Surfing Waves Of Change

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As cumbersome institutions creak in the wake of recent economic and political
shake-ups, we’re left with a choice: whether to deem the wave of change a lethal
tsunami come to wipe us out, or surf it like the greatest wave of our lives.

Disorientation is an unavoidable symptom of the status quo being disrupted; and
disruption is both inevitable and necessary.

In camp tsunami lie flailing agencies, publishers, record companies, governments,
educational establishments and other intermediaries struggling to stay relevant
and guard the floodgates, as networked surfers form tribes and leverage their
power to organise without organisations.

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Surfing Waves Of Change

  1. 1. Resonance Blog Advanced communications for growth Surfing Waves of Change (Lose yourself to find yourself) Jane Young July 2009 As cumbersome institutions creak in the wake of recent economic and political shake-ups, we’re left with a choice: whether to deem the wave of change a lethal tsunami come to wipe us out, or surf it like the greatest wave of our lives. Disorientation is an unavoidable symptom of the status quo being disrupted; and disruption is both inevitable and necessary. In camp tsunami lie flailing agencies, publishers, record companies, governments, educational establishments and other intermediaries struggling to stay relevant and guard the floodgates, as networked surfers form tribes and leverage their power to organise without organisations. We’re square pegs in round holes, operating within industrial revolution legacy systems. Mass production, mass marketing, mass broadcasting; co-existing with ultra-connectedness. The truth is out there. Google it. Then apply your newly honed bullshit filter to weed out the facts from the crap. Fear-gripped individuals are a sad byproduct of our chaotic times. Having lived through the media - embracing consumerism as a form of identity - our false expectations are shattered by a reality that never quite lives up to the star spangled promises, regardless of a lifetime’s striving. The identities we’ve constructed through stuff and work have left us emotionally barren and unfulfilled. Our fears are amplified by the ‘availability heuristic’, whereby our minds assess the likelihood of risks by asking how readily examples come to mind. Media hype has bred an unhealthy familiarity with risk - from financial failure to terrorism. Added to our risk-laden make-or-break burden is the lack of a community safety net. If I lose my job I’m done for. If I can’t pay my mortgage I’m sunk. I can’t afford for anything to break. Resonance Blog - www.resonanceblog.com - Jane Young - jane@resonanceblog.com - July 09
  2. 2. This fear is less stark in remote, geographically bound communities. I’m originally from Shetland, the most northerly island in the UK, with a population of around 22,000 people. There’s 210km of North Sea between the island the the northernmost tip of Scotland. It’s a fourteen hour boat journey to reach the UK mainland. The pursuit of material wealth in Shetland is not at all high on the priority list, despite being one of the richest islands in Europe. Millionaire fisherman are indistinguishable from crofters on the bread line, wellies and all. Consumerism offers identity tags, but tags are not required when everyone has your mark. Such tight-knit communities - in which you’re stuck with a cross-section of society in close quarters, with few external reference points - have all the binds and safety of a net. There’s insufficient population for segregation by age, occupation, or values. Protected by the collective, you’ve less need to protect yourself. Lose your house? Probably won’t happen. Don’t really think about it. Won’t be homeless anyway. Once the need to self-preserve is stripped away, decorum and reputation coveting evaporate (reputation IP is a handful of sand when it’s impossible to hide), setting free the ability to lose yourself; an essential human need we’ve forfeited since feudal festivities were quashed by capitalism. Shetland is rife with opportunities to lose yourself; and work is incidental. Some companies don’t pay sick pay on Mondays. Some send you home if it’s a really sunny day, at which point folk strip off in the searing nineteen degree heat (!), head to The Street with decks and speakers, party all day, perhaps jump off the pier and undoubtedly don fancy dress. Resonance Blog - www.resonanceblog.com - Jane Young - jane@resonanceblog.com - July 09
  3. 3. The focus on festivity is evident in folksy status criteria. In London we might strive for status as Cleverest, Best Connected or Richest. In Shetland, you’re more likely to win acclaim as Best Dancer, Best Fighter, Hardest Partyer or Best Musician. The biggest Shetland festival is Up Helly Aa, a fire festival to welcome in the light after a long dark winter. Participants (a large chunk of the population), known as Guizers, form themed squads and spend months rehearsing their acts. There’s a super-squad, the viking Jarl Squad (who’ve all grown compulsory beards) - headed up by the prestigious Guizer Jarl (king of the festivities), which leads a procession around the town, each man carrying a huge blazing torch. Some kids have trust funds set up to pay for their future role in the Jarl Squad, to cover the hand-crafted chainmail tunics, brass shields, reindeer-skin boots and helmets decorated with ravens’ wings. The spectacle culminates in all the Guizers throwing their torches into an ornate galley ship, built by the Jarl Squad in the debaucherous Galley Shed throughout the previous year. Once the galley has burned to the ground, each squad jumps on their squad bus and tours the local halls, performing their act... then onto the next hall. More soup. More whisky. More dancing. The acts deteriorate throughout the night. The following day, you’re likely to pass big burly spice girls lying on the roadside; and perhaps see the odd hairy-chested Kylie Minogue and a few disheveled vikings scattered around the lanes. Resonance Blog - www.resonanceblog.com - Jane Young - jane@resonanceblog.com - July 09
