Monday, February 9, 2009

Of Human Flock Behavior


This morning I was listening to a fascinating radio interview of a couple scientists that were devoted to the understanding of the animal behaviors such as swarming and flocking and its practical applications; in this specific case the practical applications were about how to apply such understanding of those behaviors to the production of algorithms that could be applied to robotic programming to result in adaptive and collaboration robotic behavior.

However listening to the conversation got me thinking, with all due respect, to the applications of these concepts to two areas that are very important for me today: 

Online communities / Social Networking:
One of they key points I got out of this mornings radio interview was that there is always a way in which the information that affects the behavior of the group depends; and affecting the way this “transmission method” occurs has a considerable impact in the behavior.
What are the implications of this on the gestures we chose to enable in our social networking / media experiences? How do we chose to amplify/highlight them (most popular, recent, active?) How do we choose to aggregate them? 

The economic crisis we are living and has recently affected me personally. 
I do believe, with respect, we are behaving a little bit like a herd; and is likely the most sensible things. We all see how this crisis has affected so many, we slow down our own activity to save more, our slow down ends up affecting others which in turn reinforces the behavior again. I don’t envy the job of the person in charge of defusing this “stampede”. 
 
We, Social Networking/Media practitioners and theorists, have a lot to gain by following academia and trying to connect the dots on these concepts and research and practical business applications. I will definitely continue to pay attention to what these researchers find and report.

What do you think? 

Filiberto Selvas

2 comments:

FreeRangeMom said...

Maven, Connecter, Salesperson, Follower. It's hard to look at ourselves and know which type of communicator we are.

I believe that those of us who are effective in social media think strategically about our interactions. I, for one, consider building social capital is more important to focus on than spending it. But perhaps that's in part because I see myself as a leader, not a follower. And earning the trust and loyalty of my followers makes me a more effective communicator.

Filiberto Selvas said...

Agree with you; however what these studies point out is that even those not as special as the influencer types that you list, but simply the “person next to you” has a definite influence by prompting you/nudging you to act in a certain direction basically as a reaction to their own behavior (valid in the animal kingdom, but I believe valid for humans as well). I remember reading once about a herd of sheep that trampled a wolf to death; it wasn't that the sheep were brave, it was simply that the wolf jumped in the middle of the herd out of nowhere, and the “leader” sheep escaped running in one direction, all the animals followed the leader and that included those that were on the other side of the wolf, and they trampled the “poor predator” to death.
My point here: the leader behavior was important; but it was communicated from “follower” to “follower” this has interesting important implications for our social media strategies & tactics (as well as for the economy)

Filiberto