Gave myself most of the day off today (sun was out and the beach is all of 50yds from hotel front door).
Ok, did a bit of stuff on Wednesday's WARC conference. Think it should be fun if Hugh and I don't end up saying exactly the same thing (his is bound to be rather less vague and earnest than me, I think, and have better pics. AND he's on first cause of the time I land at Heathrow...). Also, hope I don't miss Andrew Keen. Ordered his book (on the basis that he's a contrarian, too, though not necessarily on the same side of the game as folk like me) though it hadn't arrived before I left.
Anyway, before I sit down to prepare for tomorrow and Tuesday's meetings/workshops etc, I took myself off for a stroll and some retail action. Found myself opposite the Miami Ink shop (which seems to have the same kind of visitor as the hokey Sherlock Holmes gaff on London's Baker Street).
Tats seem very big here. Maybe it's the beach but it's not just the "whale tail" for girls and Polynesian amulet for boys. And I don't believe they were always this popular here (not that I blame it on the Telly show, particularly - think that's a product of the same thing).
So how did they spread? And the particular styles?
Well, ask individuals concerned and I'm sure (don't worry, I've tried it before) a lot of stuff about being an individual, expressing yourself and - from some - being a rebel . Which would seem to make sense to the individual concerned. I'm sure that's how they;d see it.
But I don't believe a word. I'm sure it works through copying people in the immediate vicinity (all influence is local, remember). So long as not everyone is also copying (yet!) then you can pretend you're an indidivual even if you were just copying...
And new fashions emerge by the same means. As Alex points out: all you need is copying (and a bit of random drift) to explain things how like fashion trends arise and fall in a population at large. And if Duncan were here, he'd be reminding us how we look at unusual phenomena as if they had to have a unique and similarly unusual cause (as with forest fires); but they don't.
Mimeo ergo sum. Take that down your local inkshop and get them to put it on your forehead!
Postscript: So here I am blogging away on South Beach about tats and propagations and yet I can't finish this post without checking which Billy Bragg song the tats gets mentioned in:
I'm celebrating my love for you
With a pint of beer and a new tattoo
And if you haven't noticed yet
I'm more impressionable when my cement is wet
Rob makes a good point on the primate roots of our newfound love for social media...
This latest passion - like so much else about us - has deep, deep roots in our primate past. Far from telling us about some new cyber being that we're becoming, it tells us much about where we come from.
Evolution has taken basic primate stock (with the key evolutionary strategy of sociability) and multiplied it many times over. Far from being the lonely or lonesome Ape, we are the Super Social Ape: like an Ape but more so...
Been thinking the same about social media and grooming myself for some time (Yes, J it's chapter 1).
How little of what we say in real (offline) life is content- or meaning-driven: most of what we say is phatic and "analogic": i.e. if it's 'about' anything, it's about the relationship between the speaker and other(s).
What a fab day! One of the best day's conference I've ever had. Russell and his merry crew really over-delivered on a first-class experience. Wonderfully lo-tech but brilliantly inspiring and human. Great stuff from facilitators Johnnie and Lloyd (and his pants) and the tip top top bird Deb Kahn.
Some wonderful speakers - ones you would have heard of like Matthew Ancona, Matt Blackbeltjones and Grant McCracken and others you might not have but were just as good. See here and here for participant descriptions.
So what did I take away? Page after page of interesting thoughts about the world, how we see it and how things work. So it made me think big time. Oh, and lots of cute examples (like the knitted village or how to chop a big log up (yes, really).
But two other things stick with me 24 hours later.
One, the old adage about the future that all this technology brings us will be more human than we ever thought is true. This lot of (largely) digital thinkers were more engaged with the real world than most of their offline peers. Tech is all about people and not about tech stuff at all. Hugh repeatedly reminds us.
Also, and this may seem a little odd, but how many young fellas today have beards. Don't know if young Guy from Elbow knows what he's done in the last few years, but I'd say about 1/3rd of all the male delegates had beards (from several days stubble to full duelling banjo chinwear). Felt quite odd in my clean shaven look. Maybe it was on the invite and I missed it...?