  4. 4. Shetland thrives on clan behaviour. Fancy dress is rife. People live fast and wild, then live with the consequences. Nobody can avoid or be avoided. Social consequences are a rusty control mechanism (big consequences, little control). When I started my second job in Shetland with a quirky software company, I was given a laptop. Not a tag conducive to the community’s values. In fact, so misaligned, that walking across the road with said laptop in hand was enough to incite passing vehicles to roll their windows down and make mocking ‘Oooooooh!’ noises at my overly businessy-ness. God forbid I should ever possess a handbag. And a suit? The default response: ‘Funeral or court?’ This is an example of the powerful leveling effect of cultural values within a geographically bound community. Nobody can get above their station. The need for self-esteem and meaning is met through We, not I. The search for identity is less considered, less serious; and inherent in festivities. A sense of belonging is enforced by laughing at yourself and the essence of your extreme, unique identity. This is stark in the annual Yokfest, Shetland’s spoof festival to celebrate being yokels. It involves dressing up in overalls, traditional wooly jumpers, wellies and flat caps, then rampaging through town with the Yokfest mascot (a cardboard sheep), for a couple of days and nights. Resonance Blog - www.resonanceblog.com - Jane Young - jane@resonanceblog.com - July 09
  5. 5. The intimacy gleaned from co-existing in close quarters - safe quarters, where doors are open (in fact you’re liable to wake up in the morning and find someone asleep on your sofa who wasn’t there the night before) is intense, but therapeutic. The physical intimacy of festivities - dancing, hugging, sharing homes - makes people feel okay with their lot. Scientific studies prove our need for intimacy - our need to be touched. Even placebo acupuncture makes us happy; or alternative therapies that involve stroking or any sort of physical contact. The ‘free huggers’ in cities are an attempt to reach out, touch and comfort our fellow humans, who’ve found themselves too self-conscious to be spontaneous. This introversion has caused us to grow self- absorbed - and false, because we’re making up an identity we’ve lost. Our narrative is veiled with niceties and empty phrases. Humans are physiologically interdependent. We depend upon one-another for happiness. Those with fewer friends die younger. The mood of another in the same room affects our mood. We mimic, mirror, send signals. This pattern of connectedness is rife in humanity, technology and science. For instance sympathetic resonance - a harmonic phenomenon wherein a passive string or vibratory body responds to external vibrations to which it has a harmonic likeness. In other words, if you have two similar tuning forks, whack one and the other will sing, despite the fact they’re not touching. Same as humans. Everything has a natural frequency of vibration, i.e. its resonant frequency, including us. Just as a glass smashes when you hit a certain note, so too do we Resonance Blog - www.resonanceblog.com - Jane Young - jane@resonanceblog.com - July 09
  6. 6. resonate at certain frequencies, seeking and finding meaning in different experiences, clans and value-sets. Not only that, but resonant objects (whether musical instruments, or people) usually have more than one resonant frequency (harmonics). We will easily vibrate at those frequencies, and vibrate less strongly at others. We will “pick out” our resonant frequency, in effect filtering out all frequencies other than our resonance. The ideal life balance - a state of resonance and consonance - may encompass the intimacy, communal festivities and safety net of a geographically bound community, with the freedom, opportunity and drive of city culture. Surfers out there, riding the wave of revolutionary change brought about by our networked society (and loving it), understand we can stop relying on institutions and take responsibility for change and quality of life. This responsibility breeds happiness, because it arises from feeling part of something. Knock on every door on your street and ask your neighbours if they’ve ever thought how bonkers it is that there are 40 lawns and 40 lawnmowers… then set up a lawnmower sharing club. Start a global tribe of like-minded passionistas around something that matters. Fed up with a crappy council service? Crowd- source an alternative. Chip in and take it upon yourself. The technology is a given. The revolution will not be clad in cotton wool, to save us from our deadly expectations; our fake chase for happiness down roads to nowhere; our seriousness and decadent independence. The revolution will embrace the real and the surreal; discard the fake and the auto-pilot. We will triangulate our identities within a frame of reference that is human, do-unto-others, bold and true. The revolution embraces the startling efficiency of voice. Resonance Blog - www.resonanceblog.com - Jane Young - jane@resonanceblog.com - July 09

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