10+N things I learned at CIRS

The CIRS Conference was held from on march 10th to 13th. It was a Social networks conference held during #CICI 2010, the International Innovative Cities Conference at Curitiba (State of Parana) Brazil and I decided to post about it in English. But what should I post? There were so many interesting conversations within and outside the lectures!

Here I compiled some of my personal learning.  Not everything is indexed by authors. In my mind everything has mingled and transformed, just like it happens on networks.

Here it goes!

desperate nodes dispute energy plugs

1. A network is not its nodes but its patterns. A network is pure movement so it is not possible to know what could modify or influence it. Even mapping a network is only an attempt to photograph a territory that is constantly modified. Mapping networks is archeology, as said by Clara Pelaez.

2. Being in social networks is to inhabit the unknown. Due to the abundance and irregularity of connections it is not possible to know how an information or idea will flow, where it will end up, and how it will be transformed, reinterpreted or buried.  Understanding this, Twitter is changing its configuration and enabling users to engage their applications into it. The network resists imprisonment and businesses need to gain plasticity to profit from it.

3. Living in networks and cooperating are human attributes that have been fundamentally modified by the available tools. The easiness of connection radically diminished transaction costs of cooperating in networks and enabled many initiatives that would not exist if companies were required to manage them, so tells us Clay Shirky. The firm is simply not a viable model for most human desires and projects due to its increasing transaction costs.  Coordinating network action is much cheaper.

Moreover organizations distort the network pattern and make it difficult for self-organization to happen, just as buildings make it difficult to see the landscape. (I live in São Paulo and could never draw the real landscape!) This idea was already in the CIRS opening ceremony performed by Augusto deFranco.

4. What gives life to networks are the emotions behind the speech of each member. There is much discussion on information running on the network but not on emotion. The network is a place of storytelling, says Pierre Levy.  It is a place inhabited by real people and real desires. Maybe that’s why brands have a certain difficulty to appear legitimately in networks. Brands are not people.

5. The entry into a network has to be voluntary. Those who don’t enter voluntarily don’t really connect, share knowledge much less motivation. Involuntary entrants usually won’t be live nodes. Network is expression.

Cacau Garnieri talks about the real experience of Peabirus and its network organizational model at the Open Space Dialogue.

6. “Small is powerful” when you are connected, says Clay Shirky. Forget big networks. Even within a larger network there is a small one that inspires, energizes and makes it happen. The anxiety of a large organization to have such a large network does not make sense in this context. The network is not born from a central desire but from the capillary desires and the connections established between them.

7. Leadership in a network is volatile, it evaporates as the task it helps coordinate is finished. The choice is either to engage in other desires or projects present on the network or be replaced. The big difference is that this not a bad at all. Living in a network is letting go of the status, the movement is constant and if you are not the leader of the moment you may want to read a book, go to the beach or simply continue living in the network.

8. The great network frontier is not given by tools but by the cultural environment. A network creates a common system of meaning that changes and renewals as information flows. There are beliefs, values and customs in each network. Clay Shirky tells us that there is a singular bargain for each network: an implicit set of rules of operation and, most important, a purpose or “why” the network was created. Culture creates agreements and obstructions that show what is off bounds. These boundaries, however, are liquid. The network is a moving territory.

9. “Tagging knowledge gives a kind of access to the subjectivity of others who know, who post, who tag.” “There is an emotional energy connecting the discursive process”. These and other phrases and interpretations are tagged under #2010CICI (mostly in portuguese). This tag came to be among the top 10 of Twitter during the Conference and shows that the discussion of semantics as crucial web crawler continues. Pierre Levy gave us a taste of it, although he made it clear that he is not talking about the same as Tim Berners-Lee. “The image of a coordinated semantic system mathematically processed, where we can find all the concepts and the transformations they might go through…” Well, those who have the curiosity to explore his website will see where he´s going with collective intelligence at this point. It´s worth it!

Pierre Levy inspired by I-Ching

10. Without personal knowledge management there’s no collective knowledge management. Nowadays a huge challenge, as also pointed out by Pierre Levy, is keeping personal focus when learning and producing knowledge on the web.  Personal knowledge management is the basis of collective intelligence because it initiates the cycle of expliciting knowledge and feeding our conversations. When we talk we use words and concepts, we make deals and progressively create common metadata that becomes the collective knowledge management.

11. …N. We learn about networks in networks. I heard it from a friend named Luis Bouabci who is deeply involved in the study of social networks. We were leaving the event when we started a conversation. We sat on the steps and watched the workers dismantle an immense panel with the title of the conference to open up the overall view of Curitiba in front of us.

More interesting than the theory is the practice of networks where everything is being built online. There are so many possible variations that the theory would not and does not account to explain. Explanations don´t replace life. One must live networks.

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