I want to share an interview published in Spanish newspaper LNE in April 2012 when I was invited to talk about Social Media in Contigo Noreña (Asturias, Spain):
-Some authors see in social networks a thriving collaborative intelligence. Others lament that despite the increase of the data seems difficult to draw knowledge and wisdom of digital media. What is your opinion?
Indeed, we now have too much data and we need the ability to analyze it. Professor Thomas Malone at MIT speaks about collaborative intelligence and argues that a group of people with little knowledge working together have more value than a small group of experts. And that is based on the connection between people. The value of this, in fact, is the same as other technologies, such as language or emotions.
The first social network was the one founded by our ancestors and that helped differentiate us from other apes. When we lived in the woods we had no other problems to defend against predators, but there was an evolution when hominids moved to the African savannah and they had to work directly for survival. Professor of Sociology J. Turner at the University of California (UCR) says that there was a direct evolution of the brain that allowed us to communicate. It is the first tool. Emotions. Then came the spoken language and then writing. And then to communicate we added more technology such as printing, which makes the written language multiplied by a thousand. The radio or television also contribute to that transmitting of the information, though with some limitation as they`re only one-way. We have now gone one step further and the problem is how to analyze all that information.
With the interconnections. Ten years ago, looking for something on the Internet was crazy, because we did not know on which pages we could rely on. However, today we read what is we recommend by our network. I do not read five newspapers from first to last page, but the news that appears on my news feed wall are recommend by my contacts as they are people I trust. In the end, social networks are a network of reference, like those among researchers,that allow them to not read all the literature on a subject, but only the most interesting. A social network disregarding the form, professional or personal allows you to filter all that information and keep what we want.
We go from global to local and local to global. I was born in a town of Huelva, where, when you go out and everyone knows about your life. Facebook can be a bar or street corner, Twitter- a newspaper and LinkedIn a conference in which you exchange business cards. It is a café chat without coffee. Or a congress without moving and staying in hotels. It is very interesting as currently I live in California, and through my Facebook I know not only know what happens on the streets of my town, but at the same comments of my sister on the screen, I see the conversations my neighbors, my MIT professor, people with whom we collaborate and do business or news of my favorite newspaper. I’m in line at the bank and while I hope I get to read my wall in my phone and am getting overall number of signals, either by proximity, by affinity or by frequency, all together in one screen. And to be global you also become local, for example, acquisition of detailed information about children of your teacher or when you see family photos in the office cubicle, allows you to socialize, humanize the relationship. The same happens with Facebook. By showing a little of your personal life, you show confidence and can influence and that will surely help two individuals to do better business.
-These new technologies involve new visions and paradigms. For example, with digital linear discourse disappears in favor of the hyper-fragmentation. How do you get used to that?
It is an evolution in the way we consume information. It happens that some people are more and some less prepared. In our time the information was sequential: first you study history, then mathematics, later play and then do your homework. Today, if you observe at fifteen years old kids , you’ll see that they are able to do everything at once. They can talk with their parents during the dinner while on the phone with their friends. However this is still s controversial discussion many researchers are investigating.
Yes, and most probably in the feature we will talk about a new brain evolution. As I have said before, about new brain connections and rewiring in primate evolution. It happened. The interconnections in the brain are transformed to house the social aspect between different nodes. Now we are experiencing a new development where there are kids who possibly born with the ability to be multitask, and while older generation educated differently consider it to be a multi-distraction. Doing five things at once kids can do and it’s fabulous. It deals also with holistic thinking, which lets you troubleshoot the problem but not attacking the whole as a whole. That also happens to companies, people. Foot hurts, they try to treat it, that does not work and then they spend a lot of money for consulting and the problem was not in the foot. Multitasking helps us in all that it can be very beneficial now that the complexity increases. Often we do not know how to solve such complexity and simplifying it.
People have been talking for a very long time that the next hop may be the leap into cyborgs, implants, but not many certainties seem to be there.
We should not talk about implants. When you talk about implants then you’re giving an early solution to a future communication problem. This will cause rejection from population. It makes more sense to figure out what is the underneath problem we try to solve and then use a solution less disruptive in order to have faster adoption.
Well, maybe a smartphone either an extension of our body.
Clear, and is not an implant. But that an extension of our body may be in buildings: cameras or sensors. At the MIT Human Dynamics Laboratory, for example, there is a great project of honest signals. When you make a negotiation with another, two discuss a problem or a kid is about to ask a girl out, there are plenty of honest signals that our brain can not grasp. These are things we do unconsciously, it is the body language that developed first. Well, there are sensors and tools to measure and incredible precision predictions about people based on honest signals. At MIT there are cameras in the hallways and there is a “sociometer” that measures how happy are the people on campus and in which areas it is more. Can you imagine that a company could calculate the motivation of your employees? Imagine those meters and the ability to evaluate a person in the way only a mother knows the mood of your child by looking. Imagine the number of decisions we could make with that information. I know that is the problem of privacy, but I think that also evolve in the near future.
-When the technology exceeds the analytical capabilities of our senses, does not create another reality?
There are things that were previously impossible. for example have a holistic view of our networks and be able to quantify it. Now you know who`s the most influential person in your network, the one that has more contacts. We did not have that traceability before, and it is interesting, because we have to scan this information and measure it, and if you can`t measure, you can`t manage.
- Is it ethical to say the more followers you have the better you are?
Same superficiality exited offline as well. Now technology allows us to see clearly and analyze what was happening before during social interactions. Spoken language is also a technology compared with online social tools. What I mean is that, interdependently of the technology they use, people who are able to influence others will have more followers.
- Will there be changes as the digital natives are incorporated into leadership positions?
In the times of an economic transition, an entrepreneur can´t pledge to remove a screw with a hammer. I know it’s hard to give up the old tools, but this change will lead those who are capable of learning and group learning. The ones most innovative will have an opportunity in the next ten years and the others will have to learn. And it’s ok, because it is the way we have evolved though a lifetime.
- What happens to politicians with social networks? Why comment so many mistakes?
They know best networking and best measure it. A famous well known measure its popularity: the number of covers, interviews … We did not have that possibility earlier. What happens to political leaders is that they know the traditional methodology, but find it hard to translate the digital world. The problem is trying to translate the bottom instead of translating the methodology. The concept is the same. What changes is the way. They, who can influence on radio and TV are likely to be brought into the digital world around the package, and often bring it without the concept or willing to maintain the traditional methodology. The social strategy of a government, company, political party or famous person can`t be performed the same way with a traditional strategy. There are other people who must have knowledge of digital media channels and be able to engage honest conversations there . An example of a communication crisis where traditional channels did not work is the case of Domino’s pizza chain. So I recommend to business leaders to know the tools that their customers use to communicate each other. Politicians think that Facebook and Twitter are privacy implications games and refuse to use them, but are missing a huge opportunity.
[Interview published in Spanish newspaper LNE in April 2012]