I gave a presentation on ‘Understanding Media for Learner Engagement’ to the UNL Extension network yesterday. It was based on McLuhan’s laws of media which I have discussed many times here since 2004 (communication in evolution) and more recently (taking back our society).
One effect of the network era, and its pervasive digital connections, is that networks are replacing or subverting more traditional hierarchies. Three aspects of this effect are access to almost unlimited information, the ability for almost anyone to self-publish, and limitless opportunities for ridiculously easy group-forming.
Clay Shirky discussed this third aspect in Here Comes Everybody (2008).
“Ridiculously easy group-forming matters because the desire to be part of a group that shares, cooperates, or acts in concert is a basic human instinct that has always been constrained by transaction costs. Now that group-forming has gone from hard to ridiculously easy, we are seeing an explosion of experiments with new groups and new kinds of groups.”
This desire to relate is what drives people to support global social movements on one hand, and to take shelter in tribal identity politics on the other. In politics, social media extend participation but also make information manipulation by small motivated groups much easier.
“A new form of information manipulation is unfolding in front of our eyes. It is political. It is global. And it is populist in nature. The news media is being played like a fiddle, while decentralized networks of people are leveraging the ever-evolving networked tools around them to hack the attention economy.” —dana boyd 2017
Understanding this deep desire to relate to others should be foremost in mind in any change initiative. We will not have organizational transformation, or political reformation without people feeling like they belong. To counter fascist thinking, we need to appeal to emotions, not logic. The same goes for education and learning.