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      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008 edited
    When Anonymous decided to take on scientology I found myself getting very excited. It was obvious to me that something had changed in the message.
    Although terms like collective conscious, hive mind and the power of anonymity flew around hinting at answers I wasn't able to distill from any of them the source of the feeling that listening to that disembodied voice gave me.
    I think I've just figured it out.

    It's the evolution of leadership. Is the age of the Virtual leader here?

    Anonymity isn't what's key to the importance of anonymous as a phenomenon. The disembodiment of leadership is what's important. By creating a leader construct that is inherently open source we move beyond the problems of a human leader.

    A Human leader is most obviously subject to their own mortality. Worse still is that humans seem to need a figurehead to achieve large scale social goals. When the leader of a movement is killed, whilst their ideas may live on, the movement itself is always stalled. It loses momentum. With a constructed leader this is never a problem.

    An individual Human is not democratic, the leader construct is.
    The leaderconstruct has checks and balances built into them in ways a single consciousness can't easily achieve.

    People tend to project their own beliefs onto any leadership figure (or onto anyone for that matter). The leader construct IS the projection of those who follow.

    All of this has me in mind of the entities in Gibson's Count Zero, but rather than evolving unexpectedly from code written for another purpose, or from a rouge AI, I suspect that the first super concious constructs will evolve out of our collective action in the virtual world. Jung's archetypes may very well find themselves expressed in the web.

    Some time ago I wrote my "History of the Last World" for the story telling project I'm working on. I'm now starting to see the "Aegis" in the story as being the realization online of the collective conscious. Fortunately this new perspective seems a little more hopeful and harbors a little less chance of temporal catastrophe.

    What do you all think of this notion?
    Has anyone spotted any emergent archetypes in the net of late?
    I'd love to get everyones thoughts on this.

    -edited for misspelling-
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    Additionally, can we see anonymous in terms of an archetype?
    • CommentAuthorStringbird
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    I'm not entirely sure what you mean by construct leadership.

    It seems to me that groups like Anonymous are organized under what I would call a "Goal Based' leadership structure. The founders of the movement sat down and outlined their goals. Then they set up a series of objectives and rules and released them into the wilds of the internet knowing that they would be picked up by the impressionable teens who lived there.

    It's brilliant in it's simplicity. Pick an institution you don't like. Broadcast messages to that institution over the internet in a manner which has high production values, as all of the Anonymous videos did. Tell your people that you want them to put on masks and go stand on street corners to protest a religion they've hated ever since Battlefield Earth. Many internet teens will gladly jump at the chance to belong to a group, especially a group that seems to have as much "Tube Cred" as Anonymous does. It's the sports league of protesting. Give the kids rules and a goal and tell them to bring their own uniforms. The founders of the CoS protest group knew exactly what they were doing and the achieved amazing results with almost no expenditure of capital on their part. In many ways it emulated the most effective aspects of terrorist cells.

    That's not to say I disagree with the idea of Construct leadership. I just don't think Anonymous is a good example of it and I'd like to hear more of what you're getting at.

    It seems to me that a leadership construct is a tower of cards. If a head figure dies it won't fade in the way a human based movement will but it leaves the door open for destruction by interpretation. Unless you set up a firm set of rules and punish transgression what's to stop Joe Cult Leader from deciding that the movement should be focused on breeding sacred mating dolphins to have as his personal harem? Since the construct is a projection of the followers desires...

    I think an interesting point to bring into this discussion is National leadership and what a country construct is. We can have Presidents at absolute opposite ends of the spectrum and they'll still be fighting for "America." They can drop dead, or be assassinated but that's not a blow to the concept of America because a country is everlasting in a sense. It is a meta-leader beyond the petty squabbling of its citizens. That why we hear "The Message of America" or "The Duty of Our Nation" or "Our Nobel Heritage" so often these days. Religious leaders as well operate in an interesting leadership capacity. More as dissociative stewards than as true leaders.
  1.  (4015.4)
    While it's an interesting theory, and the first time that I saw Anonymous take shape as a political/social action group the thought that crossed my mind was "sociologists, take notes!" I don't think we're quite at the point you're presenting yet. I was fairly active with the whole Anonymous/Scientology effort for a matter of months, but it only took so long before my mind wandered to things that I felt were more immediately important, I think that a dedicated leader in such an effort would help to keep a group's attention focused more than any collective.

