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Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World

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Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom:
How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World


Web 2.0, Enterprise 2.0, open innovation, and decentralized collaboration – all of this may be coming to a corporation near you.  Are you ready?

I have not yet finished (digested) this book – “Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom” but I can tell you that if you are a fan of the transformation of life, society, workplace, and the world by Web 2.0 and Enterprise 2.0 Technologies then this book is a “must read”.

I can’t give a summary of this book – there is far too much in here.  There will be some follow-up postings to this one on how some of the ideas on Identity, Status, and Power can be spotted in organizations.

In a blatant cut/paste (I hope under fair use) below are chapter summaries from the book.  It will give you a good idea of the content.  You like?  Take a read.

Intro and Chapter Summaries

…It won’t be long before Generation V kids (V as in Virtual) – born since the Internet explosion in the early 1990s – begin pushing out of schools into corporations and up the management ranks. [18] Gen V youths rate music, rate movies, rate friends, rate celebrities, rate teachers, rate everything. They’re going to rate their bosses too. They will rate and rank whether social networking sites are banned or not. And one day, they just might be your boss – throwing sheep in the boardroom.

This book, as noted in the Preface, is divided into three parts: Identity, Status and Power. A good way to remember the book’s thematic progression is through the acronym: ISP. I for identity. S for status. P for power.

Our ISP thematic structure reflects the inexorable dynamic of social organization since the dawn of human history. The first phase of all social organization is identity construction, both individual and collective. The second phase is unequal distribution of social capital that confers competitive advantages based on status attributes. And thirdly, social capital is deployed as power in various forms of domination, material and symbolic, as societies are managed by institutional structures which allocate scarce and surplus resources. We have followed this dynamic, sequentially, in the pages that follow through our ISP thematic framework.

The analytical grid superimposed on this thematic structure can be called “3-D” : disaggregation, democratization and diffusion. We argue that Web 2.0 social media are producing three profound social e-ruptions: identities are becoming disaggregated, status is becoming democratized and power is becoming diffuse.

Identity. The first part of the book is animated by a distinction between real-world and virtual identities. While our identities in the real world are socially constructed according to institutional values, cyberspace creates a wider horizontal space that facilitates the personal fabrication of identities. More to the point, whereas real-world identities are generally unitary, in cyberspace identities are frequently multiple. We call this identity disaggregation, a Latinate word for splintered, unbundled or multifaceted. The social consequences of identity disaggregation, as we shall see, can be profoundly liberating and deeply troubling.

In Chapter 1, we examine the consequences of multiple identity management on social networking sites. In the virtual world, not only can you have your identity stolen, it’s also possible to discover that someone has created your identity without your involvement. You can even discover that your identity has been deleted without your permission.

Chapter 2 examines the phenomenon of online “friendship” and the strength of weak ties on social networking sites. Millions of online social networkers routinely collect hundreds of “friends” on their personal pages. Most are distant acquaintances, many complete strangers. It would appear, at first blush, that the accumulation of online “friends” is a vacuous ritual that reveals the shallowness of social interaction in the virtual world. Online social networking can indeed produce dangerously negative effects. Yet at the same time, as we shall see, many social networkers rely on “weak tie” e-quaintances to make their way in the online world.

In Chapter 3, we examine the tension between “open” and “closed” social groups – specifically, how both have been replicated in the virtual world and the implications for social adhesion and defection. While online sites frequently attempt to impose real-world social codes and rules, the unique characteristics of disembodied identities in the virtual world can radically transform rules that traditionally govern social groups.

Chapter 4 analyses the most puzzling paradox in the virtual world: privacy. Never before have so many people put so much personal information about themselves in the public sphere; and yet, at the same time, never before have we been so preoccupied by the danger of identity theft, fraud and other cybercrimes that are becoming increasingly difficult to police. In the virtual world, your life is an open Facebook. And the consequences can be alarmingly unexpected. More and more people in job interviews are being confronted by the same paralysing remark: “We Googled you . . . ”

Chapter 5, the last segment of the Identity section, examines how people are managing online identities in virtual worlds like Second Life and Cyworld. A first lesson, as we shall see, is that the reflex to reassert real-world institutional values and regulations on virtual interaction is powerful – and sometimes has regrettable consequences. Beyond these e-ruptions, virtual reality has far-reaching implications not only for commerce and business, but also for profoundly existential questions of life and death.

Status. The second part of this book examines the motivations –in particular, the attraction of psychic rewards in the form of esteem and prestige – that drive people to socially interact on online networks. In a word, social status. High-status people are usually said to possess “social capital” . Traditionally, social capital has been conferred by institutionalized norms related to class, education, profession, title, age, gender and so forth. But the virtual world creates spaces where fame, prestige, esteem, influence and even wealth are conferred according to an entirely different system of values. Virtual environments create level playing fields where traditional attributes that confer status are regarded not only as unjust and inefficient, but also irrelevant. We call this phenomenon the democratization of status.

In Chapter 6, we conceptualize social capital and examine how status is conferred in virtual reality according to the democratic measures of efficiency. We also put social status into historical context and provide a number of case studies to illustrate our theory of status democratization.

