Co-author of The Cluetrain Doc Searls writes on the Project VRM blog:
You are not a human being on the Web. In fact, as Paul Trevithick put it (at one of our first VRM meetings at the Berkman Center), the Web has no concept of a human being. It is fundamentally an arrangement of files and connections between those files. Hyperlinks on the Web may subvert huaraches, especially when they are authored by human beings (such as here, in a blog, which is a human expression); but the Web itself is oblivious to that. We still lack the means, on top of the Web (and the Net) to form and maintain relationships that are anything more than a very crude, partial and highly distorted imitation of those we have out in the real, human, social world. Put another way, social contracts in cyberspace have a long way to go before they catch up with those in real-world social space. In fact, they may be two hundred and fifty years behind. “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”, Rousseau wrote (in The Social Contract, Or Principles of Political Right(Du contrat social ou Principes du droit politique), in 1762. The Age of Enlightenment followed, during which we began to work out a variety of social contracts involving governance, commerce, education and religion. I submit that we have hardly begun to do the same on the Net or the Web. “Markets are conversations,” the famous first thesis of The Cluetrain Manifesto(and later a chapter of the book by the same title) was meant to help model the social contract in cyberspace after the ones we have in meat/meet space. This has happened only in those places where the interactions are most human. It has barely happened where the interactions are most corporate. More on “Where Markets are Not Conversations“.
Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that the web allows us to maintain much larger bases of looser connections and there’s immense value in that. But companies placing dollars (instead of heartbeats) into social campaigns online to accomplish ANYTHING (marketing, support, recruitment, or otherwise) are missing the entire “social contract” needed to balance the operation in a sustainable manner.
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