Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom: How Online Social Networking Will Transform Your Life, Work and World
by Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta (Wiley)
A modern variant of spam comes in the shape of unwanted messages asking us to sign up as contacts for friends, colleagues, peers or similar who want us to vouch for them, help them find new jobs, meet up or whatever else. Fine if you know the person, even finer if you like them, not so good if you have never heard of them or can't stand their company.
Social networks aren't perfect but they are powerful instruments of communication. MySpace has changed music marketing forever while Facebook -- whether you think of it as a great way to meet people, an innovative sales and marketing tool or a stalkers' best friend -- is the latest way the technology industry has helped us fill gobs of time. And LinkedIn may be the biggest aid to automated career development since email.
The authors of this book go further, citing The Economist's suggestion that "society is in the early phases of what appears to be a media revolution on the scale of that launched by Gutenberg in 1448", and describing the Web 2.0 as an "e-ruption".
The argument is that where once a solid set of shared values and institutions governed our lives, careers and relationships, that is no longer the case thanks to the loosely coupled interactions that are the new networks. These networks include social networks themselves but are also influenced by search, virtual worlds, wikis and blogs. However the authors, a pair of INSEAD academics, have a tendency to over-egg that thesis. Take this from the preface, for example: "We are increasingly trusting our gut feelings and acting on instinct and intimate conviction. We have grasped that crowds, when their collective intelligence is harnessed, are smarter and wiser than the most exalted expert."
What, always smarter and wiser? On national defence issues, for example? And how about this: "We have realised that everything important in life is miscellaneous, unplanned, unexpected. We have learned the value of cooperating with others."
Everything? How about marriage? Or childbirth? And surely we always knew the value of collaboration, hence concepts that predated the web such as the electoral system, company meetings or the office suggestion box.
And sometimes the authors slip into politician-speak: "[We have] felt the liberating power of consumer sovereignty and citizenship engagement."
However, once the vaulting ambitions have been set out, this becomes a much more solid exercise, rammed full of case studies and examples. This is a valuable examination of a very real change in the way we all communicate and share ideas, but a little more perspective of the world outside the Web 2.0 cliques would have been nice.
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