Chapter 7 examines “fame” on social networking sites like MySpace, Facebook and YouTube. The absence of traditional gatekeepers in cyberspace means that fame can be achieved directly, unfiltered and globally. Andy Warhol once remarked that in the future everybody will be famous for 15 minutes. In cyberspace, it might be said that everybody can be famous for 15 megabytes. We also examine the rise and fall of blockbuster culture and its implications for the democratization of fame.

In Chapter 8 we examine the attribution of status inside complex organizations. Those at the top of traditional hierarchies, thanks to their ascribed status of rank and position, preserve power by monopolizing “asymmetrical” information. In virtual organizations, on the other hand, it doesn’t matter what it says on your business card. You are assessed on the basis of what you bring to the table. Loveable fools are out, competent jerks are in.

Chapter 9 examines the question of reputation, both personal and organizational. Social media expose our reputations to the instant judgement of others. We are all living in a virtual Gong Show from which no reputation can hide, and all opinions can be universally disseminated. But there is one key difference from real-world reputation management: in the virtual world, everybody gets to be judge. Kids rate their friends, pupils grade their teachers, university students rate their professors, customers rate their suppliers, consumers rate their service providers, employees rate their bosses. Also, online merchants like Amazon have business models that give open forums to customer ratings. And, as we shall see, sometimes the virtual culture of rating and ranking can produce surprisingly unintended consequences.

In Chapter 10, we conclude the section on Status by examining the issue of trust. Online crime has made trust paramount for online commercial sites like Amazon, eBay and Dell. Corporations, too, must know how to use Web 2.0 tools – especially blogs – to inspire trust in their brands. As some corporate executives have learned the hard way, blogging can quickly backfire when the message seems insincere, dishonest or fraudulent.

Power. The third part brings us to the key theme of this book. In the final analysis, power is how we get things done. Social interaction is not an end in itself. We socially interact to achieve goals. And the achievement of goals implies a power relationship. Traditional forms of power, especially in organizations, are exercised through centralized, top-down, command-and-control systems of domination. In the virtual world, power is shifting to the edges, the margins, the periphery. Virtual power is embedded in networks. We call this phenomenon the diffusion of power.

We don’t argue that institutions are powerless. We also recognize that the initial reaction to social media in many institutions, corporations and bureaucracies will be to assert “control” over them to protect existing organizational arrangements. Technological e-ruptions invariably meet resistance that, initially, seeks to appropriate their energies to the service of old systems. This part of the book analyses the e-ruptive effects of social media on power.

Chapter 11 conceptualizes power and puts it into historical context. In particular, we discuss how, throughout history, social power has always resided in networks. We look, furthermore, at how social networks are using the Web to assert power in ways that can counter institutional forms of domination, especially by authoritarian states.

In Chapter 12, we examine the Web-driven power shift from “professionals” to “amateurs”. By diffusing social power to the margins, Web 2.0 media have triggered a social e-ruption that we can call the revenge of the amateur. A highly visible terrain on which this power shift is taking place is journalism. The Web has put power into the hands of “citizen” journalists who are challenging the monopoly privileges and status rewards of self-styled journalistic professionals.

Chapter 13 examines the power shift in the marketplace towards consumers. To illustrate our Markets 2.0 thesis, we provide a case-study analysis of how Internet downloading and the iPod toppled the Big Four music cartel and e-rupted the industry’s business model. We also examine the emergence of the consumer as producer, as aspiring musical artists can now reach fans directly via the Web without depending on a music label.

In Chapter 14, we examine how power is shifting inside organizations from vertical top-down hierarchies to horizontal networks. The Enterprise 2.0 business model is based on decentralized collaboration and open innovation. We argue that, while Web 2.0 tools pose real threats to organizational arrangements, senior executives will ignore them at their peril. It’s time for CEOs to give meaning to the buzzword “business transformation”.

Chapter 15 focuses on an issue that concerns us all: civic engagement. Social networking sites like Facebook are revitalizing the democratic process. Politicians, as we shall see, have been quicker to embrace social networking sites than CEOs. The reason is not a mystery: elections cannot afford to ignore social power. Using Web 2.0 tools to transform government bureaucracies, however, runs into the same obstacles found in corporate hierarchies. Even so, there is some momentum in favour of e-government initiatives to make public services more efficient and accountable. The Internet may one day facilitate civil participation that gives true meaning to the word democracy.

Make no mistake, the power of social media, despite organizational resistance, is turning old models on their heads. In the Web 2.0 world, fans become celebrities, students become teachers, customers become producers, employees become bosses, citizens become politicians, Davids become Goliaths.

Social media are here to stay. They are transforming your life, your work and your world. There can be no looking back. Except, of course, back to the Middle Ages.


Written by frrl

July 9, 2009 at 5:42 am

Posted in Uncategorized

Tagged with , ,

2 Responses

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  1. […] keeps you from having to examine your issues. Why don’t you […]

    • i ve read it!!! really interesting, i was not thinking it would have enjoyed it so much!


      June 28, 2011 at 11:17 am

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