Communication Evolution

Tomorrow’s reading provided an interesting parallel between the evolution of social networks then (ancient, in person) and now (today, online). Coren Apicella’s reflections on how the Hadza networks evolve to ensure that cooperation and altruism are survival traits are fascinating. Apicella’s description of the homophily that draws altruists to group together to provide a “net benefits for the sharers” without the deadweight of those who are more self-oriented.

Shirky’s article also touches on the threat of members who can threaten the survival of the group, though in this case, these individuals are not specifically the selfish. Shirky notes however a number of ways in which online groups have evolved to address this threat. Technology is not ultimately the solution to member behavior issues; rather, just as with the Hadza, it is the role of “society” to modify itself through membership barriers and behavioural norms that can be enforced. Shirky provides the examples of Slashdot and a number of other social media sites who have evolved means of ensuring the survival of the group, often at the expense of the individual.

We tend to consider the communications issues that arise with social media to be unique; however, this parallel and COMM 505 would suggest that part of human society is adapting itself to ever-changing communications technologies.


Filed under COMM 506, group membership, MACT, social networks

4 responses to “Communication Evolution

  1. Well said Tana. Social media has brought social network theory to the forefront – the gems and the warts!

    • I appreciated the simplicity of some of the concepts and how they allow us to reflect on the social realities that we are often uncomfortable talking about – i.e. racism, bullying among children, etc.

  2. KateInAlberta

    Excellent summary of both articles Tana! You hit the key point, which is that the social is fundamental to all networks, in spite of and often because of our technological tools (or extensions as McLuhan would say) … nice work 🙂

    • Thanks, Kate. I appreciated the initial focus you provided in class on Actor Network Theory, because it framed how we read Kadushin and highlighted how easy it can be to lose sight of the social aspect of networks unless we make a point of ensuring that we don’t.

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