Several past blog posts here have discussed the mass of information present in the current age. This post will look at the benefits and detriments of such interconnectedness upon social discourse and innovation. In contrast with the pre-internet age, today’s access to varying forms of free publication technology has allowed unprecedented advances in many fields, often without these advances being an initial intention.
David Gauntlett discusses in his video, Making is Connecting, the ways this can occur. He states that for many people, their sole motive to create is pure enjoyment of the activity, though through publishing it becomes more than a personal endeavour. Gauntlett draws attention to how beneficial the collective interaction of ideas can be, as this publication allows for progression through collaboration. He outlines the benefits of insular communities online, and the ways in which shared interest in specific areas can drive positive innovation.
On the other side of the connection debate is Hubert Guillaud’s reflection on Danah Boyd – ‘What is implied by living in a world of flow?’, wherein issues of the ‘attention economy’ are addressed. Guillaud’s reflection challenges ideas on the benefits of prolific information sharing, addressing how the power of individual contributions to a larger whole can often function negatively. It is outlined that the collective consciousness formed by such specific interests often works to “reinforce social divides”, in its avoidance of external opinions. While connection allows for development, Guillaud suggests “network structures of consumption are also configured by power”.
By analysing these ideas alongside one another, it becomes evident that the issue is less about the amount of information available, and more about what gains attention and why. Each individual contribution adds weight to discourse, providing social power regardless of whether the content is moral or not. In spite of the potential for homogenous negative thought patterns, collective movements have a great potential to create positive change; social justice discourse on twitter often snowballs due to the ease of access. The take home message then, would be that a large following does not validate a certain line of thinking; it is always more beneficial to maintain an individual voice amongst the storm of collective discourse.
[online] Gauntlett, David (2010) Making is Connecting (watch the video) <http://www.makingisconnecting.org/>
[online] Guillaud, Hubert (2010) (on Danah Boyd) ‘What is implied by living in a world of flow?’, Truthout, January 6, <http://www.truthout.org/what-implied-living-a-world-flow56203>
[First published 15 October 2015]