20 Essentials of the Network Society
David Batstone on Culture
Back in 1999, I put together a book on what it means to be a 'good citizen.' I included essays from such luminaries as Cornel West, Robert Bellah, Judith Butler and others. In my own essay, I drew a picture of how our world was changing toward a network society. I wanted to stress that the network society represents not only a new form of economic development, but the evolution of an entirely different state of human affairs, with peculiar forms of social interaction.
I came up with 20 essentials - deliberately provocative, I might add - to this network society that give clues how citizens will be connected, and enterprises will be transformed. Now, six years later, I think these 'essentials' are more apt than ever, and will become even more so as we move deeper into the 21st century. Here's a snapshot of each:
1) Community will not save you. What matters are the forms of intelligence to whom one is linked, the practical support those connections deliver, and the costs those connections exact.
2) Fight for your right to party with your guests of choice. Citizens gain leverage by joining a net, while those who remain absent to one are deemed irrelevant.
3) Challenge systems that wield centralized and hierarchical power. Closed systems will be eroded by unstoppable associations.
4) Don't count numbers; focus on adding wealth to the network.
One plus one equals far more than two in a growing network.
5) Don't be shocked by the future; learn to anticipate it. Anticipation, which assumes trust in one's own intuition and judgment, represents an elevated form of intelligence in the network society.
6) Make an organization's tenth anniversary its last, then start from scratch. Decentralized nets adapt more effectively to evolving environments.\n\n7) Push the process, not the agenda. People care most about those things they help to bring into being.\n\n8) Connections should matter more than computations in our schools. Information is not always power. Ask any librarian.\n\n9) When you hear an intellectual forecast the disappearance of work, assume that pundit has tenure at a university. Jobs are not a stable commodity that can be protected. But a complex adaptive network means that tomorrow's work may not yet be born.\n\n10) Declare a war on ignorance. Learning never ends in a network society. \n\n11) If you want to live in a world without governments, go buy an island. A good government strengthens nets, ensures fair access and competition in economic markets, and protects basic civilian rights.\n\n12) Discriminatory exclusion weakens your network. Diversity has a salutary effect on biological ecosystems; human culture is no exception.\n\n13) Egregious errors of the past will continue to haunt us. Social problems do not disappear in a network society; they show a dogged persistence.\n\n14) Believe in democracy, but don't look to the government to solve your problems. The network society promotes opportunity, but expects individuals to act with personal responsibility and dignity.\n\n15) The flow of information should not move slowly in one direction. Transparency of information rules.\n\n16) If you don't like the news, go out and make your own. Nets of communication now give everyone the tools to share their stories.\n\n17) History has not come to an end, but it has reached a major point of transition. [Put in bold] Global communication nets extend the range of what can be defined as capital and accelerate the pace at which it can move.\n\n18) Your grandchildren will carry two passports. History is on the side of globally linked citizens. \n\n19) We will all become environmentalists. Defining and controlling the environment, be it physical or virtual promises to be a matter of fierce competition in the 21st century.\n\n20) What is past is prologue. Our stories are an open canvas.