icm2re logo. icm2:re (I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything) is an 

ongoing web column   by Brunella Longo

This column deals with some aspects of change management processes experienced almost in any industry impacted by the digital revolution: how to select, create, gather, manage, interpret, share data and information either because of internal and usually incremental scope - such learning, educational and re-engineering processes - or because of external forces, like mergers and acquisitions, restructuring goals, new regulations or disruptive technologies.

The title - I Changed My Mind Reviewing Everything - is a tribute to authors and scientists from different disciplinary fields that have illuminated my understanding of intentional change and decision making processes during the last thirty years, explaining how we think - or how we think about the way we think. The logo is a bit of a divertissement, from the latin divertere that means turn in separate ways.

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Are you really sure you've got two ideas?

About the illusion of gaining insights and ideas just sharing access to information

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2013). Are you really sure you've got two ideas? About the illusion of gaining insights and ideas just sharing access to information. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Print)], 2.4 (October).

How to cite this article?
Longo, Brunella (2013). Are you really sure you've got two ideas? About the illusion of gaining insights and ideas just sharing access to information. icm2re [I Changed my Mind Reviewing Everything ISSN 2059-688X (Online)], 2.4 (October).
Full-text accessible at http://www.brunellalongo.co.uk/

October, 6 2013 - In the late 1990s I managed to organise and to author internet training courses aimed at advertising agencies and other media and communication professionals.

They wanted to know what the new media challenges were all about, I wanted to develop my understanding and provision of advisory services about the future of advertising in a two-way communication world. We discussed ideas about the so called gift-economy, something that was very appealing at that time and sounds quite ridiculous today.

Let me immediately crush the story to say whatever you might have learnt from me at that time be sure that on the specific point of the virtues of the gift-economy I have terrifically changed my mind. I see now as a very childish one the idea that we just need a new metrics to measure the effectiveness of internet communications in order to monetise all the goodies of web interactions.

Look at the flaws and missing intelligence in web analytics or at the cyber security traps to explore evidences that the gift-economy does not exist out of your imagination or the very special niche of small-sized, controlled, environments.

I overestimated the power of the web for wealth creation and for the long term success of the enterprise - of course I was not alone.

At least two generations of internet consultants and gurus, academics and entrepreneurs have ignored great lessons from history of past social and economic innovations comparable to the internet and kept on justifying their visions with utopian arguments, especially in the education sector, where such premise is often scaffolded (not without pertinent and appropriate wisdom) with constructivists' idealism and collaborative pedagogical and learning theories.

Has the current generation of digital consultants, computer experts and IT professionals learned anything from the previous ones? The judgement over to you.

We imagined network externalities would generate growth and new services for both business and consumer audiences. But the evidence of the digital economy is that old and new services have been constantly affected by disruptions that, all in all, tend to pay off in the short term for the advantages of few people or thrive for the good of the commons for a very short while.

Then, unless they have found a traditional brick and mortar or utility business to be anchored with (think of Amazon) even the best, the noblest and the most efficient internet value propositions tend to become commodities. And thanks for sharing - by both individual free riders and by the so inspired and virtuous, but very short-sighted, local commons.

In this scam-economy (or theft-economy, or trash-economy - adjectives differ accordingly to the facet of human experiences from which you look at the matter) everybody may think he or she has seen a gift, or an opportunity. But if that vision is true - and I can surely witness that vision can be true - it is very temporary, ephemeral, volatile. Outcomes are quite far from any conventional idea of economic success, that is - by definition - a long term, endurable and sustainable success.

My personal experience is that within all the groups and communities I have founded or joined for the last twenty years in my professional career, between the 70% and the 99% of the ideas shared were mine. If any change occurred, as it did in several fortunate instances, it was because I managed to organise my own and others' work in a systematic and controlled way, with very well designed tasks and with good communications and genuine feedback, and not just because people gathered with a collaborative or even constructively spontaneous attitude showing off their self-organising capabilities.

So far, so good after all. No matter your ambitions or your disillusionments there is nothing better for changing your mind that recognising you have learnt something from your own experiences. This is what a lifelong learning economy should be built upon.

