Musings du-jour

09Apr10

The rise of ecology, which, incidentally was what George Lucas was on about when he dreamt up ‘The Force’ as a law of social adherence for Jedi knights, is touched on in the extensive writings of Clay Shirky. He says the compulsion to be social, a trait that’s been with us since monkey-dom, is now cascading over into our behavior when we log onto online social media. It’s an interesting suggestion to me. It suggests an inevitable and positive metamorphosis.

In terms of my thesis question, this is especially interesting when comparing a progressive example of a journalism interface with a regressive one. I won’t go too much into defining exactly what i mean as it’s in an earlier post in more detail, but, in summary: progressive involves embracing the changes brought about by the rise of things like online social media and the hardware that supports it, regressive resists it in favor of things like a quantifiable, logically understandable pay-wall system.

What has ecology got to do with journalism?

I watched a documentary on TV last night. It equated the human alpha male as an unnecessary, self-fulfilling, stress causing baboon. In it, a biologist studied the social behavior of baboons and the ramifications of stress on their health. What caused them to be stressed was rage enacted on them by hierarchically superior baboons. The biologist theorised that the case is identical for humans. Acts of rage are a way of emphasising superiority. Without emphasising superiority in your social group, you regress backwards in the hierarchy and become stressed and therefore become more prone to health problems. Ecology affects everything. Social behavior is at the root of existence. Darwin’s theory of evolution suggests that it was the intellectual effort needed to become successful as an individual in a group that gave rise to the marked superiority of the human intellect with that of any other species’ intellect. Social behavior is at the crux of our ecology.

Ecology is, according to Shirky et al, at the root of the digital revolution. It’s important to realise that ecology is entirely positive. The demise of journalism as we used to know it, is due to a massive shunt forward in our ecological advancement.

The documentary echoed Shirky’s use of ecological evolution as a descriptor for the digital age. Like the ecologically determined, irresistible urge to connect socially online, there are ecological similarities about how stress behavior in a baboon community is similar to stress behavior in a human community.

The onset of new ways of practicing journalism should be seen as an ecological problem and not a commercial enterprise one, because the urge to be social is an ecological pre-determined trait. It’s stark how something as new, fresh and popular as Twitter hasn’t yet worked out how to make money. So sensitive are they about alienating their users that they tread with caution about causing imposition with blatant advertising or some other type of established and irritating revenue raising system. This is in contrast to the likes of News Ltd who are aggressive advocates of a pay-wall system. News Ltd aren’t listening to the ecological argument being put forward by Shirky and other luminaries of this theoretical voice.

For me it is the ecological explanation about the devastating popularity of social media put forward by the likes of Shirky that is the most plausible and interesting.

Baboons, biology, journalism, computers; all in one grand ecological tumult. Do you love it Mandy?

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