The Changing Nature of Power in the Age of Networks
The Power of Individuals against Establishment Figures
The Digital Age has upended many things and this includes the way in which power works and how it is wielded between the various stakeholders in business, life, and society. While hitherto, power was wielded in a top down fashion where hierarchical modes of organizational structures meant that decisions were taken at the top and percolated as orders down the hierarchy.
However, this is changing wherein the rise of networks in both corporates and politics and society means that individuals who can harness the power of such networks often wield more power than those at the top.
Indeed, as the MeToo movement showed, anyone with a compelling narrative and the ability to make viral their messages often bring down establishment figures that have so far enjoyed immunity from accountability because of their exalted position in society.
When truly established and establishment figures such as Harvey Weinstein can be brought down by Twitter and Facebook enabled viral dissemination, then one can gauge the extent to which power now rests with those who leverage the Age of Networks.
The Blowback from the Establishment
Having said that, it is also the case that the establishment is fighting back against this kind of power. For instance, there are moves to rein in the Social Media networks such as Facebook in terms of how they can be used or misused (depending on where you sit and which side of the debate you are on) and hence, bring them under greater regulatory scrutiny.
Indeed, used and misused are the terms that indicate the allegations and counter allegations of various parties where each accuses the other of using social media to its advantage. Whatever may be the position or your opinion, the fact remains that Networks have a momentum of their own and hence, those who seek to shape public opinion are those who can use networks to their advantage.
Further, the argument that technology is value neutral and hence, it can be used for both good and bad purposes obscures the fact that Algorithmic news feeds and AI (Artificial Intelligence) powered networks now have a life of their own. Indeed, we can no longer afford to let networks take over our lives completely since not only power relations but also the very nature to do bad things on a large scale is now possible.
The Uses and Misuses of Networks
However, the power of networks is such that those with genuine desires and wishes to actualize change can indeed harness such networks to the benefit of society. The examples of the many grassroots movements and the activist networks that have used Facebook and Twitter to bring to the notice of wider audience events that are not being covered by Mainstream Media are a case in point.
In addition, politicians in recent years have been harnessing social media and the power of viral messaging to get their point across.
Of course, this has also given rise to the phenomenon of Fake News which is troubling since the viral nature of modern media means that lies when repeated and virally transmitted can cause chaos and havoc.
Further, with machine driven viral messaging, sometimes the actual meaning of the message is lost in the noise and this is where some experts argue for regulating the networks without completely eliminating them.
The point here is that in the manner similar to which the invention of the Printing Press changed the power relations in the Medieval Age, the emergence of the Internet and Smartphones have likewise revolutionized how power is wielded in the 21st Century. It is not surprising that the establishment is fighting back since its power is now threatened.
How You Can Benefit?
So, what does all this mean for individuals? To start with, all of you might be advanced users of social media and Smartphones. Thus, you would be aware of how you can broadcast and transmit your messages. However, the question as to how you can make them viral can be answered by referring to our earlier use of the term, compelling narrative.
In other words, once you have a story or a narrative that gathers eyeballs and clicks, rest assured that the power of viral marketing can indeed make you powerful. Having said that, as we have been discussing so far, there is a tendency for the existing players to fight back and hence, this is where your real power or the lack of it comes into the picture.
To elaborate, you need resources as well to backup your messages. Again, Crowdsourcing and Crowdfunding are another way in which you can make your power felt.
In addition, you can also seek the help of influencers and opinion shapers to endorse your narratives so that you build up a steady following. Lastly, you must be untiring in your efforts to broadcast and make viral your narratives.
In the ultimate analysis, power relations are changing in the Age of Networks and the power brokers of the future are those who harness the potential of such networks to their advantage.
In addition, they must also complement their virtual efforts by real world efforts and this is where the synergies from the virtual and physical worlds would converge. Networks also offer scale and hence, one can also reap the efficiencies from economies of scale.
To conclude, a new power shift is happening and this has implications for all of us, whether as members of society or as professionals working in corporates.
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Authorship/Referencing - About the Author(s)
The article is Written By Prachi Juneja and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. We are a ISO 2001:2015 Certified Education Provider. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.
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