy and can self-direct their contributions to the group. Independence is a vital characteristic of the informal cooperative. Individuals expect to manage their own contribution and to have input on the management of shared resources. Informal cooperatives require an environment free from constraints. Page 22
  • 32. 4. Normative Governance: Informal cooperatives have normative (i.e., undocumented) governance structures such as meritocracy, which places value on the level and length of participation as well as on adherence to social norms (e.g., being helpful, no flame throwing or credit taking). Role-modeling behavior communicates to the community what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Governance may be written down informally as guidance rather than hard, fast rules. Social norms are learned through active listening and observation by participants. 5. Open Collaboration: Informal cooperatives often work out loud, meaning that they work out in the open where people can access what they are working on and can provide insights. (Gray, 2012) (Milton, 2012) Kollock mentions that groups share resources and transactions are recorded in the public eye. (Kollock: 1999: 6) Technology tools such as wikis and Google groups provide open spaces where knowledge can be recorded and knowledge can be transferred seamlessly. By placing this information in a public space, this offers an increased level of transparency to potentially increase trust within the group and allow for latent participants to get up to speed on how they can contribute. Benkler shares a related perspective in his book The Wealth of Networks: “My claim is that the emergence of a substantial non-market alternative path for cultural conversation increases the degrees of freedom available to individuals and groups to engage in cultural production and exchange, and that doing so increases the transparency of culture to its inhabitants.” (Benkler, 2006: 293) Therefore, open collaboration isn’t necessarily aimed at transparency for accountability sake rather alternative paths for knowledge transfers and potentially, peer production. As Kollock references, it is in the best interest of the Page 23
  • 33. group that information be shared widely using tools which are accessible to all participants. (Kollock, 1999: 7) 6. Experiential Learning: Individuals who participate within an informal cooperative are learning by doing. Kolb discusses three core areas of experiential learning: (1) “Learning is best conceived as a process, not in terms of outcomes;” (Kolb, 1984: 26) (2) “Learning is a continuous process grounded in experience;” (Kolb, 1984: 27) and (3) The process of learning requires the resolution of conflicts between dialectically opposed modes of adaption to the world.” (Kolb, 1984: 29) Participants learn through the experience by attempting to learn skills or create projects which they may have never tried beforehand. Learning through experience often is tied to mentorship. This allows for participation in an open space where individuals have varied levels of skills. Informality fosters conditions which allow for iteration and failure. 7. Mentorship: Those who guide can act as mentors within informal cooperatives. Mentors often are individuals who have participated for an extended period of time or whom have a specific expertise that they are willing to share with others. Mentors manage the flow of new contributions towards productive use. Mentors guide with a light touch to reinforce social norms and knowledge transfer within the open collaboration space. Similar to a lifeguard, mentors support the safety and wellness of participants within the informal cooperative. Mentors maybe self-appointed, but are a critical element to supporting the overall health and wellness of the cooperative. Mentors empower the free flow of information through open collaboration so new participants can see what has been done Page 24
  • 34. before and best decide how they would like to contribute to the cooperative. (Sinclair, 2003: 79) 8. New Space for Collaboration: Informal cooperatives create a new space for collaboration between individuals who may have not worked together previously. This open space allows for risk taking, creativity, and failure. When informal cooperatives work beyond their immediate interest with other groups, such as institutions, a collaboration sphere is created. This independent space allows for people to work beyond their immediate interests towards a common goal between the both groups. Risk, Culture and Intra-preneurs An entrepreneur from La Cantine, a local Parisian co-working space, discussed the challenge that institutions have in creating an enabling environment for innovation and exchange. Idea is that the kind of people who run companies are sometimes just alike. Often they are similar kinds of people who have been taught to optimize the company (e.g., MBAs). They are there not to create new ideas but to optimize processes and systems which are already there instead of creating a creative process. In effect, what they do is castrate the company from all of its ideas...Companies are often only focused on optimization where the sole focus is to eliminate excess instead of trying to do something that is new. These are different things. They [the companies] don’t have the space to actually exploit their ideas. (Blanchard, 2012) Page 25
  • 35. Institutions are victim to process and accountability in order to be competitive within the marketplace. The ability to create a space to experiment and prototype ideas may not exist within an organization’s business model (i.e., humanitarian relief). The tendency to value optimization over innovation (e.g., creationism) challenges institutions ability create a space where experimentation and failure is tolerated. Randy Komisar, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur and venture capital investor, discusses the deep cultural challenges that institutions have with respect for taking risks required to propel the organization forward. Komisar argues that institutions have an inability to tolerate risks, even within the most innovative companies. Innovation is about taking risk to do things that haven't been done before. If you could do them with a level of certainty that would increase the odds above 50%, we wouldn't need Silicon Valley. Big companies would do it, and they'd do it well. The reason big companies don't venture into what Silicon Valley does is because their business models do not tolerate the level of failure required for innovation. (Komisar, 2004) Failure isn’t an option for institutions. Conversely, within informal cooperatives, failure is embraced. Komisar links the inability to tolerate failure within institutions (e.g., companies) relation to organizational culture. What generally is lacking is a culture of constructive failure. Constructive failure, the ability to tolerate failure, proceed with your career, and do it again; Page 26
  • 36. and take your experience and cash in on it as an asset. Still, many business cultures where when you fail, you're finished. (Komisar, 2004) The Trouble with Culture Informal cooperatives often can serve a role within the ecosystem by providing institutions an external open collaboration space where new ideas can be tested. Within many institutions, open space for collaboration may not exist. This has nothing to do with resources, rather its cause is market forces which reinforce priorities, culture and investment choices. Without an independent open collaboration space within today’s network of networks, the ability to innovate may become seriously paralyzed. Even when emerging trends are brought into the institution, they may be discounted or ignored. Kurt Eichenwald, a writer for Vanity Fair, profiled Microsoft’s culture challenges which have impacted its position within the marketplace. (Eichenwald, 2012) In 2003, a young developer noticed that friends in college signed up for AIM exclusively and left it running most of the time. The reason? They wanted to use the program’s status message, which allowed them to type a short note telling their online buddies what they were doing, even when they weren’t at the computer. Messages like “gone shopping” and “studying for my exams” became commonplace. (Eichenwald, 2012) “That was the beginning of the trend toward Facebook, people having somewhere to put their thoughts, a continuous stream of consciousness,” said the developer, who worked in the MSN Messenger unit. “The main purpose of Page 27
