Monday, December 31, 2007

2.0 Screen Time, 5.0 Face Time, Of Racialism, Progressive Group Dynamics

Recently a reporter asked Google CEO Eric Schmidt what he thought of 2.0 and what he thought 3.0 might be. He said 2.0 was just a marketing term. Not so. 2.0 is a very concrete milestone for web technology.

Web 5.0: Face Time
A Web 3.0 Manifesto

The other day I was hanging out with team member two - I stole him from Morgan Stanley, they just promoted him, but he is quitting nevertheless - of my tech startup at his place, his girlfriend who lives in New Haven and cousin who lived only a few blocks away, joined a little later, my first time seeing them. And when it was just the two of us early on, at one point he was saying 5.0 this and 5.0 that. And I said, "I hope you realize you and I are the only people who talk of 5.0." The term has not caught on.

I lived cloud group dynamics for two years for Nepal's democracy and social justice movements. The price I paid: weak social muscles. After we hung out for a little while, an hour or two, more perhaps, the idea of going to the movie came up. I skipped that part. It got a little too much for me. I later wrote to him: sorry, weak social muscles. Cab drivers who don't get into the habit of daily, elaborate exercise end up with back problems. 2.0 cloud group dyanmics, if not accompanied by a rich emotional, social life, can result in weak social muscles. It is an occupational hazard. As we build our team, we will have to remember. 5.0 is key.

2.0 and 5.0 have to go hand in hand. That is a given for my startup. Recently I suggested the same for DL21C, an organization I have long respected as the top political organization in the city.

I Want To Join The DL21C Steering Committee

I suggested the 2.0, 5.0 thing to DL21C, but there are a few differences. With my startup, I just go ahead and decide. A political organization is a different organism. But its adoption of 2.0 and 5.0 does not have to be as total as for my startup. But I can't see how it can skip it entirely.

Made me think, though.

Imagine a high quality video. Then you reduce the quality of the video. Then you turn it black and white. Then you get rid of the imagery altogether. Then you get rid of the music. Then you put the words from the video down on a piece of paper. Face time can be said to be that high quality video, an email is that piece of paper with words only.

When I put out theories on gender, I am always worried if I am just talking stereotypes, or if I am upto something after all. Like the proposition that men are instrumental - think action movies - and women are relational. The high quality video is great for the relational mindset. You see many details to the conversation that you want to see. But to the instrumental mindset, the email works just fine. The mind does not even know what it is missing. But to the relational mindset, an email has many fill in the blanks. You see meaning that was not put in there, but to you it is as real as if it was put in there. Can lead to a lot of misunderstanding and confusion.

So there is that major content difference between 2.0 and 5.0. But 2.0 does not just come in the form of words. Besides content, there is a major interactivity difference.

TV is not interactive. It is one way. You watch. Newspapers are not interactive: crossword puzzles don't count, or not that much. But when the internet came along, it was different. It was interactive. You could click, you could search, you could send and receive email. That was Web 1.0. The current DL21C website is a great example of a Web 1.0 site. All Web 2.0 did was take interactivity to a whole new level. So much more interaction became possible. Facebook is the flagship example of a 2.0 application.

Geography is irrelevant. That is the basic postulate that makes the current technology feel highly inadequate. All the features are not there. And perhaps the richness of face time will never really be replicated.

But compare 2.0 interactivity to 5.0 interactivity. Face time interactivity is so much richer. There are so many additional elements. There is so much more emotional interplay during face time. The degree of difference is just humongous.

Content, interactivity. And then there is the social dynamic that comes into play.

To overgeneralize, let's say Queens is a largely brown crowd, Brooklyn is a largely black crowd, Manhattan is a largely white crowd, Bronx is primarily Hispanic. New York City is at once the capital city of the world, the most diverse place on earth, and also its most segregated in some ways.

So when someone brown like me shows up at a "progressive" event that is predominantly white, I don't hear alarm bells ringing in my head, but I do notice it is a predominantly white crowd, and it is racial, not racist, but racial.

It did not take me long to get to know all the top people at all the top political organizations in Manhattan after I moved into the city. And I can stand my own when it comes to politics. And over time you do get to know a few people here, a few people there. And at that point the city feels like a small town.

But this city is the Amazon forest of humanity: all possible human life forms live in this city. You routinely meet jerks. I don't love this city because it is devoid of racists, but because they might reveal themselves once, but then they don't have to stay in your face.

My favorite one is where some random, dumbass white guy will go ahead and "slap" a conversation between a white woman and a nonwhite guy. It is like they sense budding intimacy and will not put up with it. There are a few problems with that. First, not everyone is trying to hook up. Most conversations are social. Second, he is invading the personal space of two individuals and is being racist and sexist at the same time in suggesting who these two individuals may or may not talk to, or to what extent. Such dumbasses are ripe targets for some basic verbal jujutsu. One oneliner, and they don't know what to think next.

There is an underlying value system that decides why a crowd is predominantly brown, or black, or white or Hispanic. A total reliance on 5.0 says that value system comes before the individual. And that is why I put so much emphasis on a seamless 2.0 and 5.0. For political action, that is my big reason to emphasize 2.0. I can't imagine a decided move towards a post-ISMs individual group dynamic without a seamless 2.0 and 5.0.

And there is a major major efficiency issue. 2.0 is just so much more efficient. 2.0 enriches 5.0.

So: content, interactivity, post-ISMs individual group dynamics, and efficiency. But then there is another angle to content. There's all that stuff online that I just can not convey during face time. I will have to email you a blog post to make a point once in a while.

As to what particular combo of 2.0 and 5.0 is right for an individual, it is for the individual to decide. The same applies to organizations. For my startup, it is total, with an emphasis on 2.0. For a political organization like DL21C, it can be a Lite version, with the major emphasis on 5.0.

DL21C has an enormous reservoir of untapped social and political capital in terms of all the members it has in three big cities, and all the guests it is able to summon: pretty much the who is who of American politics. I wish there were a movies version of DL21C, I'd like to meet Al Pacino, I once said to Elizabeth. DL21C is like Arabs before they realized they were sitting on top of oil, politically speaking.

December Baby?

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