Copy of my blog entry linking MarketsAreConversations with FractalLoading.

This is a term used by L. Andrew Coward and Nikos A. Salingaros in their fantastic paper "The Information Architecture of Cities" (see TheCityAsInformationSystem) which attempts to analyse cities as information processing systems. In particular, by looking at the journeys people make within them.

All journeys accomplish a primary information exchange. But ideally (for Coward and Salingaros) journeys have secondary, serendipitous information exchange. For example, a pedestrian on the way to work visits shops, sees adverts, buys a newspaper, encounters a friend and has a quick word, and may have a coffee observing the behaviour and dress of those around her. This multiplicity of dimensions of information they describe as "fractal loading" of the journey with information.

The virtue of cities is this dense, fractal, multilayered information exchange. From it, cities generate economic wealth and culture.

Coward and Salingros derive a, perhaps none-too surprising lesson : urban planners should try to optimize the fractal loading of information within journeys rather than making individual journeys more efficient. This increases the information processing within the cities.

In practice it seems to mean promoting more walking and public transport (especially public transport hubs like stations) and de-emphasizing cars. Driving on urban freeways is particularly lacking in secondary information.

Anyway, today, I was reading the original Cluetrain chapter (and http://cluetrain.com/book/markets.html) and) was immediately struck :

The first markets were filled with talk. Some of it was about goods and products. Some of it was news, opinion, and gossip. Little of it mattered to everyone; all of it engaged someone.

These multilayered conversations are, of course, also an example of fractal loading. Each trip to the market, each encounter between buyer and seller has a primary information exchange. But in the Cluetrain ideal, comes loaded with secondary processing.

By extension, this should also apply to the other forms of communication in the contemporary market. [Corporate http://prplanet.typepad.com/ceobloggers/ Corporate weblogs] fractally load extra information on top of an entertaining personal story. GonzoMarketing demands that interactions between customers and employees have multiple layers. Ruthlessly focused marketing "messages" OTOH are free-ways : sorry, one dimensional journeys which do little work.

It's worth noting the important difference. The general impression from Cluetrain is that "voice" is important because people like it. You get through to people by keying in to what they like. An urban planner can similarly suggest walking pedestrianised streets is more pleasant than snarl-ups on M11. And so is better for the inhabitants.

But Coward and Salingaros are suggesting there's a bigger picture.

Cities, in an objective sense, work "better" as information processing systems with fractal loading. If this is true, and the analogy holds, then the Cluetrain / Gonzo / commercial blogging system might have equal advantages.