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From Structure Society to Flow Society: An Introduction

When I sat out on a journey to be a monthly contributive editor for Social Media Club Editorial Team, I updated my profile here on SMC accordingly. I found some core themes in how I think and act in relation to this rapidly shifting and changing area we try to grasp, collaboratively and collectively in our shared community. The first theme identified was “Global Digital Participation” #digipart – that has been covered in four articles altoghether, the last one introducing the Social Web Guide as a learning resource and community. The second theme was very much related to the changing primary face to the “cloud”, easily summarized in “mobility”. That is in fact still to be covered in some articles – instead I shared some comments on community management and social business vs social media, and applied, launching a conceptual vision on “One Pad Per Person” #OPPP somewhat to unify all my writings so far in one practical concept.

The third theme in my theme synopsis lineup for 2011 got the headline “From Structure Society to Flow Society”.

All things above are connected and linked up to this most profound theme when it comes to holistic analysis on “where we seem to go”. All things are related. And I feel the time has come for the emerging thought figure, the ideas increasing in their radiant luminosity the last year, mostly visualized – to be verbalized. I see something that I will now challenge myself to have a first systematic opening of a conversation in this wider global community, that I intend to be emerging from this first write-up. I introduce you to the thought world in relation to this try-out-to-grasp-what-I-sense – just sense – could be a corner of understanding the (often over/mis-used word) “paradigm shift” we experience. Where in a paradigm shift we go “from” and then “to” something in the transition.

One of three core ideas

Yes, Flow Society has emerged as one of my three Key Concepts and Ideas overall in my guidance of what I use in my overall aspirations of building communities for a better world. The other two are Open World(at the early stage as well) and Sustainopreneurship (more mature in its core, with a lot of development potential still).

The last idea, with its full development route from my discovery of the term 2003, further conceptualized during the last decade and manifested itself in its Wikipedia entry late 2008, serves as a guidance on how to grasp these next two core ideas that now gives me a pressing need to write up.

In Search For Meaning – and a Concept

In January 2000, just a few days into the new millennium, I had what I retrospectively call an “Ignition”, I “saw” something, that was the spark that set an intense route of action in motion. What it was, and the full story of this, is found in my Master Thesis (p. 44), I will not go into the details of “what”, rather the “how”, related to the conceptual development. An entrepreneurial route began with this epiphany, in parallel to get back to university. After some years of “applied action” (year 2000 to 2007 is covered in the Thesis, chapter 4), which included nine months in Uganda 2001-2002, I returned to my university, still dominated by entrepreneurial action in the everydayness. From this early time, I often had a hard time of explaining in a general sense “what I was doing”. I was just doing it, creatively organizing for sustainability through business venturing, in close cooperation and shared mindset with the “core team”. Then, through a mailing list in April 2003, pointing at a conference, I stumbled upon the term of “Sustainopreneurship”. This made sense to what I had been doing so far, and I instantly embraced what I felt was the intuitive meaning of the concept – “Entrepreneurship for Sustainability”. After some further research, I realized that the first descriptions were quite unsatisfactory (once again, I refer to the Thesis in what sense), and I set out to dig deeper in the emerging first related academic publications, and had enough to develop it further to what it is defined as today. A tentative definition was first presented in a virtual community (2005), then described in a ten-page conference article (2006), that set the core for the Master Thesis (2007), where the conceptual work and the “theory” was contrasted towards the “practice”, where the empirical basis and content was generated through “self-ethnography”. A research method my professor Bengt Johannisson have developed and set a name for, a special method called ‘Enactive Research’ (see his Prize Lecture when winning the Global Award for Entrepreneurship Research). With this, and adding another publishing route post-Thesis with a conference article (2007) that ended up in a book chapter (2008), a firm basis had been created to meet the qualifying criteria to have a Wikipedia entry on the subject. With the power of the net – and Wikipedia in particular – it have brought the idea into action in a Pan-European University Intense Programme (2008-2010), a Pakistanian Student Youth Conference (2010), and also on a crucial sidenote the article got translated into Chinese (2009). Just to mention a few of the meme travellings, en route on the Social Web, travelling one Google Search or Conversation at a time – “Sustainopreneurship – Business with a Cause”.

