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The Social Organism: A Radical Understanding of Social Media to Transform Your Business and Life Hardcover – Illustrated, November 15, 2016
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"Social media is the most obvious recent way that human life is being forever changed by technology. This book's brilliant unifying metaphor, the Social Organism (which is the converse of my mentor Marvin Minsky's book Society of Mind) illuminates how the ground is shifting beneath our feet. As Luckett and Casey conclude, social media will begin to act more and more like a global brain. The implications for our way of life, our governments, and our businesses are immense. I cannot recommend this book enough."―Ray Kurzweil, inventor, author, and futurist
"The Social Organism's exploration of social media goes far beyond a recipe for clicks and 'likes' and presents a deeply convincing theory of how life is changing in the digital age, and how you can use social media not only to transform your business but to help change the world."―Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post and #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sleep Revolution
"I saw how humankind can use the Internet to bring about positive change when Oliver Luckett helped register 2 million new voters for the Declare Yourself campaign we initiated in 2004. Since then, social media seems to have delivered such transformative change again and again. In their deeply insightful new book, The Social Organism, Oliver and Michael Casey make sense of it all. Finally, even this ancient clunk of an Internet user has some sense of what it's all about and where we're heading."―Norman Lear
"Social media and its complexity may appear to be disordered chaos, but, using a natural and biological lens, The Social Organism helps us make sense of this powerful new system. Important reading for anyone trying to understand the world."―Joi Ito, Director, MIT Media Lab and Co-Author of Whiplash: How to Survive Our Faster Future
"As individuals, we are the authors of our own thoughts. But, social media has triggered emergence. The sum of our public thoughts has become greater than the whole--a new life has manifested. The Social Organism brings context and perspective to this, our hyperconnected ecosystem."―Biz Stone, Co-Founder, Twitter, Medium, and Jelly; author of Things a Little Bird Told Me
"The Social Organism is a remarkable hybrid: a riveting history of mass media, a convincing guide to the landscape of digital platforms, and an indispensable window into our future world. It's a must-read for business leaders and anyone who wants to understand all the implications of a social world."―Bob Iger, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Walt Disney Company
"The Social Organism is essential for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the role and power of this medium."―SmallBizTrends.com's Top 10 Social Media Books
About the Author
Michael Casey is a writer and researcher in the fields of economics, culture, and information technology. He is the author of three critically-acclaimed books: The Age of Cryptocurrency (2015), The Unfair Trade (2012), and Che's Afterlife (2009). In a two-decade career as a journalist, much of that spent as a reporter, editor, and columnist at the Wall Street Journal, he wrote extensively on global economics and finance. In 2015 Casey become a Senior Advisor at MIT Media Lab's new Digital Currency Initiative.
- Hardcover : 336 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0316359521
- Item Weight : 1.15 pounds
- ISBN-13 : 978-0316359528
- Dimensions : 6.5 x 1.25 x 9.25 inches
- Publisher : Hachette Books; Illustrated edition (November 15, 2016)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #569,076 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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“Social media can feel like a giant ocean of unpredictable swells, tidal shifts, and hurricanes that surge out of nowhere. It is time we figure out how this mass complexity actually functions,” Oliver Luckett writes, and that is the purpose of this book.
To achieve this understanding, Luckett employs the metaphor of cellular biology, an insight that is as compelling as it is useful. He cites 7 essential characteristics that distinguish living things from inanimate objects. A consideration of these characteristics is enough to show the power of the metaphor to explain, and also to facilitate operating within the arena of social media.
Living things are organized around cells that require nourishment and that purge themselves of waste. As long as living things produce more cellular matter than organic waste, they grow over time and become more complex. Living things respond to changes in their external environment, and alter their makeup or behaviour to protect themselves. The cells of our Social Organism are made up of billions of emotion-driven people with biological characteristics.
The vast mesh of social media is a structured and responsive biological organism. Instead of genes, there are “memes” a word introduced by Richard Dawkins, the zoologist, to describe packets of information that, like the cells of an organism, facilitate an evolutionary information process, much like the transfer of genetic information in living things.
