Saturday, May 29, 2010

A small contribution for the Stockholm Accords

I am delighted at what I have seen of the Stockholm Accords

The dynamism of Toni Muzi Falconi is breathtaking and I am full of admiration for the efforts of Ronél Rensburg and Anne Gregory in their explication of the change that is taking place in the world today.

But I am not without concerns.

Perhaps, as we look to the next two or three years of PR practice it gives us a clue as to the life of the Acccord. It is a bold effort but, in my experience, will have a struggle to survive or have any impact.

My interest is in how the internet affects the world and PR in particular. I did predict its significance to the CIPR in 1995 and was involved in some of the papers for the now long forgotten 1999 CIPR/PRCA Internet Commission (some of the papers are here and some are here Journal of Communication Management; Volume: 5; Issue: 2; 2000 ).

I am a practitioner, researcher and teacher and so am part of this industry. Part of me is agast at how little we regard the future. Students leave university with scant understanding of internet implications for their future work. At best they are told about something called 'Social Media' (a module that could equally be called etiquette). I see some agencies 'sliming down' because of the 'recession'.  They don't recognise that they are being by-passed. There is some form of belief in this industry of ours that the internet is, progresively, having a greater effect on our lives and has effects that mediate everyone's life. The big thinking concerns online reputation developments, convergence in marketing communications and best practice social media measurement. This is a linear view, a straight line graph of change.

The reality is much more potent.The influences brought about by the internet are not straight line, they are exponential. According to an IBM study, by 2010, the amount of digital information in the world will now be doubling every 11 hours. Some years ago Kevin Kelly explained the effects of exponential growth of hyperlinks in network rather well when he told of the prior and future 5000 days.

Some clue to this change can be seen in the consumer/tech cell phone in our pocket or handbag. The move from phone/text to email to hand held mobile computer has been quite quick and as quickly has become passe. Another clue may be found in changed consumer habits and annual growth of online retail sales of 25% plus every year. The biggest development is from, effectively, no cloud computing four years ago to common place corporate application with, in the UK, companies like Rentokil Initial replacing all their email into the cloud in two years, Insurance giant Aviva, Logistics firm Pall-Ex and Universal Music already implementing mass internal and extrernal communication in the cloud and tiny tiny organisations like mine with mega computing power for pennies.

Should it care to use it, the Centre for PR Studies at Leeds Met now has unlimited computing power available without making the lights dim. In the last month, the capability for my research into semantic public relations has moved from being stalled by the high levels of media coverage for the general election to being able to provide both semantic analysis of text and an automated taxonomy to find infered links. This is not a mega university reserach institute it is, literally, in a shed at the end of my garden.

In three years we will have both inference of relationships and predictability of discourse at very high levels of accuracy routinely using massive cloud computing power.

These capabilities will change how governments and societies operate because they will provide near complete radical transparency of every organisation. You and I will be able to find out the precise nature of the common values that hold disperate organisations, their financial backers, customers and other stakeholder in thier networks.

As for companies, so too for terrorists, wayward governments and so forth.

As the leading thinkers in the world explain in this video, we very nearly have the knowlege and we do have the computing power.

It may possibly be that it is the PR industry that benefits from these developments but linear thinking however ambitious the growth projection may be, is not enough.

From the values lecture, I gave in Lincoln four years ago to Bruno Amaral's Euprera discourse this year to cloud capacity for semantic PR development in the last month is pretty impressive.

But this thinking has drawbacks. It is not a conversation one can have with practitioners. They both could not understand nor have the inclination to want to stare so much change in the face. Equally, I know of only one Masters course world wide which is prepared to entertain such radical thought (I don't know of a PhD doing such work - but would be thrilled to find one).

It is for these reasons that I think the Accord, like the CIPR Internet Commission will need re-thinking from scratch in three years.

But it is a great start that can be developed in June.