So people learned from the angels of God how to build bridges, and therefore, after fountains, the greatest blessing is to build a bridge and the greatest sin to interfere with one. – Ivo Andric
Our first two topics in this 12 part series were Pattern Recognition and Environmental Scanning, both practices for enhancing the opportunity to create meaning from information and to assist in decision making. The next topic looks at how others can contribute to this process.
The above quote was used by Lee Bryant during his recent presentation at the Social Business Edge conference, and I thought it fit in well with this concept. One of the main topics we have been covering is the idea of breaking down silos – between fields, between organizational departments, between people, and even more deeply, between our own ideas about the values that defines us and who we really are – so the analogy of building bridges seems appropriate.
As I’ve been exploring how to build relationships online and create an environment where trust can be built, I naturally started introducing people from different communities to each other in hopes they could benefit from each other’s knowledge, wisdom, and experience. I noticed that different disciplines are having the same conversation, just packaged in the jargon of their field. What if we could cross-pollinate these conversations, allowing for new ideas to emerge?
This activity has been called “network weaving” on June Holley’s blog, Network Weaver. (There’s a wealth of information there on how to build online networks and create thrivable communities.) She defines the term as follows:
A Network Weaver is someone who is aware of the networks around them and explicitly works to make them healthier (more inclusive, bridging divides). Network Weavers do this by connecting people strategically where there’s potential for mutual benefit, helping people identify their passions, and serving as a catalyst for self-organizing groups.
June (@juneholley) and a few other amazing women I’ve started to follow (Jean Russell @NurtureGirl, Christine Egger @CDEgger) have been working on a google doc that explores ways to facilitate network weaving behavior, geared towards this weekend’s Wisdom 2.0 Conference. June is also working on a Network Weaving Handbook, which I’m looking forward to reading. The Table of Contents sneak preview is available here.
Though the activity seems simple enough, I see it as an essential skill as we move forward to a more effective and collaborative society. It’s not just about being extroverted and great at making introductions, though. It’s about raising your awareness of others, learning how to identity their strengths and gifts, and knowing who they should know to amplify their abilities and potential contributions.
I started to outline this idea in Framework for a Strengths-based Society, and I think that a prerequisite for effective network weaving starts with thinking about people (and ourselves) not in terms of predefined roles or resumes, but by what we’re really about. This is often opaque – a mix of things like inherent qualities, tacit knowledge, and the values we adhere to, which are revealed by our actions and interactions.
As I’ve dug deeper into exploring those things about myself, it seems I’m able to more quickly identify them in others. It makes network weaving actually exhilarating. I feel I’m of more value to others now, because I have a sense of who they could team up with to mobilize their ideas.
As more of us adopt this practice, aligning people with different strengths and skills who all share a similar vision, what might happen? Could it ignite a snowball effect, accelerating the rate of positive change and making an impact in the world?
image from wikimedia commons
You have described so effortlessly what I now recognise as one of the central forces in my work. It is amazing to witness how resources become so much more available and outcomes so much more tangible when there is more awareness of the specific strong points (people) in the sphere of influence…
I will follow your work with keen interest, as Community Mapping / Network Weaving has become a key focus of mine.
Thanks for the clear insight!
Venessa Miemis said:
sure, thanks for stopping by
Ruth Howard said:
Hi Vanessa thank you I’m very interested to see how this idea connects with peer to peer learning and other emergent learning models. I can see that this idea is essential if education is to become a human potential movement-either with or without institutions. I’m thinking of teacher/guide/mentors as those that bring out the capacity to know for ourselves who we are what we can contribute and allow us to focus on these through inquiry projects, both practical and theoretical, public and personal, collaborative and solo.
At the same time due to the marvelous plasticity of our own unique selves and the exponential shifts that technologies allow both in work and play, I would want there to be a shifting sands perception of people, as they adapt and change focus, rather than more labelling? There is a danger people will reduce people into boxes rather than allow for the true contradictory complexity that we are. Hopefully the very act of removing silos annuls this?
