Unconferences seem a lot like conferences. Guys at a table talking with big ol slides behind them. But this one is in Provence, and out the back door there is an amazing blue sky and a forest full of singing birds. The conference is held in a villa. I am stunned, and more stunned by the fact that I know people here — it’s as if I have been absorbed into another kind of identity.
There has been a lot of discususion here about the slipperyness between public and private, the creation of tribes, (what my economist friends call closed networks) and persistent networks of friends and “communities” — which seem to be a new form that companies have identified as a market. There was a very interesting presentation on the spontaneous organization and innovation that produced Bittorrent, and a lot of sociological analysis by theoretical French academics about the shifts in public and private space.
But what I am getting, and what I am working on in my research project, is the instability of this format, of this space between the organized, regulated, and top-down, and the individual in the world. It feels like the individual is disappearing as a social actor, in favour of some kind of perpetual gang of folks with weak ties to one another. What is the significance of this intermediary space between mass culture and the individual? If the marketers (and the economists) are already sure that this exists, how do we understand the social consequences? Does capitalism get reorganized? How do we make policy? And, most importantly, is there any indication about how to manage this shift (if it is really one) for the benefit of others beside the telecom and computer companies.