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Josh Spear: Tapping into the collective










Read the piece on The New Age.

“To show you the future all I need is an internet connection.” Josh Spear

For someone that wonders for a living, Josh Spear is making a lot of people sit up, take notice, and think about just what the internet really is doing to humanity and how it is changing the world. For better or worse one can’t say but the inkling here is that it is for the better.

Speaking at the Tech4Africa conference taking place at The Forum, Bryanston, Johannesburg, Josh Spear (Twitter ID @joshspear) – a nomadic digital native, probably the youngest but certainly one of the brightest online strategy consultants today dissolves the old rules of thinking under the weight of the internet. What does it really consist of? The one billion collective people who can make things happen on their own.

Taking attendees of the conference on a seemingly disjointed journey through popular websites, this co-founder of the think tank Undercurrent, brings his point home that it is not about celebrity, it is not about fame and despite notions to the contrary, there are rules and one of the rules is that you have to earn your way to the top of the searches, you can’t buy it.

Do not underestimate the power of the anonymous to gather and self-organise. Taking the now infamous website which although has been banned from popular search engines is consistently one of the top websites in the world, and at one stage being in the #1 position. A photo posting and response through images website, he describes just what is going on while making it clear that no one really knows.

Spear seems to think that through networks, collectively we are trying to figure out who we are. And with the sheer volume of networking going on in all its forms, this seems almost an obvious point. There is no leader, there is no agenda, it is merely interactions, some serious, some not.

One of his careful points is that there is a clear changing of the guard, from the old to the new. Thomas Bevan, conference attendee says, “Josh makes us take a good step back from our assumed view of the internet and who influences it”.

The notion of the old guard being replaced by the new guard can be borrowed as a kind of nod to the growing influence of Africa as an entrepreneurial continent that is gaining access to the same technological platforms.

If there is one thing that Tech4Africa makes clear is that Africans are working very hard to improve their continent and this doesn’t just mean competing with Western companies but through their collective action over the tool of the internet, doing some deeply meaningful work in their societies.

Josh Spear says “The world has been pulled open” and now is the time to collectively figure out what we want and make it happen.

Spear breaks the internet into the points of what the internet is really good for:

  • Awareness
  • Persuasion
  • Sharing
  • Cooperation
  • Collective action
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