Blog for the course offered at Teachers College, Columbia University during Fall 2005

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Marion: the disjointedness of online sociality

Marion recently wondered about the connection between the links pointing to a community web site and the relevancy of those links to the goals of the community. She asks: "Is there really value in establishing links between sources that are inherently unrelated?"

First, I would like to propose that the mere act of linking creates relevancy. Isn't the fact that "the 20 opera singers and 50 ice-cream truck drivers" convene in the West Siders for Responsible Development blog an indication that they are more than disjointed links, but people who share a similar interest?

Second, and following on that, I would say that this is precisely one of the advantages of social software: creating connections that would be much harder to create offline. What we have to keep in mind is that to some extent the formation of these connections follows its own rules. In other words, we delegate some of the control to form those connections to the Code, the social software itself. Where alliances seem natural and we strive hard to create them, they somehow fail to materialize. On the other hand, unexpected alliances emerge out of nowhere, facilitated by the Code! Sometimes you build it and those you expected to come (the opera singers) don't come, and sometimes those you didn't expect to come (the ice-cream truck drivers) crash the party! It's all part of the process of delegating some social agency to the Code.

As facilitators of online sociality, we need to be aware of these dynamics. In any change process, there's going to be few early adopters and a slow increase of adherents until an early majority is reached, and then the rest of the adopters quickly fall into place. Part of the role of the change agent/issue entrepreneur is to plan for these stages. Of course, it's nearly impossible to go through this cycle in less than one semester, but it's something you should consider in your IE projects beyond what you accomplish this term.


Blogger Robert said...

I agree. The affordances of the disjointed connections and conversation we have online can be powerful. I think this latest incarnation of social entrepreneurial project will be taking advantage of the disjointedness that Marion has mentioned. I do think advantages are quite significant look in Linked Albert-Laszlo Barbasi uses Al-Qada has an example of an organization that has been very effective in using this attribute of disjointedness to build their terror network.


8:13 AM

Blogger Heidi Trotta said...

Perhaps being on the same "ground" (or blog) gives them the opportunity to connect where they not have done so in the past. This connection can promote the development of common goals. I also believe, as pointed out in Linked, that when given the opportunity, links form naturally and often informally at first. Afterall, doesn't it take just one person in each group to be linked to each other through another common friend to establish a connection between the two groups?

10:39 PM


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