Redes de conocimiento

The attack of the zombies

Luís Ángel Fernández Hermana - @luisangelfh
2 junio, 2016
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In recent times, especially over the last ten years, many of us have felt that the Internet is becoming more and more like a sprawling cemetery filled with wandering zombies. Sometimes they bite, sometimes they just shuffle past disdainfully baring their few remaining teeth in recognition of you as one of their own. There’s the girl or boy you hooked up with at a party or a night out many years ago, over there in the background you can just make out a few old school mates you thought were buried in your memory. Even your bosses demand you acknowledge them! In the most unlikely places, tattered bits of information of our former selves, some of which we would rather forget, are being resurrected… Back these walking dead come, again and again, hoping you will be just like you used to be, or demanding you tell them what you are like now, begging for a kiss so you can see how nothing has changed, or wanting you to be the kind of person who fits into their present vision or their “dreams”.

But things are not the way they used to be. In the past, apart from growing up, studying, looking for a prospect partner, or learning how to make a living, there was no need to document all the time how things change. Now it’s essential, unless that even the typical blockheads assume you have achieved nothing in life. People seem intent on proving that unless you have submerged yourself in these modern times, you are definitely not just a zombie, but quite a dimwit as well. 

So, do we fight or leave it pass? OK, let’s fight a bit. Our argument, to begin with, is a very simple one for some of us, though uncomfortable for many. It is important that people know where they come from, who built part of the tombs they emerge from, how they were constructed, but, above all, why it is essential to dig around old ossuaries  And one of the reasons is (there are others we’ll deal with later) that some of us are a bit fed up with those who, having just set off on their cyber journeys, believe that everything started when they descended to the digital world, that their mere presence is what has shot the Big Virtual Bang. Nothing has happened before that fantastic momento in which… hey, someone else has already done what I wanted to do? But when …? Ah, but things were different then and probably lots of people didn’t even know what they were doing!

This seems to be one of the chronic pathologies of the so-called Information Society. The question is: is it posible to reverse that trend? There must be many ways of dealing with it, I guess. Anyway, since we built one of those graves ourselves, we have decided to open it up but with one big difference: instead of releasing a crazy bunch of zombies (forgive me!), we will unleash the fruits, cereals, vegetables, menus, scenarios, buildings, villages, cities, new professions, different ways of working  in the virtual world, everything dressed with the soup of time and with what we have learned while it marinated in the dark, sprinkled with the fresh dressing of what we have learnt along the way. We are going to renovate and relaunch Coladepez, an online magazine on social innovation. With one foot in what has happened so far and another in what is going on now, in what we are actually doing right now. In other words, social innovation steeped in the history of the Internet and its continuing personal and collective impact. 

I say relaunch because that is what a group of us from 1998 on (some before, some after) have been doing: focusing on what we call “the line of the rule” (or status quo). What you usually do to get enough money to finance projects, or to receive the card of “admirable entrepreneur”, it is still within the “line of the rule”. Maybe you are close to the line, but in order to step over, you have to know the territory. And that doesn’t come easily for much passion that you invest in the effort. over ros. When you know exactly where the line lyes, you know, among many other things, what is its socio-economic context, what estructures support it, to what historical processes belong. Then you are on the edge of stepping over to the other side of that frontier. 

Once you do take that step, you are innovating without needing to proclame it or boast about it. In fact, as we found out, you might not even really know at the time that what you are doing is something completely new. We did something like this when we were releasing living things in the virtual Garden of Eden that had not yet even be named or described (where were you, Dylan?): knowledge social virtual networks (KSVN), social innovation supported by knowledge networks, or any of the other fancy names fashionably bandied about nowadays.

Having taken the leap and crossed over the line there is no time to look back. The waves drag in everyone who comes to find out what is going on. And when they discover there are other ways of debating things in contexts that raise the quality of the discussion above the average level, that they take control of their projects, of the materials they themselves have produced, the relationships they have formed with people they don’t know or have never even spoken to and could never have imagined having a mutually beneficial relationship with before, as well as with many others whose existence they were unaware of and with whom they might even lose contact once they achieve the results collected from a fruitful virtual knowledge community. 

In other words, without the need of dazzling metaphors and gilded marketing speak, social innovation processes have been put in motion by the members of the knowledge networks. Who exactly benefits is not clear, but the results are undeniable as well as the method for achieving them. Knowledge networks are perhaps the clearest most definitive example of the Internet’s golden rule: nobody knows who they are working for, or where the ideas and experiences that make up the puzzle they are after even come from.

