The Standing Ovation Problem (Page, Miller) analyzes standing ovations, of the kind you give at the end of a show, as complex, spontaneous phenomenon. A Standing ovation can’t be calculated, nor predicted. It is incredibly open-ended to the various contexts individually available to people in the audience, and the intercontextuality between them (the intersubjective space).

Page expands on the paper in his Model Thinking course on Coursera, and adds to the concepts of ‘celebrity’, ‘intellectual’ and ‘knowledge transfer’.

The person in the front of the room is a ‘celebrity’; because everyone sees (and could be influenced by) them and they see no one. The person in the back is an ‘intellectual’ because they see everyone but no one sees them. And within the room, there are little moments of knowledge transfer. Say we are watching a Shakespearian play, or the opera, and the couple to the left looks like they frequent these shows; anytime they stand up will send a signal that we should do the same.

Standing Ovations are all around us; Elon Musk sending a tweet about the stock market, or patterns in social media. What is common to all ‘standing ovations’ is that members of the audience do that intuitively. If you follow a stock tip and realize in a cognitive way that is part of a ‘standing ovation’, you will stop yourself. The same way when following a fashion, or other market trends.

When in the wake of a’ standing ovation’ we follow intuition. Once we realize it we will leave it, and essentially become the ‘intellectual’, being in the very back of the room. When we have the overview effect, we can define for ourselves the ‘standing ovation’ we are in, at that moment, and at that place. ‘Standing ovations’ are intersubjective spaces, which are temporal. They are not categorically positive or negative, but a system dynamic.

In our effort to replicate the affordances of the physical world, we joined Slack’s, and Discords, and Zooms to no end. Can we stop and reflect on the ways in which show up in each of those spaces? Are they positive or negative? Do they create a scripted space, where personas exchange internet snippets, or is it a space of generous co-creation? What ‘standing ovations’ are you part of at the moment?