Organizing Ourselves

I was listening to Jon Udell's interview with Valdis Krebs on IT Conversations and Valdis tell the story of seeing hotels guests self-organize to deal with hotel management about the awful Wi-Fi service. He says:

Hotels are used to dealing with disconnected customers -- hotel guests who do not know each other. They can tell these guests anything. Since most guests do not talk to each other, nothing is verified, no action is coordinated. In terms of social network analysis: the hotel staff spans structural holes between the guests -- occupying the power position in the network.

When INSNA arrived, the hotel guests were no longer disconnected -- many people in INSNA know each other and after initial greetings started to talk. The conversation soon went to the lack of connectivity in the hotel -- no one could get a connection out of the hotel to the internet. Not only did everyone discover they were having the same bad experience, but they discovered they were receiving the same lie from the hotel staff -- "everything is fine, no one else is complaining". Being lied to made "being disconnected" all the more infuriating.

From Network Weaving: Connected Customers
Referenced Sat Mar 01 2008 13:36:21 GMT-0700 (MST)

Valdis goes on to make the point that power dissipates when people in a hub-and-spoke network start to talk to each other.

I think this kind of insight has huge ramifications for government. Doc recently wrote about US 2.0. How will this happen? I think it happens when the disconnected nodes that have formerly been only hearing what the middle (government, big media, corporations) has to say start talking to each other. Britt, with OrgWare (disclaimer: I'm an advisor) and other ideas he has is starting down this road with real commitment (i.e. dollars).

I've said, and still believe, that eGovernment--focused on how we run things in between election cycles--is at least as important as eDemocracy--focused on how we run the election cycles. eGovernment has been seen primarily as the responsibility of government. "Give us an online vehicle registration system!!!" we say and government complies. "Yeah!!! eGovernment!!!" and everyone's happy.

But as Valdis points out, we can effect much greater change when we start to talk about how we want the government run. Power dissipates when we're all connected. The power becomes us--government "by the people." Social networks are the real future of eGovernment and eDemocracy. For the first time, we may have the ability to really make that a reality. I think it's inevitable.