STIGMERGY: The C4SS Blog
Missing Comma: Concerning “Horizontal Loyalty”

Last week’s blog excerpted a piece from Ann Friedman over at the Columbia Journalism Review that mentioned the term, “horizontal loyalty.” Coined by Radiolab host and longtime public radio producer Robert Krulwich during a commencement speech he gave to UC Berkeley grads in 2011, Friedman used the term as a way to challenge perceptions on networking:

Think of your network as a community—a group of professional collaborators with whom you share skills and ideas, contacts and advice—that you invest in whether or not you’re looking for a new job.

I mentioned that I thought this concept seemed almost stigmergic in nature, and it turned out that I wasn’t too far off.

From Krulwich’s speech:

So for this age, for your time, I want you to just think about this: Think about NOT waiting your turn.

Instead, think about getting together with friends that you admire, or envy.  Think about entrepeneuring. Think about NOT waiting for a company to call you up. Think about not giving your heart to a bunch of adults you don’t know. Think about horizontal loyalty. Think about turning to people you already know, who are your friends, or friends of their friends and making something that makes sense to you together, that is as beautiful or as true as you can make it.

And when it comes to security, to protection, your friends may take better care of you than CBS took care of Charles Kuralt in the end. In every career, your job is to make and tell stories, of course. You will build a body of work, but you will also build a body of affection, with the people you’ve helped who’ve helped you back.

And maybe that’s your way into Troy.

I think, for a long time, we’ve been trying to look for new ways to talk about concepts like mutual aid and solidarity; horizontal loyalty, at least as Krulwich describes it (and as Friedman uses it), serves exactly this kind of function. Instead of waiting for power to grant us seats at the table, we create our own tables and work to help each other out. Insofar as journalism is concerned, this is especially crucial – as my latest op-ed shows, the journalism cartel has no intention or desire to embrace independent media. They are offering us no quarter, so we should take the point and set up lodgings elsewhere. Or better, build those lodgings ourselves.

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