Tribes and social media.
Chris Hambly’s notions of ideological amplification is when a belief within a tribe becomes the norm and expected and is then exponentially amplified among its members. He warns there is a potential problem of groupthink and even militiaristic vigilante behaviour where people are excluded from such groups. He noted that Marketers want small niche tribes – partly because it’s cheaper to acces them. But he says that understanding and engagement on an issue is not based on ‘how many’ but ‘who is connecting’. He posed the question – is social media making companies more honest and do the marketing agencies have to choose their clients more wisely now?
Responses from the room include an advertiser’s perspective, where he explained that in his experience, it is better to deploy social networking technologies where an existng fan base exists, but no opportunity or platform exists to access each other. However, there is no ‘safe’ deployment of a technology where there is controversy or faithlessness in the product. So in this case, ‘honesty’ – or perhaps product quality – is crucial.
I guess this comes down to what is being ‘honest’. There’s a lot of marketers and corporate reputation management companies who would argue that truth is a matter of perspective. Malcolm Gladwell talks extensively in Blink about the truth about products, and the notion of truth – or at least fashion – being a moveable feast. Perhaps this is more about organisations admitting vulnerability rather than being necessarily ‘honest’?
Hambly went on to introduce the ideas of Thomas Schelling and his ideas on ‘Dynamic Models of Segregation’ – an observation on segregation based, on race, class, age, gender, etc. Hambly argues that in pursuing the long tail and social media tribes, you are encouraged to segregate and to enter into environments that are concentrating the interests you have – heightening the sense of difference. Eran says it’s ‘a funnel’ of ideas.
So… where to from here? Does this need to be ‘fixed’? Do we need to regulate diversity of idea generation? Or orthogonal links between people enough to sustain tolerance in social media communities?
I challenged the notion of people necessarily being ostracised for differing opinions in groups – agree with everything else, but just a bit concerned that there is necessarily the kind of vigilante response….someone else said that perhaps a more violent opposition is likely to incite an army of advocates who do ostracise others. Good point – and again it comes down to a matter of perspective. We might see ourselves as educating a naysayer, while they would see it as being ostracised. Do we need to develop a language of tolerance online? Do we need to accept that the nature of the long tail is that it is undemocratic?
Hambly brings us back to the point and asks what do we need to do. Someone else notes that because there is no structure of generic shared experiences, because you are highly targeted. Spare time is being dedicated to highly targeted niche interests, and there is less time to be exposed to differing opinions. Do we need therefore to ensure that some time every day is spent in consuming a variety of ideas? Is this too intrusive a regulatory process?