The SSP Annual Meeting is going on in Boston, and attendance is amazing on this beautiful spring day in Boston.
Alex Wright, author of “Glut: Mastering Information Through the Ages,” gave this morning’s keynote. He did a nice job of portraying the different ways our efforts to create a balance between information hierarchies and information networks have resulted in enveloping institutions, cultures, and revolutions. As the Web (a network metaphor if there ever was one) creates strong juxtapositions between top-down information and bottom-up information (think the contrast between the authoritative and user reviews on Amazon.com), the directions we choose from here will define elements of our culture going forward.
I couldn’t help thinking about the social implications of this struggle, and how political systems tend to operate with the same tension at the center. It reinforced for me the genius of the US Constitution, and how various amendments (freedom of speech, of the press, to assemble) preserve the network of the American people, even at times when politicians try to centralize power in a unitary executive.
Crowds, like the one here, are essential to the free flow of information. As we go from structured session to open dialog throughout this meeting, we are experiencing the tension Alex Wright described this morning, albeit in a linear fashion.
And, the Scholarly Kitchen needs to become more crowded. If you are interested in contributing to this blog on a regular or occasional basis, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know.
1 Thought on "Live Entry 1: Crowds"
Kent wrote: “Crowds, like the one here, are essential to the free flow of information.”
Yes, they help move information around, but they also promote information cascades where individuals disregard their own personal views and go with the crowd. This is known as “herding” and is the cause of phenomena like stock bubbles, and less dangerous things like fashion.
Crowds are good: crowds are bad. You have just brought up yet another tension when it comes to sharing information.