Perceiving networks subjectively

My post Vertical and horizontal networks received several comments that have helped me a lot. (Thanks Charles, Harold and Stephen!). I've realized that I was indulging in dichotomous thinking (either/or, black & white, dualistic). That kind of thinking yields opposition and contentions because it's one sided and extreme. I was attempting to apply modernist objectivity instead of post-modernist subjectivity to my understanding of networks. Once I could see what was missing in my distinction between "horizontal and vertical" networks, I developed this taxonomy to describe the learning curve involved in getting the whole picture.

Isolated nodes and exclusive boundaries: When we are outside a network and powerless to join in, two features of the network will dominate our perceptions. We will notice the exclusive boundary that forms a separate group. Within this group, we will perceive the nodes (individuals, members, functional units) as isolated from each other. This perception is a projection of our own isolated condition and inability to relate. We will fail to discern the connections between nodes because we are outsiders. We tell a story about the network as "99% them against poor little me".

Causal links and inclusive boundaries: Once we identify with the group and submit to its norms, the boundaries appear inclusive of "us". We see how one thing leads to another inside. We watch incidents set off chain reactions. We discover our power to get a reaction, cause a stir and solve a problem within the group. The nodes appear to make transactions that provide extrinsic value for other nodes. The nodes compete for attention, react to other nodes and squelch non-conformity. The links are unilateral to deliver, push and make things happen. These perceptions are a projection of our affiliated condition and ability to take action in the group. We tell a story about the network as "us exclusive winners doing it to a vast network of losers, learners, customers, patients, viewers, etc".

Inter-group linkages and cyclical dynamics: Prior to all the social networking made possible by Web 2.0 technologies, we slowly formed connections between the groups we joined (family, friends, classmates, work colleagues, etc). Now we experience this phase sooner, more often and more easily. Once we were free of a single group identity, we can see that identity with a detached perspective. It seem like a mask, false self or cover-up. We play the part of a character in a story or an avatar in a game for the intrinsic worth, intangible value or personal meaning for us. The boundless, infinite quality of the network enters our perception. Our links to others transcend many confining boundaries and provides a vast variety of experiences for relating, giving, serving and caring. The dynamics inside groups appears predictable, as if it's going around in circles, going nowhere quickly, or perpetuating the same old story. These perceptions are a projection of our fluid identity and freedom to play many parts. We tell a story about the network as "many ways to see everything and each other -- depending on where we're at".

Network effects and captivating stories: When we outgrow the previous phase, we are immersed in the all-encompassing network. Everything imaginable seems connected to us. We are "one big us" with no one excluded. It's no surprise when a single flap of butterfly wings creates a tornado half way around the globe. It makes more sense when something goes viral than when it goes unnoticed. Every condition appears to be in flux, continually changing, delightfully impermanent. There is nothing to make happen and everything to let happen. This outlook is a projection of our disidentification with any shape we're in or form we take. Looking back on the previous phases of this taxonomy, it all looks like captivating stories we told ourselves until a better story came along. All there is to do is" live a story by choice and see what effects that has in the ubiquitous, boundless network".

Technorati tags: ,

No comments:

Post a Comment