  • 37. AIM wasn’t to chat, but to give you the chance to log in at any time and check out what your friends were doing.” (Eichenwald, 2012) The developer concluded that no young person would switch from AIM to MSN Messenger, which did not have the short-message feature. He spoke about the problem to his boss, a middle-aged man. The supervisor dismissed the developer’s concerns as silly. Why would young people care about putting up a few words? Anyone who wanted to tell friends what they were doing could write it on their profile page, he said. Meaning users would have to open the profile pages, one friend at a time, and search for a status message, if it was there at all. (Eichenwald, 2012) “He didn’t get it,” the developer said. “And because he didn’t know or didn’t believe how young people were using messenger programs, we didn’t do anything.” (Eichenwald, 2012) This behavior is indicative of what Horgeon, Joroff, Porter and Schon discuss in relation to their call for a process architect within the institution. “Fear on the part of the less powerful players coupled with arrogance and blindness on the part of the more powerful ones [which] kept the key issues undiscussable, preventing them from surfacing soon enough to be productively dealt with” (Horgen, Joroff, Porter and Schon, 1989: 99). Institutions lack organizational culture which will can allow for greater experimentation and exchange. Open collaboration culture is the foundation of informal cooperatives. Page 28
  • 38. Larry Page, founder and CEO of Google, sees troubles ahead. Page along with Sergey Brin created Google to be synonymous with innovation. Today, Google is a multi-national company and its CEO now fears that culture, not resources, is the number one obstacle to innovation. When I asked him last September (in one of the very rare opportunities for reporters to pose questions to him on the record) what he thought was Google’s threat, the answer was out of his mouth even before I finished the query. “Google,” he said. Page lives in horror of the company being bogged down by inertia, timidity or the sluggishness of bureaucracy. (Levy, 2012) Ironically, founders of many of the world’s leading technology companies have benefited from open collaboration environments which, like Google and Microsoft, they later find challenging to recapture. Individuals within institutions who seek to apply emerging trends, new technologies and skills toward the mission of the institution are intra-preneurs. These employees often crave a culture of open collaboration and are employed at innovative institutions such as Google and Microsoft. Gifford Pinchot describes this role as “Intra-preneur is short for intracorporate entrepreneur. Within an organization, intra-preneurs take new ideas and turn them into profitable new realities. Without empowered intra-preneurs, organizations don’t innovate. Yet too many organizations water their intra-preneurial talent.” (Pinchot, 1985; ix) Employees within institutions who are intra-preneurs serve as catalysts for entrepreneurship within their own institution. They seek to empower open collaboration and engagement to new communities outside of its organizational boundaries. Institutional culture challenges the Page 29
  • 39. ability for intra-preneurs to share their ideas, skills, and knowledge. Instead, intra-preneurs often go elsewhere (e.g., informal cooperatives) to give life to their ideas. Page 30
  • 40. Chapter Two: Kernels and Collaboration Spheres Page 31
  • 41. When two or more people get together to collaborate, they develop an informal cooperative. When an informal cooperative is created, the original or high energy participants of the informal cooperative are its kernel. Andrew Turner, co-founder of CrisisCommons, used this term in an organizational perspective where he stated, “I think it's just missing a few kernels to form a more cohesive and solid organization that will make it much easier to grow all the other ideas we keep pondering.” (Turner, 2012) This term is derived from computer operating systems where “The kernel is a program that constitutes the central core of a computer operating system.” (Linux Project, 2004) This chapter moves the definition of the kernel from a systems engineering concept to an organizational development construction whose primary role is to guide and cultivate an environment conducive for dialogue, cooperation and collaboration. Kernels are living stewards of the informal cooperative. “In stewardship theory, the model of man is based on a steward whose behavior is ordered such that pro-organizational, collectivistic behaviors have higher utility than individualistic, self-serving behaviors. Given a choice between self-serving behavior and pro-organizational behavior, a steward’s behavior will not depart from the interests of his or her organization.” (Davis, Schoorman & Donaldson, 1997: 24) Similar to ambassadors, kernels display agency and are often born diplomatic skills. To institutions and external groups, kernels may be characterized in an activist or leadership role. Ultimately, kernels are adept at bringing people together to foster an enabling environment conducive for dialogue, cooperation and collaboration. Page 32
  • 42. The Light Touch The relationship between kernels and participants within the informal cooperatives is akin to process architect. Horgen, Joroff, Port and Schon offer “The process architect can help the organization to address, and often to reframe, its problems.” (Horgen, Joroff, Porter and Schon, 1999: 56) An effective process architect will get the team to draw upon this accumulated learning as a platform for moving forward. The client group and other stakeholders, with support of the process architect, continuously evaluate the existing environments for work, the design process, and the artifacts it produces, seeking to discover what works. Evaluation and learning are continuous and quite mess, because the very meaning of “what works” and the criteria to be used to make those judgements are open to question and determination as part of the design inquiry. (Horgen, Joroff, Porter and Schon, 1999: 60) While the position described by Horgen, Joroff, Porter and Schon is within the workplace, it can be applied to an informal cooperative where the kernel provides a light touch to guide and enable conditions conducive to collaboration. The authors claim this is not a random volunteer role, rather “The role of the process architect is not given, but it must be created. Workplace-making may play itself out in the hands of a single participant, or it may move from one person to another—or no single person that actually direct the process.” (Horgen, Joroff, Porter and Schon, 1989: 91) Kernels often evolve into their role rather than being appointed. They may exhibit similar characteristics as process architects. In a way, kernels may in fact be managing the Page 33
  • 43. emotion of the group. “I propose that one role of a group leader, especially an emergent group leader, is to interpret ambiguous situations and then to model an appropriate emotional response. This modeled emotional response resolves immediate problems of ambiguity and emotional expression that the group needs to confront for it to move forward.” (Pescosolido, 2002: 4) In both informal cooperatives and institutions, the kernels may apply lessons learned and best practice strategies towards guiding and documenting participation within the group. Kernels may be misunderstood by participants and external stakeholders as holding positions of power rather than a guiding role. Horgen, Joroff, Porter and Schon discuss this through the lens of the process architect role. “What they do and how and when they do it is affected by the roles they are given or assume, the authority they begin with or accumulate, and their own normative frameworks of action. In any case, the process architect enters the game with the aim of directing it toward greater collaboration and co-invention.” (Horgen, Joroff, Porter and Schon, 1989: 91) Kernels can act as process architects, but their role is contingent upon establishing trust and participation within the group that they support. Institutional Kernel Institutional kernels are first adopters and change agents. While informal cooperatives may need more than one person to create a kernel, institutions may have several individuals who act as kernels but are not part of any internal group. Institutional kernels can have a limited ability to connect with others within the institution. Institutional kernels play an intrapreneurial role to shift their organization towards a more open collaboration culture. “These people were not just ‘business-as-usual,’ but they were actually trying to shift their company’s corporate course.” (Clay, 2012) Often institutional kernels may be unable to reach Page 34
