Tag Archives: Dina Mehta

Blogging and Friendship

Tuesday, July 01, 2003

Dina often provokes me to think more deeply. In her recent series on corporate blogging I started to think about the friendships that arise from Blogging.

I wonder – are we seeing a new basis for friendship? In the past, we have made our friends through a combination of place, interest and values.

EG – Until maybe 30 years ago on PEI, you married a girl who was no more than a day’s buggy ride. Your friends came from the small community you lived in and were cultivated in the pressure cooker of the local school. If you were Catholic, you could only associate with other Catholics. Good Catholic girls until 30 years ago did not even ride in cars with Prots. Then religion was the dividing line for one key set of values. Everyone farmed or earned their living connected to agriculture so all shared an interest in farming and all shared the same set of pioneer values that come with being yeoman farmers.

You can laugh at this narrow world but stop for a minute – where did your friends come from? Place interest and values. I bet place wa important.

My close friends still come from my time at university. I have given up all my school friends but for 2. I see now that they were a product of place. At school we all had such a narrow choice. So we all made do with the small pool of possible friends that a house of 65 and a school of  700 could provide. Once I entered a large enough world, Oxford, where there were many more choices, I focused on those where I had a closer match in interests & values. At the time we all shared a common set of values about ourselves and the world – we were all enamoured by the corporate world and all joined it willingly and did well financially from it. These friendships have endured. One reason is that we have all given the corporate world up. It is weird coincidence that this group are all now self employed and could never work back in the system again. We must have sensed intuitively all those years ago that we would make the shift in values from group to self. In addition we had another link. An interest that we all shared was our children. I am godfather to 7 and this precious human link to the future of my friends has kept our friendship alive.

This tells me that, today that for me shared values and a shared interest seem more important and enduring than a shared space in connecting friends.

But for many people place is I think still the main driver for friendship. Especially if you do not move around much and where your old friends who were cultivated in early life live close to you. I have moved more times than I can recall. All these moves have I seen in retrospect broken any place-related links except the ones where the interests and values are in still in synch. All my corporate friends who are still very corporate have largely fallen off. The exception are those that I feel are trembling themselves at the edge of the line.

What is true for friendship is true for love. The troubadours tell us that love enters through the eye. But even in love the requirement for place is eroding. I think that the key is that in cyberspace you can be heard. To hear someone is a gift, To hear them is to know them. Paradoxically being heard is a challenge in the early days of a face to face relationship when each person’s need to speak can stop their ability to listen. Being yourself  can be hard in face to face where “projection” plays such a large role and where we seek to please. We so often “see” who we want to see rather than the real person who is there. With blogging, it seems to be hard to hide the real you. The real you may take time to emerge but emerge it does. The irony is that in not seeking to please, we are more attractive to others.

The issue seems voice. After a while of blogging our real voice comes to us. For the first time maybe, we say to the world –  “here I am warts and all” Where Robert Scoble has to admit that it is hard to reconcile how work and his marriage. My reaction – Scoble is a real person and not just a techno scribe. Where Dave Winer cannot help but feel like a parent to RSS and sounds off he becomes a man and not just a commentator and developer. Paradoxically, the more real we are- the more frail – the more attractive we are. Conversely, corporate voices do not lose their temper or have doubts. Corporate voices are like Dolores Umbridge’s from the Ministry for Magic: they use soft language for terrible things such as final solution or “right sizing”. As Cluetrain tells us – the corporate voice is becoming the great lie that we cannot hear anymore. But I get ahead of myself. Back to friendship.

My question. Is blogging changing the rules for friendship and maybe for love? With blogging, you can get to “know” someone in a deeper way than after many candlelight dinners, many years at school and many barbeque’s with neighbours. We hear how the other person thinks. We hear what really interests them. We experience their values. In return, we can gently link up so that over time they too can know us too. Projection is more confined as we do not rely on the visual cues for our norms of what is attractive on the surface before we know what is attractive below the skin. Everyone is at choice – you can make the connection or not. I don’t know the sound of your voice and in many cases don’t know what you look like. In most cases we are separated not only by distance but by culture and by different Gods but if we speak the same values and we are interested in the same things, then the link is made.

The values that I am talking about are the great divide between those that are externally motivated and those that are on the path to a self motivated world.

There is a huge gulf between these two sets of values. Those that have crossed this line know that there is no going back and that it is dangerous to speak out too clearly to those that remain in the “group” mind. They too have acute sensitivity to heresy and there is no heresy quite like not having to belong to the group anymore. This shift in values is what is really going on today. In the centre is the progress/corporate hegemony. In revolt on the right are the fundamentalists who long for a mythic past where women know their place and God speaks for us. This group is firmly in the group set of values and are outstanding in forming groups – hence their power. On the left is a new group that is not really a group. We are the Cultural Creatives, the Free Agents. We don’t like groups and have not until now found a mechanism for getting together that fits our self driven mindset. Until now. Until blogging. We have no power as isolated individuals. Until now. Until blogging.

For the irony is that for those of us that have crossed the line, it is lonely. While our motivation is based on self, we are still primates and human and we crave brotherhood and sisterhood. Blogging appears to be a tool that enables non joiners to find a mechanism to join safely with others like them. A club for non clubbers!

For me the potential in blogging is less corporate than social. It will create a new business model rather than support the old. What do I mean by this?

I have hopes for corporate blogging but they are dim. Why am I so depressed about this? Because of the values clash. The essence of the corporate state is that it is a collective where the group identity is paramount. Such a values set is like anti matter for those who are self motivated. Corporations claim that they want initiative and creativity but they need obedience more. Obedience is the core piece of DNA in the Ford model.

Where blogging will help most is in creating social and economic networks of individuals who share common goals and values – look at Matt and Paolo. Or look at how the community of bloggers is coalescing on PEI around Peter Rukavina. Look at how a whole group of doctors is forming around Marc Pierson Look at the influence that Ross Mayfield is having on all of us that think about social software or that Critt Jarvis is having on the election. This is the world I think that I, Dave Pollard and Dina are looking for.

Look at what happens when those who have developed relationships via blogging meet in person!

This is surely a revolution? Place and Face are no longer the initiating drivers for human relationships. The blogosphere is becoming the safe place for creative people to connect in. Just as eBay made it possible to trade safely outside your local area, so blogging makes it possible to access a global network of friends and lovers safely.


First Contact with Dina Mehta

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

I find this syuch a helpful concept – any more thinking like this out there?

Conversations with Dina. Great new weblog from India-based qualitative researcher Dina Mehta. It’s filled with interesting insights and links to unusual sources for understanding cultural and social patterns. Dina has an ability to bridge cultural gaps and put complex patterns into understandable terms. Good stuff. Go grab her RSS feed. You’ll be glad you did.

‘Karass’ or’ Granfalloon’ … you choose.Neat piece by Steven Johnson in the April 2003 issue of Discover.  Talks about two types of networks – the self-organising and social ‘karass’ and the more bureaucratic ‘granfalloons’, drawing examples from personal and corporate life. He goes on to describe the role of emerging social mapping software in detecting and mapping social networks – at the workplace in large organisations and in book-buying patterns at Amazon.    Some excerpts :

“Karass is that group of friends from college who have helped one another’s careers in a hundred subtle ways over the years; the granfalloon is the marketing department at your firm, where everyone has a meticulously defined place on the org chart but nothing ever gets done. When you find yourself in a karass, it’s an intuitive, unplanned experience. Getting into a granfalloon, on the other hand, usually involves showing two forms of ID.” […] [“Conversations” with Dina]