Another herd-behaviour example? Or is there some other explanation for this strange face-fur?
Am putting final touches this week to a paper for ESOMAR's big shindig in Berlin in September (looking v good speaker list, btw).
My paper's title is: "If we not I then what?"
It's more a practical guide of current practical implications of all this Herd theory for market research folk: what's being done differently and what needs a further going over and/or reworking (from a theoretical or methodological perspective).
Any - yes, any - thoughts and suggestions gratefully received.
Hat tip to Johnnie: Rob's blog is fab - full of wit and wisdom. I'm really taken by this piece on how organisations like the army have ignored the importance of low-level cohesion (bands of brothers) because of their love of the big machine metaphor and related idea of the independent individual unit of human resource (yuk)
Also check the previous post on how mateship can get UFIT
Most gyms will tell you it's good to have a gym-buddy or a personal trainer: the social obligation and reinforcement help sweeten the pill...
When I was having this awfully nice chat with PSFK's Piers in NYC a couple of weeks ago, it occured to me that the rather fine idea of Likemind is a Herd one. There's not much of structure to it (just a couple of rules), nor much of a proposition ("turn up, have coffee, and er...chat about stuff") and the whole thing is self-organising and self-propagating.
And actually quite successful at both, it seems. By the week we met, Piers' and Noah's little baby had generated 26 different versions of itself in different cities.
Good work fellas!
To twist the old Honda voice over: isn't it nice when things just seem to work by themselves (with no effort required by their inventor)
PS if you ever get to chapter 10 in the book, you'll know why I like to think of Carwyn James at this point.
Here's a thought I've been pondering for a while which last night's terrific conversation with Johnnie and Kevin brought out:
When we talk about human networks - as in the Milgram-influenced thinking of Tipping Point etc - we tend to think of them as if they were information networks (i.e. as networks or systems through which bits of information can be transmitted like Milgram's parcels).
I think this may be wrong (no, ok, I believe this is wrong): human-human interaction is not largely about information; human social networks are not largely information-based but behaviourally based. Each of us in a network does stuff because of what those in our network (or those without) are doing not because of the information which is transmitted to us...remember 'phatic' and aizuchi communication (communication without informational content). Behaviours and not information is what moves around human networks
Of course, there's a lot of sense in the "as if" here. Human social networks are "like" informational ones, but they aren't the same as, are they?
I suspect that this error derives is another example of the ueber-influence that information tech stuff casts over all our thinking about human behaviour.
Of course, Johnnie's alter ego, Dr Rant, is right: the logo fiasco tells us an awful lot about the relationship between the public and marketing and branding activity (and how that has changed). I almost felt sorry for the little darlings involved.
Perhaps it would have been even crueller to Dame Seb Coe (and his shameful advisors) if we'd all said nowt, nothing, nada rather than this rush to laugh/rant/ridicule (right though the latter seems the right response). Somehow more British...
Hat tip to Jon for spotting this at Influx. Neat interview with Alex Bentley on the importance of copying in culture and mass behaviour and how little changes (drifts) can lead to big changes in a population's behaviour.
Go here or here for more like this. Think this is important stuff.
Been pondering a great post Josh did a few weeks ago about the Digg User revolt.
In case you've had you're memory wiped or you just don't do this online thing much, there was a revolt by users of a particular online tagging service (Digg) against a decision by the service providers (you can forget the details). The important thing is that this 'revolt' took the form of "digging" the reports of the revolt which very quickly overwhelmed the service. Result: company agres to revoke its decision.
Ok, that's the bare bones of it. The interesting thing for me is (as Josh and Johnnie point out) how easy it is to rush to condemn the behaviour as "mob"-like or "chaotic" and - perhaps more importantly - how negative these terms are and how much they speak of fear of the crowd.
Think this tells us something really important about what's happening at the coal face of the social changes that we're living through.
Listen to the language: my freedom fighter is your guerilla; my co-creative community is your brutal mob.
Interesting how one side is perhaps a bit too positive while the other is overly negative and what this tells us about the feelings inside and how folk are experiencing things.
Hope and fear travelling side by side? Or on opposite sides?