Tuesday, September 25, 2012


A guest post by M. Sara 23/09/12
Men the most unlike in the matter of their intelligence possess instincts, passions, and feelings that are very similar. In the case of every thing that belongs to the realm of sentiment— religion, politics, morality, the affections and antipathies, &c. — the most eminent men seldom surpass the standard of the most ordinary individuals.From the intellectual point of view an abyss may exist between a great mathematician and his boot maker, but from the point of view of character the difference is most often slight or non-existent.It is precisely these general qualities of character, governed by forces of which we are unconscious, and possessed by the majority of the normal individuals of a race in much the same degree — it is precisely these qualities,I say, that in crowds become common property.

In the collective mind the intellectual aptitudes of the individuals, and in consequence their individuality,are weakened. The heterogeneous is swamped by the homogeneous, and the unconscious qualities obtain the upper hand.

from ‘The Crowd’ - Gustave Le Bon 1896

Not so long ago (2003), before the advent of smart phones in every pocket and ipads and the “monetization” of the www do you remember the early flash mobs very fun. Then the primary means of connecting and informing people of an event was email. Facebook and Twitter and all the other social networks fill in for smaller reach of email and can have more more serious consequences than a bunch of happy people dancing in the mall. Revolutions, riots and Coca Cola all now use the technology available along with the mob meme to get insurgents to the right place at the right time and to advertize to the consumer.

The biggest problem for Google before they had photo mapped the world, sent their own photographers out to photograph businesses and encouraged people to write their own map pages and the customers to write the reviews was content. In the beginning they outsourced to companies like Menulog.com who used scrapping software and search robots to download entire websites of restaurants to their servers then used the images and menus in their templates. These scrapping services would then feed the information and any updates straight to Google a couple of times a week and Google would use the information to populate their map info pages. The scrapping service would in most cases always be at the top of any Google search results unless the business had very good SEO. The scrapping company would also blackmail the business owner into becoming a “member” so you could update your menus etc for a price per month on their site when you had a perfectly valid website of your own that had been stolen by them. This model has changed and Menulog.com now operates as a delivery service but when it was scrapping it made a fortune for someone probably quite a few people.

The statistics of the Crowd are interesting 2.3 billion people use the internet that is ⅓ of the world population of that third 62% use social media - that is a lot of content. Instead of using code written by a few extra clever people and implemented on site why not use 2.3 billion individuals to skim their own viewed content for free. Same general model but far more effective using the processing power of all those personal smart phones laptops and desktops. Pinterest has over 4 million daily unique visitors one assumes a fair percentage are pinning.

This is a map of one days April 1, 2011 uploads to Flickr [April 1, 2011] by geographic location

It is worth a closer look

Millions of individuals choosing the 'fashions' you will notice the sameness of what is pinned .. it is about fashion and fashion is advertising and that is merchandising. Selling Coca-Cola [ the biggest individual item sold in Australian Supermarkets and it is basically sugar, water and chemicals] works on fashion as well and if millions are choosing then it will be the average that is a mathematical and psychological certainty. The pinning is the flip side of trolling... finding a space in the internet's neural network to gain a psychological validation and about as useful as trolling. Imagine the world map under this map and you can see the how the www connects:
The neural networks in the human brain

When a brain is attached to the overall internet network by a personal device and then interacts via a portal of some kind , a search engine, a blogging program, facebook etc thei ruploaded content fills the spaces between the ads, it is the audience to the content that is providing the revenue to the “owners” of the portal by buying or by receiving advertizing. It would be a mistake to simply consider them “sites” as they do their best to be end destinations that is that all the sharing buttons are about, keeping you within their revenue stream you can share your connection to another portal but will hopefully continue to be corralled on whatever part of the www you might spend or earn the money. What you have is a collective mind,the entire network could be seen as a machine , if you look back to the quote I began with, this snippet: “In the collective mind the intellectual aptitudes of the individuals, and in consequence their individuality, are weakened.” in the case of the collective www sharing mind I suspect that respect for the individual idea or concept is subsumed by the amount of senseless interaction that is made to look like an exchange of knowledge, therefore worthwhile - comments, sharing buttons, competitions, strange games about farms or scrabble with friends but is really about keeping bums on seats.All that is not to say that there are not many nooks and crannies of the internet that don’t use this economic model many people still use the usenet rather than face book or twitter [Google groups has an archive 700 million Usenet postings from a period of more than 20 years - so as not to miss advertizing to that crowd] the open source community is active in many areas and there are blogs that are not a part of the machine collective consciousness. The number of people playing in the shadows is dwarfed however by the social media users.

Does any of it matter? Creative individual expression has always been subjugated by the mob . The collective unconscious has always frowned on difference and without the crowd there is no need for counter culture or the underground. Knowledge is power, information without knowledge is entertainment … controlling the collective consciousness and offloading the responsibility to the individuals within the crowd via terms of service is money for nothing, and your content for free. It does matter but in the end the user gets to choose how they approach the paradigm if they are smart enough to understand the psychology and depending on their ethics ignore it , use it or subvert it.

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