I want to expand out some of the ideas around different types of power, today looking at the difference between individual and networked power. This is part of the body of work looking at the fragility of formal hierarchies, and aspects of resilience, as well as relating to some of the conversations about amplification and social reputation as part of Social Leadership.
Individual power is that which an individual can wield directly, what may historically have been viewed a strong social ties within a network, ties that carry influence and are forged upon trust. Individual power may have a second layer of effect out to the loose social ties that sit further out in our network. Ultimately individual power is limited to 1° of separation.
Network power relies on the amplification and social reinforcement of the communities around us. It’s the type of power that can take ideas and make them spread, often not equally through networks, but rather through nodes and amplifiers. Nodes are highly connected individuals within a network who will carry high social capital and high social reputation. Ideas that flow through these high-value nodes are much more likely to be amplified. This amplified effect is the basis of networked power. Martyrs and heroes both convey networked forms of power. Indeed, both also operate individual power, people they can interact with directly, as well as broadcast power out to a wider network with whom they do not interact, but it’s through the amplification and reinforcement of nodes and amplifiers in the network that they gain their networked power.
Network power is inherently resilient: you cannot disrupt it simply by disrupting the network, because the network itself is resilient. Indeed, attempting to disrupt the network may actively reinforce it, because it strengthens ties and adds to authenticity to subversive messaging.
Whilst individual power, in the Social Age where technology is democratised, can have a wide reach, network power has a far wider reach due to the amplification effects. Social collaborative technologies may carry the signal, but it’s networked power that prevents it becoming simple noise.
Networked power can also permeate into spaces where individual power would be blocked, a factor of network power particularly relevant when looking at extremism. It doesn’t have to force a way into a gated culture, but rather is piggybacked in through the nodes and high social reputation individuals who are already inside, but you may have some alignment with the core story being shared. Indeed the secrets to disrupting networked power lie not in attacking it, but rather in de-powering it using alternative scripts, deploying alternative networked messages.
Both individual, and hence network power which grows out of it, are based upon high authenticity. It’s another reason why formal messages often fall victim to socially amplified ones: because the socially amplified ones, founded upon individual power, have great authenticity.
I’m still building out detail around these different types of power, and will continue to #WorkOutLoud as i do so.