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Emergent by Stephen Scott Johnson

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Chapter 3 Naked and extraordinary

I WORKED FOR MORE THAN A DECADE in global advertising at the forefront of digital innovation and emerging technology. I entered this world in 1998 with a background in behavioural sciences and interactive design, but minimal experience in marketing. That meant I had to ride the World Wide Web wave and rise of social media, learning as I went. I am a geek at heart and, back then, heuristics and understanding the ‘who’ and ‘why’ of the internet — namely, how it was shaping and redefining the human condition — was my thing. Marketing stuff to people wasn’t that interesting to me; however, making meaning of stuff was inspirational.

For many years I led specialist teams in social tracking and diagnostics for brands, providing them with actionable insight into their customers, and practical ways to forge stronger ties with their audiences and communities. I developed methodologies to help organisations track, measure and map, and then turn this information into a useful decision-making tool. They were fascinated in understanding how influence spreads in the new digital economy, and how they must harness it. This was the context in which I began to experiment and design systems and tools to enable this spread of influence.

My agency buddies were artisans — creative technologists, master storytellers, engineers and producers — and we were all learning how to exist and create value in this new paradigm. It was also a time of extreme stress for my ‘traditionalist’ ...

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