  • 44. decision-makers or have a space to connect with others within the institution because of organizational culture, management structures and geography. Institutions may not incentivize the ability for their employees to contribute to the organization beyond their job description. Such contribution is often discouraged as detailed in the Microsoft messenger example. (Eichenwald, 2012) As such, institutions may be unable to leverage their most valuable resource: their own people. Structural Holes If the information economy is comprised of a network of networks, the question then is: are these networks connected or are there gaps between groups? Sociologist Ronald Burt describes gaps within social structure as structural holes. Burt defines this space between disconnected groups as “...missing relationships that inhibit information flow between people.” (Burt, 2007: 119) Characteristic of information cooperatives, the affiliation of only those who have similar interest and values are echoed by Burt. “Information, opinion, and practice are more homogeneous within than between groups, so a manager whose network spans structure holes (call him a network broker, connector, or entrepreneur) has a vision advantage in early exposure to diverse information and a general political advantage as a hub in the information flow.” (Burt, 2007: 119) Burt describes this phenomenon not as a competition within the environment but rather the effort in extracting value from the distance between two groups. “The structural hole argument is not a theory of competitive relationships. It is a theory about competition for the benefits of relationships.” (Burt, 1995: 5) While Burt describes structural holes from an external perspective, from organizational development we know that structural holes also exist within institutions. There Page 35
  • 45. is not one kind of gap between disconnected people and groups, there can be many. We can expand upon Burt’s concept of the structural hole to also address gaps within informal cooperatives and institutions. External structural holes are gaps between groups (e.g. institutions and informal cooperatives) while internal structural holes are gaps within the group or institution. This distinction is important because institutions and informal cooperatives alike have gaps within their own culture and social composition. Bridging structural holes may be seen as an act of negotiating between two cultures. The value of structural holes is that they may be recognized and bridged. Those who span between structural holes are brokers, who can act as new curators (See Chapter 4). “Structural holes are thus an opportunity to broker the flow of information between people, and control the projects that bring together people from opposite sides of the hole.” (Burt, 2001: 35) Structural holes are not invisible. Burt suggests that these gaps may in fact be visible to the participants. This signals that gaps which exist, both internal and external, often can be conscious choices of the groups who might have a benefit by not addressing the disconnection. Often structural holes are clearly visible, if not strategically place, to those who operate within the ecosystem. (Kollock, 1999: 7) “The structural hole between two groups does not mean that people in the groups are unaware of one another. It only means that people are focused on their own activities such as they do not attend to the activities of people in the other group.” (Burt, 2001: 34-35) Addressing structural holes, both within and external to a group, can produce outcomes such as increased empathy. Preece and Kambiz describe “Research on empathy Page 36
  • 46. shows that people who share common experiences, who have similar interests, who are similar or who know each other well, tend to be more empathetic (Colvin, Vogt, & Ickes, 1997; Ickes, 1997) than people without these circumstances.” While empathy may be a cohesion element to the information cooperative, it can also go a long way to build understanding and trust between two groups who have dissimilar interests and values. (Preece and Kambiz, 2001: 250) Open collaboration space can be seen as a tool to bridge the distance between groups. In a self-actualized state, open collaboration space can set the condition conducive for co-creation between groups to fuel a new marketplace of ideas and joint prototype development. Legitimacy In some instances, institutional kernels participate within informal cooperatives. In fact, informal cooperatives can be created due to the frustration of institutional kernels who have an inability to collaborate beyond their own job. Participants of informal cooperatives, whether active or latent, may represent an institution’s interest. When institutional kernels participate within informal cooperatives, they often present a public disclaimer which distances their personal interests and the interests of their employer. Participants often will say that I’m here in my personal capacity and I do not represent the interests of my company. (Graham, 2012) This public disclaimer is a social form of due diligence attempting to satisfy an unsaid need to create distance between their personal and professional contributions. While these statements may comfort the individual, institutional kernels, whether they intend to, or not, give gravitas (CrisisCamp, 2009) and legitimacy (CrisisCamp Ignite, 2009) to activities within the informal cooperative. Page 37
  • 47. Collaboration Sphere The space between informal cooperatives and institutions is an independent open collaboration space called the collaboration sphere. This space is independent and free from ownership. The collaboration sphere exists when two groups come together beyond organizational borders of their institutions and interests of informal cooperatives. This space acts as a catalyst to move groups beyond dialogue towards co-creation. Institutions describe external stakeholders as partners and the space that the relationship exists within is a partnership. This space is a forum for dialogue, however the collaboration sphere catalyzes action which neither group could accomplish on their own. Analyzing social work, Colin Whittington frames the distance between dialogue and action among stakeholders within a partnership. Whittington believes that partnerships transition from a state of a relationship (e.g., dialogue) to a state of partnership in action (e.g., collaboration). (Whittington, 1988: 39-40) This new space, where these actions take place, is the collaboration sphere. Whittington underscores the existence of other spheres and the identities that they employ. “Underlying the model are two sets of ideas, ‘system’ and ‘identity’, and a perspective known widely as ‘the social construction of reality (Berger and Luckman 1967). The idea of system enables us to think of each sphere as being real in the sense of having dynamics and characteristics that are experienced as independent of any individual people involved.” (Whittington, 1988: 39-40) Whittington uses the concept of the sphere ”to encapsulate identity and system and the processes which bind them.” (Whittington, 1988: 40) Processes within the informal collaboration, Whittington explains, are the cultural norms and interest of the participants. This points to Jürgen Habermas and his concept of the public sphere. Habermas discussed in Page 38
  • 48. order for democracy to take room that a open space for reasoned discourse to discuss topics of the day between civil society and the state should exist. (Habermas, 1991: xi) Habermas portrayed the public sphere as an ideal state. “As a sphere between civil society and that state, in which critical public discussions of matters of general interest was institutionally guaranteed, the liberal public sphere tool shape in the specific historical circumstances of a developing market economy.” (Habermas, 1999: xi) If we apply the concept of the public sphere to those who cooperate and form relationships within the information economy, a new collaboration sphere exists where knowledge and production can occur among those who have similar interests. While Habermas’ public sphere has been widely criticized as an utopian state, it provides a structuralization from which to view the interaction which occurs between groups and ideally how they can be empowered to participate in processes which they do not own or control. In the 1950s, Fowle described how a London art community created their own space of collaboration in an unorthodox way. “In London, the Independent Group transformed the audience from a spectator into a participant in the production of culture. Consisting of artists, architects and critics—Richard Hamilton, Alison and Peter Smithson, and Lawrence Alloway, to name a few—the group developed around the Institute of Contemporary Art from 1952, providing a forum for public debate through lectures, dialogues, and exhibitions.” (Fowle, 2007: 13) This space for dialogue and engagement reflects back to Habermas’ public sphere. Today, the public sphere has transformed the information economy. No longer are citizens interested in dialogue but they are interested in participating in what interests them. (Habermas, 1999: xi) Page 39