Embarking On A New Conceptual Journey

If we set this into relation to the new framing of ideas at hand on ‘Structure Society’ / ‘Flow Society’ conceptual couple, aiming our inquiries towards a deeper exploration, understanding, and
hopefully the explanatory power with the same magnitude in the end as
‘Sustainopreneurship’, I have no other intention other than to go the same way. The self-ethnographic primary empirical base this time comes quite heavy biased towards the recent years of development of (living on, with and thru) the social web, and the societal and market impact it has had, and continues to have. My first time mentioning of “Flow Society” in a more wide-spread context was as a formal event blogger at one of the biggest net-related conferences in Sweden, organized by .SE – Internetdagarna 2010 (#TwitJockey at event, Event Blogger post-event, with the posting sharing the same title as this one, in Swedish).

What was found as a communicative power within the entrepreneurial team before I stumbled upon the concept in 2003, was a quite extensive use of metaphors, to grasp and nail meaning and guidance in the “what to do” in  a specific situation in the intense course of events, to more general descriptions on the more abstract level. I feel I begin here as well in this knowledge building route and its write-up with the same metaphorical constructs.

First clue: Communication in Society and Market – as a ‘Hydrosphere’?

An insight breakthrough was occuring, when finding the first clue of what is in transformation in society at large, where I had a spontaneous Twitter #microseminar (dialogue > manifestation) in November 2009, in search for models and modes of thinking to describe the changing face of (“mass”-)communication in society and market – “in the flow” (sic!).

We were discussing the obsolescence in the use of the “channel” term, which had borrow its thought figure from “controlling water flows”, with this man-built artefact in the majority of the channels we speak about – maybe with an exception of the “English Channel” in between Dover/Calais. But Panama, Suez – and the Swedish Göta Kanal just some kilometers away from where I sit – all are there to have water flowing in controlled
spaces and flows. But, coming to think of it, there is very little water flowing exactly through man-made channels of the totality, if we take into account the whole Hydrosphere – the part of our Biosphere consisting of water. Approx. 90 percent circulates far away and beyond human control – in fact circulating in the form of Ocean and Rain, from the surfaces of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific, up in the clouds, and pouring back. In the same manner, those in “control” of “mass channels” of “communication”, need to know these days, that the “information flowing” in society is in between the many, the “mass”, inter-personal and social – something declared already with
the Cluetrain ManifestoMarkets As Conversations. It’s this commonplace and omni-present information being exchanged in between people that has become more visible and carried with/at “social media forms, formats and places”. And very much of the descriptive terms in sphere and new media landscape uses “fluid language” – (life/live/music/video-) streams and (rss) flows.

We move from structured mass communication to self-organized direct communication – person to person, peer to peer – governed by us and on our conditions and demands. In our Social Circles. Yes, it’s no coincidence at all, why and how the new Google+ is designed and attempts to do.

Google+ is the new place among the older, but all these flowing convos takes place at virtual places, rather than channels. Structured, monologized one-way communicators with attitudes and mindsets echoing from the past, with unpersonal voices, now have to meet people with indeed personal and authentic voices in interactive two- and many-way dialogues.

Communication in Flow – All in Flow?

And this is just talking about information and communication in society. If we look further, how t
his affects e. g. the changing face of work, how we organize ourselves, how we live our lives, with the mobility of us – the “productive forces” – with changing flows of cash and knowledge, we discover that the ancient insight clearly prevails, and has to be reminded of, expressed by
Heraclitus from Ancient Greece.

Panta Rhei – Everything Flows.

In other words, he also expressed;

“You cannot step twice into the same stream”

With this, I find the seeking of what can be meant with our transitional move from “structure society to flow society”, begun at this spot for a more global audience. I will choose new sub-themes onwards, next time digging a bit deeper in order to identify which sub-themes there prospectively could be, checking in on other think-doers who explore related ideas, and digging up and getting an outline of their observations, comments, findings and contributions.

What’s Next?

If you want to follow me, exploring further in between my monthlies here, and converse more closely for additional collaboratively generated insight breakthroughs in the end being linked to and ending up here – do jump into my part of the pond (or rather Universe at Large 🙂 over at my recently Personal Community Hub, micro-released in a sneak out the other day – :).

You have a standing invitation to join My Flow.

What and Where are Yours?

A contextual foot note:
This article was written in an attention environment where my main focus where at the newsflow in old and social media from the most horrifying terror crime that have taken place since Second World War in the Northern Europe. My thoughts and condolences go to all who died, their family, their friends and their nearest/dearest, and the whole Norwegian country now in a collective sorrow and grief. All who strive for a just, open, free, tolerant, democratic, love-filled, respect- and peaceful global society and community (where my contribution this month is reflecting my personal strives taking extra energy and force onwards, emerging from the course of events in my neighbour country) – KEEP IT UP!

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