Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Israeli apartheid regime is falling

The Israeli-Palestinian problem has reached a point of no return. It is over for Israel, its apartheid regime is falling. What happened?

It is not governments who solved the Palestinian problem. A very complex global coalition of activist networks and NGO's, helped by some governmental institutions, academic institutions, independent private institutions, have debarked on the shores of Gaza. The Palestinian D-day was made possible by a powerful wave rising from the grass roots of society. Look at the tools used in this unprecedented campaign, in this pacifist war against a brutal, racist regime. The digital technology has its marks everywhere. The Internet was used to organize these networks, to gather resources, to coordinate actions, and to win the public opinion through a very well orchestrated and very creative (alternative) media campaign.  After a few failed trials in the Republic of Moldova and in Iran, the multitude movement has its first governmental victim. Who's next?

The Multitude Project was, and remains a member of the Free Palestine network.

By AllOfUs

Information flow and power

Ultimately, power in society boils down to the ability to influence people. We must not understand power only in its pejorative sense. Hitler had power and so did Mother Teresa. The most fundamental process involved in the creation and the projection of power is communication. One must exchange information with the individual(s) he wants to influence.

At the smallest scale, an individual can project physical power over another individual without having to communicate much, but here we are not concerned with individual-level physical power. At the societal level, the projection of military power, which is also a form of physical power, involves a lot of communication. The very fact that there is military power to be projected supposes some level of coordination and cooperation within that particular society, not only for the military act but also for military support systems. An army requires a sophisticated economy, central governance system and so on.  

What if the means of communication change suddenly in a society? How would this affect power structures?

In the pre-Internet society, the most effective means of communication was one-to-many, like the radio, the television, the book, the newspaper, etc. It is a direct type of communication, in the sense that the message can reach the target, in one step. But these broadcast-type, one-way, one-to-many communication channels are usually very costly to create and to maintain. In order to sustain them, they require central governance, and over time they eventually become corrupted (not serving the interest of the masses) and get monopolized. These means of communication are, by nature, non-democratic, because they are not within the reach of every individual and have a strong tendency to get subverted and used against the masses. In fact, there is an abundance of examples where mass media was used by the social elites to increase their domination and to further their own agendas. That in itself is an indicator of how important information and communication is in building and projecting power.

The new digital technology introduced new channels of communication, in parallel with the classical direct one-to-many. The particularity of these new channels (now called social media channels like Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc. ) is that they are NOT direct. They propagate through the population from one individual to another. The process is very similar to word of mouth, but it is greatly enhanced by the new technology (larger scale, involving much more individuals, transcending geographical barriers, transcending language barriers, more dynamic). The fact that these new communication channels are NOT direct, are almost free, popular, and democratic changes everything. This means that the multitude has a lot more control over the narrative. Information doesn't follow along predefined paths as in a hierarchical social structure. It bounces around within decentralized online networks that individuals freely form. The dominant narrative emerges from this chaotic process, rather than being carefully crafted at the top of the pyramid and distributed down in a controlled and direct manner. In this new context the hierarchical power structure collapses because the information pathways it normally uses are no longer effective.

The elites have lost their monopoly on direct mass communication, people get their information from alternative sources, therefore the elites' ability to influence directly is greatly reduced. Moreover, they have also lost the ability to shapes preferences via values, norms, ideologies.   

By AllOfUs

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Corporate brands and the multitude social movement

What is happening to brands under the multitude storm?

Why do corporations create brands in the first place? A brand is a complex, it is a construction meant to trigger feelings, emotions about some product or service, to trigger desire. It usually has a name, there is an image associated with it, a slogan, a story, values, some cultural elements, etc. During marketing campaigns all these elements are associated with the name and the image - a logo, so next time you see it, or hear the name, you "salivate". To put it simply, a brand is Pavlov's bell, and we are the dogs...

And how can you make a brand effective in increasing sales? There are branding specialists, not everyone can create a successful brand. A brand must stick. It must mark you in a significant way, it must be intrusive and create persistent associations. Normally corporations use sensitive cords, they follow general popular trends. A brand acts on an individual, but it is created as a tool for mass manipulation, as a social construct. The brand builder must understand the population it addresses. Sometimes they use sex, environmental issues, fear, good feelings, the desire to be powerful, ..., whatever ticks in that society at that time. So if you want your brand to work for your business you need a message that sticks and spreads, you need a powerful meme.

With the advent of the social media (Fecebook, Youtube, LinkedInetc.), corporations think that they can now use these new communication channels to increase the spread of their brand. So they changed their strategy in building brands. They make them viral. They realize that the population is now strongly interconnected, and that everyone is able to broadcast his own ideas. Therefore, if your message if effective enough, some people will spread it on behalf of the company, without even getting payed for it. Make the message funny enough, for example, put it on Youtube, and it will spread.

But there is a problem with that. Corporations don't control what people are sharing. Sometimes, somebody out there, in some circumstances, can take a logo and modify it. The new message can become even more powerful than the original one, more sticky, more pervasive, more viral. The marketing campaign of the corporation backlashes. It's message was hijacked. Every time people will see the logo of the company other feelings/ideas will surface, not the ones originally intended by the corporation.

What is the lesson of all this? You cannot say one thing and do another anymore. If you don't stand by your principles, which must be good principles, you are screwed. This brings back some ethics into the corporate world, for the time they're going to be around....    

Here's what I think about brands. It is becoming and old concept. In the Twitter era the reputation of a product emerges instantaneously from users of the product, which are connected and expressive. People share their experiences, and they are very effective in doing that by using popular buzz channels like G+, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The reputation of a product emerges in an instant and it is based on value, whatever that value is, functionality, a social cause, design, etc. Corporations have less power to manufacture an image for themselves. The image is given to them by the multitude, according to what they have to offer. This is the new reality, where the narratives are now controlled by the multitude.

By AllOfUs

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Multitude movement against institutionalized elitism

In Russia, if you are working for some governmental agency you might get driving privileges. The traffic police can give you a permit to install a blue light on you car, which can also be a private car, and use it in case of emergency. The problem is that many other people (the ones with money and connections) can get this permit by bribing the police. In fact, there is so much abuse that it causes the traffic in large cities to be quite chaotic sometimes and, most importantly, IT KILLS. The population is fed up. With the help of modern tools for communication and coordination a massive popular movement (across the entire Russian empire) is rising against these elitist privileges, the blue bucket movement. Thousands of videos swarm the Internet showing people taping blue buckets on the top of their cars, to mimic the blue lights used by the elite. The police stops these cars to annoy the drivers but the law is not on their side, this aesthetic modification is totally legal. See more on the videos below.

The important lesson of this multitude action is that the awaken and empowered population doesn't take the abuse quietly anymore. The multitude is very creative in finding effective ways to communicate their discontent and to force the regime to change its practices. Every positive outcome of this type of action constitutes a reinforcing feedback, to further energize the multitude. We are witnessing the emergence of a new culture, the multitude movement is establishing itself as a dominant social force.

By AllOfUs