  • 49. If we examine Whittington’s view of collaboration as partnership in action, we can understand that the collaboration sphere is an action-oriented space that straddles informal cooperatives and institutions. Whittington proposes that within social work there is the team sphere. “The team or workgroup represents for many social workers, and some other professionals, the most tangible connection between their personal and professional self and the organization which they work. For some, the team provides a human face of an otherwise large and impersonal organization. It may help them in locating a real sense of membership and with it an important identity.” (Whittington, 2003: 44) Related to Whittington’s example of the team sphere, the collaboration sphere is where people can meet (e.g., in-person or virtually), discuss topics of the day and potentially collaborate on interests that are shared, but may not be common to either groups. This new space nurtures connectivity, co-creation, risk-taking, remix and do-it-yourself Maker cultures (Lahart, 2009). An ethos of failure is embraced by those who participate in the space as a precursor towards finding the break through or innovation. To extrapolate from Whittington and Habermas, we know that there are three characteristics that support the argument that a collaboration sphere exists. First, we recognize a sphere as a space of identity where people within groups (or individually) come together towards an interest. Second we see the value produced by the circulation created by these spheres. Third, we know that these sphere may not be inclusive to anyone wishing to participate and can be negatively affected by external forces which may seek to influence information and outcomes within the sphere. Finally, we know that while the sphere is meant Page 40
  • 50. to be an open space, it is through the use of technology where the space can facilitate collaboration beyond what Habermas or Whittington envision. Value of the collaboration sphere to institutions Some institutions may look upon participation within collaboration sphere, especially with informal cooperatives, as extensions of their research and development capacity. Institutions may seek new talents and ideas by being part of what is happening on the ground. Informal cooperatives may be seen as test beds where institutions can pilot new ideas with others. Informal cooperatives may be utilized to demonstrate a proof of concept where intrapreneurs seek a validation to create a business case for investment. During Random Hacks of Kindness hackathons prototype products are created in a weekend to aid in disaster relief. (Mills, 2009) One of the prototypes, “I’m Okay” was used during the 2010 Haiti earthquake. (World Bank, 2012) Institutions may see informal cooperatives as personal development and learning opportunities for their employees to broaden their skills and professional networks. Informal cooperatives provide an environment where their employees can work beyond their organization’s borders. Overall, institutions may leverage the collaboration sphere’s unique environment where high tolerance of risk and support for creativity is championed as opposed to the overtly managed and optimized institutional environment. The collaboration sphere becomes the space between interests of individuals and institutions, by promoting circulation between those who may not necessarily have connected to one another. This reduces the possibility that nodes stagnate or become polarized by their own interests. Collaboration within the sphere can create empathy, understanding and trust between groups fostering diversity with a Page 41
  • 51. common interest rather than polarity. The collaboration sphere connects networks that wouldn’t have been able to bridge themselves creating a new independent space that neither group could create on their own. Page 42
  • 52. Chapter Three: The Value of Weak Ties Page 43
  • 53. Gladwell’s Challenge Malcolm Gladwell, author of the Tipping Point, ignited a firestorm on Twitter when he penned for New York Magazine, “Small Change: Why the revolution will not be tweeted.” (Gladwell, 2012: 1) Gladwell argues that weak ties, such as those that inspired the Arab Spring, will not create lasting change. There is strength in weak ties, as the sociologist Mark Granovetter has observed. Our acquaintances—not our friends—are our greatest source of new ideas and information. The Internet lets us exploit the power of these kinds of distant connections with marvellous efficiency. It’s terrific at the diffusion of innovation, interdisciplinary collaboration, seamlessly matching up buyers and sellers, and the logistical functions of the dating world. But weak ties seldom lead to high-risk activism. (Gladwell, 2012: 3) Gladwell, while understanding the significance of weak ties, negates their utility to create action. Sociologist Mark Granovetter developed the term weak ties to discuss how there is greater value within distant relationships than with strong ones. In this chapter, we explore the weaknesses of Gladwell’s argument and the importance of weak ties. Granovetter describes weak ties in his book, The Strength of Weak Ties, as a concept where: “Most intuitive notions of the ‘strength’ of an interpersonal tie should be satisfied by the following definition: the strength of a tie is a (probably linear) combination of the amount of time, the emotional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie.” (Granovetter, 1973: 1361) Granovetter brings the concept to our Page 44
  • 54. everyday lives by saying that “most of us can agree, on a rough intuitive basis, whether a given tie is strong, weak or absent.” (Granovetter, 1973: 1361) The importance of a tie is not necessarily whether it is strong or weak, but if it exists at all. Weak ties bring together those who have common interest or values. The initial act of connecting—the establishment of a relationship between two people or two groups—may be the only action that is ever taken. For some, connection is the beginning of a new relationship. While for others, there may never be an evolution of that relationship. When there is an overwhelming common interest, such as a crisis event, weak ties can spring into action. They create initial communication gateways through which action may be eventually organized. Latency to Sensory Systems Weak ties can transform relationships from a latent observation role towards a high energy active role supporting a living new sensory network. People who are within a weak tie relationship may observe and learn by merely being connected through a common space. Similar to watching a town square full of people, weak ties are able to watch and learn from the behavior of others. Today, it is possible to have your own personal town square, in a digital sense, filled with individuals and groups who have weak and strong ties. By establishing weak ties, permission is given to those who may not have similar interests or values, to access their personal town squares. Within these spaces, weak ties play an observer role. They watch what is shared, listen to conversations and learn from the exchange. This may be Page 45
  • 55. characterized as latency (e.g., an absence of action) but is valuable to increasing diversity within a personal town square. Gladwell’s assertion that weak ties may never spring into high-risk activism may be because he perceived weak ties as a permanent latent state. In fact, weak ties display action during novel events such as natural disasters or when an individual is threatened. Weak ties are just the beginning of a relationship. They are the starting point. Communications between two people or two communities begins with a single connection. The shape and scale of weak tie relationships can evolve and strengthen over time. We can compare weak ties to a dirt road. While the path along a direct road may be rocky, unrefined and informal, it provides a connection point between two paths. With regard to weak ties, this connection transforms the unknown towards a known relationship. Diversity Weak ties create diversity within individuals and groups. “From the individual’s point of view, then weak ties are an important resource in making possible mobility opportunity. Seen from a more macroscopic vantage, weak ties play a role in effecting social cohesion.” (Granovetter, 1973: 1372) Weak ties can play a supporting role within informal cooperatives to create diversity among individuals within the group. Granovetter supports this approach. “Unlike most models of interpersonal networks, the one presented here is not meant primarily for application to small, face-to-face groups or to groups in confined institutional or organizational settings. Rather, it is meant for linkage of such small-scale levels with one another and with larger, more amorphous ones. This is why emphasis here has been placed more on weak ties than on strong. Weak ties are more likely to link members Page 46
