New Corporate Venices
Transnational Companies based on corporate blogospheres
David de Ugarte et al.:
“The economy of the network society is essentially an information and services economy. It is an economy of markets which are drawn along the lines of cultural spaces and trans-nationalised companies which does not require geographic continuity. It simply has no territorial map because logistics does not lie at the centre of its costs. Its map is made of networks and itineraries.
When the great Spanish companies started their internationalisation in Latin America over ten years ago, the organisational model of reference was the Anglo- Saxon multinational. This model reinforced efficiency in the development of wellestablished objectives in protocolised and standardised tasks. Moreover, it reinforced the ties of the company to the territory in successive autonomy domains, from the high street branch to the global presidency -- a stratification which followed the network structure of the (decentralised) telegraph system which lay at the origin of the model.
But the last decade has been that of the emergence of distributed networks.
Within the domain of internal communication, companies already operated as a sea of small and dense networks of electronic distributed communication thanks to the generalisation of email use.
In the domain of value creation, it becomes increasingly evident that scale advantages are generated from transnationality, accompanying final customer in their own internationalisation processes. Globalisation itself is really the process whereby a world market which in practice was the sum total of a number of national markets which were interconnected by means of large institutions which could act as filters, that is, a classical decentralised network, became one single great commercial and productive network in which every product and service involves the confluence of elements and people who do not belong in the same national domain. In fact, the very word "internationalisation" loses its meaning and reveals what is going on. In all the talk about the internationalisation of small business in the nineties it was implicit that what was at stake was the internationalisation of small business in central countries. In practice, of course, things were quite different, and it is striking that it is small businesses that seems to have the most opportunities -- something which has already become a topic for popular literature. Large banks, consultancies and telephone companies which had become internationalised in the nineties now had to help small businesses in each country to move beyond national borders. Strictly following the upwards hierarchical structure towards the headquarters in each country, and from them back downwards in a different national structure, was slow and inefficient. Levels had to be directly linked to each other through local organisation in the safe, and increasingly reference and identitarian framework of a central umbrella which was becoming less and less identifiable in national terms.
Multinationals gave way to transnationals. The logic of extraction gave way to the creation and generalisation of consumption bases. From the neat decentralised to the distributed tangle of a commercial territory of relationships sheltered within an identity-brand. New Venices were being born.
It is no foolishness to think that in large organisations the percentage of active bloggers is not smaller than the average of authors in the territories in which they act. In fact, everything seems to indicate that it should be larger, given the age and education profiles. A recent extrapolation showed that, only within the BBVA group, there might be almost two hundred active bloggers.
Once a certain geographical extension and population have been reached, the generation of its own blogosphere becomes the main way in which an organisation can make knowledge emerge and use experiences which in the traditional hierarchical structure would remain isolated and unused. Distributing information and monitoring the development of debates in order to locate the emerging problems and conversations in the network periphery thus becomes the new frontier for managers.
At the same time, and almost inevitable, the corporate blogosphere becomes the first distributed form of representation for the company67, and it transforms the development and end of corporate careers, making them much less dependent on the territory. New network-related values are gradually emerging, and with them a new recognition profile. The successful worker is now somebody sensitive enough to recognise emerging demands in the company environment, create ad hoc transnational teams, and generalise the assumption of new discourses and approaches within the corporate network.
The role played by the relationship between the worker's identity and the original national identity of the company is gradually being displaced to language, as the virtual relationship space in the place where professional life is little by little being focussed. Moreover, given that the capacity to seduce and put into action the new demands is an increasingly valued ability, it gradually extends into a form of spontaneous "normalisation" of the language on the basis of shared elements.
But this process, in turn, stresses the divide between the large linguistic areas. Companies extended throughout relatively homogeneous areas obtain new competitive elements, but those which wish to grown among linguistically heterogeneous populations of customers and workers lose a significant part of the new advantages and opportunities.
In the new world of transnationals, the corporate blogosphere is both a map and a newspapers for a community based on mobility and intelligence, in which the border between the real and the imagined communities is gradually fading away. The company appears as the core of a community whose identity plays and increasingly significant role in the lives of their members, over nationality and other considerations.” (http://deugarte.com/gomi/Nations.pdf)
Transnationalisation of SME Networks
David de Ugarte et al.:
“Given that we have seen in less than two decades the leap from national to trans-national companies, it is tempting to imagine the next step -- the companybased trans-national urban identity. The analogy with the Venetian myth is obvious, as during Venice's apogee, a man's personal career and his political biography were one same thing. As in classical Venice, the new transnationals are defined from an exiguous territorial basis and an ever-changing networks of relationships and routes, of itineraries and more or less temporary headquarters in trade ports. Like Venice, the new corporate main players are taking charge of more and more aspects of their people's lives, making them, at the same time, play an increasingly large role in the common destiny. In fact, I don't think it is a flight of imagination to think that in the next decade there will be large and small transnationals, networks of de-localised small and midsize businesses, or new kinds of company which identify with, and compete against, distinct social models. Actually, they already have started to do so, pushed both by their environment and by the hunt for talent. In any case, it is increasingly difficult to imagine workers in global corporations in the next decades from the point of view of national-based identities.
