Chinese Whispers: Interesting thoughts on Influence/Context going on over at We Are Social…

I’m involved in an interesting discussion over at We Are Social about Innovation and Network Influence.

The original post by Chris Applegate is here, and talks about influence in networks and particularly in social media situations. I extend his argument to talk about influence in networks, organisations and processes in general – and what was particulalry relevant to my work was the discussion of the context-dependency of influence. My comment was as follows:

“The most common ways of describing influence in social networks is to draw diagrams with blobs on them – typically there are some very large blobs with lines radiating outward to smaller blobs, which in turn radiate to even smaller blobs. While this concept is useful for specific purposes – and can be mapped algorithmically – it should not be taken as a complete model of a social process…There is also context to deal with – while one person may be influential on, say, technology, they may hold very little sway when recommending a florist.”

This is definitely an important notion; that influence relies on context. Both innovation and influence are inextricably linked to context in many ways, and this context is influenced and arguably formed by interaction, behaviour, language, culture etc.

“It doesn’t account for two-way conversation (or the lack of it), nor can it help explain where and when a message gets altered, or any other form of change that a lack of centralised control can bring about.”

This is also a really interesting notion – a concept I refer to as ‘chinese whispers’ when applied to creative processes and the social development of advertising work / creativity. A decentralised form will always result in bounded processes where messages with a certain degree of plasticity become distorted or altered to make sense in local worlds (eg in different departments of an advertising agency, in different online conversations covering overlapping topics), whilst retaining a degree of concreteness; retaining some kind of universally applicable meaning or value.

In this way, influence, innovation and creativity might appear in different ways and to varying degrees in different ‘contexts’ or different perspectives of the same or different networks, and are judged and valued subjectively as such.

Follow the comments here (Chris posted an interesting reply to my comment)…

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