A Literacy of the Imagination

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Filtering by Tag: Internet of Things

The Concept of "Buttressing" (An inelegant word to address tipping points in history, polity, innovation & economics)

“The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”

- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.


[Wikipedia] A buttress is an architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall.[1] Buttresses are fairly common on more ancient buildings, as a means of providing support to act against the lateral (sideways) forces arising out of the roof structures that lack adequate bracing.

The term counterfort can be synonymous with Buttress,[2] and is often used when referring to dams, retaining walls and other structures holding back earth.


So here we are. The U.S. presidential race is in full swing, and many pundits are claiming it to be a wash (I would be one of them). It's been predicted that regardless of who gets the nod, there will likely be another four years of domestic policy stagnation, irrepressible socio-economic frustration and boiling international conflict. Is this a terrible outlook? Not necessarily.

As reiterated to me recently by Liz McLellan, and as evidenced by the recent movement to thwart dangerous new Internet and related legislation (SOPA, PIPA, et al), things are not as linear or teleological as they might seem.

For one, many people seem to think that history is all pre-written, unipolar and unidirectional. What comes from this is a full range of "isms" founded or predicated on ideals that confine us to working within or fighting against "systems". These logic strains manifest in things, for example, like economic iterations: "The Attention Economy", "The Ask Economy", "The Social Economy" and "The Creative Economy" (a personal favorite, and something that I think is very real and very permeable, but alas…)

I'd like to propose something a bit different, as history repeats itself for good reason: We don't rewrite it in ways that provide context to ask newer, better, stronger questions, and, such that we are able to arrive at solutions to complex problems… Such as those we face with the Internet and the distribution of information, or better yet, money.

To challenge our notions and actions with respect to taking sides, here's a concept I've been thinking a lot about: "buttressing".

In essence, buttressing averts the more binary constructs tied to "if/then" or "better than" scenarios, or "new models" that require scaffolding of any kind. Scaffolds are essentially walls and domains we put up as a result of an economic and/or social imperatives — entire nations have been built on them. In contrast, buttressing supports human walls that are created regardless of moral or secular or idealogical ambiguities, or those which might have hierarchical schemes, either fear-based and/or knowledge based. Buttressing actions contingency groups that don't just subvert "higher authority" movements, but those that also form out of chaos — vis-a-vis Monti Di Pieta or a favorite amongst some of the groups of which I am a member, Junto.

How buttressing is leveraged in a technological or an Elysian sense I haven't quite thought through (nor could I — this would likely become a construct built through a cooperative), but I will say that it focuses on emergence as having interjective qualities, rather than simpler measures that induce "macro" or "micro" or "subtle" or "radical" patterns that affect an intentional result, or a future, that embraces complexity.

Allow me to provide some context, and use money as an example of how model-free duality drives the commercial world we currently inhabit... For good and for worse.

Someone with whom I recently took part in an online discussion referred to the Jewish fortress of mercantilists who paid for protection during (and before and after) the Holocaust, so I will start there. Some of you know that my father is a Holocaust survivor (born in Upper Silesia in 1932 and fled near Auschwitz to Shanghai in 1938). Many cite Kristallnacht as the tipping point in the start of the war, but this probably only served as an affront to Austrian parliament, since Germany and Poland along with select regions of Europe were undergoing a reformation of sorts and bankers on either side were torn by, among other things, secularism. Plans were likely made well before WWI to support the "system" and to find figureheads to run it — independently of the "moral majority" or even its economic implications — and to boot, many, many Jews were a part of this "accidental regime" (my grandfather and my great grandfather were among them; you can gather some more personal context on this period in history here).

[An aside: Obama has been compared by extremists to Hitler in this same sense – yes, a ridiculous notion on the surface, and ridiculous by most moral standards, but when we think about his tenure as a figurehead, the stories might actually overlap in subtle ways.]


The Concept of "Buttressing" (An inelegant word to address tipping points in history, polity, innovation & economics)
Remember this? President Obama went from hopeful social figure to a politician grappling with labels, almost overnight. Or was he groomed to be in this position?