It is rather hard to lead a life within mobility, moving within de-territorialised conversational spaces, while still explaining oneself in the terms in which the Statenation intended to constitute its citizens.
The nation was the community which we imagined in order to explain the social relationships that enveloped us when the market grew beyond the local, the community which we imagined in order to provide a framework for a life which branched out across the territory, bringing the market to every aspect of our daily lives. It wasn't easy to give up traditional identities, based on family and religion, which grouped only people whose names we knew in space we knew like the back of our hand. That's why the nation took centuries to mature, until it seemed as though it had always been there.
But nowadays the new corporate Venices and their emerging virtual spaces surely explain better and in a way that is more tangible, more personal, less abstract, and closer to a real community, the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who move across the great trade and financial creepers of the world.” (http://deugarte.com/gomi/Nations.pdf)
The Emergence of the Neo-Venetian Economic Democracies
David de Ugarte et al. :
“Online communities start to organise themselves no longer as NGOs, associations, or parties, but as economic democracies.
These are democratic companies, surprisingly stable and profitable, which are thought and which grown directly on trans-national soil, as the heirs to virtual communities in which only language constituted a frontier of some sort. These are the companies which we call Neo-Venetian, because they arise not in a passive way from general evolution, but from the will to develop and experience a certain kind of life, surely more in sync with the possibilities for freedom offered by our time.
These are more than companies, as they have genuine trans-national identities and political-economic arrangements of their own, and so a certain kind of literature refers to them as phyles. They did not appear out of the blue. In the same way as the Mondragon Cooperative Group was once born from specific socioeconomic conditions, taking advantage of new possibilities in order to rise in a certain original way to the challenges of a new world, these Neo-Venetian networks now try to respond to the possibilities offered by a trans-national, distributed world. And like Mondragon, even though they are part of a cooperative tradition which goes back to the 18th century69, they are new because they bring our attention on new topics, such as socio-environmental sustainability, internal freedoms, the new non-monetary incentives, or free knowledge, which are strictly contemporary, resulting from a world of distributed networks.
A document recently published by one of these phyles70, to which two of the authors of this book belong, clearly showed how digital Zionism, the experience of life in distributed networks, has been a school to a whole generation of new initiatives:
- "A person can only be free if he or she is the owner of the basis for his or her own subsistence, when he or she is under no obligation to kowtow to anyone, and can effectively abandon his or her network if he or she understands that it no longer meets the needs of his or her own happiness, a happiness that only that persona can judge. The possibilities for everyone to own property and for the general trade development are thus the economic grounds for any citizenship that does not consist in mere representation. This simple truth is what we call Neo-Venetianism. Exploradores Electronicos is a network of merchants and free entrepreneurs for the purpose of constructing and experiencing its own space of free citizenship, constituted under no group or state coercion, and devoted to the development of a trans-national and deterritorialised space in which the freedoms and rights can be deepened that make possible a full life in overlapping, pluriarchic, and noncoercive communities. To this end, we constitute ourselves as a distributed network of persons in free association, acting politically by themselves and economically through companies which will voluntarily coordinate and ally to each other for the creation of a common infrastructure of bases which, distributed throughout the world, will serve to make our trade and our debate independent from the vicissitudes of any State of market. Above all, it will provide equal opportunity among all explorers, independently of the States that provide them with their passports." (http://www.exploradoreselectronicos.net/e4pedia/Declarac i on_de_Montevideo)
These last few lines are particularly significant. In a globalised and increasingly distributed world, affinity groups, debates and businesses, envelop people whose passports belong to different States: people who feel, live, act and talk as equals, sharing a common identity, creating a real community, and sharing a worldview which appropriates a public agenda that is no longer national, but at the same time unique and broader.
However, the relationships between States are usually not symmetrical: the free movement of people is becoming increasingly restricted, and the gap between social coverage in South America, Africa, and the UE is enormous.
That's why Neo-Venetianism is not only a social phenomenon proper to large trans-national companies. It is also the will to build economic and deliberational spaces which provide "equal opportunity" in networks that already exist thanks to the internet, "independently of the States that provides [...] passports" to their members.” (http://deugarte.com/gomi/Nations.pdf)
Neo-Venetianism and the new cities
David de Ugarte et al.:
“Globalisation is really a process of extension of the domain of socioeconomic networks linked to trade that multiplies and moves the compartmentalised diversity of the old international map to a new game board essentially constituted by cities. The world becomes fractal: more or less the same languages will be spoken in all cities, but there will be thousand of languages in every city. That will be the trademark of network cities in a world that will increasingly become more Neo- Venetian than national.
What's interesting about the way in which those networks are already working is that there will be no lingua franca, but rather many languages living alongside each other in every geographic space, as every network and every activity involving a number of nearby networks will have its own language. This is a phenomenon that can be already observed in the cases of Punjabi, Al-Jazeera Arabic, or Urdu, inextricably linked to trade and financial circuits, to business and identity networks that have spread over the last fifty years in the wake of post-colonial migrations.
It should however be pointed out that, for the time being, these extended networks, linked by a close geographic origin and by a destination social space similar to that in the metropolis, have been unable to solidly configure identities which are already de-territorialised.” (http://deugarte.com/gomi/Nations.pdf)