Venessa Miemis said:
i agree. i think as we shed off the labels, we give ourselves way more flexibility and room to change and grow.
i like what you said about ‘human potential movement’ – that’s how i think about it too. we can identify our natural strengths and gifts, and enhance those with focused attention. i think building intelligence and raising consciousness happen hand in hand with knowing how to identify your deeper Self and values, and living from a place of alignment with them.
Saqib Ali said:
Thanks for the Ivo Andric quote. It is very timely for me, as I am working on a co-creation presentation, and the quote will fit in perfectly.
Venessa Miemis said:
glad you can use it. it resonated with me too.
Another cogent installment, Venessa. Thank you.
The other day I got musing, amused by the deep satisfaction I feel connecting two people fro my loose circle whom I feel might resonate. Sometimes I have the privilege that I may follow for a bit and see what they create together. Sometimes they drift out of sight, reminding me of Lao-Tse .
Fail to honor people, They fail to honor you. But of a good leader, who talks little, when his work is done, his aims fulfilled, they will all say, “We did this ourselves.”
This is the principal beauty of self-organization, of open space, of #junto. Lead, follow, get out of the way, do not control, except your own affairs.
As for network weaving, this is edge affairs. In sifting information about others to gather enough trust to decide to connect, follow or move on, I feel I gain speed and sure-footedness on-line. In meeting face-to-face we all have this ability, I believe. On-line it takes a number of repetitions to clue in on what are the important clues. Done a few hundred times, it does get easier, like anything you do diligently.
So this is one Twitter benefit – the messages are so short and to the point, aiming to get noticed, that it takes all of a few dozen seconds scanning tweets, faves, profile, and sample of a person’s blog to decide connect / move on. While number of connections mean little, except potential to transcend silos and echo chamber walls, intensity of connections works wonders to weave the trust network. Are we surprised yet?
Where may this acceleration lead us? Yesterday, this emerged:
A Shock Level measures the high-tech concepts you can contemplate without being impressed, frightened, blindly enthusiastic – without exhibiting future shock.
Source, via @correlationist
and I was just thinking of you :)) What is your shock level ( i am SL3 tending SL4) ? http://bit.ly/vlgbX @CoCreatr II via/ @frankspencer
Venessa Miemis said:
i’ve found the same thing regarding twitter connections. scanning through their tweets, their bio, and their blog are a quick indicator of what they’re about. i’ve also seen a few people just use hashtags with words in their bio that also do a good job of painting a picture. i.e.:
#complexity #emergence #spacetraveler #thinker #newsociety #cooperation #love
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Ned Kumar said:
Definitely agree that network weaving is an important concept in today’s world with long-term implications.
One thing I have self-realized from my foray into this area is that there are various levels of weaving with different goals and outcomes. Without going into details, I think there can be a ‘constrained’ network weaving and also what I call the ‘unconstrained’ weaving. Folks engaged in the former are deeply engaged and connected in one (or a couple) particular domain – the network weaving they initiate and execute therefore has huge creative implications for that domain. Those involved in unconstrained weaving transcend the individual domains and skirt around the peripherals of multiple diverse domains. What they impact through network weaving is the long-term evolution and change in the entire ecosystem. Both are needed.
The other thing I would really stress is your mention of “awareness of others”. Sometimes people think network weaving is just connecting people with similar interests. It is more than that – one also has to keep in mind the personal atributes of the folks they connect.
Irrespective of the route that is followed, more weaving (with more people getting into this) would definitely (in my opinion) result in more creative solutions impacting the world at a faster pace. The only thing I will add is that with network weaving comes the need for one to have the ability to synthesize information intelligently they gather from these various sources (which would then lead to pattern recognition etc…).
