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Enter the era of…village commerce

October 20, 2011

I’ll kick this off by admitting it’s elaborating on the ideas and vision of the founder of a business I’ve been working with for the last year. He knows who he is (is possibly even reading I suspect so I’ll be nice), and this is an interpretation of that vision which I think is so relevant to anyone that thinks they’ve got the whole ‘social media’ thing pegged.

Barely a month after I was brought into this world, a Canadian bloke passed from it, who as it turns out was the first to really, truly understand the impact social media technologies would have – some 30 years later. That bloke is of course Marshal Mcluhan, who first wrote about the ‘global village’ back in the early 1960s. At the time, he was referring to the development of the first wave of connective media technology – television, radio, and even the telephone (which was of course invented much earlier); these were all new media that gave people the ability to experience the world around them outside of the confines of the pages of a textbook.

Mcluhan spoke of media at the time as a tribal influence in the way that it impacted our growth as a society, big and small. It did so because  ‘media are the means by which we see, feel hear or touch our world.’

In describing the global village concept, the learning at the time was how people could break free from the confines of their little village life, anywhere in the world, and become a part of a much bigger world.

Since then, the world has grown. In 1960, there were 3 billion people on the planet, and just last week I read media reports of how the population had just soared past 7 billion. Much of the third world since then has also industrialised, and the complexity of the ‘global village’ has increased so much that  it is literally too much to take.

Put simply, the result is the formation of the ‘glocal’ concept: why bother with connecting to the global village if you can get what you need and want out of life in to very village you’re a part of?

While much has been written about Mcluhan’s work, a nice piece by Benjamin Symes surmises quite smartly that Mcluhan used the term ‘village’ to refer to what we know better as the word ‘community’.

Start to make this word substitution and a few things start to make sense: my communities are the things outside of my home that I interact with and share a common bond with, that add value to my life. In those exchanges with my communities, I am also adding value to other’s lives, who are part of those same things. There are very few people in this life who genuinely need to immerse themselves in a ‘global community’ to extract the sense of belonging that Maslow and others remind us we all need.

Think about the communities that you yourself are a part of – I’ll bet that while some of them are only empowered by connective technology, the everyday things you participate in are the things that really add value to you – like your mother’s support group, your neighbourhood watch team, that weekly conversation you have with Joe the barista or your local butcher. Or the high-five you give your team-mates when you finish playing soccer every Wednesday night.

The point is, the communities that provide you the most value are the ones that exist right where you live – in your village, so to speak. The ability to use social technology and a range of other media to connect to the rest of the world and everyone else in it is GREAT – but where people need it most is in the immediate ‘village’ community around them.

Being a part of a village community gets us kudos for being a regular at the local store, helps us belong to groups that are important to us, and gives us the opportunity to have our say on things that matter. It goes a step beyond traditional media and the current wave of social media and gives me an everyday use for it within my communities, not just the global ones. It gives me a utility value, so to speak; a way to conduct ‘village commerce’.

Now – build me that technology, so people can get back to the business of being a part of their own community, not just the global one.

Deliriant Isti Romani  (These Romans are Crazy!)



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