Friday, February 9, 2007

The "E" words

I keep hearing two words here at Stanford, and finally decided to put them together. One of the words is "entrepreneurial," and the other is "emergent."

Shortly after arriving here, I learned this university is decentralized and you are on-your-own to learn everything you can about its riches, which are considerable. OK, I was up for that.

Then, very quickly, you are told that this school is an entrepreneurial place. If you like an idea, get out there and do it. Want something to happen? Do it. This is the home of the Silicon Valley start-up, and Stanford students talk about their impending "start ups" as if that is an expected and natural progression in life. Being entrepreneurial is highly valued.

That slides into our new life on the Internet, don't you think? People are starting blogs and wikis and personal web pages and online businesses. And the only way you learn how to do this is to jump in and do one.

Now, for emergent. This is about how things are changing right in front of us.
Emergence is what happens when the whole is smarter than the sum of its parts...And yet somehow out of all this interaction some higher-level structure or intelligence appears, usually without any master planner calling the shots. These kinds of systems tend to evolve from the ground up.

That came out of Steven Johnson's book, called "Emergence." I read it in Dan Gillmor's book, "We the media."

Tuck these two words into the back of your mind. They are defining our age. It's not really a time to be passive and let things happen to you. It's a time to jump in and get your feet wet in some html, some xml, some social tagging, some folksonomy and maybe try your hand at a video on iMovie.

I just saw former ADN journalist and freelancer Doug O'Harra's new work over at his Web site, Far North Science. That's exactly what I'm talking about. Go take a look. Then get entrepreneurial and emergent, and start something of your own!


Howard said...

I thnk conflating these "e-words" is precisely on point, kathleen, but this definition of "emergence" seems too narrow to me. Have a look at and elsewhere for a more expansive definition ...

Kathleen McCoy said...

Grazi. Point well taken. I thought the definition a little thin myself, but I was willing to let 'er rip. I will follow up on your suggestions. However, I've just had a sizeable portion of Peter Porco's homemade "pasta alhambra" and must attack this afresh another day, like early tomorrow. Thanks for your good thoughts.