From Post Offices to Social Media #SM

Let us examine how Nature’s Model as presented a week back, is applicable for understanding changes happening in any social phenonemon and its transformation. For the sake of discussion let us take the most common social phenomenon ‘communication’ (the complex phenomenon that distinguishes human beings from other animals) and let us trace its development and transformation from the system of Post Office to the current status of Social Media. The central question in this quest would be: how did it all come about? Did it come about by some external forces or by some extremely clever and futuristic thinking of some bright individuals or did it come into being on its own “self-movements” and the gradual development of the enveloping field that motivated the ‘self movement’ the eventual collapse to take place. Once we trace the development through the model we would then try to draw an outline, however faint, of the next possible phase that would inevitably replace the present phase of Social Media.

To reiterate, the essential features of the Nature’s Model are the following:

1. Any phenomenon takes place under the interaction of a pair of opposites. “Self-Movement” occurs when two opposites interact. For movement to take place it does not need any external force.

2. At the inital phase of development we innovate to give the new development a push.

3. During the development state we improvize to sustain the process till it reaches the highest possible potential. The quantity of improvizations changes the quality of the transformation.

4. There is always a field or flux enveloping the development process.

5. Soon the development reaches its maximum potential limited by the field and remains steady for a while.

6. This steady state is quickly transformed into a rapidly ‘collapsing phase’ where the field triggers the collapse. 

7. The system collapses quickly and tends to come back to the intial phase of its development but one level higher that is inherently more complex than the previous phase giving birth to a new system. 


With these features in mind we set out to examine the transformation that has taken place in ‘communication’ starting with our ubiquitous Post Offices.

System 1: Post Offices

Purpose: How two people communicate in details with each other in a written format?

The pair of opposites for ‘self movement’ to take place: Service Provider and the Consumers (one service provider vs millions of consumers).

Innovation during the Initial state of development: Set up of costly infrastructure by the Service Provider.Only a few service providers could afford to set up the infrastructure and therefore ruled the market through monopoly.

Improvizations: differential trariffs, telegrams, book posts, air-mail, postcards, inland letters, speed post.

Field Strength: The growing strength of the enveloping field that leads to collapse: Time delays in communication, Costs controlled by service provider and Growing Cost of operation of the service provider trigger the collapse of State 1 to State 2, which is one level higher and more complex.


State 2: Land phones (a level higher than State 1 and more complex)

Purpose: How two people communicate quickly over long distances in the spoken format?

Interaction of the Pair of opposites leading to self-movement: Service Providers (usually one) vs millions of Consumers. 

Innovation during the initial state of development: Set up of costly infra-structure, signal processing, cabling, routing, etc. Only a few service providers could afford to set up the infrastructure and therefore ruled the market with their monopoly.

Improvizations during development phase (change in quantity leading to qualitative differences in service and utilization): Differential tariffs for local and long distance calls. type of signal processing, interconnectivity, etc.

Growing Field Strength to dislodge a stable system into a quick collapse: Cost to the consumers, unreliability, inability to communicate through written format, loss of mobility and precise connectivity and complete monopoly of the service provider trigger the collapse of State 2 to State 3, which is one level higher and more complex.


State 3: Mobile phones (a level higher than State 2 and more complex built on the back of internet technology, the transition technology between Phase 2 and Phase 3, which I have intentionally not described since we would discuss the social media which is intenet based technology).

Purpose: How two people communicate quickly over long distances in the spoken format with mobility and precise connectivity?

Interactions of the Pairs of opposites leading to self-movement: Service Providers (many) vs millions of Consumers. Note the change from usually one Service Provider to ‘many’ Service Providers in this phase of development.

Innovation during the initial state of development: Set up of costly infra-structure, costs sharing and collaborating between different service providers, better signal processing, cartel, advertisements, etc..

Improvizations during development phase (change in quantity to qualitative difference in service and utilization): different strategies to pull customers, dropping prices in response to competition, mobile phone designs (one device multiple functions, like camera, sketch pad, dictaphone, etc), text messages, design and development of user interfaces, different types of services, touch screen, later provision of web facility, 3G with voice and image facility, conference calls (from one to one to one to two), number portability etc.

Growing Field strength to dislodge a stable system into a quick collapse: Inability to network with different people in a cost effective way. harmful radiations that affect health, cost of service, inabilty to strike parallel dialogues simulataneously with many people, inability to collaborate, inability to learn from a wide variety of people, ineffectiveness of branding and advertisement through word of mouth….


