His bio says “Rick Falkvinge is the founder of the Swedish and first Pirate Party, which has representation in the European parliament and has spawned Pirate Parties in more than 60 other countries.” And in this book, accessible as a free download (PDF) and a printed book, he discusses how he founded it, organized it, grew it, and led it to victory.
Specifically, he discusses how leading a swarm is different from leading other sorts of organizations:
A swarm organization is a decentralized, collaborative effort of volunteers that looks like a hierarchical, traditional organization from the outside. It is built by a small core of people that construct a scaffolding of go-to people, enabling a large number of volunteers to cooperate on a common goal in quantities of people not possible before the net was available. (p.14).
Swarms, he says, are not leaderless—they need leaders. But that leadership involves articulating and projecting values and then persuading others—anyone who chooses to join the swarm—to take them up in specific projects:
A key aspect of the swarm is that it is open to all people who want to share in the workload. Actually, it is more than open — everybody in the whole world is encouraged to pick work items off a public list, without asking anybody’s permission, and just start doing them. There is no recruitment process. Anybody who wants to contribute to the goal, in his or her own way and according to his or her own capacity, is welcome to do so. (p.19).
Another key aspect is that it is transparent—in values, participation, operation, etc. Falkvinge does a nice job of alternating between describing such principles and telling the story of the Pirate Party, a story that nicely illustrates his points. Throughout the rest of the book, he describes how to launch and organize a swarm, how to control the vision without controlling the message, lead the swarm daily, avoid the traps of too much democracy (getting bogged down in votes) or too much bureaucracy, and managing radical growth. Each chapter is clear, concise, engaging, and well illustrated.
If you’ve been following this blog, you may see a lot of overlap with Arquilla & Ronfeldt’s work, although there are differences as well. Arguably, Falkvinge’s is a more radical concept, but I can certainly see productive contact points. Compared to that earlier work, this book is less scholarly, less analytical, and more of a how-to.
It’s also very easy to read and engaging. Although the PDF is about 300pp, I read nearly all of it in one sitting. If you’re interested in developing and leading swarms, or just in how they might operate, you should too.
If you’re in Austin, consider my November seminar on writing persuasive business proposals. It’s offered through the Human Dimensions of Organizations program here at UT, and it should give you a solid background for structuring your own proposals.Ques…
Sorry for the late notice, but if you’re at SXSWedu today, please swing by my book signing for Topsight. Here’s the details:Monday, March 34:30PM – 4:50PMAustin Convention Center BR D Pre-Function Area500 East Cesar Chavez Street
A little over a year ago, I launched my book Topsight: A Guide to Studying, Diagnosing, and Fixing Information Flow in Organizations. In the intervening year, I’ve been really pleased with how things have unfolded.
Topsight is an introductory text for field researchers who are interested in how information flows through an organization, where it gets stuck, and how to get it unstuck. It’s based on my own research approach, but also on years of teaching field research to writing majors. One of the things I have really liked about writing Topsight, and teaching from it, is that I have been able to express what’s fun and intriguing about field research. Sure, not every part is fun—I don’t enjoy putting together consent forms, for instance—but most of it is. And it gets more fun when you have enough guidance to get you through the rough spots: pitching your project to a site, getting stakeholders on board, writing a research proposal that will pass the IRB but still be flexible enough to address unexpected contingencies, and coding the mountain of data you gather, for instance.
Since I launched Topsight in January 2013, I’ve used it for four courses (three undergraduate, one MA). I’ve Skyped with two graduate courses at different universities about it. I’ve received emails from several graduate students whose advisors suggest they read Topsight. And I’ve been really happy with the response.
At the same time, a book can always be improved. I’ve been keeping a running list of things I want to revise for the (eventual) second edition. Some improvements include:
- Streamlining the research proposal, consent form, and protocol examples.
- Revising the interim report example to better illustrate the principles in the chapter.
