Think Like a Molecule

Molecules are as dumb as rocks only infinitesimally smaller. Yet inside living things a class of large and complex macromolecules known as proteins perform astonishing tasks. Every muscle, nerve and brain cell is powered by protein interactions. Science can discern no central coordinating authority. An uncountable number of uncoordinated molecules simply cooperate to enable marvels such as thought and speech. Can molecules teach Web users how to find each other and cooperate to create greater works than those they could produce alone?

If so, it may comes down to signaling. Biological molecules bump into one another and if there is a fit, they perform a task. Think of self-propelled Legos. Creative projects often start by people bumping into one another. Existing Web technologies, including forums, Web pages, search, e-mail and wikis, facilitate cooperation over long distances. Is it possible to augment tagging technology to create a more efficient way to advertise for collaborators and get them to sign up to perform the necessary tasks.

Tags are used to label photos, blog entries, and dozens of other topics. Is it possible to create an action-tag that allows people to volunteer to perform necessary tasks, if one is organizing a cultural or political event, or to bid on them in the event that the project is commercial.

Let’s take an example in media. You’ve just come back from Latin America and have extensive recordings of local musicians that you’d like to turn into an audio product. You don’t really understand mixing, or new publishing and distribution formats. You may need marketing and legal advice. Is there a way to put out a help-needed sign?

This all goes back to the argument I made Monday that media creators need to form an association, and the follow-up on Tuesday in which I suggested that this association should be developed as a self-organizing system. All of this may sound chaotic but, in a networked world, work is going to resemble a game of pick-up basketball in which the name of the game will be finding talented players on ad-hoc basis. Today’s idea continues that theme. This series of three blogs is the first time I’ve set down these ideas. Now I’ll have to try and circulate them and discover whether they resonate.

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media