Memetic “Flocking Behaviour”

Transparency is the current buzzword as the masses clamour for maximum communication of everything, nothing being “secret”, but the downside of everything being communicated to everybody by the most immediate un-mediated means is what I’ve always called the memetic problem: The message gets simplisticated to the easiest to communicate and understand – comfortable and familiar – “sound bite” for maximum transmissibility, and the majority view is inevitably received and re-communicated based on that rather than any actual facts (if any exist) or more subtle interdependent or time-and-context-based issues (more likely). When it comes to communication, less can be more.

Here, a blog by ex-Harvard Prof Michael Roberto on a TED Talk by Ethan Zuckerman on social media “flocking” behaviour causing a narrowing of considerations that go into increasingly flawed decision-making. (Hat tip to David Gurteen.)

That’s fully half of my agenda here. The other half is that the framing and logic of that simplistication – despite the social and inter-subjective element in its ease of transmission and understanding –  inevitably also involves objectification of the issues and scientistic evaluation of causation and evidence.

Talking of misplaced objectification, here an example where it really matters which “objects” you’re talking about. Again, a meta-meme about objectives. “Management by objectives” (like “Evidence-based policy”) is one of those memetic mantras that sticks because it looks like a no-brainer, who could argue against it ? Well the rub is if you reduce your argument to those sound-bite expressions, you’d better be sure you now what counts, what to value, as objects and evidence in your particular case. The “object” of a museum is to “curate” objects (artefacts) of one kind or another, and to present them in their contexts, with their stories, etc and (obviously) in such a way that visitors are attracted to take an interest, to understand, to learn, be inspired, edified, you name it. BUT if you start to objectify that understanding, learning, inspiration, edification as outcomes, and any consequential social benefits as objectives, you’ve taken your eye off the ball – the objects of curation. Excellent piece by Tiffany Jenkins in The Scotsman on The Jewels in the Heritage Crown.

[Post Note : Interestingly Ethan Zuckerman’s main message is one for trusted human mediation of content. “Internet DJ’s” who translate content from one self-selecting filter-bubble to another. Humans in the loop.]

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