A Literacy of the Imagination

a deeper look at innovation through the lenses of media, technology, venture investment and hyperculture

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?