The VRM Movemen…

The VRM Movement – You Gotta Know The Code

As a long time follower of the Vendor Relationship Management (VRM) arena, I’ve been thinking about some of the other-than-logical aspects (perhaps psycho-logical or even bio-logical aspects) of the challenge of VRM becoming a still-more-animated movement.  The system of thought I’m using has its roots in the intersection of the work of Paul MacLean on The Triune Brain, the notions of Carl Jung on the role of archetypes, and the marketing/communications practice of Clotaire Rapaille.

The broad notion is that we, like every other species, come into the world with already-there mental structures that serve such instinctual behaviors as aggression, dominance, territoriality, and ritual displays as well serving the motivation and emotion involved in feeding, reproductive behavior, and parental behavior.  These structures are uniform across the species – what Jung saw as archetypes repeating across time and cultures.  Additional structure/pathways are added in the earliest days of our lives – the pre-verbal times of our lives as we see what people do (what people say is not so important and will be informed in our coming verbal years by what people do in these preverbal times).  These early-in-life pathways vary according to culture.[1]

This notion of pre-existing pathways is not the territory of the cortex where our ability for language, abstraction, planning, perception reside (not to mention arithmetic, computing architecture, CRM, VRM .  .  .)  , but rather it’s the territory of the reptilian and the limbic parts of our nervous systems.  It’s handy shorthand to say the cortex is for thinking, the limbic is for feeling, and the reptilian brain is for movement/animation.    And for languaging convenience (in service of that cortex), call all of this structure in the reptilian and limbic brains “the code” —  perhaps seeing it as a network of pre-existing, well-worn pathways in the “world of ends” inside of us.   

A principle that follows from this system of thought is:

If you want movement (not just thinking and feeling), you have to “know the code” – that is, get on one of those pre-existing pathways.  (And a corollary: there’s not enough marketing in the world to create new pathways.)

But the internet already has a code.  By whatever complex of early internet dynamics, the internet hooked into an unfortunate but powerful structure that was already in us.  The code for the internet became:  INTERNET = a place to lie, a place to hide, a place to spy, a place where things are not as they seem

So, that’s the notion here: Among the many possible structures that this new entity called the internet could have hooked into, it found .  .  . a place to lie, a place to hide, a place to spy, a place where things are not as they seem.   The New Yorker cartoon of the dog in front of a PC saying “On the internet, nobody knows you’re a dog” is funny because, like much humor, it holds an uncomfortable, if exaggerated, truth.

If this code is at work in us (even those of us who see ever so many other possibilities for the internet), then our every internet activity is colored by .  .  . INTERNET = a place to lie, a place to hide, a place to spy, a place where things are not as they seem.   Perhaps this begins to explain why it seems that  — because they are an archetypal highway we instinctually are familiar with. 

So, when we create language around trust, privacy, accountability, etc., it gets heard through the code of .  .  . INTERNET = a place to lie, a place to hide, a place to spy, a place where things are not as they seem, because in the sense used here, “trust” and “distrust” are the same code.

The task is to find another code.  And part of the problem is that it doesn’t much work to use the cortex to find these highways of the reptilian and limbic brains.  Yet, it’s the best we can do until something leaks through from the reptilian and limbic brains.  One possible code that occurs to me so far is in the territory of “Respect” – the construction Drummond Reed et al. and the Respect Network are using.  There’s probably a species-level code for “Respect”:   Respect =  “Choose me to co-create the future with you”.  (And yes, it is in the same territory as “Choose me to procreate the future with.”)

If this is a promising highway, the question becomes what motif of aps and words and images  would we use to evoke this code?  I’ll let that question hang there and see what comes to us in our “thoughts-in-the-shower” or other “thinking-of-nothing” moments.

Your reactions and thoughts are welcome.

[1] An illustration is research on the marketing of cheese in France and in the U.S.  It turns out that the mental structure for cheese in France is “alive” – where cheese is bought according to smell and touch and is often left at room temperature to pursue its life cycle.  In the U.S., cheese is “dead” – we wrap it in plastic (a body bag) and keep in the refrigerator (the morgue).   Now no one remembers getting the “cheese is alive” speech or “cheese is dead” speech as children.  Rather we saw how people handled cheese and connected to archetypal constructions of “alive” and “dead”.



One thought on “The VRM Movemen…

  1. Doc Searls

    I think what I’d like to know first is what code got the VRM movement to where it is now. I have no problem with coming up with another code for the next stage (or stages). Would be a fun project. But I’d like to start with what got us from nowhere to where we are now, which is somewhere between the start point and where we want to be.


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