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BGI Using the Social Web for Social Change Post Mortem

The semester is over and we’ve been asked to reflect on what elements of the course worked and what could use a different approach. Here is my download:

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How (not) To Build a Team

Good to Great by Jim Collins I realized this semester that many of my ideals and ideas are often ahead of the curve of where many people are at. In the past I’ve operated as a solo entrepreneur so it didn’t much matter as I didn’t have to worry about merging my ideas together with anyone else’s. Now that I’m getting into a space where I want to work on larger projects that can make a difference in the world, I need to do it with others. To borrow a metaphor from Jim Collin’s book Good to Great, I would benefit from ensuring that the right people are on the bus and in the right seats before starting out. I’ve tended to go ahead without building this team and consensus first which means shouldering the brunt of the work if something is going to get done. This approach comes with a host of problems – problems and lessons I no longer want nor need to repeat. Next semester I hope to find or create the “right bus” and a seat that works for me during my last 6 months at BGI.

BJ Fogg nailed it when he said that “savoring hope is more pleasing than facing reality“. It’s time to face the reality if people aren’t ready to get on the bus.

Copyright and Fair Use

This week’s Using the Social Web for Social Change class at BGI had my classmates and I digging into legal stuff concerning: copyright, patents, trademarks and fair use.

Many of my classmates are working on videos for their social change projects. If you, like those in my class are interested in creating in this medium it is essential that you take a few hours and familiarize yourself with the terminology and legal constraints associated with producing and distributing video. First off, start with these three concise and readable posts:

IP & Copyright, Copyleft & Trademark, and Patents, Trade Secrets & Licenses

Next you want to get a handle on “Fair Use”. Check out Fair Use & Copyright by the Center for Social Media. In a nutshell, “Fair Use” lets you, as a creator of video use bits and pieces of others’ copyrighted works without permission if your work follows several best practices:

  • One: Employing copyrighted material as the object of social, political, or cultural critique
  • Two: Quoting copyrighted works of popular culture to illustrate an argument or point
  • Three: Capturing copyrighted media content in the process of filming something else
  • Four: Using copyrighted material in a historical sequence

There is some fine print for the above situations. I recommend reading the very concise: Best Practices in Fair Use Guide, Recut Reframe Recycle and visit the Center for Social Media for more info.

Happy filmmaking!

Social Web: Google Wave

Google WaveMy friend Bob just hooked me up with a Google Wave account. After watching a few intro videos it looks like it will be a really powerful, real-time collaboration tool that allows you to mix text, rss feeds, photos and video in a rich, web-based interface. The current drawback is that the user base is very restricted. Since Wave is meant to be a collaborative tool its usefulness is constrained until my classmates can get access.

Social Web: How to Influence People

Yes - 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be PersuasoveMy social web class had to watch a 15 minute video by Robert Cialdini called How to Influence Others this week. It is basically about getting people to say yes. Like all skills, the understanding of how to influence others can be used for both good and evil. Let us hope the majority of the readers of his book are oriented toward the light. The six principles his research uncovered are:

  1. Reciprocity
  2. Scarcity
  3. Commitment and Consistency
  4. Consensus (social proof) is the idea that people want to follow the lead of similar others
  5. Authority
  6. Liking (how similar we feel to another person)

His talk is pretty thoughtful. I appreciated that he clarified how we must develop the subtle awareness to know when people are using the techniques in the book disingenuously. When used for authentic reasons they can be very beneficial. I think I’ll check out Yes!: 50 Scientifically Proven Ways to Be Persuasive after school wraps up.

Finally Getting into Video

I bought a video camera off of a guy whom I met via criagslist.org last year with intent to start sharing my adventures with a larger audience. I hope to utilize the user-generated, on-demand video services available to add energy to realizing a just and regenerative civilization. No minor undertaking! Like most of my new ambitions, there has been a lag time of about a year between the original idea and when I actually got down to it. This particular endeavor got a boost from my Using the Social Web for Social Change class at BGI. To get our feet wet, we each had to produce a short video introducing ourselves and blog to the world. Here is take 1 and rolling…

iMovie made it waaaay simple to actually pull this off. It was about a 5-hour endeavor with quite a bit of fumbling and trial and error to get the timing of the clips, transitions and text to flow well. iMovie’s feature set is a bit limited but this also makes it pretty painless to jump into. It integrates with iPhoto and iTunes so it is really easy to pull in media from those channels. Fortunately, I had shot some video this past summer so I had something to work with. Most of my finished product is actually not video because I didn’t have that much usable footage. This forced me to figure out how to use stills, transitions, text overlays and background audio – pretty much all the features iMovie had to offer. I pinched the audio clip from a live Ravi Shankar recording that I love. It’s copy written material but I think the way I have used it counts for “Fair Use“. This means I will probably not run into problems with YouTube and their Terms of Use police. The specific legal jargon relevant in this scenario is that my work could be considered: transformative. The relevant part being:

