88 Keys to a Fluid Internet

Warning: Broad and unrefined speculation follows.

This week I tweeted:

This was an indirect reaction to a blog post by Maureen Crawford (Press Pause, Let Go, Let Flow), including her tweet stating “Internet is liquid not solid”.  Musings on several other posts by MACT cohort colleagues Kelly Spencer (The Power of Flow in a Network) and Rohit Sandhu (Globalization through the lens of networks) kept these thoughts tumbling over the last 24 hours. What I’ve been mulling over is how fragmented I’ve felt my time spent online has been over the past few months.

This past month, my nightly routine has been:

  • Open Tweetdeck and see what’s going on
  • Check email on my phone or tablet
  • Check online new sources
  • Check blog sources
  • Check facebook
  • Check course outlines
  • Prepare blog post
  • Prepare wiki posts
  • Check LinkedIn
  • Find a new Social media site and see if it’s useful, or offers anything new
  • And several other steps I won’t bore you with

Yes, push notifications on my tablet and phone automate this process somewhat. Yes, news aggrigators mean that I can check multiple media sites at a glance. Yes, I’ve come up with a system to manage links. However, it still feels very static, despite the comfort level that I have begun to feel. Then I realized what was wrong: I’ve been pressing the keys but I’m not making music.

007/365 - Keys

I’m not yet at the point where there is melody in what I’m doing online. I’m pressing each individual social key but only occasionally is there relation to what I’m composing. I’m not sure if this is just me or if it is a technical fact of an instrument that is still in the early stages of development.

Then @dianambrown challenged me to develop the idea further:

Here is my response to date (requiring much more thought), continuing the musical metaphor, in three steps (and purely speculative):

  1. In order to continue developing the skills necessary to one day reach the potential of cross-internet mastery, we need more practice and the ability to personally tune our instruments. I think that practice is coming in droves, considering the amount of time that we’re spending attached to our devices. This tuning process is taking a bit longer, although it is catching on with coding being introduced in some classrooms, especially in the UK.
  2. As we are developing our skills, we will also continue to develop new systems to fill in the gaps in our communication ability. The number of apps launched each day is staggering. Filling in the holes in our networked lives has become big business and the only way to get a foot in the door in a saturated app market is to find something nobody else is doing.
  3. Of course, the last step is the hardest to describe. In my tweet back to @dianambrown I called it “personally relevant design.” What I meant by this is really being able to plan, select, modify, and launch our own set of features, using the skills and theory developed in practice, across the platforms selected to further our own means. This is the process akin to playing each note in a song and having the result be music, rather than just a series of tones. This is where online communication might begin to feel individual rather than an appropriation of someone else’s ideas.

At that point, if we ever reach it, our submissions to each other would reach a new level of meaning (hopefully understanding). Of course, at this speculative level, it sounds very utopian, and is meant to be so. Some of this may tie into discussions about the semantic web and, taken to its extreme, human-machine collaboration not dissimilar to conversations about technological singularity.

In any case, our ability to manipulate our experiences online, in order to achieve a more personal communication style, has already begun and has certainly come a long way, even in the last decade. Learning about and experiencing online communication in the last month has granted brief flashes of insight. At some point, I hope that they can coalesce into a coherent whole.

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8 responses to “88 Keys to a Fluid Internet

  1. Sean, Great post!
    I really like your music metaphor – partly because I believe in the primacy of sharing as a key part of Internet use. I think that curation plays a major role.
    Austin Keon’s new book, Show Your Work! http://amzn.to/1hqpKho does a really nice job of illustrating how central producing and distributing your work or your take is to the whole flow of the Internet.

    • Thanks Maureen. The more I read this, the more I want to spend a few months trying to really articulate what I mean. It’s a start, anyway! I’ll check out Keon’s book and can already agree that the ability to share not only the final product but the trials and tribulations behind it, as well, will be another key to unlocking the potential of online communication.

  2. The sources of the data for apps and “websites” should not be different. Better yet, an app should not duplicate what just what a website does. Albeit there are exceptions but those are the big ones. The best smaller apps (I still don’t see many useful ones) have a couple niche things they do awesome.

    A big issue with big companies are legacy databases. This is a big threat to bigger players as they try and figure out how to tap into old processes rather than starting fresh (sometimes easier and better for the customer) which in the long run, is the business.

    • Thanks for the response. There’s a lot I still need to clarify with these thoughts. The concept I was trying to explain was the use of apps, websites, etc. Instead of everything we use being separate, there must be some cohesion. However, I agree with all of your points. There are a lot of apps on the marketplace that either fully duplicate each other or offer only a small tweak here or there in an effort to stand out from the crowd. Getting the information out of the legacy databases is another issue entirely. Many of these systems are forced to start fresh and I think you’re right, the bigger companies don’t know how to fit what they did in the past into the new model.

  3. I like this conversation that you’ve started Sean. So I’ve been in ‘web development’ awhile, and social media, to me, has been an offspring of web as part of your online persona, and then app. development, which I’ve just gotten into, is yet another tentacle. To me it’s all part of an ecosystem of your online persona and all of it needs to work together – sing, if you will – but each application, plays a different part, yet all ties together. You really need one person orchestrating it all – and where I think many organizations fail, is that all these piece tend to get split up across different teams/departments. The orchestra becomes disjointed then, and they end up just being untuned pieces. Lots to think about here – especially from an organizational communication perspective.

    • Thanks for your response. The diffusion you’re illustrating really shows how important it is to have a conductor, of sorts, within the organization who really understands each of the parts and how they tie together. One thing that always amazed me about my conductors growing up is how they could bring all of our voices together to create the song – and then the real work began. Managing all of these separate pieces and then tuning them, adding in the subtleties that are required to move a piece from song to music, and then adding their own subtle layer of interpretation to something that had been done over and over, sometimes for centuries. I started out thinking about this on a really personal level, but your contribution has really opened my eyes to how broad and vast this concept becomes within an organization.

  4. Sean,
    I have returned to reread this post several times. I think you have a very interesting and worthwhile line of thought developing here.

    I explored the concept of a symphony of ideas as a network in my Feb. 2nd blog, You is Us -in Symphony. I think that you might find some tie-ins there that could extend the thinking you are doing in this post. It can be found at http://maureencrawford.com/2014/02/02/you-is-us/

    I strongly urge you to watch the Lux Aurumque (there is a link to the video in my blog).

  5. Sean: You’ve written a thought-provoking post and generated an interesting conversation! One of the tasks of this course is to integrate the various online presences you have into an holistic one – no small task, as you’ve pointed out. How to do this without #socmed overwhelming you and gobbling all your “free” time is the real key 🙂

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