The Concept of "Buttressing" (An inelegant word to address tipping points in history, polity, innovation & economics)

When confronted with context, the picture changes. What side are you on now? [image credit: Adam Goldberg]

This is just one example in modern history, I would assert, that is connected to a series of evolutionary shifts that transcend formative points in time, or "tipping points". For a moment, let's move along the modern war timeline to post-WWII, 1945 on.

What happened immediately following the release of Morgenthau's "Politics Amongst Nations"? Isreal was formed in 1948. What ensued has amounted to a litany of radical (some say "progressive") leanings on all sides, all in the name of money. Yet, the "power structure" hangs in the balance, as the Israeli fortress (not exactly a coordinated system as we might think of it) requires funding from U.S. and British banks to the tune of $58B per year. Was Zionist movement in the West Bank the tipping point? I doubt it.

Let's move on to Cuba. Many cite Playa Giron as the "secret tipping point" of The Bay of Pigs invasion (an "invasion" that was spread and hedged over years of political grooming) and the U.S.'s apparent failure to build an "emerging democratic nation-state". Then of course, there were rumors that this Castro-run state was run by organized crime — you know, "the Italians". But if you retread through some annals, you'll find that Mercantile bankers – Jews and Gentiles alike, some Muslims – were the string-pullers in a society funded by experimentation, and, aghast, to this day, Cuba hosts one of the most anonymously subsistent economies, replete with one of the highest literacy rates and lowest rates of infectious disease in the world (save for long-standing cultural mores, but that is fodder for another conversation…).

To hark back to a previous point in history, do we honestly believe that Monti Di Pieta was funded by "radical" or "puritanical" or "progressive" Christian sects? Hardly. The lenders were Jews – later Italian Jews – who backed both sides of the marketplace until regimes such as Luther's found some major cracks in the "power structure" and shifted things towards a neo-fascist or neo-feudalist state. (And by the way, this pattern cycled through all the way to Mussolini and up to the Berlusconi era of today. As rumored: 27% of Italy's GDP is in the black market -- another reactive stage to non-foundational power surges and their respective regimes).

Sound familiar? Wall Street is more or less run the same way -- just as Mercantile or merchant markets have exchanged power amongst constituencies for centuries. Now, the banks have been nationalized, waiting for the next interest group to swoop in for the kill (read: it ain't gonna be the bankers themselves... Or will it?). Again, this shift clearly didn't coalesce overnight. So back to tipping points.

Was a student revolt a tipping point for Tiananmen Square?
What about the Berlin Wall?
Do we think these "singular" power structures have ever really existed in Tunisia? Egypt? Syria?

We can debate this ad nauseam under the lens of "strong versus weak" ties, but it seems in doing so, we're missing the bigger picture.

The larger point is this: Human intention is supposed to be misguided. It's what actually makes us… Human. What makes us cooperative is something much bigger than us: The active pursuit of knowledge that does not fall victim to binary lines of reason. Hence, the desire to preempt history repeating itself, over and over and over again.

Personally, I'll be damned that if in my lifetime, I'll allow the same events happen to my family that happened to my father and his immediate family. That may sound obvious, but in practice, it really isn't  -- it's our nature to question, and to question through a series of outcomes that leave us aligned with "one side or another".

Am I suggesting that we don't take sides over certain issues? Not at all. What I'm proposing is that we should take sides once we've engaged in context — the rigor that all great societies, social thinkers and economists used, Platonean, Aristotelean, Dialectic, on up through the various ages of reason (For a literary example, explore Plato's notions of hard and soft text).

If evolution has taught us anything, binaries simply aren't the way of the world. Nor should they be.

Our role within the edges then, it seems, is to buttress transitional movements that transcend the "alternatives" or what amount to "the replacements". Duality is the ideology that the edges degrade and then move us toward collective, or cooperative, intention.

This is the key to becoming a network (not a mere system) of evolutionary, acutely-aware beings that affect change in positive ways. People who are literally invested in context. Can it happen? Sure, anything can happen. Everything already has happened.

As for "taking sides", think on this, if you would.

