I have been reading  The Social Organism by Oliver Luckett and Michael J. Casey. It is a good read about half-way through so far. It looks at nature of social media through the lens of biological processes. Humans drive the life of the networked system, so therefore it is fitting to examine the global network as a natural system. It is a dynamic creature of evolving intelligence and reach. We have no idea what will happen when this system becomes self-aware and begins to purge us lesser beings from the planet.

Okay, I admit that last part is a bit much. Back to the point, the premise of the book is interesting. While reading, I came across a passage that was familiar to me, having read something similar in my Games and Learning class in a piece by James Paul Gee and Elisabeth Hayes titled: Nurturing Affinity Spaces and Game-Based Learning. The passage from The Social Organism discusses how viruses spread:

In biological terms, these uber-users are what epidemiologists view as “super-spreaders,” those especially contagious types that play outsized roles in the dissemination of biological viruses. (Super spreaders typically account for about 20 percent of a population but have been shown to be responsible for 80 percent of all infections during epidemics.) Regardless of their mega-contagiousness, however, super spreaders’ impact is only as strong as the receptiveness of others in the population to the virus they are spreading. To maintain influence, social media elites need their followers to consistently repeat, replicate, and share the ideas they generate. It’s a distribution network that depends entirely on an ability to connect with other people who are willing to share the information you provide them (p. 58).

This 80/20 ratio is known as the Pareto Principle. The Pareto principle “states that, for many events, roughly 80 percent of the effects come from 20 percent of the causes.” (“Pareto principle”, n.d., para. 1). This idea has applications in different areas of human activity. I didn’t know of this principle, so I was surprised to find two references to it within a short period. My initial reaction when I first read about the 80/20 link was confusion. It might have been the wording. I don’t know. Gee and Hayes apply the principle to explain the content production in an affinity space:

Game-related affinity spaces, and other interest-driven spaces like Flicker (a photo sharing site), for example, tend to operate by the principle called the “80/20” or Pareto Principle. Eighty percent of the people in an affinity space produce 20 percent of the content (the designs, pictures, mods, or whatever the activity of the group is) and 20 percent of the people produce 80 percent of content.

Both instances deal with facets of our networked social media behavior. They focus on how content is created and distributed. When it comes to an affinity space, is 80 percent of the content created by 20 percent of the participants a healthy thing? Sounds rather centralized to me like a handful of media companies producing a majority of the consumable media. Of course, with affinity spaces there is no gatekeeper perse and anyone is allowed to contribute and engage with the community.

I like to discover correlations like these. It piques my interest and opens my eyes to new ways of looking at things. I get off on learning. Don’t judge.

References

Gee, J. P., & Hayes, E. (2012). Nurturing afinity spaces and game-based learning. In Games, Learning, and Society: Learning and Meaning in the Digital Age (pp. 129-153). Cambridge University Press. DOI: 10.1017/CBO9781139031127.015

Luckett, O., & Casey, M. J. (2016). The social organism: a radical understanding of social media to transform your business and life. New York: Hachette Books.

Pareto principle. (2017, February 24). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved 00:00, March 29, 2017, from https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Pareto_principle&oldid=767236668

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