one opinion becoming everyone’s opinion?

MEMORY STICK NO. 3 (Series 1 - 12) twig, wire, jute, paper tag, ink by Simon Davies

The tag on this piece “Memory Stick No. 3” reads:

Collected from a pine tree on the high bog plain at Naikoon – 10/17/04. This stick holds 250 years of data in its cell structure – north pacific weather, cosmological events, supernatural occurrences, insect and animal movement – human history.

The high bog plain area of Naikoon – Northeastern Haida Gwaii – is a truly remarkable place. This area remained ice free during the last glacial advances – ice age. As such, there are various plant species there that exist nowhere else on the planet.

The trees in the bog are stunted, tangled, twisted little things. Some of the trees are head high and yet hundreds of years old. The muskeg is almost all pillowy moss where each step sinks knee deep in peat and sphagnum.

To access the bog plains, hike up a forest trail from the gravel road that parallels North Beach. The trail starts at the mouth of Klikkidamen – or White Creek. From the upper bog plains, on a clear day, one can easily see Southeast Alaska across the colonial named Dixon Entrance.

In years past – such as 250 years ago when cells from this twig were starting their first metabolizing – Haida people would paddle their 50+ foot cedar canoes across the Dixon Entrance to friends and family and communities on the islands to the north – now separated by an imaginary border, a barrier of political process.

In years past memory sticks were the stories and songs taken by canoe and given and received at potlatches – the central core institution to Haida society and many other Nations up and down the coast.

Now… a memory stick is a collection of silicone and microprocessors and computer chips that can carry stories and songs in a collection of 1’s and 0’s – binary code and the like. A memory stick is a small flat little piece of plastic that can carry thousands of images imprinted on its “memory” – images also full of stories and songs.

Now, instead of traveling hundreds of kilometres across stormy, choppy, current-filled Straits and Entrances – stories and songs in the form of 1’s and 0’s travel as fast as a memory-flash from Haida Gwaii to Hong Kong.

Now, urban and rural communities are beginning to be linked in one community – the online community. Several years ago the Canadian federal government began an initiative to ensure every community in Canada – no matter how isolated – has access to high-speed Internet. In some ways this has been happening.

I told a story in a post a few weeks ago about working in a northern BC First Nation community accessed by plane (landing on a gravel runway) or five hours by gravel roads from the nearest highway.This community has high-speed internet delivered through satellites. Sometimes the reception is a bit inconsistent and evenings can be really slow as kids get online to play video games with kids from Newfoundland or Florida or South Africa.

Today in the Globe and Mail newspaper there is an article about how the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is pressuring the telecom industry to improve their wireless and high-speed internet services to rural communities – rather than just focusing on urban communities.

I am also reading Mitch Joel’s Six Pixels of Separation: Everyone is Connected. Connect Everyone to your Business. Joel has a blog on the topic. You can probably guess that this is connected to the idea of six degrees of separation.

In his ending to the first chapter, Joel states:

The big idea in a world of Six Pixels of Separation is to embrace community as the new currency. Understand and believe that your business and how it is perceived in the marketplace are going to get increasingly complex in the coming months. How you are positioned, how people see you, and how you speak back to them are going to be the global validation for your growth. In a world where we’re all connected, one opinion quickly turns into everyone’s opinion. How you build trust in your brand, your business, and yourself is going to be an important part of how your business is going to adapt and evolve. (author’s emphasis)

I don’t know if I fully agree with the sentiment of embracing community as the “new currency” – communities have, and always will have, currency, or “transmission from person to person” as one dictionary defines currency. However, I do agree with the idea that one opinion can turn into everyone’s opinion.

I hope that many organizations recognize this in a world becoming more and more connected (over 1.5 billion people now online) – for example, organizations that exist solely to provide consumers with tools to make more conscious decisions when purchasing, such as “eco-labelling” and “eco-certification”. Or organizations marketing certain products such as farmed salmon or wild salmon.

I was quite amazed the other day to look through Seth Godin’s blog – one of the most popular in North America with hundreds of thousands of followers and daily visitors. For example, he released a book last week Linchpin – it’s already on the New York Times bestseller list. Godin has suggested in a couple of blog posts to stay away from farmed salmon. He also highlighted – in his book All Marketers Are Liars – a story about a test conducted in New York which tested fresh whole salmon from various local markets labeled “wild”. Turns out a significant amount of the salmon – some sold at $29/lb – labeled “wild” were in fact farmed salmon.

Whoops….

Impressively, in comments on Godin’s posts were comments from farmed salmon associations with links to webpages and health “facts”. Seems maybe the salmon farming industry gets this new social media, this “community”. Not surprising when three quarters of the over 300,000 metric tonnes of salmon consumed in the U.S. is farmed.

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