Rapid Change in Online Group Dynamic (Filtering to Come)

As discussed in my previous post, Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations, a book by Clay Shirky, is based primarily around the internet and group dynamic within the context of organization, mobilization and cohesion within a global reach of individuals through online communities and outreach. The book opens with an example of how drastically the masses of people can come together to support a cause they feel passionately about, even if the subject has little affect on the grander picture within the lives of those participating in the debate over Ivanna’s stolen cellphone.

The book moves in to cover topics surrounding media outlets, social dilemmas, institutional challenges and the pace of user generated content. Within media outlets he states that how our media world is shaped has now shifted so that it is cluttered with the output of those qualified and unqualified informers and potential influencers. I have to agree, at some point, those that are exporting information to others and don’t have viable information can be doing harm online, but the wealth of information we now have makes it difficult for some people not to be informed.

Shirky describes the loss of social capital and how don’t necessary hold others to a certain standard within our social lives. In the mid-1900s, social structures were built on interactions and less on our online space, we built relationships based on who we had access to and made sure those were strong relationships, building circles. Now, we’re building circles online through spaces such as Google+, where they literally call them “your circles”. When we take a minute to think of this, most people have forgone joining clubs and organizations due to their satisfaction with connecting with those that they find online and supporting global causes rather than hyper-local causes.

The challenge of institutions, due to the collective actions of the masses, is the cost at which these actions are worked out, there virtually is none. People can act online, completely bypassing the institutions money making ability to coordinate actions. They then lose the control of the collective. Talent and why people contribute their time is, or the motive, is now taken out of real time and put online, which makes it much more difficult to track for institutions, they lose the ability to know why people are joining causes, if the institution is not currently online using extensive tracking methods. In our Internet Politics class, Simon Owens discussed InfoGraphics and the ability for those to be tracked by bloggers and web-producers, but on a much smaller scale, the motive of those sharing may be skeptical to larger institutions without the ability to hire PR agencies.

Finally, I’ll discuss what Shirky refers to in one of his earlier chapters as “Publish, Then Filter”. Shirky is describing the action of amateurs online to publish irrelevant information with editing or filtering what they are stating, they are simply putting it out there for all to see. This is an interesting concept, because most people (myself included at times), don’t think about who might attain what we are putting online and what some of the consequences of publishing this data can be.

Overall, Shirky’s book was relatable and defined some interesting concepts that can be easily understood by non-techies. The social behavior of organizing large groups without the interference of grand organizations is rapidly changing. The way we come together, connect and motivate others has taken on much different roles than past years due to the rapid alteration in our abilities to use the internet.  In the future, we may see that their will be communities online that attempt to build offline relationships in a more successful manner.


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