The Constructivist Revolution and New Media

Early psychoanalytic models were deterministic. That is they espoused a view of human nature as being mostly at the whims of forces beyond people’s control whether these forces were internal (needs, desires and conflicts) or external (war. political, socio-economic).

Some of the more recent dynamic models have run counter to a deterministic view. One in particular called constructivism arose out of the cognitive revolution and suggests that humans have much more control over identity development, the ways in which they perceive and act in the world and in turn the ways in which they are perceived by others.

The gist is that we construct our own realities through the narratives we create, the frames we incorporate, the actions we take, the relationships we foster and the ideas we express.

I’m a constructivist in a big way.

I don’t fault the determinists and understand that at the time such theories were built people actually had much less control of their lives due to political and technological limitations.

I bring all this up because I am observing and participating in a revolution based in part on web technologies which promote expression and the sharing of ideas. Many more people than ever before now have the opportunity and the medium to define themselves internally and to the world.

Specifically, I am talking about web based publishing platforms from WordPress to Tumblr to Twitter. People can now take the effort to craft their identity and evolve it over time through the expression of their ideas. What’s more we can do this in a global public space in which others might respond with their own ideas ensuing a dialog which has the potential to inform, inspire, provoke and ultimately foster knowledge and relationships.

Its no small thing that this more powerful capacity to construct, communicate and interact with others across the globe comes along at precisely a moment in history in which centralized idea power authorities are deteriorating. I include in this old guard governments, religious authorities, large media based and other institutions as well as financial institutions.

All one needs to do is log in and consistently over time engage a process of expressing ideas in the present while allowing others to likewise respond in good faith with their own best ideas.

The upshot is that thinkers across an endless variety of subjects who engage might arise and initiate new knowledge systems which are meritocratic.

Along the way, leaders will emerge who have been vetted more purely than ever before.

We are a witness to and a part of a constructivist revolution in which individuals now have the power to define themselves with their best thoughts.

Fostering Transparency on StockTwits

One of the toughest things for traders to do is realize losses. I have written about it here already. You also find that this holds in terms of what market participants are willing to fess up to in public. We see this with traders (and gamblers coming back from Vegas) all the time and the current main stream media supports this to no end. Guys pop up on the CNBC and on the major financial websites and remind us of their winners chapter and verse while neglecting to emphasize losers or by rationalizing previous losing positions with some dog ate my homework cha cha…

People are tied to inauthentic impression management with motivations from internal (preserving a positive but fragile ego) to external (preventing investors from fleeing a money management firm).

But it does not add value!

The temptation to act this way especially in the virtual world is high and has a history. It is easy to disappear for a while if you’ve made a losing call in public. You can just duck out until others forget and then log back in as if nothing had ever happened or in the case of the old Yahoo finance message boards can simply set up a new alias and continue with a fresh portfolio.

At StockTwits though, we are in the midst of something very different happening and its awesome.

The traders who are emerging as leaders have set a distinctly different tone one in which they hold themselves accountable for their trades in real time including losing trades. This is hugely valuable because the traders themselves are realizing and managing while others within the community are relating to the experience and learning. Win Win!

Besides, experienced traders know that losing trades happen frequently and that it is less their occurance and more the way they are handled with discipline that seperates the consistent winners from the losers.

You can find it here and here and here and the list goes on and on. It is my strong hunch that those who have set the precedent of transparency and accountability on StockTwits are also the ones who manage their losses prudently.

Thanks people who model this brutal honesty. We want to promote this on StockTwits to no end.

It adds big value.

Twitter and the Relational Field

When people interact, very little attention is paid to the spaces between them, the field upon which they are interacting. Nevertheless, this space is an incredibly important part of the interaction. The energy behind the correspondence, the relationship of the participants, the implicit rules of the setting, the physical surroundings…

I call the space in between people’s interactions the relational field. Im borrowing the phrase from relational psychology which posits that humans are inherently social and that no personality exists independent of relationships. Think about it, the dependent personality must have others to lean on and the domineering personality must have others to boss around and so on..

A few years ago on my old blog I used a baseball diamond as a metaphor for the optimal relational field:

In the movie The Field of Dreams, the baseball diamond serves as a rich metaphor precisely because the one the Kinsellas build in their corn field carries with it relational meaning – from being a place where a ball is thrown back and forth purposely between members of a team to representing a game where countless fathers and sons have bonded both literally in games of catch to figuratively in their inherited common interest in the home team..The baseball diamond contains many attributes inherent in the constructive relational field. It is a simple space with clean lines and defined dimensions while at the same time connoting openness and free space where team members can chase down fly balls or slide in the dirt. The diamond wonderfully balances structure and freedom, a fundamental dialectic in human relations.

I bring all this up because I like to think of the online social network as a relational field as it too is the space within which people interact. I think by framing the socnet as such I can glean some insight into structure, process, function and ultimately optimality.

The optimal relational field

The relational field has attributes such as clarity, contingency, complexity and structure and relational psychologists know a good bit about how the qualities of these features affect the development of relationships.

The optimal relational field is one that has the potential to foster enduring authentic relationships. It is defined by clarity and a balance between a control and freedom dialectic. Clarity implies that the rules of the field are understandable and contingent. That is, the participants get the rules and sense that there is an internal fairness to them.

Balance within a control and freedom dialectic implies that there is enough structure to maintain the field while at the same time allowing for the participants to express themselves authentically and without fear of noncontingent retribution.

Twitter as an Optimal Relational Field

Its my sense that a primary (and not yet discussed) reason why twitter has grown so quickly and produced so many loyal participants is that it provides the closest we have seen yet to an optimal relational field among the online social networks.

To begin, the level of clarity is high. That is, everyone understands the rules. If you are interested, you can follow someone and she can freely choose to reciprocate or not. Likewise, someone, if she is interested, can choose to follow you and you can choose to reciprocate or not. Further, while the default is openness one has the choice to prefer and adopt a higher degree of privacy by either choosing a private account or blocking specific followers. This is simple, straightforward and intuitively reasonable.

Next, the dialectic between control and freedom is well balanced. On the one hand, there is a clear structure to the site as expressed in the above paragraph, but on the other hand, there is also an incredible openness in terms of what can be discussed, shared, linked and retweeted. As I wrote above,

It is a simple space with clean lines and defined dimensions while at the same time connoting openness and free space where team members can chase down fly balls or slide in the dirt.

The optimal nature of Twitter as a relational field is one of the critical reasons why the platform is growing quickly. The balance of the control/freedom dialectic fosters an environment which allows for connection with others and a broad range of types of communications. It is no surprise we are finding so much innovation atop the platform, such fertile soil…

My New Blog

Im psyched to have this new blog set up I’ve had this virtual spot for a while and never really did much with it aside from the occasional post here and there.

I plan to begin posting much more frequently and invite all readers to join in the conversation.

The majority of my blog posts will be about finance, social media and the integration of the two and I tend to adopt a psychological bent. Nevertheless, I will stray now and again…

A special shout out to Christy Gurga who designed the blog w much taste, added disqus and other features and baked in plenty good mojo… She’s awesome..


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