@CoCreatr @correlationist The shock level is definitely an interesting way to look at things (I have my own idea about my SL, but it might differ from other’s perception of my SL 🙂 ).
I do think though that something like network weaving plays into the concept of singularity. One way to look at this would be that with enough folks weaving the network, there will be an amplification of human intelligence and quite suddenly, like the breaking of the sound barrier we might break through the intelligence barrier resulting in a drastic and irreversible change in how this world will operate.
Anyway – thinking way far ahead here 🙂
Venessa Miemis said:
ned, i feel like you’re always holding yourself back!
i’m curious to hear more about your view of constrained/unconstrained network weaving, and your SL, if you care to share…..
i agree with the IA (Intelligence Amplification). if you haven’t read any douglas engelbart, i’d recommend:
Augmenting Human Intellect: A Conceptual Framework
Cole Tucker said:
I second Venessa here Ned! I feel like you have a lot more in mind in making this very astute distinction between two types of network weaving.
Ned Kumar said:
Thanks to all of you for the nod (apologize for the long delay – took a long break to take care of a few situations.
Here are some additional thoughts on ‘constrained’ vs ‘unconstrained’ weaving. A disclaimer here is that this is my pov based on my observations and reading and so I don’t claim it be a generalized theory.
As mentioned by me earlier, I see constrained weaving as those done by folks whose interests, specialities, and activities are contained to one domain. Constrained weaving has a good amount of overlap with strong ties. In this type of situation, the person is deeply entrenched in his/her field and so spends quite a bit of time interacting with folks in that domain. And so, there is a good amount of reciprocity involved as multiple folks consider themselves to be experts and so weaving is not stable without adequate give and take. The other attribute I see of constrained weaving is that it maintains the identity and individuality of the original network. The connection get more dense and so has a relatively bigger effect on how ‘outsiders’ might be treated and accepted. Also, conflicts can sometimes be more aggressive as members try to cajole for positions within the network and sometimes resolutions end up being fuzzy and not discrete (black & white). And lastly, constrained weavers evolve over a period of time – it takes time to get established within a domain, gain the trust and respect of members, and create a good network and following before one can really get into weaving within the domain. A good example of this might be some of the folks involved in the SCRM discussions.
On the other hand, folks involved in unconstrained network weaving transcends specialites that are domain specific and are more of those who skirt around diverse domains. The unconstrained weaving as you might have guessed is linked more closely with weak-ties or bridging ties. The unconstrained weaver is an ‘expediter’ – they facilitate the flow of ideas, information, etc. and can play a pivotal role in the virality of the exchange. Also, as a corollary, unconstrained weaving plays a key role in organizing or mobilizing a universe (consisting of multiple diverse groups) for some collective action (charity, innovation, disaster-relief, etc.). In this kind of weaving, there is less mutual confiding between the weaver and the folks he brings together. The primary role is more of a provider of resources. Having said that, I do believe that social trust is an important component here as the handshake occurs not based on knowing the other person’s expertise or persona but on trusting the weaver that the other person will benefit them in a certain way. There is creativity involved here too – but these have far reaching implications that might transform multiple ecosystems.
As June (Holley) said, both are important in their own ways. Constrained might generate an innovative idea, while Unconstrained extends the reach of that idea. Constrained might identify a root-cause, while Unconstrained might find the shortest route to a solution. Constrained is helpful in expanding existing knowledge for a particular domain, while Unconstrained is great for creating new knowledge from the intersection of multiple domains. Constrained weaving allows ideas within a domain to percolate to most of the nodes within that network. Unconstrained weaving creates a cascade where the output of one network is introduced as an input to another.
In short, I think network weaving is not just a ‘nice-to-have’ but pretty much a ‘should-have’ – to handle & leverage the hundreds of rivulets of information each of us is exposed to everyday and to reduce power blockers (concentrated power at the hands of a few that blocks societal evolution).
