Sociableness, society, social society.

“We started off trying to set up a small anarchist community, but people wouldn't obey the rules.” ― Alan Bennett, Getting On

Why “stories”? Isn’t that a bit touchy-feely?

The story is our own natively-generated, heavily-optimized means of transmitting information about the world and our interactions with it. It’s semantically brimmming with useful how-to information, in an easy-to-swallow package. In effect, they are our preferred means of calibrating ourselves against reality.

Being so heavily optimized and semantically laden, processing a story for meaning presents a set of challenges that some will fail to surmount. The consequences of transmission failure manifest as misinformed behaviour which is aberrant compared to the patterns or traits taken to be typical of the social group (to which the stories are relevant). This aberrant behaviour isn’t the result of “faulty” reasoning” but of under- or mis-informed reasoning.

In the context of an inherently decentralised organisation (a.k.a. “social group”), two particular sources of misinformation are of concern:

  • Pluralistic ignorance: the false assumption of an individual that the attitudes or behaviors of others are different from their own, when in fact they are similar.
  • False consensus: the incorrect belief that others are similar to oneself, when in fact they are not.

This results in …

  • Actions based on misperceptions: Actions are often based on misinformation about or misperceptions of others’ attitudes and/or behavior.
  • Real consequences: When misperceptions are defined or perceived as real, they have real consequences.
  • Effected passively: Individuals passively accept misperceptions rather than actively intervening to change them, hiding from others their true perceptions, feelings, or beliefs.
  • Self-perpetuating: The effects of misperceptions are self-perpetuating because they discourage the expression of opinions and actions that are falsely believed to be nonconforming while encouraging problem behaviors that are falsely believed to be normative.
  • Infectious: Individuals who do not personally engage in the problematic behavior may contribute to the problem by the way in which they talk about the behavior. Misperceptions thus function to strengthen beliefs and values that the “carriers of the misperception” do not themselves hold and contribute to the climate that encourages problem behavior.
  • Trivially fabricatable: For a norm to be perpetuated it is not necessary for the majority to believe it, but only for the majority to believe that the majority believes it.

Appropriate information about the actual norm encourages individuals to develop more accurate (and more useful) models that are consistent with the measured norm and to inhibit the development of inconsistent and aberrant models that generate behaviours that are problematically inconsistent with the measured norm.

There is a need to generate this “appropriate information”. There is none available from the value transfer system itself, by intention users are referenceable only by their pseudonyms.

So, this is a place to publish stories that people consider to be worth retailing, the “appropriate information” that informs others in an accessible and effective way, where the social norms really lie.

Tell me a story

See …

As to why … “The Critical Periphery in the Growth of Social Protests”, PLOSONE

 “Social media have provided instrumental means of communication in many recent political protests. The efficiency of online networks in disseminating timely information has been praised by many commentators; at the same time, users are often derided as “slacktivists” because of the shallow commitment involved in clicking a forwarding button. Here we consider the role of these peripheral online participants, the immense majority of users who surround the small epicenter of protests, representing layers of diminishing online activity around the committed minority. We analyze three datasets tracking protest communication in different languages and political contexts through the social media platform Twitter and employ a network decomposition technique to examine their hierarchical structure. We provide consistent evidence that peripheral participants are critical in increasing the reach of protest messages and generating online content at levels that are comparable to core participants. Although committed minorities may constitute the heart of protest movements, our results suggest that their success in maximizing the number of online citizens exposed to protest messages depends, at least in part, on activating the critical periphery. Peripheral users are less active on a per capita basis, but their power lies in their numbers: their aggregate contribution to the spread of protest messages is comparable in magnitude to that of core participants. An analysis of two other datasets unrelated to mass protests strengthens our interpretation that core-periphery dynamics are characteristically important in the context of collective action events. Theoretical models of diffusion in social networks would benefit from increased attention to the role of peripheral nodes in the propagation of information and behavior.”

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