How can digital media and social networks mimic natural systems for positive change?
Obviously this is a conversation and an exploration that stretches way beyond a short blog, but just as a flower casts a thousand seeds, ideas have a magical ability to self-replicate in unimaginable ways. People who are talking about sustainable solutions, or pushing for social justice, or organizing yoga and meditation flash-mobs have more in common than they might recognize… They are all experimenting and cross pollinating ideas for creating a better world. A primary canvas for this dialogue is online social media where innovation, networking, and collaboration is blending together like colors on the painters palette. These blossoming movements of thought transcend traditional definitions.
If you have spent any time on Facebook then you have probably seen inspiring posts by pages like Sustainable Human, Unify, The Mind Unleashed, Spirit Science, AJ+, Alternative World News, and UPLIFT. As someone who blogs and works in social media, I have loved watching the ways that pages like this influence each other, follow similar trends, and ultimately enhance a shared ideology of creating a new narrative that is more inclusive, less destructive, more community-sourced, and less corporate. Biomimicry shows us that cooperative relationships are actually the predominant patterns within nature.
“It often appears that humans have a dysfunctional relationship with their environment, but healing this relationship begins simply by being present and aware of it.” -Ending the Conquest of Nature
Having been lucky enough to work with, co-direct, cross-pollinate, and ultimately make lasting friendships with many of the people behind these popular platforms has been an infinite source of inspiration in my life. Blogging, design, and social networking are becoming a collaborative art form that has hints of the magic that was present in the birth of jazz music. Diversely talented people making a new kind of music that is changing the narrative from the bottom-up like roots that anchor a tree that is about to bear fruit.
Founder of the Webby Awards, Tiffany Shlain has been the focus of blogs like Internet Mirrors Human Brain and Global Heart, Global Brain. Her organization, Let it Ripple makes mobile films for global change. They offered to customize their film, Neurons to Networks with the logo/branding of any organization that wanted to share it with their networks. This kind of win/win allowed a very powerful idea to spread across many networks. UPLIFT modeled this idea in support of the World Water Day Campaign initiated by Unify. By focusing on the idea, clean water, instead of brand ownership the campaign allowed for universal buy-in by some huge networks that share the same values. Perhaps we don’t own the ideas, they own us.
“Opening up to the emergent is a process that is important for creative projects and collaboration. It means that you have to allow for the unknown, that you aren’t working from a set script, and are allowing yourself to be open to whatever emerges.” Why Imagination Matters.
Sustainable Human successfully took a great TED Talk, mixed it with compelling stock footage and music to make the viral sensation, How Wolves Change Rivers, which has been viewed over 18 million times. I riffed on the evolving idea with What Whales Can Teach us About Climate Science, another Sustainable Human initiative. These ideas are self-replicating because the stories that convey them want to be told, they are being shared because they fill people with awe, making us all feel connected within a larger web of life.
Jonah Sachs, Annie Leonard and Free Range Studios brought us The Story of Stuff, and can adequately boast going from a movie to a movement. There are many more successes like this and there are a few things they share in common that make them thrive. Being entertaining, informative and well-produced is part of the equation that is completed when people become engaged with story. The best-produced video is useless if it doesn’t strike a chord that inspires people to talk about it, “like” it, or share it in their networks. In a field of flowers competing to look and smell the prettiest the bee celebrates dancing on all of them to make the sweetest honey.
The social web is where ideas get seeded and shared, creating a new narrative is tilling the soil to grow an abundant garden of solutions. However, the ideas are useless if people don’t act on them in the real world. I have been elated to blog recently about some powerful tools like Reinhabiting the Village, and Nu Mundo that are emerging to help people manifest these ideas into reality within their own community. We have the capacity to dream bigger, hard work really makes a difference and imagination matters.
It is clear that social networks are already mimicking natural systems to create positive change in the world. Let’s take the conversation deeper. How can we use this understanding to increase the cooperation and collaboration to bring about even greater change and influence? I can’t wait to see what this growing community comes up with next!
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