better stories for a better world

“Social scientists have identified at least three major forces that collectively bind together successful democracies: social capital (extensive social networks with high levels of trust), strong institutions, and shared stories. Social media has weakened all three. To see how, we must understand how social media changed over time—and especially in the several years following.” —The Atlantic 2022

A decade ago I saw three factors in the production of what is generally called social capital:

  1. Intellectual Capital (ability to collect, retain & share information
  2. Social Capital (ability of people to work together)
  3. Creative Capital (ability to combine diverse ideas)

Connectors know lots of people and use what they have invested in social, cultural and identity capital in order to convert these intangible resources to their advantage (Creative Capital)

Mavens are sources of information. They always have their finger of the pulse in their fields. Mavens may be trendsetters and trusted for their knowledge (Intellectual Capital)

Salespeople are the persuaders of society. They dedicate a great deal of their time and effort selling ideas to people (Social Capital)

trusted network roles

In summary, Mavens exhibit the greatest intellectual capital — Connectors have the most diverse (creative) networks — and Salespeople get things done (action). We can identify sufficient Mavens, Connectors, & Salespeople (we need all three for change) and then build up the critical mass necessary to effectively spread ideas, like democracy — whether it be 25, 10, or 3%.

However, changing practices and developing a new sharing culture takes a lot of time and effort. Finding and engaging trustworthy people in the network may be the best place to start. But the critical role may be the Doer (has both Reliability + Intimacy) — the most trusted of all, so first— engage the trustworthy.

Many of our institutions, such as public health telling people to do your own research, are failing us. And we lack powerful stories that can unify us in a time of climate crisis. New decision-making models are needed.

So the challenge is — how do we use digital media for the betterment of society? I think it starts by telling better stories. For example The Ministry for the Future provides a blueprint of what can happen when “hope and history rhyme”, and The Carbon Almanac shows what motivated and networked people can accomplish. We need better stories that can unify us, because most people are tired of all this conflict, and then we can counter the forces of populism — [right wing populism, that is].

Note: follow the links for more information.

McLuhan's tetrad on digital media


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