As to my shock-level, what I percieve of myself maybe different than what others percieve of me. I think I am a SL4 – as to my thoughts on this I am breaking it up as another comment (below) to keep it a separate topic from network weaving.
Ned Kumar said:
Some general thoughts on my “shock-level” (continued from my previous comment above). First why did I say SL4 – well, for more than a couple of decades I have harbored strong support for the world where systems(machines) and humans will coexist to make the ecosystem a better place to live in (that ecosystem could be on Earth or in another century maybe on another planet). Systems are going to get more “intelligent” (self-awareness), while humans are going to “scale up” in their capacities (cognitive, physical, emotional, spatial) with the help of innovative technological “injections” to enhance their natural biological systems.
So what are my view points on where we are heading? The crux of the matter is that we have not “evolved” biologically over a long geological time period. What has changed is how we interact (memetic evolution), how we think and create (because of technological changes), and how we establish cohorts (societal changes). Even this has happened over hundreds of years with in-between spikes as a result of a technological breakthroughs (a great example here is the invention of the
printing press). I do believe we are moving towards the phase of transhumanism and posthumanism — maybe not in our lifetime, but I see technological advances happening that will vastly improve human conditions (life expectancy, processing capability, cognitive abilities, ability to be aware at multiple conscious levels etc.) and also remove some of our limitations for better or worse. [I think] we have only touched the surface in terms of the power our brain holds and what is ultimately capable by unlocking the ‘operating system & software’ behind it. Currently we know a lot of the different components in our brain and what they affect (analogous to the hardware of a computer), but very little about what makes the whole system tick as it does.
I think of the future in terms of two categories – interactions between humans and interactions between humans & technology. Putting it another way, I think the next few decades will see tremendous evolution in two areas – IA & AI. By ‘IA’, I am referring to Intelligence Amplification (and it is here #junto is going to play a big role) and ‘AI’ refers to Artificial Intelligence. Of course, there will be a bridge between these two that will dictate how interactions in one is modulated by the other.
It is in our nature to ‘solve & resolve’ whether it is problems or situations. Unfortunately, our abilities are limited. This is where both IA and AI can be of help. In the IA space, we are going to see the social amalgamation of consciousness to solve & resolve collectively. And we are going to see advancements in understanding the power of thought. As crazy as it might sound, thoughts are contagious. Collective thoughts on harmony and peace will travel and affect others into having similar thoughts; where as thoughts filled with hatred and jealousy sends out waves carrying those vibes and create similar thoughts of discord among those near. Along the same lines, people will realize that collective focus on a topic or a problem will act as a lens that will amplify the power of the individual thoughts and allow us to create a better solution faster than ever before.
On the AI front, we are going see technological advances that will ‘boost’ intelligence and other cognitive components, and so by extension aid us in coming up with better solutions. This is way down the road, but we might be able to do selective enhancements and deletions of our emotions to create a more harmonious world. We will see self-manipulating AI systems that can reprogram itself and continuously evolve and benefit humankind. Of course, one of the challenges here will be to somehow incorporate a moral philosophy component into these AIs so that they can correct the errors/limitations caused from human biases and programming.
I love this quote by Eden Phillpotts – “The universe is full of magical things, patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper”. I started out this comment by saying that I see a world in the future where systems and humans will symbiotically
coexist. Will it happen – I think the answer is a definite yes, especially with the advancements we are making in the field of nanotechnology, robotics, synthetic life etc. The question that remains to be answered are to what extent it will happen and what are the timelines for the various ‘shifts’ in this relationship. Some of it in the field of synthetic biology (synthetic life) is already happening, but some like selective ‘breeding’ of certain cognitve components might be decades away.