When we worked in Enredando.com (1996-2004), we faced the challenge of answering complex demands. We answered by planning, designing, managing and harvesting knowledge in a revolutionary new way. It was essential for attaining social objectives and producing results of a completely new kind. We got unsuspected results thanks to a virtual construcción we deaelopped that we called en.medi@. Nobody knew what managed social networks were yet and what kind of people and means were necessary: moderators, online knowledge managers with a methodology aimed at creating the context to achieve concrete objectives and a virtual structure to be able to fulfil them. 

So that’s more or less what we are going to exhume and resurrect. Not just the work we did while we existed, also what it meant to those involved, how we turned ideas on their heads though they hadn’t been named yet. We are also going to analyse what exists now without getting taken in by its incredible promise, its amazing ability to create language and conviction that it will make the future extraordinary. We will reflect on what is going on and help develop projects we find along the way that seem to clearly point to processes of social innovation, whether immediately obvious or not. In a few words, we will try to understand social innovation processes and projects, in order to reflect on and get involved in them. 

In other words if we had to sum it up in the language of the proposals investors are so fond of (“Tell us how much it will cost and how many people you need to change the world. But make it two minutes please because there are lots of other people waiting in line!”), the fundamental question is more and more, “Does history (of Internet) serve any purpose at all? Is it important to know about the experiences of people, living or dead, who have experiences in the technological and virtual fields and can also recount what they cultivated there. What evaporated into thin air and, above all, what they harvested there and how much of that harvest still forms a part of what we are trying to do today, not in 30 years’ time but right now. And who will benefit? The fact is, though you might not believe it, those who ploughed the digital fields with virtual tractors before, are still sowing their seeds in other sometimes obscure out of sight corners using the lessons they have learned and very few know. 

These reflections and projects are what gave rise to the 430 editorials published in the e-magazine en.red.ando during the 8 years of its existence. We tryed to publishe it in paper when the company closed in 2004. It took 7 years until the publishing house of the UOC finally undertook it and published all the articles in 3 volumes: Historia Viva de Internet. Los años de en.red.ando (A Living History of the Internet. The en.red.ando years)). In paper or digital format they add up to 1.600 pages – enough to scare anyone off, including me and I am familiar with the material. One thing is a historical tome, another one is history. en.red.ando fans keep asking for an English version, but no publisher dare to take up the challenge. 

Solution? If we are talking about a living history – let’s resuscitate it. Let’s keep the debate cooking on a slow fire as we have done over the last (speedy) 20 years that seem to have whizzed by. As from 7 June 2016, we will be publishing in Coladepez.com every Tuesdaay two editorials in Spanish and two in English from the e-magazine en.red.ando with their original dates on them to mark the passing of time and events discussed in them. When we get to number 127 they will be joined by two in Catalan and from number 341 two in Galician. So, in four years, we will have published all en.red.ando’s editorials again.

The history of the Internet, the debate over its evolution, where we are right now and the nature of the demands we make and try to resolve, will be more lively than ever because we are without comparison more ignorant than ever. Not to mention the effects of the poisonous amniotic fluid that try to convince us of that false principles: “Anyone can do everything”

Our experience shows something which is only common sense: modesty in good dosis, a lot of dedication, focus on what has happened in the past, tons of curiosity and the sensors of evolution in mode ON, in other words, the materials of what history is made of, then it is not difficult to find the appropiate interlocutors, the frontier challenges, the fertile debates and the paths we were looking for. If we add the assistance of people prepared and trained to work in the new virtual environments, we can generate and manage new knowlege that can be applied to the objetives we wanted to reach. The surprising thing is how this way of working is also useful to other people, who can benefit of it whitout asking for it. Anyway, that’s how many of us have created many innovations in Internet that only few know where they came from.

The fact is that if we don’t know where we are and why we do what we do, we are very close to begin again as if nothing has happened before. So, we have to invent the place and what we do wrapping it all up in a lenaguage empty, beautiful, meaningless, filled with values that nobody understand. In other words, lots of marketing, few reflection and escarce content.

[The subscriptions to Coladepez o Coladepez -en.red.ando Eng- are separated. The first one includes the editorials in Spanish. In case you would like to receive them in both languages, you’ll have to endure the hard work of subscribing a couple of times.]

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