Regarding SOPA or PIPA, my own fear is less over regime-like control of Internet gateways than it is in a singular transactional governing body -- poor management of the EEA , for example, represents a critical threat to our holistic integrity in rebooting things like education and harnessing the mitigation of greed (an undeniable human instinct). Remember that the countries who have fought against tiered legislation in support of it (Switzerland, Norway, Finland, Germany et al) -- some that are dubbed "socialist" nations -- are countries who have very strong educational ideals, great small business support and strong social benefits (stable healthcare, very few homeless people, etc.), and while there is still an uneven distribution of institutional wealth, much of this money is being poured into infrastructural development, and not just to bootstrap labor unions, who are having a hard time in their own right finding new footing with renewables and other sustainable energy models commoditizing their value.

I think that we can all agree that free markets can be emergent -- the question is how.

SO... perhaps what we need to consider here is the buttressing of private interest groups that support innovations around nanotechnology and clean energy initiatives -- groups that have mercantile power and see the value of emerging markets dependent on flat distribution schemes (think of orgs like Scibe, and some of the constructs – not all – that powerhouses like Google employ through programs like the smart grid Powermeter).

As for sides -- they are multi-dimensional; my larger belief is that 'we' (as a unified front of good people) are inherently stronger than 'them' because greed has always had its limitations.

And it's the ability to see through the "eyes of the other side" that allows us to be spiritually and mentally free, whether our wealth is material, immaterial, concordant or recursive. Operationally, I liken this to much of what Mark Frazier has advocated around NGOs, but I would add that greed and enlightenment share in recursive values that ultimately bend with fluid, focused contingencies — people who have suffered through geolocal context (war, admonition, injustice, etc.), yet those who truly believe in the 'we'.

So what do you think about "buttressing"? What can we do to action it?

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

Semantics, Semantics, Semantics...

The phrase “Let’s not get hung up on semantics...” really rings true in the actions of where, how and why the web leads us down convergent paths. Truth is, language has always been challenged by “viscerality” and context; just looking at history - you can find endless, glaring examples of how interpretation has spawned great debate, conflict, economic depression, and, of course, through the lens of irony, great artistry.

Social & cultural memes have strongly indicated to us that intelligence is collective and emergent in nature. Pattern recognition and analysis have given us the benefit of causality and relatedness. Where purpose & meaning may not be self-revealing to us as individuals, now they have a new place in the emergence of objects, themes and artifacts — we are literally defining the search and communication gateways by virtue of what we represent as ourselves, as communities, all within the context of moments, environments, or even, dare we say, gaps in time & space.

Entity Creation Versus Word Association

Well, reining this back in a bit, we can look at Google’s recent acquisition of Metaweb as an open acknowledgment that semantic-based solutions are greatly challenged, if not a road leading to nowhere. Google’s plan with Metaweb is to solve the problem of word complexity by opening up the content gateways – from blogs and other content-rich sites to actual entertainment properties – and ascribe physical and relational values to them.


This is no doubt a smart and intriguing play, but it still begs the question of how we interpret the meaning of content, and more importantly, what it can mean in the context of experience.

Going a bit deeper into the search construct, we also find engines like Collecta, OneRiot, Scoopler or Wolfram Alpha hampered by the limitations of expanded binaries, which lead to clear “word imbalance”, “semantic hangtime” and “phrase favoritism” - just look at the quality of mid-tail or longer tail searches. Even with bottom-up approaches for indexing and correlating search behaviors, it is likely that none of these platforms – as cool and effective as they often are - will ever be able to get out of their own way, not even with the most advanced algorithms and fractal configurations.

Veteri is an example of an aggregated search tool that intends to evolve through symbol, theme and object-oriented correlations (what Metaweb describes as entities, not the traditional objects oriented around semantic programming protocols). In sum, it pulls from multiple search indices and specific content networks, but really aims to scale by way of knowledge attribution -- the things, even products, that we can describe with great emotional detail.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

  Meme Machine is an example of a software platform (SaaS) that uses a similar approach to improve the relevancy and efficacy of online ads by creating attribution values between the content within a unit and the surrounding content (often search-based) on a web page.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

  These tools will continue to evolve; regardless, we have a lot thinking and collaborating to do around the precepts of knowledge sharing in general (and this is the primary impetus for emergent discussions like those found on Junto).

