After reading two of tomorrow’s articles for COMM506, both to do with networking, I found myself really contemplating the ways in which our world has changed, but also how it tends to stay the same. The tools that we use to maintain our networks and the modes that we network in have altered dramatically over the years, especially following the invention and subsequent growth of the internet and web usage. However, who we choose to keep in our network and how we group ourselves has remained similar to the days of the hunter gather societies.
In this article published January 2012, Nicholas Christakis, professor of medical sociology and medicine at Harvard Medical School and professor of sociology in the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences discusses his study of the Hadza, a group of less than 1000 hunter gathers in Tanzania. What Christakis has found is that this society of nomads, who live in a traditional way and have no access to or use for technology, band together in specific ways similar to how those in more modern communities do. We, as humans, seem to be predispositioned to form ties, kin and non-kin, based upon notions of cooperation. For the Hadza, those who help one another cluster together. The same can be said for users of modern online social networks. Without cooperation and collaboration between like-minded people, the idea of crowdsourcing would never exist.
This leads into the article by Clay Shirky, one of the major proponents of crowdsourcing. In his short discussion he brought up a number of interesting points about networks and the software they use. Yet, the one I would like to emphasize is his argument that we spend too much time on the technical aspect of things rather than the social aspect of the software groups utilize.
That idea is currently being hammered home in this COMM506 class right now. While I completely see the benefits of blogs, tweets and wikis, the learning curve on each can really eat into the actual purpose of them, which is to forge connections with others. That’s not to say that over time each of those processes won’t become second nature, but as many of those in my class have realized, myself included, initial adoption of a technology, tool, program or software requires extended amounts of time that often eat into your day or evening. Rather than blogging my thoughts out to those on the internet, I have frequently found myself preoccupied with the proper setup of my new site instead.
But I have to believe as our professor, Kate Milberry, assured us today, there will be a plateau in that learning curve. We will find ourselves more capable of focusing on what we’re putting out there to build our personal and professional online personas, moving from Shirky’s worry of too much focus on the technical to an emphasis on engaging our connections through these mediums.