Networked Content, Networked Communities, Empowered People

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of being a guest lecturer for a Digital Media class in the Department of Advertising at the University of Texas at Austin. The class is deep into the semester and about to begin their semester project, fusing Web 2.0 and social networks. This is a topic that is close to my heart and one I enjoyed sharing some thoughts on.

Professor Gene Kincaid has assigned excerpts from The ClueTrain Manifesto, a book that has driven much of my thinking regarding the Internet over the past several years. In the context of Digital Media and advertising, it could not be a better text. Its focus on ‘conversations’ captures the essence of marketing and the power of evolving social networks and Web 2.0.

My key theme for the class was the idea that the Internet needs to invert to truly tap into the power of people. Viewed as a triangle, there are three points to consider: networked content, networked community and contextual presences. Networked content would include YouTube, the Drudgereport or a blog site like this one. Networked communities would include environments like MySpace or FaceBook or social networks micro-powered by tools like Ning. Interestingly, some networked content sites depend heavily on a networked community. For example, is Digg content or community. It’s actually both. It takes the power of community to determine how content is managed and displayed.

Where the power of the triangle is unleashed, however, are contextual presences. The concept of a contextual presence is the essence of the inverted Internet.

How many of us would prefer to not create yet one more online profile, that requires exactly the same information as the last site you visited. Every time we wish to enter a MySpace, FaceBook or LinkedIn, we have to reenter exactly the same profile data, as the last site, and then we are presented by the option to suck in our email addresses, so as to replicate exactly the same web of relationships we have in dozens of other sites. This simply makes no sense.

The concept of a contextual presence goes far beyond OpenID. A contextual presence redefines who controls their information. A contextual presence leads to us owning our information not the social utility sites, banking sites or travel sites. We control it, and our token is revealed to the networked content and networked community sites as we see fit. The idea of contextual presences will be explored further in future End of Linearity blog posts.