  Ecosystems Really Do Matter

In reality, this isn’t so much a search issue, or an online construct, or even a new methodology — the Memetic Web (and the web in general...) is much bigger than all of those things; it is ecosystemic, sentient, empathic and regenerative. It is evolutionary. It is a mindset, or a mindstate, in which we think on the part of the other, a sort of “anticipatory freewill”, where we define our actions in the context of each other... Something that search engines, media networks, technology platforms or organizations do not have the ability to do without our individual and collective inputs, and those that we craft meaningfully.

  Why is this? At the most rudimentary level, we are conditioned to think, believe and evolve in terms of absolutes. But that is not the way nature works. Nor is it the way people truly, even fundamentally, want to live (separating the notions of want and need for the moment).

As for purchasing, we can easily argue that not only has commerce become a social practice, but that trust must be evaluated and defined within our purchasing experiences, not just before or after them. A great example of this are the deltas we can ascribe to various media and communications channels.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto
[image credit: Razorfish’s Fluent Report, July 2009]

  Staying within the context of search, platforms like TrustRank were established to improve relevancy and create “trust” within our core search experiences... But of course, the results are devoid of community consensus (people) and don’t tell us much of anything.

Now of course sites like Wikipedia stepped in to solve the problem of trust in that validation or credibility is delivered by consensus (or at least an aspect of it), but we still miss any sense of emotional or behavioral affinity.

Then there is the phenomenon of replacement behavior, something, for example, we see exhibited all too often in our daily discourse within the social web. To offset this, Memetic Computing has involved the explorations and emergence of cultural artifacts, game, trade and negotiation strategies, rules of behavior, organizational compliance, artificial intelligence or machine learning, operational research and natural services by way of memes (or “temes”) and heuristics (educated guesswork for solving problems most notably through gestural type interfaces).

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

But now, we face a much more formidable challenge: how do make these things truly adaptive?

Behavioral Economics & Knowledge Cartographies

Behavioral economists and business solutions architects such as Jeremy Rifkin, Stein Ringen, Steven Levitt, Stephen Dubner, John Hagel, John Seely Brown, Dan Ariely, David Laibson and Daniel Kahneman have all made significant inroads with respect to creating adaptive frameworks for emergent thinking within organizations. And while there is a substantial learning curve and iterative discovery in defining and addressing specific need states, we can defer to the communication systems we already have in place to recontextualize their role or roles.

So, in using “search” as example of function rather than mere technological or mathematical design, tags and labels now expand to symbols or artifacts that are dynamic in nature — they can be shaped, redefined and remixed accordingly, and at any given place or time. These symbols take on new life and meaning through collective interpretation and consensus, and can be activated through things like gaming.

Here is an example that my friend, Ishan Shapiro (@notthisbody), has provided through an exploration of Memetic Cartography; first are the establishment of entities that define specific intentions or actions:

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

[image credit: @gavinkeech]

Each icon or entity reflects a specific type of intention or action, and is also ascribed sentimental value. These values of course can change or shift roles, which is precisely why they have memetic qualities. We can then map these entities together to form a strategy or an initiative, one that can be scaled up or down at any given time, and in real-time.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

[image credit: Ishan Shapiro @notthisbody]

What this ultimately means is that the

knowledge of actions

(what we stated as “viscerality” at the top of this post) can be developed and shared collectively. Not only does this empower our intelligence systems, but it in a commerce capacity, it gives us incredible purview into

why we do the things we do and how we can make them better or more fulfilling

. In other words, we


our actions even when we make purchases, or when we decide not to.

If we expand further on a cartographic approach, we can see how some technologists and scientists look to solve the problem of complex systems by humanizing the constructs of computational rigor and analysis, what we can also consider to be knowledge cartography:

You’ll notice that irrespective of the systems or technologies themselves are frameworks that can be validated algorithmically, scientifically, mathematically or even metaphysically (many logicians would have a field day with that one, but I digress...). The good news is that these frameworks can be applied to the latest and greatest marketing constructs.