Repurposing a work to aid identification of the base work is also generally transformative.

I gave credit to Ravi Shankar at the end so I think I am essentially aiding the identification of his base work with the use of his audio. Hopefully YouTube is cool with this. We’ll see.

Feedback and comments are welcome!

Who is Driving, Humans or Memes?

I had to watch Susan Blackmore’s TED talk on Memetics today for my social web class. Prior to the class I didn’t even know what memetics was. Susan defines them as: “that which is imitated or information that is copied“. Ok, I can buy that concept but where I start to struggle with her ideas and language is when she is trying to assert that memes are in control: The memes are trying to get copied, they are using you and me as their propagating, copying machinery and we are the meme machines. See goes on further to define the idea of memetic drive – as “memes evolve, as they inevitably must, they drive a bigger brain that is better at copying the memes that are doing the driving”.

I can’t reconcile the position she has taken. It just doesn’t sit well with me. She leaves me somewhat baffled as she is also big on researching human consciousness, even writing a text book on the subject. She obviously believes in consciousness as she says here while also believing that the memes are driving. How can an idea that gets copied do the driving? Isn’t that like saying that a car that gets driven is doing the driving? I don’t buy it. I think consciousness (human or otherwise) is the driver, period. Memes being non-conscious can not drive any more than genes can drive evolution. They can influence possibilities and range of outcomes but they are not driving. What are you thoughts? Have I misinterpreted her or not understood clearly?

Regenerative Community Development

My terminology on the subject of community development has evolved a little since my first post on the topic. Since beginning at BGI and increasingly so, I’ve had the sense that “sustainable” is not a high enough ambition for our individual and collective pursuits. For example, in the relationship or marital realm, do you feel inspired to aim for “sustainable”. I don’t.

So what lies beyond sustainable? If sustainable is doing things in a way that will allow you to carry on doing what you are doing into the indefinite future; then what lies beyond that is the ability to experience and create more than you currently do. Considering the enormous environmental and social deficit human civilization has dug itself into, we better start designing systems that do just that, improve our collective social and natural capital, while producing whatever goods or services humanity needs.

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The Social Web and the Importance of Weak Ties

In social web class this week I learned about the distinction of strong and weak ties. Strong ties are those in our inner circle of friends and family who we have established, trusting relationships with. Weak ties are connections to others we know or know of via friends, conferences, social networking sites, etc. Weak ties turn out to be a strong asset and the social web is making it much easier to expand and take full advantage of this network. A 2008 New York Times article had this to say:

This rapid growth of weak ties can be a very good thing. Sociologists have long found that “weak ties” greatly expand your ability to solve problems. For example, if you’re looking for a job and ask your friends, they won’t be much help; they’re too similar to you, and thus probably won’t have any leads that you don’t already have yourself. Remote acquaintances will be much more useful, because they’re farther afield, yet still socially intimate enough to want to help you out. Many avid Twitter users — the ones who fire off witty posts hourly and wind up with thousands of intrigued followers — explicitly milk this dynamic for all it’s worth, using their large online followings as a way to quickly answer almost any question.

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Reflections on Intensive I: The Social Web and Privacy

Privacy Humour: Video RentingLast weekend was my first intensive of the year at BGI. I decided to join the Social Web for Social Change class with the intent to become more skillful at using the web to influence people to toward consciously living in harmony with others and the planet.

A considerable portion of our class discussion was dedicated to online privacy and the implications of sharing ourselves via social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. It became evident that we have yet to see the implications on careers and life paths with so many peoples’ lives publicly recorded for all to see. With the majority of social networking sites’ default behaviour set to show most of your information unless you intentionally disable or limit access, your life and connections are available to anyone with a web browser. Is this a good thing? Read More »