edc17 February 13,
When reading Kozinets, Robert V. (1999), “E-Tribalized Marketing?: The Strategic Implications of Virtual Communities of Consumption,” European Management Journal, 17 (3), 252-264 (which I sought out because I wanted more information on the same reference from to McLuhan in Kozinets, 2010), I noticed a reference to McLuhan (1970):
“Networked computers empower people around the world as never before to disregard the limitations of geography and time, find another and gather together in groups based on a wide range of cultural and subcultural interests and social affiliations.” (p. 1)
At face value this seems like such a great idea. However, does this not reduce diversity within networks? At what cost? I’m thinking back to the earliest of days of #mscedc, in which discussion within the Twitersphere turned to self-segregation, and the risks of non-diverse networks, such as Sheehan’s ‘spiral of silence’ , in which people are more less-likely to voice opinions they perceive to be minority in non-diverse communities. We also discussed how such a spiral might be amplified, and I raised questions about how social practices associated with social media might (such as seeking
‘likes’) lead to more self-segregation, further reducing diversity within networks.
The McLuhan (1970) reference from Kozinets goes further, however. It is not about social media, but all networked technologies. In recent reading of Stewart (2015), it was proposed that networks foster participatory culture. I don’t disagree with this, nor question that giving agency and involving diverse peoples in knowledge generation is positive. However, one has to ask if there is a connection between participatory culture and reduced network diversity. I’m not suggesting that such a connection would be inherent or unavoidable. However, given observations of tendencies towards reduced network diversity through self-segregation, it seems to me that it is possible that there is another (new) literacy, upon which integrated society is quite dependent: a willingness to not just cluster in affinity groups, but also build diverse networks, and hold civil conversations with those who hold different perspectives to us.