The Context of the Social Age

Someone asked me what i do: this is my response. My work is somewhat rambling, prone at times to divergence, and not infrequently lost. Whilst i may lose sight of the odd landmark, i do at least feel confident that i remain within one broad landscape, the landscape of the Social Age.

Today, in rather retrospective mode, i will guide you on a journey through that landscape, and link out to a few of the key themes i’m keeping my eye on. Let’s start at the broadest level:

This piece illustrates twelve aspects of the landscape – by no means definitive, but each year i tend to sketch the map with the twelve that are of most interest to me right now. ‘Radical Connectivity’, and ‘Democratisation’ are two key and persistent themes:

This is one of the expanded pieces here, looking at that first notion of ‘Radical Connectivity’:

The Social Age describes our new context: strikingly similar to what came before, and yet utterly different. Not simply because of the presence of new technology, but the ways that is bends and shatters structures of power, organisation, learning, leadership, belief, and belonging. So whilst everything is almost the same, it’s all very different too.

Let’s take Leadership and Learning next, two cornerstones of my own work: how do we lead, and learn, at the intersection of formal and social systems?

Social Leadership describes the ways we lead with the authority that is earned not given, in both formal and social spaces.

The notion is that, as our ecosystem change, so too does the context that our Organisations exist within, and hence so too does the type of leadership we need: formal power that is given to us and sits within a hierarchy, and social authority that is earned.

Having set up this context of the Social Age, and the tension between formal and social systems, we see that other things have changed too: notably the ‘nature of knowledge’ and the potential to benefit from social collaborative learning at scale.

In terms of knowledge, there is a complex field to explore, but at the highest level we see the mechanisms of codification, ownership, control, validation, and usage, all changing. We could characterise this as saying we have moved from knowledge being something being formally codified, owned, protected, and largely static, to it being dynamic, pragmatic, often co-created and hence adaptive and evolutionary. Predominant mechanisms of validation have shifted from formal (peer reviewed) to distributed (community filtered) – note that this is not presented as a ‘good’ thing, but rather a pragmatic recognition that we are living in times of change, and knowledge it not immune to this.

If we focus on learning itself, my core work is held in the framework of Scaffolded Social Learning:

Or the book here:

Of course, when we talk about the ‘social’, we rapidly end up talking about culture:

This piece considers culture, performance, and how we find agency.

I guess that an exploration of culture has taken up a lot of my efforts over the last few years – particularly the major research projects on Community (social structures) and Trust (social currencies).

This piece on the ‘tides of culture’ is part of a broader study of social movements.

If you are particularly interested in that work on Social Movements, the chapter on Stonewall in this book is one of the key case studies i use – and i am currently planning a short Guidebook around this topic.

You’ll have to scroll down to find the ‘Stonewall’ chapter here.

I could keep up this journey for a lot longer, but for fear of exhaustion, let me steer us to one of the most recent parts of this landscape, considering the Future of Work.

A collection of pieces here, because this work is new, and hence rapidly iterating – you will see fragments of thought here – from ‘why we work’ to the impacts of automation.

There is also the start of an Enquiry Framework – these are structured sets of questions to guide the exploration of a landscape. I am about the publish a second one exploring ‘Power and Potential’.

This landscape is vast: i’ve written over 2,000 blog posts, and i think 16 books so far, and often feel i am simply circling the real questions. But that is the nature of our challenge: not to find an answer, but to remain in practice, and searching.

About julianstodd

Author, Artist, Researcher, and Founder of Sea Salt Learning. My work explores the context of the Social Age and the intersection of formal and social systems.
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