But there is something really horrible happening in this scam-economy. Brilliant people are incessantly at work, in the media, in finance, in government, to hold your own learning curve back from yourself so that you do not have the possibility to change your mind, you do not progress, you just keep going on through your conversational routines that kill your ambitions and potential through constant demotivation, attrition and negative feedback. Because what makes your digital time valuable online is at present the assurance you do not actually change behaviour, repeating your actions in ways algorithms can appreciate, manipulate and react upon. Like in the Hotel California song, in such scam-economy you can check out whenever you like, but you cannot really leave your blogs, social media and email accounts.

How can we recognise and avoid or at least limit the negative consequences of the threats that the internet scam-economy currently poses to our lifelong learning and change management potential?

So far, I have found effective warnings in a number of behavioural patterns and citation pearls - or memes - that reveal the narrative and weltanschauung of people liaising online.

Whilst recognising behavioural patterns is alway limited by the knowledge of the context and requires prolonged exposure or participation, you do not need any particularly time consuming, sophisticated data mining system or special expertise to spot memes and patterns in digital conversations and media narratives.

In fact, recurring expressions become evident when lexical choices and other aspects of communications are analysed, catalogued, compared over time and space.

The "two ideas" citation of George Bernard Shaw is on top of my list of examples of recurrent pearl expressions that echo-chamber the scam-economy’s credo. To find its exact words, and have a bit of fun, try for instance searching the terms apples show two ideas exchange and see what type of contents you get.

While checking and analysing the instances of this citation the other day, I recalled that the first time I have heard of it was not at all because of any internet study or search actually, but because of some colleagues’ brainstorming I overheard about the future of public relations in the early 1990s. GB Shaw was quoted to justify investments in events and conferences as a new form of below the line advertising - id est, forms of publicity once upon a time alternative to broadcasting, radio, press and outdoor that have become now quite mainstream.

Since then, I have seen Shaw's words penetrating and fascinating educational, engineering and scientific communities all around the world, finding evangelists even within circles, sectors and disciplines that should be vaccinated against the risk of buzzwords or non-evidence based propositions (like, for instance, the Royal Society of Medicine, CERN's Knowledge and Technology Transfer Global Network, the Metropolitan Police in London to list just few very topical cases).

The rhetoric of collaborative technologies and knowledge sharing has deeply affected the development and evolution of internet studies. Not just that: it has permeated all the advancement made in computing and network engineering, both in theories and practices. This has not happened in the expected direction of building up more sustainable and consistent economic growth across the sectors. On the contrary, it has pushed entire segments of the creative industry towards commoditisation. It has made its maximum reckless impact on the organisation of advertising displays and interactions all across the online media spectrum, by way of fabricating frameworks, tools and ways of looking at human-computer interactions for the purpose of monetising and commoditising the advertisers’ perceptions and the consumers’ time.

The belief that information goods must be considered non rivalrous and non excludable has spread all around the humanities and the social sciences in a viral way. And yet we still do not have any reliable measurement neither for the socio-economic effectiveness of such belief nor for its disrupting and unsustainable consequences. Just philosophical speculations and arguable data analytics, the authenticity of which is highly disputable and with no agreed metrics or forensic tools.

"I am a first class ladies tailor," it seems Shaw admitted at least in one occasion (1). That's it.

Today, you find common reflections to the citation pearls concept under the “meme” subject within internet, communications and media and cultural studies but it is still extremely rare to see academics addressing the implications of the issue on socio-political dynamics and on the economy, particularly for small businesses.

We will see if the shut down of many USA federal websites consequent to the Congress disapproval of the Obama Care reform will produce any further understanding of the digital economy grammar and any real growth in collaborative capabilities. I am sure we are just at the beginning of a very long journey that will transform the whole economy: people will learn that management of information and communications technologies must change.

In the meantime, if you want to mitigate, avoid or prevent the scam-economy from damaging you, look at the citation pearls in the conversations that surround you or you are immersed in and try to spot if anybody has really got two ideas from all that sharing.

(1) M. Holroyd, George Bernard Shaw: Women and the Body Politic, "Critical Inquiry", 6 (1979), n. 1, p. 17-32.