  • 56. of different small groups than are strong ones, which tend to be concentrated within particular groups.” (Granovetter, 1973: 1376) Informal cooperatives can benefit from the diversity which weak ties present to the group to mitigate against the negative impact of polarization. The greater the number of weak ties, the more potential that the informal cooperative may have to being more inclusive and diverse environment. Acting in an observer role, weak tie relationships may potentially have significant amount of impact in guiding norms and behaviors of the informal cooperative. Facebook and Weak Ties Eytan Bakshy, a member of the Facebook Data Science team, examined Granovetter’s work and aligned it with Facebook data to suggest that weak ties are still the most valuable relationships one can have in their social system. This demonstrates further evidence to support Granovetter’s claim that weak ties have more benefits to individuals than strong ties. Bakshy refers to Granovetter’s in his argument on the value of weak ties: “...[O]our close friends strongly sway which information we share, but overall their impact is dwarfed by the collective influence of numerous more distant contacts—what sociologists call "weak ties." It is our diverse collection of weak ties that most powerfully determines what information we're exposed to.” (Bakshy, 2012) Bakshy furthered his position by stating that “Granovetter found that surprisingly, people are more likely to acquire jobs that they learned about through individuals they interact with infrequently rather than their close personal contacts.” (Bakshy, 2012) Page 47
  • 57. Bakshy argues that weak ties are unlikely to be as active or aligned with common interest. This characteristic of weak ties is key because it draws importance to the diversity which weak ties can bring to individual relationships and groups. When a person interacts with two individuals frequently, those individuals are also likely to interact with one another. It follows that people tend to form dense clusters of strong ties who are all connected. Since people in these clusters all know each other, any information that is available to one individual spreads quickly to others within the cluster. These tight-knit social circles tend to be small relative to people's entire social network, and when it comes to information about future job opportunities, it can be hard to find new leads. (Bakshy, 2012) The more focused the similar interest is within the informal cooperative, the more strong ties which exist in the group, the more homogenous the informal cooperative will become. Homogenous groups can be challenging to the ecosystem as they are self-referencing bodies instead of environments who welcome collaboration beyond their interests and values. Weak ties create sources of information and action, especially during crisis events. These events can transform weak ties from latency to supporting a living sensory network. While strong ties may be perceived to be more durable during everyday exchanges, weak ties can catalyze spaces of collaboration to address unmet needs of the ecosystem. Bakshy outlines this difference: “Granovetter used the relationship between interaction frequency and social structure to explain why information about jobs is instead found through weak ties that we interact with infrequently. Weak ties help spread novel information by bridging the gap Page 48
  • 58. between clusters of strong tie contacts. The strength of weak ties informs much of the popular understanding of information spread in social networks.” (Bakshy, 2012) Crisis events have demonstrated Bakshy’s position where it is not the strong ties, but the weak ties which ignite action. The Haiti earthquake (e.g., natural disaster), Arab Spring and Occupy Wall Street (e.g., political uprising) all received significant support from weak ties. Sense-making and Proxy Services Ties of all strengths support sense making, especially weak ties. These relationships act as a sense-making and proxy services for other individuals and groups of whom they are connected, especially during times of crisis. Weak ties curate content within the personal public square to develop a sense of situational awareness. Dennis Mileti, a social scientist, observed that people often seek more than one source of information in a crisis. Mileti called this behavior the milling effect. People may not trust just one piece of information, but they may place more weight to it if there are others who say or share the same news. Wood and Mileti discussed the wealth of evidence which supports this theory: “The literature clearly documents that preparedness is the consequence of information that first motivates people to engage in searching behavior or “milling” in their environment and interacting with others to affirm the appropriateness of taking preparatory behavior.” Mileti connects this idea with individual agency. “Perhaps this is because information seeking allows people to have a sense of control of their own response to risk communications and to perceive their actions as self-driven.” (Wood and Mileti, 2011: 5) Weak ties may be used as proxy agents during times of crisis. This behavior is the ability to complete a task for another person. Rebuffing Gladwell’s assertion that weak ties play latent observer roles, we know know there is evident to the contrary. Today, people Page 49
  • 59. expect response from their personal town squares. In 2010, the American Red Cross conducted a public survey where they asked if people would expect a response if they asked for help on Facebook (or any other social technology). (American Red Cross, 2010) The data revealed a very high expectation that not only would people expect others within their social networks to respond, but they believed that the help they are looking for would arrive quickly. (American Red Cross, 2010) More than two-thirds of the respondents expected help to arrive within three hours. More than a third of the respondents expected help to arrive within an hour of the request. (American Red Cross, 2010) During a crisis event or if someone is under duress, relationships come to their aid by acting as proxy agents to provide information or resources which are out of reach of the tie who is requesting assistance. For example, in Australia two teenage girls were trapped in a storm drain and used Facebook status update to ask for help. Firefighter Glenn Benham told Online Mail that “These girls were able to access Facebook on their mobile phones so they could have called the emergency services.” Benham went on to question their behavior to first reach out for help through Facebook: “It seems absolutely crazy but they updated their status rather than call us directly.” (Online Mail, 2009) This debunks Gladwell’s assertion that weak ties are not prone to action. Relationship Storage Units Facebook is an example of digital relationship storage unit. Conceivably children born today will be able to keep connections with almost every person that they meet during their lifetime. Never before have we been able to store so many latent connections (e.g., weak ties) which can be used in the future. Granovetter explains: “When a man changes jobs, he is not only moving from one network of ties to another, but also establishing a link Page 50
  • 60. between these. Such a link is often of the same kind which facilitated his own movement.” (Granovetter, 1973: 1372) Granovetter points the value that movement can bring. This can be seen as circulation which can, over time, develop new weak ties. “Information and ideas thus flow more easily through the speciality, giving it some “sense of community,” activated at meetings and conventions. Maintenance of weak ties may well be the most important consequence of such meetings.” (Granovetter, 1973: 1373) By the ability to have long-term storage of relationships (e.g. weak or strong ties) we can maintain connection indefinitely. While circulation between groups creates connection. The derivative product of meeting someone is the potential to capture and store that connection. You may never talk to them again after a conference, but have access to them through the storage of the relationship. Weak ties begin the establishment of dialogue and action which might not have been possible if it wasn’t accessible. Gladwell challenges the ability of individuals to develop and maintain the volume of relationships which are now possible due to the new capacity to store relationships for an indefinite amount of time. The platforms of social media are built around weak ties. Twitter is a way of following (or being followed by) people you may never have met. Facebook is a tool for efficiently managing your acquaintances, for keeping up with the people you would not otherwise be able to stay in touch with. That’s why you can have a thousand ‘friends’ on Facebook, as you never could in real life. (Gladwell, 2010) Page 51
