The net regards hierarchy as a failure, and routes around it

The title comes from Mark Pesce’s presentation in September on Mob Rules, which I found via Will Richardson. That means that everyone in the edtech field has already heard about it. Anyway, this is an absolutely fascinating read, even for someone already immersed in all this Web 2.0 stuff.

The whole idea of the Mob is intriguing and seems bang on to me. “Now that 3 billion people are connected with mobile phones, the old rules have really changed”, Pesce says, and I agree, that it’s not about the technology:

Before we get all hippy-dippy and attribute agency to something that we all know is really just a collection of wires and routing boxen, we need to clarify what we mean when we use the word “net”. The wiring isn’t the network. The routers aren’t the network. The people are the network. We had social networks ten million years before we ever had a telephone exchange; we carry those networks around in our heads, they’re part of the standard “kit” of our cortical biology. We have been blessed with the biggest and best networking gear of all the hominids, but we all share the same capability. The social sharing of information has played a big part in the success of the hominids, and, in particular, human beings. We are born to plug into the network of other human beings and share information. It’s what we do.

From now on, anything that is top-down (bureaucracies, hierarchies, advertising) will be circumvented by the networked Mob. Pesce also says that “The Mob does not need a business model“, as is obvious with P2P file-sharing. No one makes any money and The Mob doesn’t care.

My comments don’t do this article justice so take some time to read it and some of the others on the website.

One final note; a little bit of déja vu occurred as I was reading this. I was downtown earlier in the day, and tried to find an open wi-fi connection, hoping that I wasn’t too far from the Café. The only open connection was called “Free Public Wi-Fi”and it connected me to this site – Meraki. I had never heard of it, and didn’t connect as it was fee for service, and I wasn’t ready to give out my credit card number. Anyway, about 20 minutes later I read this on Pesce’s post:

Four months ago, a small startup in Silicon Valley named Meraki (Greek for “doing it with love”) for unveiled a cute little device, a wireless router that they simply named the Mini. Inside it has a RISC CPU running a custom version of LINUX which handles all of the routing tasks. That’s where it gets interesting. You see, Meraki have pioneered a new technology known as “wireless mesh networking”. You can power up a Mini in anywhere you like, and if there’s another Mini within distance and these devices can reach nearly half a kilometer, outdoors it will connect to it, share routing information, and route packets from one to another all without any need to configure anything at all. Add another, and another, and another, and all of a sudden you’ve created a very wide area WiFi network.

Small world, big Mob.

4 Responses to “The net regards hierarchy as a failure, and routes around it”

  1. Gilbert

    Excellent article and well worth reading.

    Mcluhanistic thinking applies here. “The Network is the message”. The underlying carrier makes censorship very difficult. It also makes diffusion of propaganda (advertising) difficult. Layers built on top of the carrier will tend to exhibit the same properties.

    The “Mob” concept is somewhat similar to Buckminster Fuller’s “Pirate” concept.

    The author is on to something important.


  2. Robert Paterson

    Great article – I am using Meraki at home to mesh my property – finding it very useful – thinking of taking one on the road so that I can get wifi in my hotel rooms

  3. Jon Husband

    I use Meraki as well .. bought one about a month ago .. if I could get one in a one building on each block east and west of where i live close to downtown Vancouver, we’d have a nice bit of coverage happening.

    As I think Harold knows, from a sociological rather than technical stance I played around about 18 months ago with McLuhan’s aphorism, turning it into “the medium is the meaning … that we consume and create together”, which I’d argue is what the Web is letting us, or helping us, do.


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