The Structure of Belonging

Just stumbled again upon a post from Nicholas Carr, where he is talking about Twitter as one of the killer apps of social media. And I think it is worth comparing his thoughts on social media and Peter Block´s approach to the „structure of belonging“ – as he calls it.

Well, here is Nicholas Carr, who´s book „The Shallows. What the Internet is doing to our brains“ is one of the most exciting reflections on technology and the plasticity of our brain:

Twitter is the telegraph system of Web 2.0. Like Morse’s machine, it limits messages to very brief strings of text. But whereas the telegraph imposed its limit through the market’s will – priced by the word, telegraph messages were too expensive to waste – Twitter imposes its limit through the iron law of code. Each message may include no more than 140 characters. … Because there’s no charge to send a message and no protocol governing the frequency of posting, you can send as many tweets as you want. The telegraph required you to stop and ask yourself: Is this worth it? Twitter says: Everything’s worth it!

Tara Hunt says, “Twitter is a representation of my stream of consciousness.” What used to happen in the privacy of the mind is now tossed into the public’s bowl like so many Fritos. The broadcasting of the spectacle of the self has become a full-time job.

The great paradox of “social networking” is that it uses narcissism as the glue for “community.” Being online means being alone, and being in an online community means being alone together. The community is purely symbolic, a pixellated simulation conjured up by software to feed the modern self’s bottomless hunger. Hunger for what? For verification of its existence? No, not even that. For verification that it has a role to play. … It’s not, as Scott Karp suggests, “I Twitter, therefore I am.” It’s “I Twitter because I’m afraid I ain’t.”

In contrast to this Peter Block reflects on the „gifts of conversations„, this „sacred listening and breathing„, in which „the community whispers of our becoming„, as Chené Swart calls it. The question behind is: How can we foster and feed this sense of connectedness – in communities and organizations? And the answer is not social media, as Peter Block points out: „They are tools. Like the telephone. Nice to use. But with tools you don’t build trust.“ (am Anfang von 2/3)



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