I have to confess that I am absolutely fascinated with the 24/7 eagle nest cam put up by the Raptor Resource Project in Decorah Iowa. It garnered a great deal of attention recently when the camera placed in the eagle’s nest captured the hatching of a valued egg. So much traffic it crashed the feed, I believe. But it is more than this. It is a window into the real powers of social media in a number of ways, and I’d like to use it to bring out these often overlooked aspects of what makes social media go.
The first thing to note is how it bends time and space instantly, as soon as you click on the feed (minus the now-present ad). You are transported to an eagle’s errie, where even in the middle of the night you can hear the wind blowing, and see her feathers peel back from the gusts. I watched last night, and the transportive effects were strong. It was perhaps the most “ecological” or “conservationist” experience I’ve had through media, or perhaps even in the more or less Real world. The noble animal is right there with you. Her catch will arrive in the nest. Her feeding. Her fussing with the young. And all the interminable minutes that Herzog would love are there, unedited.
This is what I want to focus on. Social media is NOT about sharing the trivial. It is about recognizing that there is no trivial. Each and every life experience/moment has the potential of being an anchor-point for sympathetic identification. What social media does is pull life out from the peaks, and display it as narrative – a narrative in which the small can surprise as much as the large can. Yes, the feed crashes when the chick is being born, but really it is the thread of moments that are captured that makes this eagle cam tranporative.
Let me move a little bit deeper into this. Social media allows an affective transfer. That is, for a moment, a glimpse, I am able to FEEL what you or it is feeling. My body approximates this state. For that moment there is a bond, and an assumption of sameness. This is actually – I would argue in a different context – the basis of all ethical behavior, and even the sense-making we make of the world, but in social media it is the core substance of what is going on. It is all happening in an “information” environment, but social media is about leaving your affective fingerprints on every piece of information exchanged. The information has to be smudged, dirtied by our transfer, so people can FEEL where it is coming from. Every Tweet, every Facebook posting, every YouTube clip has the lived buried in it.
This is where the eagle cam is so remarkable. It communicates so many of the conceptual conservation ideas that the unintentional cruelty of the zoo is more crudely designed to bring about. Animals are said to be ambassadors for their species in zoos, and so often endure an unhappy jail just so we can experience them first hand and develop not only a knowledge, but an affinity for their kinds..enough of an affinity for us to be moved to protect them. In this case, this is accomplished with two tiny remote cameras, and far more intimately. The transposition of time and space is incredibly folded, and made dense. We are mapped, affectively, right there upon the flapping, wind-blown feathers of a she eagle. And we care. A multi-million dollar zoo edifice is eclipsed.
The Lessons for Business
So what does this have to say about business and social media. The eagle cam represents the acme of this affective representation. It is the economical, brief, elegantly simple, spectacular way in which people can affectively identify across species lines with something “out there”, as well as be fully absorbed by the concepts that surround the transfer. What business has to realize is that connecting to customers and users in social media environments has always to do with this affective end. We want people to feel our Real. To combine with it, to see it as Same. And this is done by projective narrative. The information we exchange always has to be colored by our values, and our experiences. Each node of social media communication is a place for others to create an affinity point. And when exchanging with others, there are two nodes for identification: you and your interlocutor (for a watching 3rd).
So should every business have a 24/7 web cam stream? Well, not really. But WHAT a web cam stream accomplishes forms one of the limits and aims of social media broadcast and conversation. It is the transportation of – not the effacement of – what is human in us, or perhaps even beneath that. It allows customers to FEEL what is like to be in trusted relationship to your company or business. As someone brought up in today’s #usguyschat, it is more about reef building, than going viral. And establishing points of affective affinity is essential to reefs of safe commerce.
The enormous nest, over five feet wide, is perched high atop a cottonwood tree near the Decorah Fish Hatchery. The nest is 80 feet up, making the installation of camera gear all the more impressive. In the background of the shot, viewers can see cars and trucks passing on a road far below.
Two cameras are attached to the tree’s limbs a few feet above the nest, equipped with infrared nightvision and the ability to pan and zoom to capture every detail, including the bloody food that the parents bring back to the nest. story