Life. Then Strategy

Not all interaction is created socially

Be warned – reading this post may result in you losing yourself in abstraction.

Yesterday I posted up my Ignite presentation about building communities.

One of the points I made is that anonymity is antithesis to community – and it led to some interesting debate.

But first, to explain: I believe that communities are based on relationships that are anchored in some sort of authenticity. Now, I’m happy for the idea of authenticity to stretch to a persona that may be different to how someone really is face to face, offline (eg a pen name, stage name). And, I believe that accountability is the foundation for a thriving, constructive community.

The diagram below – while tongue in cheek – makes my point conveniently.

So, in the comments to my Ignite presentation about building communities, Julian Cole (AdSpace Pioneers) made an interesting point about Campaign Brief and a few other forums which allow participants to post anonymously. And I started thinking…

1. Not all activity that happens via social technology is social
Just because someone posts something on a message board or blog does not make that thing social. The best analogy that I could find – and this relates a little bit to some of the behaviour on Campaign brief – is this: a telephone, one would argue, is inherently social but if I phone someone, say my piece then hang up, I might be making a social point (or not!) but I’m not really using the telephone socially, to socialise. Or, if I walk down a street shouting through a megaphone to crowds of people… it all looks social, but my purpose is not ‘social’ (yes, it may be one of ‘social impact’ but not of ‘social bonding’).

2. Not all social activity is validated in the sphere it takes place
Would love your thoughts on this but I believe that most social activity has a social goal. We want to be liked, respected, acknowledged. We want to learn, be inspired, be accepted. Having seen this sort of behaviour in music forums over the years, some anonymous, antagonistic behaviour within an online community may be to achieve a social goal in a separate online or offline community (“Look, what I did. I threw some stones over the wall.”). So anonymity in one forum (eg graffiti writers on trains) may actually be claimed behaviour in another forum (eg graffiti writer showing photos of his piece to friends at a party) – in other words, anonymity may be superficial.

This is starting to get way too theoretical but I wanted to throw these thoughts out there. Talk back!

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