  • 61. Storage units such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn foster an environment where ties of all strengths can participate (i.e., some latent, some active). The personal town square provides a mechanism where weak ties can learn about others without direct engagement. The personal town square is a space where ties can listen and mingle with each other. Through social technologies these platforms have the ability to store relationships with the promise of future use and the potential to strengthen the relationship into a closer connection. We have technology that is easily accessible and capable of storing all of our relationships that we make over our lifetime. This storage allows for relationships of all strengths to be managed. Today, we may not fully understand the implications of long-term connection to weak ties. While not a focus of this chapter, scholars suggest there is an opportunity to invest in research to understand the impacts of permanent connectivity. “Information processing technologies, while providing virtual infinite numbers of connections, also emphasize the efficient use of these connections. Building random networks of connections becomes less efficient as the number of possible connections increases. Thus the strategic use of both strong and weak ties becomes more important as we move into the twenty-first century.” (Brass and Krackhardt, 1999: 191) Cost and Value The use of relationship storage units creates efficiency in managing ties for the long term, the establishment and leverage of ties has a cost. Brass and Krackhardt argue that while one may conclude that the larger the network, the more valuable it is, the cost of ties, either weak or strong should be factored in: “Thus, it would seem that bigger networks are better. However, one important qualifying assumption to it is in terms of time and energy. And, Page 52
  • 62. some links are more costly (in terms of time and energy) than other links.” As such, Brass and Krackhardt, point to two strategies, one using weak ties and one using strong ties: “Weak tie bridges act as conduits for the flow of information between other densely connected, cohesive units.” (Brass and Krackhardt, 1999: 185) While Gladwell’s challenge has been critiqued in this chapter, there remain questions related to how ties can be more useful to individuals and groups. While there is evidence that weak ties may be more useful during novel situations, today we may not completely understand or have the ability to harness these relationships. Brass and Krackhardt are concerned and call for additional research in these areas: Rapid changes may make strong tie strategies less useful than the past. Strong ties are resistant to change and provide redundant information that may be self-confirming within highly cohesive units. In facing challenges of uncertain, changing technologies and environments, strong tie networks may offer few alternative perspectives and solutions to novel problems. Thus, weak tie strategies may provide necessary information and the ability to link diverse groups together in a cooperative, successful manner. Weak ties across groups can become trusted strong ties as useful interactions are repeated, and builds among actors. Under such circumstances, strong ties can link diverse groups and provide the mutual benefits to each. These are patterns of social capital that must be encouraged, and researched, in order to face the next century. (Brass and Krackhardt, 1999: 191-192) Page 53
  • 63. Chapter Four: The New Curator Page 54
  • 64. New curators create value beyond being connectors in the information economy. New curators are harbingers of knowledge (e.g., business intelligence, emerging trends) and facilitate its diffusion to others. As a broker who operates between two groups, new curators are well positioned to identify talent and risks. This chapter issues a call to action for increased investment to support new curators as independent brokers who bridge today’s networks to foster understanding, cooperation and collaboration. Curators do not just exist in museums alone. Today, curators bridge the divide between institutions and informal cooperatives. The word curator is most recognized in relation to art exhibits and museums. Curators act as ambassadors for creators and preserve their works. Beverly Serrell describes a curator in a traditional sense as someone who “...knows art, collects it, cares for it, and delights in sharing it with others, helping them see it in ways they may not have discovered if left on their own.” (Serrell, 1997: 108) What we know as curation is happening well beyond the art world. There is a new kind of curator who catalyzes participation between groups with dissimilar interests and values. The new curator actively seeks engagement to support dialogue and co-creation. The new curator is a professional role who brokers between groups to bridge structural holes within networks, catalyze collaboration (e.g., circulation) and act as a archivist and preservationist within the collaboration sphere to ensure future accessibility and knowledge transfer. Daniel Brass argues that the role of the broker (e.g. new curator) is the most valuable position between two groups. “Research in organizations has shown that it is wise to be the broker – the third who is connected to two disconnected actors (e.g., Brass, Galaskiewicz, Greve, & Tsui; Burt, 2005, Fernandez-Mateo, 2007).” (Bass, 2009: 1) Page 55
  • 65. Curation is an opportunity to address the external structural holes (e.g., gaps between disconnected actors) (Burt, 2007: 119) dividing informal cooperatives and institutions. Internal curation can bridge the distance within a group or their own organizational boundaries. The ability to create connectivity across groups, is just as important as to bridge individuals within a group. Characteristics New curators act as brokers to bridge gaps (e.g., structural holes) within today’s network of networks. Ronald Burt defines these gaps as “...missing relationships that inhibit information flow between people”. (Burt, 2007: 119) While Burt discusses this concept in terms of individuals, we will expand his definition to include brokering between groups. Brokering is a unique position between two groups. Burt offers that “Numerous studies have shown that managers whose social networks bridge structural holes have a competitive advantage over peers confined to a single group of interconnected people.” (Burt, 2007: 119) In this context, the new curator takes on the broker role between two groups to create conditions conducive to support the development of a collaboration sphere. These conditions may not have been able to be created by either group. Brass moves Burt’s brokerage theory towards a practice where he states “It is the broker strategy – connecting to diverse, disconnected others – that can integrate society and lead to a small world and six degrees of separation (Granovetter, 1973; Watts, 2003). The essence of the broker strategy is simple – build networks with people who are not themselves connected.” (Brass, 2009: 3) While this seems accessible and open to anyone, there may be challenges to the ability to bridge groups, especially those with dissimilar interests and values. Page 56
  • 66. While brokering is a key action of the new curator, the ability to be independent between the two disconnected actors is essential. Independence is a primary difference between the role of a kernel and that of a new curator. New curators are independent agents who belong to neither group which they connect. New curators are supported by resources which allow them to be sustainable over the long term. While kernels advocate for participation within their group, new curators navigate the ecosystem to advocate and connect disparate groups. New curators facilitate environmental conditions where an independent open collaboration space (e.g., collaboration sphere) between two groups develops. Independence allows new curators the freedom and flexibility to work with others who may have dissimilar interests and values. New curators cultivate new relationships to ensure diversity within the collaboration sphere. New curators, similar to kernels, are diplomats and leverage their agency to catalyze the conditions to support the collaboration sphere. While kernels can ignite the spark to attract participation, the new curator’s role is to connect kernels within institutions and informal cooperatives who may never seek to connect with one another. The collaboration sphere is an open independent space not an owned by any one person and may be temporary in nature. The collaboration sphere supports dialogue and co-creation. New curators, similar to traditional curators, support public display, learning, record keeping and preservation of works developed within the collaboration sphere so that others can learn and share from their efforts. New curators document projects and share lessons learned. Sharing guides individuals within the collaboration sphere to get up to speed quickly. Participants are able search and be informed on what has happened previously and Page 57