One last point. While I truly believe that reprogrammed bacteria (allowing our wounds to self-heal faster), genetic research (that in future might program a bamboo ro grow into a chair), self-aware systems that can take care of themselves and have the cognitive ability to think, decide, and act like humans etc. can be truly beneficial to humankind, I would also say that with these advancements comes a greater need for moral and ethical responsibility on our part. The reason of course being that these same abilities can be used for evil reasons which can lead to disasters (scenarios like X-men come to mind). It is the Ying-Yang of our evolution – greater benefits comes with greater risk. There has to be proper standards set, the roles and responsibilties, and ethical guidelines set to prevent malicious use of these capabilities, and most importantly to ensure that we don’t create systems that will go wild and dictate us (that is one of the biggest risk of creating systems that ‘understands’ their existence).
There are several related ideas on (pre-Singularity) “good ancestor” opportunities at http://is.gd/bSz5X .
Also, a converging meme is explored in @hello_world’s Ghost Protocol post –
If AI can make such “ghosts” of actual people sentient, perhaps a similar awakening can happen for inspiring stories of transpecies consilience?
Such narratives – if they too become as sentient as @hello_world’s “ghosts” – might vie to spread seeds of positive-sum values in existing and future lifeforms.
It would be quite a universe if the storylines of Narnia, Middle Earth, Avatar, BSG/Caprica, and others to come took on (non-coercive) lives of their own – inspiring the natural and artificial life forms they “infect” to cocreate settings where their values can flourish.
Thomas Petersen said:
I agree with most of what you say. There is however one point that I believe should be expanded a bit.
I agree that the need for moral adjustment is necessary as the power behind some of these technologies really can be used for quite bad things.
But the actual morals needed to (co)exist in a society with the kind of technologies we are talking about will also have to be quite different. They won’t necessarily simply be an extension of the current paradigm.
The good sides of technologies (lets call it creation/healing) actually counteracts the bad sides (let’s call them destruction/damaging)
You could easily imagine that beating someone up and damage them in an advanced society wouldn’t really be that criminal or morally wrong since the ability to heal would be non-trivial.
This introduces quite new perceptions of what constitutes good and bad. Not conceptually but actually.
But as I said with most other things i agree.
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This recent article could also be used as a further (political) theorization:
– Y. Rumpala, “Knowledge and praxis of networks as a political project”, Twenty-First Century Society, Volume 4, Issue 3, November 2009 (also available at http://yannickrumpala.wordpress.com/2009/10/21/tracing-and-reconfiguring-networks-to-build-a-political-alternative/ ).
Venessa Miemis said:
thanks a lot for the link, looks interesting.
Dennis Callahan said:
This is a new term for me, thanks for sharing. I also notice different disciplines having the same conversations using their own jargon. How many different types of conversations can there be…it’s a limited number? There has to be lots of opportunity for weaving those connections and the people that can see this are more valuable. The more you expose yourself to… the more you’ll see. Recognizing is the 1st part and taking action is next.
I also think that those who better understand their internal weaving mechanisms will be in a better position to help others make those connections. In the end, we’re all more similar than different.
Empathy is critical.
Venessa Miemis said:
agree, and i think empathy co-evolves with recognition of the self. it becomes easier to detect what makes others tick when you are able to understand yourself first.
While social network providers have been mining our data (this is mine and that is mine) we users grew used to and suffer from a dispersed and fractured identity. We share bits and pieces mostly on the provider’s terms, we have only an illusion of control what we share with whom and how to stop it when needed. Very little control online about the identity we actually own. I feel our relationships endangered when any corporatist provider can decide to cut someone off for an alleged violation of their TOS and we do not even have the right to be heard on the case (happened to others on farcebook).
So I compiled this blog post http://j.mp/bH6Zgi
June Holley said:
So many wonderful sparks in this post and responses! Sorry I took so long to respond – been busy working on some wonderful network mapping and weaving projects. Thanks for all the mentions. I love the quote and photo!
I think we all have to co-create what it means to be a Network Weaver: so much is what we’ve already been doing, but just don’t see; some will require new skills and awareness.
