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Social Media, Networked Individualism and Maslow

We talk a good deal about the mindset or psychology of social media and in particular the motivation to participate and be social and how. One aspect of note is how the “non traditional” expectations of return challenge some of our widely and traditionally held business assumptions. An excellent example of this is Coase’s Penguin where Yochai Benkler sets out how the development of open source software – this case Linux – seems to call into question Coase’s model of economic production.

I was intrigued then to read this account of a presentation made by Prof. Barry Wellman at the sixth annual Charles Gordon Lecture on Society and Design at Carleton University setting out some research and thinking about the nature of our relationships in a social media, hyper connected environment. Now for the record I have never believed that the internet is disconnecting people or fragmenting society, but social media mindset tends to emphasise the collective aggregation of iterative or granular activity to achieve a larger impact. This paper however emphasises the idea of networked individualism.

The reason I find it interesting is because it perhaps contributes to a debate about the relevance and applicability of a model I have felt is increasingly challenged in a Social media enabled world. That model is Maslow and his much referenced hierarchy of needs. One of the most widely held criticisms of Maslow is that of Hofsetde and, at the risk of over simplifying the argument, a key component in the debate is the applicability of the model in societies that have either high levels of individuality, or at the other extreme, a greater sense of collectivism. At its most base level, it boils down to the idea that the model is applicable to highly individualised environments and begins to break down in the increasingly collective.

I don’t take issue with Professor Wellmans assertions, I think it stokes a debate and I just wonder how mutually exclusive the individualism and collectivism are in a hyper connected world and if they are, perhaps, able to exist simultaneously.

After all, in complex environments with masses of independent agents we can see flocking and coalescing, our tasks is to find ways of encouraging that behaviour to create value, perhaps through crowdfunding or campaigning for example. If we take Dave Snowden’s Cynefin model, the idea of “probe sense respond” in a complex environment still embraces the idea of an individual’s initial action.

If so, does this erode the relevance of the model yet further. Don’t know – what do you think?

 

 

Image courtesy of http://www.pachd.com/free-images/

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2 Comments
  1. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion. Haven’t meditated on Maslow in years. Can we reprint your blog at some point?

    • Barry – apologies for not getting back to you sooner – I blame Christmas! Glad you enjoyed the post – thanks for the inspiration. By all means reprint the blog and reference us.

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