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The Evolution of the Social Platform 05/07/2010

Posted by Paul Daigle in Uncategorized.
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Human civilization sprang from isolated webs-of-people. We were tribes huddled together in the night for our mutual protection and survival. We learned that by living together, pooling our experiences, skills and resources, and by placing tribal community at the forefront, that we could survive. Even prosper. This is an idealized description of the first human social platform. Though those early tribes likely relied on a degree of exploitation and cruelty, they succeeded in delivering us from the jungle and sustaining our species for thousands of years. Over that time our tribal platforms produced thousands of diverse cultures, each with their own lands, their own languages, their own customs and beliefs. Each tribal platform cultivated a unique relationship to their world. That relationship, and the data that fueled it, was passed on from generation to generation via the spoken word and through many forms of art and human expression.

As tribal platforms matured and evolved, they got more and more complex. Within progressive cultures, class platforms arose. Power, influence, weapons and resources spurred dynamic regional ecosystems in which platforms ruled platforms, creating complex human systems. Within these systems class-platforms informed geo-platforms which helped define countries, cities and communities. Through it all, the voices of ordinary people remained the leading distributor of system and platform data. These systems worked to keep webs-of-people segregated, yet functioning together as an integrated whole. We knew which platforms we belonged to, and learned that our lives, safety and comforts could often depended on how well we understood and respected the platforms that bound us.

Human systems powered by webs-of-people sustained us until the fifteenth century BC, when the printing press gave birth to a new platform, one characterized by the mass distribution of data. The print age found the individual voice threatened by a much more authoritative voice, “the media”.  But this new means for preserving and distributing data also supported individual curiosity, scientific discovery, and mass education. Through books, pamphlets and newspapers our old systems, powered by isolated webs-of-people, were able to inform a more cohesive and integrated super platform, the web-of-ideas. As this new platform gained influence, our individual ideas and beliefs became the platforms that united and divided us.  As individual and collaborative thinking fueled accumulating human knowledge, faith began to grow that this web-of-ideas could one day deliver us to an improved future.

Less than 500 years later, the progressive web-of-ideas birthed a new age, one characterized by industry and technology. Within a few short decades the steam engine, the phonograph, the telephone, the radio, the automobile, the television and the airplane had connected the world. This new platform, a web-of-machines, continued to chip away at geographical, cultural and ideological barriers. Overnight our web-of-ideas, the platform which fed personal beliefs, traditions and identities, seemed threatened by an exploding ecosystem of social and technological advancements. This new platform, characterized by progressive speed, gave rise to corporations who delivered new paradigms for human comfort, security and connectivity. As we became susceptible to the challenges of life in this dynamic new age, a ubiquitous corporate mass-media emerged to serve as the platform’s primary channel for distributed data.  Corporate broadcast gave the web-of-machines a unified voice, inspiring hope, confidence and authority.

Less than one hundred years later, through the success of personal computers, the web-of-machines produced the Internet, a platform with the promise to consolidate and democratize data distribution and communication for the first time in human history. The Internet first emerged as a web-of-data, the electronic age, providing a world in which all public data could be made readily available and actionable to any person or group with a PC and network connection. The Internet is now in its second phase of maturity, which can be described as a web-of-platforms (the social age), delivering a world in which individuals are creators and distributors of content, environments and experiences, and where social influencers attract like-minds to ignite engaged social communities. As the web-of-platforms gains social influence, public tastes, opinions and worldviews are becoming increasingly dynamic and fragmented, forcing corporate mass media to acknowledge, compete with, and cater to more specialized tastes and interests.  Mobile devices, digital/cable systems, social networks, messaging systems, gaming platforms and peer-to-peer media channels are serving as tribal incubators, shaping ideas, world views and experiences and allowing micro-communities to  flourish. New social systems for media discover, interaction and consumption are quickly eroding the authoritative voice of corporate media, and jeopardizing long establish mass-media business models and distribution channels.

Here is where the history of social platforms ends and the future begins. Where do we go from here? What is the next social platform? What will replace the web-of-platforms and the social age?

I believe the answer is a single web-of-people, and the user age. What will it look like? I’ll try to dig into this question in upcoming posts. When will it emerge? Looking back at our Social Platform Evolution time-line, can we make an educated guess?

  • Tribal Age or webs-or-people (8000B.C.-1450 A.D.) about 10,000 years.
  • The Print Age or web-of-ideas (1450-1880) about 400-500 years.
  • The Machine Age or web-of-machines (1880-1980) about 100 years.
  • The Electronic Age or web-of-data (1980-2000) about 20 years.
  • The Social Age or web-of-platforms (2000- when?) we are 10 years in.

Could a new User Age driven by a web-of-people super-platform soon be upon us? Is it already here?

The Evolution of the Social Platform.