Virtual Goods & Currencies Becoming A New Reality

The Farmville phenomenon (a social and cultural meme in its own right) has given us an entirely new way of looking at value creation. While Farmville itself doesn’t reflect the type of meaningful actions we might find in the examples here, the function of sharing and trading goods has clearly caught on. Habbo is a great example of how community interaction has evolved to a place where affinities are being extended into the real world.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

  And then of course there are Facebook Goods and Facebook Credits, initiatives that FB is betting the farm on... Pun intended. The critical piece here is how this can drastically inject new life into our credit and hard currency systems.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

  This also significantly redefines our notions of social currency and social capital, and as these hard and soft currencies converge, we find that our measurement standards greatly benefit from dynamics that are actionable.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

Practical Application of Meme-Based Affinities

So, let’s place this in some more applied thinking, really more to show the failure of semantic-based search and what the possibilities are around entity-based experiences, particularly in regard to making purchases.

Pulling from a Veteri product search on "iPad accessories" and applying its potential use in the exciting new movement of location-based engagement (or LBE) as a context for creating or extracting the “Internet of Things”, and more granularly, the “Internet of Products”, we come across a very interesting paradigm: the fusion of product and real human affinity.

So first off, let’s assume that every product has a QR/QM coded or has a Stickybit. Here is a Veteri-based search table, with enhancements I've given it to reflect the elements mentioned above.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto
You’ll notice that the actual search listings themselves are banal; where we have made up for a lack of keyword or phrase recognition, we now have symbols or entities. On the left side are coins or currencies that represent things like the number of people (in relation to you, not necessarily “friends”, although they could be) that have used the product, those that have redeemed for it or traded it back in, those that have reviewed it and the currency or “trade value” of this particular product.

On the right side of the table, you find a specific geo-local retailer or group of retailers, the actual price of the product within that location and the color bars above the map represent the sentiment around the retail experience itself. If you are a Yelp user, for example, this means that stars used for reviews can be enhanced or even replaced by sentimental and repeat-purchase values, things that are critical in making such a decision.

Next you can see “hotspots” of activity where the product is being used in your area, and more specifically, at a specific street location. Here, we see the currencies integrated and applied to a retail outlet, or, even an area around those outlets where products are being used, discussed or shared.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

  We can then see how things like augmented reality applications can enhance the search experience (and notice that “search” has been redefined in its function, most notably to physical places) by tying all the elements of sentiment, social currency value and functional use together. Further, there is another wonderful component to this, which is the connectivity product can provide in bringing people together.

The Memetic Web & The "Internet of Products" #search #semantics #commerce #location #LBS #Junto

  What culminates out of this is real-world, real-time data that is enriched by these experiences, and then, indexed back into online search. You might consider this a cyclical loop of elevated human engagement.

  The Economic Open End...

Privacy issues aside (and in no way should we write them off – quite the contrary - they are just not fundamental to this exploration), we can see some fascinating dynamics at play here:

The physicality of search data & related content grounds itself in a renewed context: us.

  The locality of the data correlations we draw from make the associated experiences hyper-relevant and hypersocial.

  The ubiquity and transferrable value of products and/or services are no longer confined inside of fixed credit or media systems.

  The relatedness of products to people drives market growth and supports microeconomic scalability and stability.

  The building of trust through the consensus of emotional and ethical co-created value is the new foundation for associated currency systems.

  The specialization of new or renewed common interests begets the creation of emergent disciplines (more artistic in nature than regimented), behavioral economies (or microeconomies) and/or new vocational segments.

  Emergent collaboration advances our notions of capitalistic opportunity, and more importantly, the realization that businesses are the activation of social intent (basically, good value and the co-creation of good value systems, or what Umair Haque has been developing as “The Betterment Model”).

  Last, but certainly not least, value enrichment becomes the active and adaptive centerpiece of business growth based on cultural development; the things we develop affinities for are actually the utilities we use, as well as the things we compete over, and therefore (staying within a marketing context, for example) we bridge the gaps between brand, people, category and vocation.

In conclusion, here are some questions we might ask ourselves and/or our clients:

* How do you feel you can play or already do play in the evolution of the Memetic Web?

* What values would you personally ascribe to the “Internet of Products”?

* Does this change your perspective of communication and relationships as you’ve come to know them?

* Do you have a renewed sense of vocation, or do you feel that is constantly being redefined?

* How does this impact you as an individual?

* How do you feel this might impact your business?