Forming, Storming, Norming, and Performing… Anonymously

Coleman’s discussion of the development of Anonymous exemplifies a lot of the concepts that we’ve discussed in class. Kadushin notes that “network structures of all kinds do develop from repeated interactions over time.” Coleman reflections on Anonymous’ beginnings follow the establishment of a effectance network with group norms. She suggests that even though Anonymous is not a cohesive group, through shared activities, brainstorming initiatives, and interactions, they have established shared norms: they are “oriented towards issues of censorship, information freedom” and firmly believe that “anonymous speech is necessary for a healthy democratic society.” Strategic expectations like not targeting the media or promoting violence are also shared. The idea of “lulz” as an activist “release valve” is also a common expectation.

Coleman describes Anonymous as “anti-leader and anti-celebrity.” Yet, while Anonymous does not have what Kadushin calls formal leadership, “IRC operators” or “ops” are very much informal leaders. Coleman reports that “those who are more present on the network and have put in more work carry more authority.” The idea that you get what you put in in terms of work is very much tied to social capital. These individuals end up informally policing and enacting network and cultural norms. The best example Coleman provides the example of how individuals who take credit for Anonymous activities get called on it or banished.

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Filed under Effectance networks, group membership, social networks

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