Hive Minding Our Own Business: What thoughts and actions are ours?

Honey indisputably results from the dedication and labor of worker bees. Their instructions come from the Queen bee. But who does the Queen herself answer to?  The colony’s needs?  The workers’ demands? Or just her own whim?

In today’s technological world, each Twitter user acts as a worker bee. In the Twittersphere, solo work and revolutionaries are slow to gain followers in their polar habitats, while a “hive mind” allows ideas to crowdsurf and amass great power. The medium of social networking is, however, inherently participatory. Then did we opt into “hive mind”? Do we mind following the dictation of the majority?

Photo from Wikipedia CC BY 2.0
The Hive

First off, what defines “hive mind”? John Treadway notes that “hive mind” garners great united momentum strong enough to topple marketing giants and far-reaching enough to touch the life of a lonely individual.  Are these collective decisions and actions truly “hive mind” though?

Subgroups that users embrace often reflect what they already think: few liberals would actively seek to be immersed in a group of conservatives that may have offensive opinions to them, and vice versa. We live in a very personalized world online where we indulge ourselves in what we believe in–ads for what others think we want, articles reinforcing what we believe to make us more confident,  news stories that share our biases against the common foe. Thus, when a lowly tweeter retweets to help another human in a group of caring human users, that tweeter just acted normally. The illusion of “hive mind” arises from the fact that Twitter users and users of any other form of participatory media have all subscribed to that network’s culture.

Furthermore, Scott Rosenberg points out an interesting trend. The “hive mind” shifts as users fly from medium to medium. So the collective actions we support and the culture we identify with evolve and migrate. The so-called “hive mind” phenomenon is simply the fly-vision point of view of today’s culture: we see those around us doing the same popular things. This makes observing the behavioral trends of popular culture much easier than in days of yore.

Ultimately, we don’t have our decisions made for us by higher ups, nor do we answer to some need to keep the social network colony alive. Our decisions still reflect our will, and in order to introduce our ideas to foreign lands, we must understand and respect the culture of where we tread. Today’s internet has reopened the world for exploration-for complex inter-subcultural diplomacy and a new generation of cultural warfare.



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