It think NW and self-organizing have huge implications for learning and completely shifting “education.” Ned, I think your thoughts about constrained and unconstrained NWs are key. And, of course, the trick will be how to get those two types to connect (Twitter is so good for this) so that people access new perspectives, make breakthroughs as a result, and have pathways for those breakthroughs to go viral.
Venessa, thanks again for all your efforts keeping these provocative and important discussions going forward!
Venessa Miemis said:
yes, i think it’s about creating a space where the energy can be shared and grow
I am very happy to have found this blog post as i am using the tag “ideaagent” in my bio for quite some time to describe what i am really about, whitout being able to frame & describe exactly what an ideaagent has to offer. the discussion here about network weavers gives me a great opportunity to learn more about myself & to improve my doings. Writing this i remember that gladwell was talking about network weavers in tippingpoint. right? Thanks for sharing.
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Spiro Spiliadis said:
Network weaving (2me) is the meat and potatoes of the three thus far. For some reason i am associating it with how knitting works, you have two needles representing two people and the string(s) of yarn as the ideas, weaving in and out in a consistent pace always repeating the same pattern to formulate a “something”
Venessa Miemis said:
yes, we are weaving the glue, the social capital, the trust – the magic!
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John Tropea said:
Hey Vanessa…enjoying reading your blog…up to the May archives at the moment.
Constrained and Unconstrained network weaving reminds me of BONDING and BRIDGING capital as described by Clay Shirky on the two aspects of social capital.
Constrained network weaving is like bonding capital…making what you have a more dense richness, and unconstrained network weaving is like bridging capital…reaching out to other domains/audiences for a new breadth of richness.
Clay describes how Howard Dean had great loyal following due to good practice of bonding capital, but his campaign practiced poor bridging capital in influencing different crowds of people to support him.
See my tumblr post
As a former academic librarian I was an ultra network weaver…I did research for so many people and was familiar with their profiles, so it seemed silly for me to not connect people who researched similar topics…or where the research had similarities and applicabilities even though they were in different fields. Now social networks can take the weight of the librarians and people can do it for themselves.
In your post you mention “breaking down silos”…to be more precise I think silos are the natural way in which people self organise…we can’t and don’t want to do anything to prevent this…but what we want to do is bridge silos…overlay an enterprise-wide social network for people to connect across silos…do some island hopping.
Venessa Miemis said:
thanks for that distinction. not breaking, but bridging.
so now that social networks take the weight off librarians…. what are the librarians to do? 😉
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Daniel Bassill said:
I’m coming to this discussion a bit late, but I’ve had a link to this site on my site for a while. I’m working to map the networks that I’m part of, and working to create a template for the network needed to help inner city kids move through school and into jobs, so that anyone could map their own position in the network.
I’ve been building a network of people involved in tutoring/mentoring for over 35 years in my role as leader of a tutor/mentor program in Chicago. I formalized this in 1993 and have been intentionally collecting information related to volunteer-based tutor/mentor programs in Chicago. I share this on the web and via email newsletters and networking in blogs like this. I also host a conference in Chicago every six months to encourage people I know to connect to each other. Valdis Krebs and Jean Russell were speakers a year ago and we’ve been using SNA software donated by Valdis to do some mapping of conference participants.
I encourage you to browse some of the articles on the http://tutormentor.blogspot.com blog to see maps we’ve created that illustrate what I’m talking about. I hope to connect with others who do this work and who would work together to identify and recruit benefactors to fund the work we each are doing in this arena so we could do more, and so we could do more together.
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I’ve found that mental mapping honestly and correctly at two separate times, one for each person/group/concept, and then seeing if branches that are bolder or more defined etc. on one compliment the shorter branches of the other and vice versa. I’ve found that adding a spatial and also an approximately scaled element to mental mapping adds to both qualitative and quantitative aspects of the map. Also once you get used to mental mapping it’s really not hard to incorporate that into it. Hope that helps at least one person