The biological word “viral” now describes how online content is widely shared or viewed. Once inside the human ‘cell’ on the social network, appealing memes starts to alter the memetic code that shapes our thinking. The cells of the social organism form a holarchy – independent entities that are at the same time part of a wider whole - similar to the cells of one’s body.
How these memes form and mutate can be seen from this example: What is the meaning of ‘The Watergate’? Older people would likely reference the site of the break-in that opened the political scandal that forced Richard Nixon from office in 1974. “The Watergate” meme mutated into “The Watergate scandal” and lodged itself in the minds of reporters, editors, and readers. The ‘-gate’ suffix is a good example of how a meme can detach from its source and convey an idea which can then be mimicked, copied, and replicated in new ways. In South Africa, we have ‘Nenegate’.
Memes aren’t limited to words and language, they can be pictures, photos, songs or even parts of songs, forms of dress, inventions for new products, or work processes. The 1939 pre-war motivational poster “Keep Calm and Carry On” is today the basis of countless jokes.
These conceptual packets are the basic building blocks of our culture, our social DNA. What happens to a particular piece of content or cellular node depends on whether the Social Organism regards it as healthy nourishment or waste. This decision is taken by the hundreds of millions of actors that make up the Social Organism.
For thousands of years before the advent of the computer and internet, information was delivered via a top-down model, controlled by powerful, centralized organizations, whether it was the church, a broadcaster, or a newspaper. The chain of command was initiated by a person in a position of authority who issued instructions for distribution as a newspaper or a broadcast news report.
Today’s mass media infrastructure is a loose network of unconstrained devices connected via a decentralized, less predictable, and far more organic structure. Collectively, these autonomous units determine which messages the crowd gets to hear and which get buried. If they resonate emotionally, they are shared, re-shared, altered, and reproduced across ever-wider circles of influence.
The Social Organism’s structure can be broken down to influencers and followers, and the roles change.
As a function of the Organism’s rapid, evolutionary state, the roles and status of influencers are always changing. The media elites are no longer glamorised film stars who endorse bath soaps, but are also and as likely to be any of a host of Generation Z-ers and Millennials who produce short voyeuristic glimpses into their lives, in short-form Vines or short-lived Snapchat messages.
“Any brand or institution that wants to properly reach a major audience must come to grips with this new architecture and the powerful intermediation of these new, independent stars,” the author asserts.
A meme need not be a good idea or even practical, to catch on and the authors cite as examples bacon doughnuts, stilettos and fascism. Similarly, many good, useful memes never make it.
The authors have worked with and studied many types of marketing, viral sensations, and publicity efforts. “I have learned what types of content nourish a social media network—getting absorbed and replicated—and which do not… I was convinced the seven rules apply almost as readily to social media as to biology,” Luckett explains.
I think this book is essential for anyone seeking a deeper understanding of the role and power of social media.
Readability Light ----+ Serious
Insights High +---- Low
Practical High ----+ Low
*Ian Mann of Gateways consults internationally on leadership and strategy, and is the author of the recently released ‘Executive Update.
The biology analogy had my attention from the first page and got my hopes up. But I'll give an example of something I thought was a foundational thought but wrong.
The authors were very high on Tumblr and not optimistic about Instagram. And the reason is censorship. But I think there is a lot of data to show that sites with low moderation levels eventually get run over by trolls. Paul Graham said it best: "There's a sort of Gresham's Law of trolls: trolls are willing to use a forum with a lot of thoughtful people in it, but thoughtful people aren't willing to use a forum with a lot of trolls in it."
When Ellen Pao was CEO of Reddit, she shut down some controversial subreddits and it launched a huge controversy, with lots of Reddit users fleeing to Voat. There have been some A+ studies on what happened next. Reddit's engagement soared and Voat is near collapse.
I think the foundational principle is that free speech on social is wonderful and critical, but the right to it on social is most successful if it's isn't used to block someone else's right to free speech. I know, the people who threaten and say awful things object and say censorship is bad, but they are saying awful things to shut down someone else's speech.
There were other things in the book that caused me to shake my head, like the argument for holocracy. But maybe you disagree with me?