Human civilization sprang from isolated webs-of-people. We were tribes huddled together in the night for our mutual protection and survival. We learned that by living together, pooling our experiences, skills and resources, and by placing tribal community at the forefront, that we could survive. Even prosper. This is, of course, an idealized description of the first human social platform. For all we know there may have been a fair amount of cruelty and exploitation making them possible. But they worked. The tribe, the first human social platform, delivered us from the jungle and sustained our species for thousands of years. Over that time our tribal platforms produced thousands of diverse cultures, each with their own lands, their own language, their own customs and beliefs. Each tribe cultivated a unique relationship with the world which they called home. That relationship, and the data that fueled it, was passed on from generation to generation via the spoken word and through many forms of art and human expression.

As tribal platforms evolved, they got more and more complex. Within progressive cultures, class platforms arose. Power, influence, weapons and resources spurred dynamic regional ecosystems in which platforms ruled platforms, creating complex human systems. Within these systems class-platforms informed geo-platforms which helped define countries, cities and communities. Through it all, the voices of ordinary people remained the leading distributor of system and platform data, as the power of the written word, art and the theatre were often reserved for a system’s ruling class. These systems worked to keep webs-of-people simultaneously segregated and functioning together as an integrated whole. We knew which platforms we belonged to, and learned that our lives, safety and comforts could often depended on how well we understood and respected the platforms that bound us. Within these systems of integrated tribal platforms, the family, the blood platform, served as a powerful underlying sub-system.

These systems powered by webs-of-people, thrived for over 10,000 years, until the 15th century BC, when the printing press gave birth to a new platform, one characterized by the mass distribution of data. The print age found individual voice usurped by a much more authoritative voice, “the media”.  This new means for preserving and distributing data supported individual curiosity, scientific discovery, and mass education. Through books, pamphlets and newspapers our old systems, powered by isolated webs-of-people, were able to form a more cohesive and integrated super platform. The web-of-ideas. As this new platform gained influence, our individual ideas and beliefs became platforms that united and divided us.  As our individual and collaborative thinking was able to fuel this new system, faith began to grow that the web-of-ideas could deliver us to a new and improved future.

Less than 500 years later, the progressive web-of-ideas birthed a new age, one characterized by industry and technology. Within a few short decades the phonograph, the telephone, the radio, the automobile, the television and the airplane had connected the world. This new platform, a web-of-machines, continued the chipping away of geographical, cultural and ideological barriers. Overnight our web-of-ideas, the platform that fed personal beliefs, traditions and identities, seemed threatened by an exploding ecosystem of social and technological advancements. The new platform, characterized by progressive speed, gave rise to corporations who delivered new paradigms for human comfort, security and connectivity. As we became susceptible to the challenges of life in this dynamic new age, a ubiquitous corporate mass-media emerged to serve as the platform’s primary channel for distributed data.  Corporate broadcast gave the web-of-machines a unifying, authoritative and comforting voice, working to supplant the influence of tribes, ideas and individuals.

Within a hundred years, through the success of personal computers, the web-of-machines produced the Internet, a platform with the promise to consolidate and democratize data distribution and communication for the first time in human history. The Internet first emerged as a web-of-data, the electronic age, providing a world in which all public data could be made readily available and actionable to any person or group with PC and a connection. The Internet soon entered a second phase of maturity, which can be described as a web-of-platforms (the social age), delivering a world in which individuals became the creators and distributors of content, environments and experiences, and where social influencers could easily attract like-minds to produce hive-minds, the new social tribe. As the web-of-platforms gave social influencers and hive-minds more and more social influence, public tastes and opinions became more fragmented, forcing the corporate mass media to acknowledge, compete with, and cater to smaller and smaller audiences.  In the web-of-platforms, platforms themselves became leading influencers is shaping ideas, world views and experiences. Mobile devices, broadcast systems, social networks, gaming platforms and new media channels served as social incubators, allowing new breeds of social influencers to attract and convert the like-minded into a vast new network of social hive-minds.

Here is where the history of social platforms ends and the future begins. Where do we go from here? What is the next social platform? What will replace the web-of-platforms and the social age?

The answer is the web-of-people, and the user age.

What will it look like? I’ll try to dig into this question in upcoming posts.

When will it emerge? Let’s look at the history of our social platforms, and see how long they’ve lasted, and try to make an educated guess.

· Tribal Age or webs-or-people (8000B.C.-1450 A.D.) about 10,000 years.

· The Print Age or web-of-ideas (1450-1880) about 400-500 years.

· The Machine Age or web-of-machines (1880-1985) about 100 years.

· The Electronic Age or web-of-data (1985-2003) about 18 years.

· The Social Age or web-of-platforms (2003- when?) we are already 6-7 years in.

Could the new user age soon be upon us? Regardless of what you think of my attempt to summarize the history of the social platform, I’d like to leave you with a more trusted and authoritative thinker on this subject… Mr. Marshall McLuhan, the man you said “the message is the media” and “we drive into the future using only our rearview mirror.” Enjoy…

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