Networks and the value of what is public

According to earlier simplistic management thinking stimulus and response processes control human behavior: you get what you measure; you get what you reward. This means that people are understood as having no real connection to what they are actually doing. A somewhat more modern way of thinking states that human beings actively create meaning in life through attempts to understand their own experiences. Intrinsic motivation, peoples’ relation to what they do, the meaning of work, replaces extrinsic rewards. People connect with what they are actually doing.

A new third way of thinking is now enfolding. Since we cannot experience everything ourselves, other people become the co-creators of experience and meaning. Relations, connecting with others, create a new, networked way of knowing and learning.

As a result, people can now connect both with what they do and with their peers, their network, making them much more knowledgeable than their colleagues who lack these capabilities.

Information is, paradoxically, simultaneously both social and individual, with multiple, variable goals and constantly negotiated premises because of the number of people taking part.

Information creators, publishers and curators, are not the (few) traditional verified experts; rather, information is created by a broad collection of reflexive practitioners sharing in the construction and ongoing evolution of a given field.

Information becomes a process of continuous facilitation and networked negotiation. Information networks are a valuable, shared resource making the interactive movement of thought possible. These networks are the new commons. Sociologists call such shared resources public goods. A private good is one that the owners can exclude others from using. Private has been valuable and public without much value during the era of scarcity economics. This is now changing in a dramatic way, creating the confusion we are in the midst of today. The physical commons were, and still often are, over-exploited but the new commons follow a different logic. The more they are used, the more valuable they are for each participant.

On the new commons, people with many ties become better informed and have more signaling power, while those outside and with few ties may be left behind. This may be the new digital divide. Network inequality creates and reinforces inequality of opportunity.

In the age of abundance economics, public is much more valuable than private.

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