Phase 4: #Social Media or #SM (a level higher than Phase 3 but more complex)

Purpose: How two or more people can interact, share, learn, collaborate, express themselves in variety of ways.

Interaction of the Pairs of opposites leading to self movement: Consumers to Consumers through participatory approach. Interesting to note that there is no governing body for the Internet system. The consumers create provide and consume the content.

Innovation during the initial state of development: Set up of various forums, platforms and complex network of networks for people to get together and communicate in various modes and methods. The cost of set up of such infrastructure is extremely small when compared to earlier forms of communication where the service providers effectively barred the entry of competitors through the high cost of investments needed for setting up the infra-structure.

Improvizations during the development phase: integration of various modes of communication — emails (various), short messages with searchable tags (Twitter), photos (Flicker), blogs (posterous), wikis (e.g. Wikipedia, Ning), niche groups, networking and job searches (e.g. Linkedin), sharing and dialogs between group of friends (e.g. Facebook), question and answer groups (e.g. Quora), audio and video (Skype, Youtube) — all enabling dialogs (both prolonged and short) and all rolled into one (e.g. E2.0 like Traction) and digital book publishing platforms (Amazon). The ongoing development is fast and furious and not yet mature enough. 

Growing Field strength to disloge the system into a quick collapse: Most of the social media is about networking amongst known people and group of friends and professionals. Less opportunity to collaborate for making a living and does not provide an efficient method of offering one’s services around the world in a reliable fashion, more specific local needs, inability to cater to physical needs, …. As the strength of the field grows it would trigger the collapse of the present stable state of affair with Social media (or #SM) to give brith to the next phase, i.e. Phase 5.

We have, in brief, looked at the transformations and traced the development of our communication system from the good old Post Offices to present day use of Social Media by applying a the underlying rules of Nature’s Model.

The nature of the development is quite fascinating. In brief, the interesting changes are the following:

a) From a single service provider we slowly moved towards having multiple service providers to having millions of service providers. .

b) In the early stages of development consumers were the underdogs. From that position they have now moved on to occupy the role of the virtual service providers.

c) Furthermore, the role of the consumers have changed from being a mere consumer of the service provided to that of being both the provider and the consumer.

d) The cost of providing the service to that of consuming the service has come down multi-folds to something quite insignificant thus making it affordable for millions of people.

e) From strong central regulation to virtual deregulation with no centralized governance.

f) It is providing for the first time in human history the opportunity to millons of people to dream of engaging into dialogs with total strangers, getting to know them and collaborating over brief duration of time to create new businesses (I term them as social businesses) at fraction of the previous costs enabling them to make an independent living without having to depend on jobs that were only created by the thinking and policies of the industrial age.

g) Again for the first time over the last 400 to 500 years of history, the relevance or importance of nation states is being fragmented into more community based living and working (including virtual societies and communities) who are trying to customize their offerings for the consumers by dipping into the pool of the best available global resources. It gradual development in Phase 5 would give a bodily blow to mental abstraction that we hold in our minds that wealth and happiness of a nation rests on existance and effectiveness of large corporations built and managed with the old industrial mindset and globalization. 

h) So far corporations existed with the mantra of competition. Within the next few years they would have to think totally differently for the survival and sustainabilty. They would have to somehow network with communities to produce, provide and consume the offerings (products and services) they would care to produce. The competion they would have to contend with would be from the consumers who so far were more than incapable to fight the might of the corporations or the producers.

h) We would also be moving away from the present economic models of capitalism and socialism to give birth to a different type of economy that would be more participatory in nature catering to the specific needs of the local communities.

i) As the new participatory economy develops the economic cycles that we have of boom and busts or recessions and inflations would minimize to a great extent since the money that would be produced in society would be based on value and not speculation on some financial bubbles. And it is also expected to level out economic disparity within communities and nations.

It clearly showed how Nature’s Model helps us to not only examine the nature of the phase of a current development and what decisions we might take at different stages of its development but also helps us to understand the nature of the successive states that would appear in ever increasing levels and nature of complexities and what triggers such possibilities for self emergence.

The model also informs us that older modes of communications would virtually be wiped out with time. It would then be useless trying to fight hard to retain old positions in the face of current development. Organizations that are determined to fight back with the natural process are bound to be extinct or decimated to inconsequential existence. The best response they have up their sleeves is to adapt and to reinvent themselves in light of new changes that appear on the scene.





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