The wall street journal reports today that medieval jousting is back in vogue in Europe.
What's interesting to me about this is that the reporter Max Colchester specifically credits the internet with bringing jousting back to life.
Not armor, horses or a new jousting speedway. The internet.
Which brings about the important question: how do we get the internet to bring together all the customers interested in our business to our website and willing to wear our armor and buy our horses and further get it written up in the wall street journal with a credit to the internet for bringing it all together?
Wouldn't that be great? We vacation in the Bahamas and let the internet work for our business.
I wish we could buy software or install a server that would figure that out.
I propose that the internet has so revolutionized social structures already, however, that the most important thing to understand at this point is the new social paradigm itself rather than the hardware and software tools we're used to thinking of that make up our interactions with the internet. To understand how the internet does in fact work for us, I propose we have to put technology last.
The way that I understand the fundamental change is as part of a continuous human pursuit to eliminate frictions of interaction accross time and space.
The industrial revolution over the last 200 years àcheived this with heavy machinery and the mass media age over the last 50 years continued this with both expensive machinery and immense centralized stores of data, media and content.
The paradigm where the means of production and distribution are incredibly expensive led to centralized control by limited deep pocket corporations we are familiar with.
In this paradigm production and distribution are shaped like a triangle with centralized control at the top.
Speaking just of television for example, not so long ago you had NBC, CBS and ABC. We could all at one point pretty much name every major producer of TV, print and filem. Well, guess what, now there are 10,000 and more producers of media and the reason is simply that both the cost of production and the marginal cost of distrubtion continues to go asymptotically toward zero.
So as more and more people, by the millions, can now produce media, and all of them can share it what has happened to our triangle paradigm?
The top of the triangle has now openned up from a handful to a number of producers far in excess of you and everyone you will know in your lifetime.
So the first thing to understand clearly about the new paradigm is that you and your company are just adding two more voices talking in this effectively infinite list of voices broadcasting to the world.
Before this alone seems daunting, we should recongnize the second dramatic fact. What has happened to the reception channel? It hasn't changed, in the old paradigm we watched about 10-12 channels a month and that was at one time about all the channels that could be watched. Don't be scared, but as of 2003 the average number of web sites visited by an average web user per month was 12. That number tends to go down over time actually as users become more familiar with the internet and as the internet becomes habituated into their daily routines.
In a fundamental way the constraint in media has shifted from the cost of production to a the huge and immovable constraint on the size of the reception channel. In effect the broadcast paradigm is now upside down with an unlimited number of producers and a limit per audience member of listening to 10-12 sites, or TV stations per month.
And this potentially daunting new paradigm brings us again to why technology indeed comes last. The new top of the pyramid is the listener. So wheras before the scarce resources were capital for studios and satelites. And for a while access to the latest technology to help your message stand out. Now even though we need technology to produce our message, everybody is a producer and the tools are cheap and distribution is essentially free. The scarce resource now is the attention of the listener, and understaning that is the key to getting your listeners to your jousting match.
We need technology to produce our message, but the technology comes last now in importance.
I propose that rather than this being in any way daunting it brings us wondefilly back to the most natural of paradigms, the social circle.
We all understand, or mostly understand, the communications dynamics within our local church, school and neighborhood. The internet social circle is perhaps exactly the same.
In most cases there are more people in your church, school or hometown than you can reasonably converse with or even keep up with. With respect to any group larger than a dozen you have to choose who has your attention to the exclusion of all the rest, exactly the same as on the internet.
From our point of view as speakers or producers, we have to understand this fact the same exact way we do in church, school or at a cocktail party.
From this point of view I think the social Internet is much less daunting. The dynamics in play are the same dynamics we are used to and can understand from our real world experience. What makes people interesting? How do you find and form your peers and your friends? How do you get the attention of the hot babe by the water fountain? Not by shouting certainly.
These are the most interesting questions I feel both in life and for Business in the new paradigm of the Social Internet.