It is not unusual to find the most thought-provoking conversations at a conference to be taking place between the panel discussions.
At We Media in NYC, I (Chris) was lucky enough to find myself sitting next to futurist, Watts Wacker. It was 8 am, and I was still struggling to recover from a stubborn case of the flu. That was when Watts asked folks at our table: “What’s the most powerful force in the universe?”
Some responded with ideas like “love” and “gravity.” I was thinking viruses.
“Collaboration,” said Watts.
Moments later the conference was underway and Watts began slipping me a flurry of post-it notes:
Post-It No. 1
Authority is a process, not a thing, by which we seek the solidity of the thing.
Post-It No. 2
Self-selecting social organizations. How do you escape encapsulation?
Post-It No. 3
Network Theory + Content Creation + Neo-tribalism = The New Environment
Post-It No. 4
In the broadcast model: Value = N (size of audience)
In network model: Value = N2
In self-selection, content model: Value = 2N
Post-it No. 5
Learn the art of the short view. Those who can master the next thing with alacrity of will win.
The last two notes reminded me of Niklas Zennstrom’s philosophy behind Skype’s business model: Earn as little money per customer, while getting as many of customers as possible.
The founders of Skype were also the ones who brought you Kazaa. This Estonian braintrust clearly has a knack for the short view. They enable connections for sharing content. Voice, music, text, it’s all just bits coming from users.
The next media revolution will be user-generated content.
To be a part of that revolution, we have to first ask more questions:
Knowing that most people will not want to be “journalists” or “editors,” how do we architect a flexible media ecosystem that allows - in a twist on Skype’s model - as many people to contribute as little content as possible?
How do we build for emergence and not specific behavior or outcomes?
How do we change our institutions to be relevant for future that is already here?
How do we learn to trust our audience and protect them from the occasional bad apple or group-think?
Authority is shifting. Trust is being redefined. But to what?
Interesting solutions will come from looking at the paradoxes of the problem. Which is good news, because this future, as Watts and others know, is full of them.