  • 67. how they can contribute to the project or to the group in general. New curators manage open collaboration spaces where information is share publicly so that a wider audience can learn from activities and provide suggestions. Preservation of these activities is a key role for new curators. The ability to archive information where it can easily be found by others supports accessibility of knowledge and resources created within the collaboration sphere. While participants may contribute to this effort, the new curator manages the flow of information towards an information architecture to allow greater access to the group. While not a characteristic, new curators require resources to be sustainable and independent. Sustainability is required to transcend competition within the marketplace to broker between groups, especially untraditional actors. Sustainability allows for the new curator to be an independent voice in a highly competitive or polarized ecosystem. Sustainability also may provide greater probably for transparency and sharing. Sustainability removes failure as an obstacle. In an ideal state, sustainability allows for new curators to weather austere conditions without impacting the independent nature of engagement. At an individual level, being a new curator may be a good role to play in your career. The ability to bridge structural holes has value within the marketplace according Brass. “At the individual level of analysis, the advantages of structural holes translate into power (Brass, 1984), better performance (Mehra, Kilduff, & Brass, 2001), promotions (Brass, 1984; Burt, 1992), career success (Seibert, Kraimer, & Liden, 2001) and creativity (Brass, 1995; Burt, 2004).” (Brass, 2009: 260) Page 58
  • 68. Vantage Point New curators have the potential to create new knowledge within the information economy. Participation between networks give new curators a perch to enjoy a meta view of the ecosystem. Burt discusses this advantage “Information, opinion, and practice are more homogeneous within than between groups, so a manager whose network spans structure holes (call him a network broker, connector, or entrepreneur) has a vision advantage in early exposure to diverse information and a general political advantage as a hub in the information flow.” (Burt, 2007: 119) From this unique vantage point, new curators can create insights which can be developed into business intelligence such as current market conditions and environmental risks. New curators often are participating where emerging trends are occurring. They have their finger on the pulse of what is new and hold relationships with those who are on the front lines of innovation. This position gives new curators value in their ability to provide strategy and insights. New curators cultivate for a collaboration space where risks can be taken without impact to either group participating. This open space of collaboration cultivates co-creation and experimentation. The vision which Burt describes allows for new curators to identify risks within the ecosystem as well as new talent. In particular to digital communities, participation can increase reputation not just of the new curator (as an individual), but of the groups involved. Page 59
  • 69. The Missing Link While an ideal state, the act of brokering often may not always be able to be independent. Sometimes kernels and intra-preneurs may take on the role of the new curator within their institution. This is a practical challenge for the ecosystem as neither group can act without interest. As such, the new curator role goes unfulfilled. This leaves brokering actions up to the kernels within groups to work beyond their self-interest and immediate social systems to reached for those who are unlike themselves. This is why the new curator role is needed. While kernels have an ability to attract participation of those who have similar interest, connections need to be made to diversify engagement and work beyond those within a similar social or cultural landscape. Today, the reality is that kernels often play the new curator role as well as their own. A challenge related to kernels becoming curators is the ability to avoid pressure of institutionalization. Within informal cooperatives new curators who are also their kernels do not have the ability to be sustainable over the long term and the pressure to transform into a institution to create sustainability. Not all informal cooperatives are meant to be institutions nor are all informal cooperatives live beyond their initial interest. The very movement towards institutionalization forks the informal cooperative. The motivational factors shift and muddy the waters for participation. Conversely, institutions who act as new curators aren’t seen as legitimate within informal cooperatives, especially those whose business aligns with the interests of the informal cooperative. Institutions can bring resources to support informal cooperatives ability to create an open collaboration space. As we heard from the entrepreneur at La Cantine and Eichenwald, institutions are challenged to create an open collaboration Page 60
  • 70. space for new activities and ideas within their own organization. (Wessel, 2012) The lack of this capability forces those within the institution to loose elsewhere and even create informal cooperatives themselves. The challenge with the new curator is that they have to be supported outside of either group for which they are brokering. Today, most new curators exist within an institution. This position does not provide an independence between groups. Organizations such as associations, trade groups and multi-stakeholder institutions may have more ability to be more independent than others. These groups also bring their own kind of special interests. New curators operate under different titles such as Chief Innovation Offices, Social Media Strategist, Public Liaison and Chief Culture Officer. While many positions have elements related to the new curator, rarely is this a role resourced and strategically located to nurture collaboration spheres between groups of dissimilar interests and values. A detractor of brokering is self-interest of a new curator to manipulate actors involved towards ends serving their own interest. “With the charge of researching, acquiring, documenting, and publicly displaying art, the curator becomes the propagator of taste and knowledge for the public “good.” It stands to reason, then, that during this process one must also have the opportunity to further refine oneself. This is the give and take of generosity. In this respect care takes on a reciprocal value, rather than just being an act of dubious kindness or concern. The curator becomes a connoisseur as much as an administrator. His or her role is expanded beyond “overseeing” to encompass what Foucault calls the cultivation of the self.” (Fowle, 2007: 13) Page 61
  • 71. The new curator may find that the actors involved are polarized due to extreme strong ties and lack of diversity within their network. Fowle saw the increasing divide within the art community, where even traditional curators are challenged to broker between the gaps which exist in their ecosystem. “Within contemporary curating the contradictions are evident to all. There is a widening divide between two camps—the independent and the institutional—that supposedly signifies where curatorial allegiances lie in relation to the “historically bound” aspects of the profession.” (Fowle, 2007:18) Call For Investment New curators are emerging but are not professionalized. Currently a viable business model does not exist to to support independent new curators. We know that people are attracted to interests and values of those who are like themselves, or for whom they have self-interest. New curators perform a critical role to broker between informal cooperatives and institutions to help them reach to others beyond their immediate interests and social system. People, information and resources which are self-confirming are in danger of becoming polarized. New curators are mitigation tools which can infuse diversity and create culture exchanges across domains. We do not know the complete value of new curators because for the most part they do not exist. Henry Jenkins, author of Convergence Culture, describes this void as a challenge. While Jenkins discusses this role within the institution, it can be applied to the entire ecosystem. These are roles that we don’t have and companies vitally need to have. Grant McCracken’s book Chief Cultural Officer coins that as a term to describe this Page 62
