Sunday, October 17, 2010

How News Travels Now

It's an ancient cognitive impairment: what comes through our ears into our brains positively obliterates "the way" it comes through the same cavities. The modern day vessel for this malfunction is called "the channel" and ours are clogged the moment we're on -- mentally alert enough to take calls, send texts, browse faces, and read screen-presentable situations.

The state? Connected.

The place? Anywhere at anytime.

The enabler? Receiving electronic signals over synthetic devices.

The pathogens?

- Certainty of Sender -- Receiving pointed messages from senders of unknown origin. Case-in-point: Argumentation is now searchable and replaceable. The same macros used to make wholesale changes to the names, places, and file structures in electronic documentation are now done on a scale formerly known as mass communications. Only now macro communications has no consistent authors or addresses -- just the incessant need to influence the most minds for the least cost.

- Theory of Mind -- Confusing the ease with which we make sense of these messages with any clear understanding of what they mean to others. Case-in-point: Remember the famous last words of a dying friendship jeopardized by a media firestorm? It goes something like: "why did I have to read about this in today's paper? Why couldn't you have come to me first?" Nowadays the idea that we can reduce a piece of information to the plot points on a calendar traversed by a series of interactions is going the way of other 20th century conventions like privacy, the public trust, and a free press.

- Confirmation Bias -- An unwillingness to openly question our own motivated reasoning -- especially when our biases are based on the inability of message receivers to handle their own doubts and uncertainties. Case-in-point: curiosity, exploration, and debate succumbs to the iron-fisted simplicity of authoritarian rule or an over-reliance on the scoreboard clock of the zero sum game. The latest mid-season update? Politics "1" Governance "0."

So how do we trap this restless, resistant, and relentless messaging stuff in lightening bottles of a 21st century vintage? It all boils down to our two natural message sending and receiving states: (1) as individuals and, (2) in groups. Degrees of separation is the Y axis that completes the matrix. Think of this in terms of verb conjugations from a timeless grammar school:

* First, second, and third person singular (for individuals)
* First, second, and third party plurals (for groups)

The micro-speck formed by our Facebook profiles and blogging sites is the first-person version of our own social media channels. But your day job is to safeguard your firm's LinkedIn alumni profiles? If you're representing the throat and ears of an organization speaking for "us" then you've channeled over to first party status. And so on.

Source conjugation is a straightforward framework for understanding both how electronic communication travels and how the humans who traffic in its signals tend to behave on behalf of our own vested interests and biases. It doesn't make the world less complicated.

But it does sort out the actions we take with the information we're given into a sortable bucket of outcomes and conclusions. And that's a whole lot better than any product we're going to be sold -- unless we're the ones doing the selling.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.