    Also, I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of Anonymous being treated as a completely leaderless organization, when the videos came out, it was fairly easy to tell which of them seemed the most "official" these were the ones getting the most hits on Youtube, the best put together time-lapse shots and the recognizable (for lack of a better word) voice. In my mind, this isn't collective consciousness so much as a forum for the person with the biggest bull-horn.

    Or, in another sense, take a look at message board culture. Whitechapel is by far one of the most disciplined collectives of interesting and intelligent folks that I've come across in a long time. And look at us, we still go off on regular tangents that in one way or another, need to be reigned in by a moderator with some sense of authority. Granted, these folks are still somewhat abstract to me. Sitting here at a laptop in Ohio, Mr. Ellis isn't completely real to me, I mean, I know the guy exists, but it's not like I've bought him a drink. Still, even in this abstract sense, my fear of arse eels is at the same time very, very real.
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    @ Stringbird - Fist off, let me preface any further points I may make by saying that my brain seems to function a bit like an LHC of thoughts. it just smashes ideas together at super high speeds and the ensuing explosion tends to be my state of consciousness. This thread began as a pretty much unmediated thought explosion so in 5 posts time I may well agree with nothing I initially said.

    Onto Anon,
    I just don't think Anonymous is a good example of it and I'd like to hear more of what you're getting at.

    Your probably right here. Anon in it's current state (and I'm talking about it's media presentation here) is more of a proto construct. Possibly an embryo or maybe just a single celled early life form.

    It seems to me that a leadership construct is a tower of cards. If a head figure dies it won't fade in the way a human based movement will but it leaves the door open for destruction by interpretation

    I don't think I agree here. If you look at the vast array of Anon spin off messages, it's pretty easy to differentiate between various different incarnations. Certainly there will be wacko variants but cults get way over hyped to my mind, they just don't get that big. The larger and more inclusive a group gets the more it tones down the crazy.

    Your points about national leadership are spot on. I think inclusiveness is what makes a difference here. Countries still have an "Other" to project and reflect onto. By contrast, virtual archetypal constructs don't have that? - I'll need to come back and provide a reason for my thinking here, I don't yet have one.

    Countries, leaders as the population sees them, the population as viewed by the individual and every other perspective are all narratives. Because they're narratives that we project on to physical realities they get confused with reality in ways I suspect may not apply to online Archetypal Constructs.
    In America we expect to be led by the President as a nation. A presidential Construct by contrast would be an embodiment of the nation itself.

    I'm going to re-read everything and mull over a while now.
    Not sure if I've helped clarify my thoughts or just muddied the waters further here...
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    @ Thom Attic - I'm not citing Anonymous as an example of a leadership construct per say, rather when I first came across them it seemed to me that there was something important I was missing that notions of collective consciousness wasn't addressing.
    I suspect that thing may be a coming emergence of non human leadership constructs. But rather than a world ruled by a benevolent AI, these non human leaders are likely to be organic composite entities formed from the sum of our interactions as a species.
      CommentAuthorWillow Bl00
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008 edited
    I like this idea.

    As someone who's often become a leader in communities, I must point out that many leaders are forced into position because they are the only ones willing to step into the position created (the people who actually quest for power shouldn't have it, as they say). Therefore, I'd continue your idea into it being a rotating leadership. You don't have one person who is defaulted to, but rather the goals are clearly stated and active community members fill in where they can. It's ideal, and the thing good leaders strive towards when they're community-oriented. For example - the club night Libby and I put together (and ran for 2 years) in Bloomington still exists despite the fact that we're gone because we were very clear about goals and that anybody could fill them, that things were easier if everyone did a little bit, etc. For awhile I thought about pouting because they "didn't need me," but the fact that we built something stronger than that was much better.

    One of the amazing things about identity on the internet is how connected individual and group identity are - and that you don't have to give one up as you gravitate towards the other (most social theory points towards either strong group identity or individual identity - you can't have both). It's changing our linear view of the world, of time, and of leadership as well.

    *goes off to chew on brain food*
  2.  (4015.8)
    I'm liking this thread... just throwing an idea into the mix.