  • 72. kind of position inside the company whose job is to monitor and respond to the culture around the company. To be a listener. Not to just absorb data which a lot of companies do but to actually interpret, analyze, engage with and listen to what’s at stake for participants and break out of the preconceived ideas about it. (Jenkins, 2011) While we have an idea of what kind of characteristics, values and challenges which confront independent new curators. There is a realization that institutions will use new curators as brokers within their ecosystems to drive competitive and vision advantage. Ronald Burt described the sensibility of a broker (e.g., new curator) and the vision advantage that this role can bring to an institution: He is reading and thinking very widely. He is totally unafraid of any new technology in any area of human creativity. He has wonderful contacts with people in many different areas, so he sees bridges between otherwise disparate fields. (Burt, 2004: 350) New curators will likely grow within institutions, but its placement may be very different from organization to organization. Even governments will have liaison roles which work outside of the institution to create engagement and understanding with those who have dissimilar interests and values. Jenkins is optimistic about the ability to include brokerage roles such as the new curator, especially within institutions. Speaking about the entertainment industry, Jenkins describes that we are at the very beginning of this new era. I think that we are seeing some of these Chief Cultural Officers in media and entertainment companies. I’ve watched a number of careers develop over the Page 63
  • 73. next ten or fifteen years that are moving up through the ranks of companies who have taken on social and cultural knowledge about participatory culture and are beginning to incorporate it into the c-suite of companies. They are beginning to apply what they know to shift the relations between producers and consumers.” (Jenkins, 2011) Informal cooperatives and institutions can benefit from new curators as they can catalyze competitive advantage within the marketplace. Brass underscores this concept by describing the value that groups who support brokering roles (e.g., new curators) can gain. “Studies at the interorganizational level of analysis also suggest that social capital accrues to the broker organization. Brokerage has been related to firm survival (Koput & Powell, 2003; Oh, Kilduff, & Brass, 2006), innovation (Stuart & Podolny, 1999; McEvily & Zaheer, 1999), market share (Rowley & Baum, 2004), and performance (Provan & Milward, 1995).” (Brass, 2009: 206) Page 64
  • 74. Conclusion Page 65
  • 75. The Value Between Us defined the landscape and distance between informal cooperatives and institutions within today’s information economy. While there can be many opportunities to build open collaboration spaces and attract those who have similar interest and values, there are risks involved. This challenge within these groups is one of diversity. When there are similar interests and values within a group, there can be polarization especially if the relationships are strong ties. These groups need more weak ties to add diversify the composition of the group. These groups also need someone to help them reach others beyond their immediate social systems. This is when the role of the new curator can open doors to informal cooperatives and institutions to help bridge the gaps between and infuse diversity within the ecosystem. There are three investments which could be made to support added diversity and engagement between today’s network of networks to mitigate against the potential effects of polarization. First, there must be an investment in new curators. While it is recognized that new curators may likely be supported through institutions, the ideal the role of new curator is to be independent of either group which they seek to connect. This role can begin to address the gaps (e.g., external structural holes) which exist today. If unaddressed, these gaps have the potention to create polarization within not only the group, but of the entire ecosystem. Second, there must be an investment in understanding the value of and utlity of weak ties. While value may be placed within those who have strong relations, weak ties infuse diversity within groups and act as a mitigation tool to ward against polarization and isolation. Scholars agree that there is much work to be done to examine the value and behavior of weak ties. What we know today, is that weak ties are valuable relationships who Page 66
  • 76. have demonstrated that they can spring into action as a collective to build a new sensory network for sense-making and proxy agency. If weak ties can jump into action when called upon (especially during a crisis), this debunks Gladwell’s assertation that weak ties do not spring into action to engage in high risk activism. The more we can begin to undersand how weak ties engage, as well as the effects of permanent storage of relationships, we may be better able to manage communications to those relationships. Third, there must be an investment faciliating, supporting and protecting independent open collaboration spaces. In a sense, informal cooperatives hold a competitive advantange because their genesis was from within an open collaboration space. Meanwhile, institutions are driven by market forces and reinforced by organizational culture to champion optimization over innovation. This thesis has illustrated that even the most innovative companies are challenged to overcome bureaucracy, fear of failure and their own internal culture to foster a space for collaboration within or external to their organizational boundaries. Investment in the collaboration sphere is paramount, not just to bridge structural holes, but to create an environment conducive for creationism which can spur innovation to propel the ecosystem forward. Are We Listening Yet? In 2007, Jan Chipchase, who was then Nokia’s behavior science researcher, delivered a TED talk originally entitled, Mobile Phones, Ourselves. In this talk Chipchase delivered a his view of the future of mobile technology. Chipchase didn’t talk about the technical aspects of a mobile phone, rather he forecasted what mobility will mean when all 7 billion people in the world are connected. Page 67
  • 77. For me, this kind of personifies this connected world, where everything is intertwined, and the dots are -- it's all about the dots joining together. Okay, the title of this presentation is "Connections and Consequences," and it's really a kind of summary of five years of trying to figure out what it's going to be like when everyone on the planet has the ability to transcend space and time in a personal and convenient manner, right? When everyone's connected. (Chipchase, 2007) Today, mobile phones have become ubiquitous in society. We are just beginning to understand what it means to be technically connected to so many people all at once. It is about conversations between people. And the last thing is that -- actually, the direction of the conversation. With another three billion people connected, they want to be part of the conversation. And I think our relevance and TED's relevance is really about embracing that and learning how to listen, essentially. And we need to learn how to listen. (Chipchase, 2007) This thesis ultimately raises the question that while we may be working with many people who have similar interests and values, that means we are only engaging those who are like ourselves. We are filling our personal town squares not with people who are different than we are, but those who are the same. We spend our free time participating in groups (e.g., informal cooperatives) of whose who have similar values and interests as we do. Institutions shy away from open collaboration with others due to culture and fear of endorsement or legitimacy that their participation may give to external partners. The big business is using Page 68
  • 78. actions and those whom we are connected to serve up recommendations and search results tailored to your interests. Consumerism is reinforcing a world where we are homogenious with little self-imposed diversity. We act more like islands in the stream rather than a connected world of networks. It has been five years since Chipchase’s TED talk and we are moving towards what we like and may be fostering an inability to listen and engage with others who are unlike ourselves. Connectivity between groups especially requires a proactive and strategic investment. It also involves cultural translation and tolerance. This investment will give us an ability to listen and connect in a meaningful way within our information economy. With the speed of today’s globalized society, investment will need to be made not just to better understand what actually exists within today’s network of networks (e.g., informal cooperatives), but rather how these groups engage each other (or not). It could be summized that we may be marching down a road towards polarization if the call to action to invest in connectivity between networks is not heeded. While this be a more extreme view, there is also good news.The space between us is where we do our best work. It is where we take risks and innovate. It is where we build personal relationships with others. These relationships begin the pathway to communications. It is where two groups who have dissimilar interests and value can come together. The space between us is perhaps the most valuable space that we have, but yet today we find that difference and lack of diversity drive distance between our network of networks. Page 69
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