Voice of the Tribe & Community

Uniting the different Brazilian tribes is a clear objective for the breakdance group, AfroBreak.

Uniting the different Brazilian tribes is a clear objective for the breakdance group, AfroBreak.

A new book is out.  A new-old idea akin with chaos theory and self-organizing systems is captured in some strikingly-named chapters described here, from:   Tribal Leadership: Leveraging Natural Groups to Build a Thriving Organization.  In the continuing froth of social media evolution, consider the voice of the individual student, staff or faculty member in the context of:

  • the dominant, conservative culture of universities as mentioned in a current Wired article from the Chronicle of Higher Education available here
  • a current article about social media described here as a pure mess, a collection of countless features, tools, and applications fighting for a piece of the pie (add plants, flair, karma, cocktails, etc. if you’ve visited Facebook.)  Quoting the author:  “People will be looking to get tangible and relevant value out of their social experience; they’ll be looking for meaning and for order.”

As an example, I was pulled into my first multi-user Facebook chat-fest this past Friday on my MacBookPro with windows popping up and buttons turning red.  Used to a quiet Facebook chat with my daughter in Ecuador, this was a bit of a unexpected chaos.  As 20 minutes ticked away, I wondered what social media was doing for me lately.  Stepping back from it, I can match it to the intensity of it to a few engaging meetings or lunch gatherings where everyone appeared determined to evolve an idea or to help solve a problem, or both.  Balancing high and low talkers is part of the fray in these types of face to face meetings.  On chat, wikis, blogs, etc. everyone who can type has voice. (Typing fast helps, but on-line longer and louder doesn’t mean much.)

In such situations, it seems we are drawn to or sense a common set of values that create meaning.   If a group somehow agrees upon a values set, a community or group may form and something is produced.  The challenge?  It may be PR, control, and quality of what is produced.  Add the context of higher education, as mentioned above, which is seen as the most static of institutions.  However, consider the academy’s space for voice expression based on this fact:

  • The academy…has also encouraged the notion that the Internet could be a change agent (from the Wired article referenced above.)

Yes, “change agent” was paired with university and that may be enough, by simply allowing an emermspeaks-logo1ging community a chance to grow and show evidence of producing helpful, substantive results.  Two examples:

RAIN A UM community of practice and networking, supported by DRDA in partnership with unit administrators to support Research Administrators at UM

VOICES of the STAFF Tim Slottow commented on the  “the mother of all cross functional teams” as producing solid results.  VOICES is  a volunteer-based program offering UM staff members an opportunity to share ideas and define the campus community issues that matter most to them.  Note the video of what is being talking about, some old, some new, including yours truely reporting out from table 3 this past week.  Laurita Thomas in University HR is sponsoring this effort.

As for  that chaotic and enegetic Facebook chat I mentioned?   It was with several fitness and weight loss buddies who share a fitness set of goals with me.  I’ll let you know after we survive our first weigh in!  After all, Active U is underweigh (bad puns will not be edited out on this blog, today anyway.) As always, your comments are most welcome!

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2 Responses to “Voice of the Tribe & Community”

  1. seth says:

    It strikes me that Lichtenberg artificially pulls apart #2 and #5.

    2. Creating Meaning and Value
    5. Creating Relevant Social Networks

    In reading over these, he really means largely the same thing.

    With regard to his statement in #2 that:
    “People will be looking to get tangible and relevant value out of their social experience; they’ll be looking for meaning and for order.”

    I think this articulates what Lichtenberg is looking for with his social networking experience, but I’m not at all convinced this is what others seek. For one thing, there are enormous generational differences in how social networking sites are used. The average 15-year old with a MySpace and the average 20-year old with a Facebook are not using these the same way that a professional might. In fact, they’re using them in a far more rich way.

    Defining “tangible value” remains an elusive target. I’d imagine there are nearly as many definitions as there are users of the various social media. Unstated but certainly in the shadows, Lichtenberg seems to be saying, for example, if you use Facebook to send drinks or flair, you are not having an experience of tangible value. This strikes me a bias attribution on Lichtenberg’s part. Clearly, that’s not of value to him..and fair enough.

    People seek different things with each of their social networking outlets. Some of those interests overlap, some don’t. I use LinkdIn for different things than Facebook. In fact, with Facebook, I’ve unmoored it from work entirely, leaving both the Ann Arbor and UM networks, and scrubbing UM contact information from my profile.

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