Tag Archives: culture

How will the corporation subvert Web 2.0?

Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom

Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom

It’s an exciting idea, the way that Web 2.0 will transform the world of work, making collaboration the norm by providing wikis, bosses opening up dialogues by posting blogs that are open for comments, replacing meetings with discussion boards.

But before we get to that nirvana, we will have to live with the worrying answers to the question ‘how will the corporation subvert Web 2.0’

In the long term the Luddites always lose. In the long term the organisations which embrace Web 2.o will over-take those which resist it, just as Amazon has flooded out the bookshops and iTunes and Spotify have all but destroyed the the record companies.

What worries me, is the nature of that embrace.

Web 2.0, briefly, comprises the tools and attitudes that enable me to blog and enable you to rate my post and comment on it.  It’s FaceBook and Twitter and citizen journalism and mash-ups and crowd-sourcing and ‘Here comes everybody’.  It’s MySpace instead of A&R  It’s Wikipedia instead of the Brittanica. It’s Twitter instead of… well… instead of no Twitter. Web 2.0, so we all thought, is a force for democracy and good.  It cuts out the parasitical middle-person, it empowers individuals and enables them to form groups and enables those groups to face down corporations and governments.  It puts artists directly in touch with their audience. It enables me to publish this and you to read it with no more cost than our time. It turns base metal into gold and chocolate into a slimming aid.

There are, it seems, two current views of what happens when Web 2.0 meets the Enterprise.  In the first view, Web 2.0 brings about innovative, hierarchically flat organisations where knowledge is freely shared, where anyone who comes up with a bright idea can get it aired and taken up, where discussion boards pwn meetings and where gatekeepers and barriers to innovation are no more.  Google is reported to be just such a place.  The other view is that Web 2.0 and the enterprise are oil and water:  executives and managers will resist Web 2.0 either because they don’t get it, because they think it is a distraction, or because they are just plain running scared.

But I am not convinced by either.  Web 2.0, combined with an internal search engine, are powerful surveillance tools.  Any well-governed Wiki will tell you exactly who made which changes when, and far more neatly than you can track the changes in Word.   You can capture Instant Messenger logs and run searches on them in a way which you cannot tape and search conversations by the water cooler.  Nobody minutes meetings any more, but a discussion forum can be there for as long and the server farm lasts and longer.

Web 2.0 facilitates networks and interactions, but it also makes them more visible, and therefore easier to track.  We already know that the web is destroying privacy.  These days it takes diligence, vigilance and consistency to hide in cyberspace.  It is hard not have your name published by other people when school mates tag you on photos in FaceBook.

So it is surprising that hierarchical organisations don’t espouse Web 2.0 tools more actively, and this supports the theory that this is because execs and managers just don’t get it.

As something of a Web 2.0 evangelist, that places me on the horns of a dilemma.  A trilemma, actually. Do I:

  1. promote Web 2.o tools because they empower people and democratise knowledge
  2. stop promoting Web 2.0 tools because they expose people by turning situations which they are used to considering private into permanent searchable records or
  3. use the argument that they can improve audit and accountability in order to get them into an organisation because they are just so flippin’ COOOL?

For some of the thinking that led me to this impasse see:
Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom – Matthew Fraser & Soumitra Dutta

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Unsung National Treasures – 1 – Radio 3

BBC Radio 3 Radio 3 is known as the BBC’s classical music station, but that description sells it short. It provides just over 2 million people with all sorts of minority programming: in fact I am not listening to the Theban Plays of Sophocles right now because I cannot listen to one set of words and type another.

Who else would broadcast Lifehouse, an obscure play (or is it an opera, ach, Pete Townsend calls it a ‘project’) which combines music by The Who with cyber-fiction and spiritual commentary?

What other station would wake you up with music by Mozart written for and played on the glass harmonica, which is an astonishing instrument apparently invented by Benjamin Franklin.

What other broadcaster would broadcast the complete works of J S Bach over a ten day period, as Radio 3 did last Advent?

Classic FM’s presenters drop their voice by a third or so and talllk realllly smoo-oo-thly. They tell you to relllaxssss with Classssic eFFFFF eMMMM, and intersperse their cheap seductions with advertisements for chocolate and weekends in York or Bath. The presenters on Radio 3 tell you what the music is, who is playing it, and maybe provide you with a fact or a point of interpretation to help you understand what you are listening to.

Radio 3 is unafraid of its own intelligence. If you want arrogance and exclusivity go to Radio 1. If you want radio that is easy on the ear and easy on the brain go to Radio 2. If you want radio that is politically engaged go to Radio 4. If you want the Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves go to Classic tweeting FM. If you want radio that considers its subjects for their own sake, engages with them on their own level and as a result is neither repetitive, patronising nor pretentious then go to Radio 3.

It is shocking that the 60th anniversary of the Third Programme went past earlier this year unannounced, unnoticed and uncelebrated.

Ladies and gentlemen, one of Britain’s unsung National Treasures, and thanks to internet technology a wonder of the world, I present to you BBC Radio 3.