So the story goes that University College London (UCL) was founded in the mid 19th Century as a reaction to perceived discrimination in other higher educational institutions. Specifically Oxford & Cambridge which at the time (not now of course…) required both wealth and religious affiliation as part of the entrance criteria and Kings College London which required the religious affiliation but not specific wealth.
The man described as its spiritual founder, Jeremy Bentham, was a leading philosopher who advocated amongst other things the separation of church and state and utilitarianism – fundamentally “it is the greatest happiness of the greatest number that is the measure of right and wrong”. Some of this thinking can be seen today and is clearly impactful on positive psychology but we’ll leave that topic for another day. His mummified head can still be found on display at UCL and the origins of it’s formation lead it still to be referred to as ‘the ungodly college’ to some (and Gower Street Tech to others)
I recently wrote a post called ‘The one with the crowdsourced research’. The purpose of the post was two-fold, firstly to try to collect relevant data and case studies about the deployment of social networks inside organisations and secondly to understand people’s perceptions to social. I got some great comments and links (thanks to those who contributed).
The reactions I found most amusing/bemusing came from people who work specifically in this area who in some form or another ‘called me out’ for wanting evidence and one who went as far as to imply it was cowardice to seek validation – curious business development indeed! I think there was a misunderstanding that I was seeking to be convinced rather than gathering information to convince others and use a window of opportunity to get clear buy-in to change.
Around the same time I was revising for an exam on a college module entitled ‘Technology, Work & Organisations’ and in the course of my reading came across a reference to Bentham’s Panopticon. Despite the fate of the cat, my curiosity got the better of me and off I went to Wikipedia to try to understand what the hell it was…
The panopticon was envisaged by the same Jeremy Bentham as a prison design where observers could observe all inmates without the inmate being aware they were being observed. The basis of the design has been used in prisons all over the world. In the context of work and organisations the reference was the perception from within organisations that technology wasn’t just about enabling more effective and efficient working but a tool of managerial control – effectively creating a virtual panopticon.
The saying goes ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’ and whilst I am pretty far from angelic there is a voice in the back of my head saying that whilst social has great possibilities the notion that everyone wants it and everyone will love it just seems ‘yet to be seen’ for me. Maybe it’s about specific purposes – collaboration, innovation, visibility, rather than just ‘social’s great – do it’. For the moment I’m going to keep working up my solution and give some more thought to how this will land on a very diverse group of
And I must close there as the red light on my Blackberry is blinking and if I don’t answer it in under 5 minutes…