    If a body of leadership is anonymous or functions in a sort of open-source way, then surely you'd get a sort of super-structure of leaders within the leadership.

    People would naturally fall into rolls such as orator, speech writer, researcher, depending on what their natural skill set was. Since there'd be nothing enforcing that structure other than the recognition of (and therefore deferral to) an individual's ability by other members, it seems to me that you naturally set up the closest thing to a pure meritocratic hierarchy possible. That bypasses all the sort of crap that a top-down leadership goes though, where ability is quashed, poorly assigned or recognised slowly because error/favouritism from the upper levels.

    I know those very things cause problems in the British government, since there's an unofficial (and mostly arbitrary) hierarchy to ministerial positions that ministers are "promoted" through when the cabinet is reshuffled. That means that there's a quick turnover of positions, and just as soon as a minister is used to the inner workings of one ministry, it's off to another (or goodbye altogether if you piss off the Prime Minister).

    (EDIT: Re-reading the thread quickly, I think I just said what everyone else has been saying in different words)
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    @ Stringbird - I sort of ignored your very first sentence, sorry.

    I'm not entirely sure what you mean by construct leadership

    To be frank, I'm not entirely sure either.
    I'm imagining any and all of the following.

    A virtual persona designed to be the mouthpiece for a movement, or group. Something like a more evolved version of the Anonymous voice.
    The personification of an abstract concept for the purpose of having a focal point for desemination of information.
    An emergent and evolving consciousness made from the component interactions of the group as a whole.
    Ant colonies co-ordinate behavior through pheromone trails - a leadership construct could be the expression of "information trails"
    A mask that someone could wear to act as the mouthpiece, the authenticity of their speech being determined by how well they conform to an archetypal reflection of the group as a whole.

    I've been playing around with photosynth and it's got me wanting some sort of aggregation/contextualization software to crawl all my posts on different sites and make them whole. I suspect that the emergent structures that I'm talking about aren't here yet because we lack information management tools to facilitate them.

    @ Willow
    One of the amazing things about identity on the internet is how connected individual and group identity are - and that you don't have to give one up as you gravitate towards the other

    Yes, absolutely. The success of a collaborative group requires that individuals operate at their highest and most autonomous level if they are to provide value to the whole.
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    @ Paul Duffield
    (EDIT: Re-reading the thread quickly, I think I just said what everyone else has been saying in different words)

    I think so, but you brought a clarity to some of those concepts thats really helpful.
  3.  (4015.11)
    Thom, I may steal this as an H+ topic at some point, with your permission. This is me asking, without question marks.
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    Willow, please do. Maybe it'll be the motivation I need to finally make it to a meeting ;)
  4.  (4015.13)
    Wouldn't that be fancy? Will be in touch via e-mail, maybe we can collaborate some leadership on it.
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    Sounds good to me.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    I'm watching this one. I have some ideas but I think we're pretty close to what I'm thinking. I'm very much on willow's "leadership is thrust upon rather than sought out" argument.
    • CommentTimeOct 29th 2008
    I have way too much work to do right now to adequately share my thoughts on the subject, which constantly preoccupies me, so this is just a little applause for the thread so far. I wish I was closer to Seattle for the H+ on this.
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2008

    You and me both. I'm hoping we get some more comments on this thread, though. I think Whitechapel has more to say!
  5.  (4015.18)
    @williac and @rickiep00h SKYPE! Should be good to go for meetings. Maybe I'll move things to Saturday afternoon so it's better timing for the rest of the states (...and the world?!).

    Continuing the conversation:

    I agree with the idea of a mouthpiece and people falling into roles that they find appropriate, but also that we stick with people based on ability now. It's much easier to ignore someone (or to say "fuck off") online when you're also emmersed in many other sources of information, which is much easier online because geography doesn't matter as much.
    What say you all to cult mentality and online groupings?
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2008
    Some interesting links

    Here and here.
      CommentAuthorThom B.
    • CommentTimeOct 30th 2008
    I'm a big proponent of collaborative social structures as opposed to institutional ones but I think I'm starting to see a "nature to nurture" overswing happening amongst the Intentional community advocates.
    The notion that we don't need leaders is, it seems to me, based upon some rather idealized notions about human nature.
    People simply don't self motivate to the degree necessary to make such communities work long term.