Social Media: Of Neural Networks and Kabbalah
We have certainly seen a great deal of drama over the weekend concerning the community aspect of Red State, and the tendency of like-minded people to consistently recommend diaries by other like-minded people. The drama has generated more heat than light, and the shouting matches over terms like “cabal” and “clique” no doubt delight the opponents of that overarching belief system shared by all members of the site.
We need to step back a bit and look at the very nature of social media. Networking lies at the heart of it. And social networks are like those Venn Diagrams you learn about in high school math – interlocking sets of data points (in this case members), except more complicated.
They are everywhere, too. Wall Street, ever addicted to coining buzzwords, has been pushing the concept of neural networks: how traders with a similar view of the market develop their own networks, promote that view, trade on it, and mutually reinforce market trends. But then they move on, switching networks as they switch views. It’s a very complicated phenomenon. (If you think RS discussions are tough, spend a day at Yahoo Finance on the discussion lists that exist for every popular stock!)
This phenomenon rules opinion sites. People will flock together to promote commonly shared ideas. All it takes for a neural network to form is a few people who email each other. And then they email their contacts, and the contacts email theirs, and we’re off to the races. Throw in technologies like Google or Yahoo Groups, Twitter, Facebook, etc. and you get a multiplier. The RS front page does the same thing when it advises the members to do phone calls, emails, etc. It is the most natural thing in the world.
However bothersome this fact of life may be, network behavior CAN NOT BE STOPPED. That is why social media entrepreneurs become billionaires, and AOL (over)pays the likes of Arianna.
This is also why the arguments over recco’s, like the one that broke out on the infamous LIO energy diary, will always be a waste of time at best, and at worst can disfigure a site more than any offending diary that a lot of people like for whatever mysterious reason. (I did NOT like the LIO diary BTW.)
In Pride and Prejudice, Mr. Bennet observes that we exist to make sport of our neighbors, and to be laughed at in our turn. Quite a good observation, I think. As long as people are restrained enough to STAY neighbors. So I will close with that.
But what of the mysteries of the Kabbalah, you say? Sorry, I’m not going to tell you. You have to join my Kabbalah group for that.