This doesn't really cut it for me - rubbish cannot be effortlessly passed around the world in the same way as bits of information. Garbage is weighed down by its sheer physicality, the fact that somebody or something has to handle each atom of matter as it moves through the economy.
This handling would imply a great combine of systems to efficiently pipe waste to where it belongs. Not that bits of information are without their own massive infrastructure, but once that infrastructure exists, there is no need to shovel particles up or down the line. And that effortlessness of information moving is what makes everything around the internet work.
In short, waste doesn't seem to a good possibility for virality, for the sort of distributed empowerment and foment of ready innovation that characterises the world around which social media whirls.
And yet, and yet.
And yet, I can't let go of the fact that social media is a powerful force that goes beyond allegory.
I wrote about this a bit in my post "social media, entrepreneurship and waste",writing that the combination of social media, entrepreneurship and waste might be:
Nimble business, with social media at their core, in the field of waste management. I'm not sure what this looks like exactly, but suspect it is the space between people taking personal action for the environment, and business doing things environmental things for people. I think it is people enabling businesses who enable people. It might manifest in viral campaigns to drive a particular business model around the environment, perhaps "gamification" of some environmental activity, maybe a deeply personalised waste service.
I'm not sure that really gets there, as it is pretty vague, but it is a taste.
My more personal post "a social media epiphany" took a slightly different tack, and amongst the personal observations noted the information aspect of social media:
There are a whole heap of people who blog, tweet AND run business in waste all around the world. And they are invariably doing something that is really interesting and deserves adaption for local markets. There is a lot to learn, digest, turn around.That idea of social media as data distributor, or rather the philosophy of distributed systems in general that are best recognised in social media, was explored more fully in "waste and peer to peer". This aspect is important, but not quite what I am gnawing my way towards.
Finally, at a speech I gave recently (if the link doesn't work, visit the Western Earth Carers facebook page to find the speeches), I started with:
Let me start with an exciting and terrifying proposition. The future of waste management does not rest with governments building infrastructure which they then command. Like it or not, people no longer believe that institutions serve them.
Now why does this matter? It matters because organisations [...] must adapt.
Now by adapt, I do not mean some sort of formal process for channeling something called the community. I am talking about deep engagement, the sort of conversation that is now seen in social media like facebook and twitter.
On first blush, this seems silly and faddish. That would be both arrogant and wrong.
Wrong because social media is no fad. People are rapidly demanding more and better engagement. It is not just the way of the future, it is the way of now. I think we’ll look back on what we’ve always done with the same disdain that we look back on the crude simplicity of wartime propaganda.
Arrogant because there is a truly staggering depth of knowledge you can tap through social media. To discount social media is to claim that you know better than the many out there.So, again, getting at that element of communication and information.
And yet that doesn't quite seem to be the destination I had in mind.
I think I had seen the possibility most clearly in my first post above, but am still no closer to seeing how that business might evolve. It must involve information and communication, that much is clear, but somehow take these to the next level.
Maybe it is a series of micro-businesses that can pop up to deal with particular wastes. Maybe it is the clever collection, aggregation and analysis of data, without falling back to becoming a sales portal. Maybe it is the creation of an enabler that can hitch waste services off everyday activities - a bit like a MeeMeep but less deliberate, almost seeming to happen by accident.
To be honest, I don't know, and suspect I won't know for a little while. However, I also suspect that the only way I am to ever come to know is if I write it, gnaw it, turn it over. And over. And over again.
Come join me.