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What is the Connective?



The proliferation of information technology is driving a universal shift in how we organize ourselves, and the world around us. This shift has already clearly been observed within such diverse contexts as economics, sociology, philosophy, politics and science. In fact, it is this very shift that is enabling these categories to blend together, leading to ever-broader revelations in our undying quest for truth.

The Connective Hypothesis is as follows:

The key organizing pattern of our global culture is shifting from a top-down hierarchical pyramid to a distributed, self-organizing network.

Structures that embody the existing dominant pattern, the pyramid, are often referred to as organizational hierarchies. Irrespective of politics, virtually all of our principal institutions are bureaucratic products of the industrial age. Even those structures that strive to empower individuals, such as democracy or education, still have their parameters defined by committee and demand adherence to a set of absolutes. In this general sense, these prevalent structures can be referred to as collectives.

I refer to structures that embody the new emerging pattern, the network, as connectives, and offer the following definitions:

The Connective refers to the global culture emerging as a result of the proliferation of information technology.
A connective refers to a distributed network made up of voluntary participants, organized around a specific interest or context, with each member seeking to achieve an individual goal.
To be connective is to be expressly designed or predisposed to take advantage of voluntary loose associations, or the resulting efficiencies, in order to gain personal value.
Connectivism is the philosophy that agile network systems are essential to balance individual man, mankind, and nature as a whole.

This new structure is neither individualistic (i.e. libertarian; capitalist; Objectivist) nor socialist (i.e. communist; Marxist; Kantian). It is something that is an intricate mixture of the two; a third way. Rather than trying to capture and freeze absolutes, connectives bend and flex, and acknowledge that the world around them bends and flexes as well.

My goal is to foster discussion of this subject in an interdisciplinary context. I realize that this is not an especially groundbreaking revelation, and that many excellent thinkers have proposed and continue to propose similar concepts. I have studied much of their work and always strive to study more, for it is on these giants’ shoulders that the best of my own ideas stand.

By drawing on existing concepts and observing parallels between them, we can determine the shape of the coming shift. I hope to make this blog one of many places where this dialog evolves.

Having originally developed the concept of the Connective a long time ago, this blog intends to chart my rediscovery of the subject matter. What I have read, while often inspiring, tends to be either localized to specific domains, or passive, philosophical observation.

Today we see real, working connectives emerging all around us, while simultaneously, the cracks in our existing institutions become ever more apparent. By harvesting what we can from the new systems that work, and using that knowledge to improve the old systems that don’t, we can begin to move on.

It would be an injustice to sit idly by and simply pontificate about what this shift means. We must have the courage to observe the truth of what it means, to point to that truth and to embrace it. I believe that the evolution from collectives to connectives is an inevitable one. The aim is to make the transition as productive and peaceful as possible.


To see Posts that elaborate on the main definitions, select the category:
Defining the Connective


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