- Revising the coding chapter to emphasize process, provide more grounding on coding, and refer to solid coding resources such as Saldana’s Coding Manual for Qualitative Researchers.
- Discussing organization types and organizational lifecycles in a dedicated chapter.
- Framing the analytical models within the larger qualitative research tradition of analytical models, e.g., in Miles, Huberman, & Saldana’s Qualitative Data Analysis 3ed.
- Developing an overview of participatory design techniques for testing recommendations.
- Addressing miscellaneous typos and formatting issues.
- Perhaps going to larger book dimensions.
First, a confession: When I read Jeff Rice’s first book, I don’t think I really got his project. Rice was patient enough to explain it a bit in the comments. I suspect that I wasn’t the first person he had to wearily correct.
Over the intervening years, I’ve become better acquainted with Rice’s trajectory and his writing style (which Cynthia Haynes describes as “a cross between Rod Serling and Bob Dylan”) and am perhaps in a better position to get what he’s doing. In this book, he’s interested in applying the concept of network to Detroit—network in the sense of associational links—to analyze how implicit and explicit arguments can resonate across these associations. As he says in the introduction, after name-checking chora:
I am… networking Detroit by tracing its accounts. Despite the possible readerly discomfort, I find this method advantageous for how it allows me new kinds of opportunities to explore a space; by using a network to examine Detroit as a digital concept, I am made aware of connections I would not have discovered otherwise. The disadvantage of this method, however, is that it can, at times, feel confusing. (p.13)
At times, yes. In fact, Rice’s writing style is sometimes arresting, relying sometimes on repeating the same noun at the end of subsequent sentences, putting the emphasis on old rather than new information, sometimes sounding weary. Haynes hears Rod Serling in this voice; I hear Andy Rooney. Either way, it’s a very different style, one that often seems to circle around to (or build slowly to) the point. This style is sometimes disrupted by uncharacteristic, heavy forecasting and other metadiscourse—I suspect that these are due to reviewers’ comments rather than being organic to Rice’s style. Too bad. Although I’m a big fan of clear signaling and forecasting, there’s something to be said for following along at the pace the author sets.
And that style and pace are well suited for what Rice is trying to do here. Rather than describing a phenomenon out there, a shared social phenomenon, he is describing an idiosyncratic understanding based on associations:
All of my information is a network. All of my information I gather and assemble is internal to that network. These previous references—a contemporary op-ed, a 1940s historical book, a kitschy song, a novelist’s travel memoirs, a car commercial—are database items within that network. Everything I produce, therefore, is a network as well. … This book is an exploration and creation of that network. It attempts to be an information system. (p.24)
Readers might naturally wonder why the idiosyncratic network of associations that Rice describes could be useful to them. What’s intrinsically more interesting about the network of associations that Rice pieces together about a specific time and place, versus, say, our own associations? Essentially this is the question that I asked about the year 1963 when I reviewed The Rhetoric of Cool. The answer that I was too task-oriented to see back then, but that I think I see now, is this: What’s interesting is not the topic around how the network forms, nor the person who has assembled the network, but how such networks work, both for individuals and communities. In particular, how they function rhetorically, persuading and shaping perceptions. “Indeed, as I will argue throughout each chapter of this book,” Rice adds halfway through, “networks move and are moved; they transform and translate experiences and ideas as they form and break connections. They do things” (p.70).
In his earlier book, Rice discussed such associations via the notion of chora. In this one, he draws on Latour, particularly Reassembling the Social. But whereas others in writing studies have applied Latour to empirical studies, Rice applies Latour to circulating rerepresentations in much broader, more idiosyncratic ways. As he does so, he opens the possibilities for applying such associational insights to rhetoric, demonstrating how they can help us to understand why these associations can be so persuasive in shaping our understanding of identities. Detroit is the case, but the real contribution of the book is the approach. I hope I’ve done justice to it—and if you’re interested in networked rhetoric, I recommend you read the book.