Wednesday, 3 April 2013

This thing with social behavior


I was thinking about social engineering and the way it evolves. Social is something really popular nowadays, used for many purposes and at the same time it's using us.


Social is not a specific term. It varies by size and purpose, common sense and a lot of other things. But at the end it's a form of a higher mindset of multiple person. One thing bothered me always is how social can be manipulated. There are many evidences to the hive mind, but I'm not exactly talking about that one. I'm more interested in the artificial - chaotic side of it. Remember when 4chan revenged on the  guy who tortured the cat? Or when facebook invented the random-party idea at locations where the owner was away from? Or just think about viral actions, like harlem shake. Or the way Reddit is voting up and down items. It's not individuals, it's the collective. And by definition (which is really hard to imagine) it should follow a pattern. Call it the evolution of a natural mind - looking for an energy optimum. But that's not what we experience. It has more proof from the chaos theory, in fact.

So why all these things are happening so randomly? Well, the group theory gives us a pretty straight answer - groups has a mind and it's not logical ergo it goes like a brainless cow. I agree with that with an extension. I think this behavior evolves, and learns. All the actions that are happening in the online world are getting more and more familiar to the masses. As the ecosystem evolves, all the tools available will serve people to get more information and basically establish a more thoughtful decision. If you can easily lookup data, news or facts you most likely to make a more conscious decision. If you have the right platform, like a user friendly Facebook or Google+ you don't have to rely on the group essentially. That doesn't that nonsense will fade away. I think it's just gonna less unexpected. And smarter. Think about that. Less chance to cause panic, less chance to sell a fake product or make you believe a false news.

In that sense I believe technology has to empower the conscious exploration of data online. With tools, proper user experience, applications and conscious social engineering. However social engineering is really a two edge sword, where the unwanted affect only can be avoided if the information source is coming from the social medium itself, not from above.

Apart from the intellectual density I'm really interested in fragmentation of communities. It's nothing new under the Sun, same is happening with economy and global authority. In the old days the network medium was a single community. People who were online. That quickly fragmented to people on iRC, people using email, or on AOL and of course on early social sites. When it became clear that social is a thing that has a huge potential we got MySpace and Facebook and Geocities. And way the different sectors (such as document sharing sites, communication platforms, discussion forums, etc) are gathering users is really bothering me. Simply because the fragmentation - which, let's be frank, is a healthy process - makes all the access harder. I need to check 5 different services to see the latest photos about my friends, same amount of sites to get the status updates, 3 services to get the handmade gifs and 3 services for the location services. The list continues of course. I know social exchange has market value, and being so it's not something you share. But isn't it the point of social? That's why I really like the idea that IFTTT is leveraging. Or what is RSS reader for news. Who knows Yahoo Pipes?

Anyways, social is a fun stuff. I believe it has greater power than governments. Not greater then galactic empires, though. They still rule.

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Peter

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