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Online Communities

I have decided to write this because I feel that a major flaw in a lot of social media is the problem of communities. A community is quite simple a group of people sharing attitudes and interests in common. Sure, something utterly meaningless can be this common interest, memes, an E-Celebrity- however these communities often seem exploited to some end.

Memes can be forced, and E-Celebrities only want a community for a paycheck. A recent example is the backlash to this.

=> SNL Gen Z hospital.

In some cases, communities have huge sweeping fundamental differences, that it's hard to really call it a community. One such example is the Linux community. Effectively the only common element among them is the quality of using the Linux Kernel. Init systems differ, package managers differ, desktop environment, window managers, text editors, utilities like ls and dir. All these different elements differ. As a result, of only sharing one common interest, this community is massively fragmented.

This fragmentation is in many ways good as it's invoking the very freedom of expression so critical to these freedom-promoting projects.

In situations with little fragmentation, you see an issue in this regard. The Anime community is one such example as a great majority of Anime is uniformly bad, that there's not really much to be fragmented on. This naturally means all Anime tends towards exaggeration rather than reality. Movies are another example. You especially see this in individuals and brands elevated and deified by the masses, such as Elon Musk, and plenty of E-Celebrities.

Then again, this fragmentation and lack of fragmentation is also partly platform-driven. Within the chatrooms the only method of disapproval is a text message, and the only "algorithm" is the most recent message. Within forums disapproval is presented with points. The same is done in Reddit and YouTube, where the algorithm is done away with from bump-based recency-based systems to complex mysterious systems.

As a result, it's pretty well known that these platforms thrive on a lack of fragmentation. A lack of fragmentation is a status quo. A status quo is predictable. If the actions line up with the predictions, the predictions can be monetised. If they can be monetised, they will eventually be monetised. As a result, the data is sold as a means of targeting and predicting.

This fragmentation and lack of fragmentation is seen in culture too. The fragmented groups are usually a response with a cultural basis. GNU is a cultural response to the proprietary UNIX systems. Punks and Anarchists are a cultural response to the two-party political status quo. The groups with a lack of fragmentation are usually the status quo groups. Windows is one example. Two-party systems are another(though that's a matter of game theory).

This post is to point out that communities have a context, and can be fragmented. That fragmented communities invoke freedoms more, and as a result of demanding and establishing their rights and freedoms, are in actuality more free. It's also to point out that the lack of fragmentation, is driven by the context of the platform, and this lack of fragmentation is frequently exploited to make a quick buck off predictable echochambers.

In some respects, I feel sad about it. Regardless, the benefits of a *good* community shouldn't be understated. You get new ideas, new information and material and emotional benefits as a result.

As a final addendum to this, some people define communities to be people who live near each other, or have met before. This is a poor definition in my opinion, but there is a discernable difference in value between online friends and friends you have met before, and a lot of it comes down to game theory and the social behaviour of Humans. In the former, a prisoner's dilemma plays out, where a betrayal is often massively rewarding as there are no further interactions. In the latter, it is a Human desire and interest to be socialising. In my opinion it is a massive disservice to the full abilities of a Human if they are reducded down to plain text, but that disservice brings its context, and often rears its ugly head especially on platforms like Twitter is small character counts that result in curt, dismissive responses to appeal to an international audience. I may write a bit later about the difference in value of a friend that exists only online, and a friend you have known in reality.

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Articles from blogs I follow around the net


pt. i pt. ii

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