Monday, July 05, 2004

Online forums eh ?

From Prof. Madhukar Shukla's Blog

Group-Think in Online Chat Groups

Internet is a great democratic medium. But I stumbled on an interesting "real"(/virtual)-life event - a particular online discussion forum - during last few days. Searching for an explanantion about what was happening in this forum (what would look to be a case of collective pathology), led to some interesting resources about what can happen in an Online Community.

Gordon Graham in his book, The Internet: A Philosophical Inquiry [see summary], makes an interesting observation about the online groups, and their "pure confluences of interest".

Graham says that the internet is a medium which enables people to seek out exclusively kindred spirits and to avoid ever being exposed to views which are contrary to their own. He claims that... "the self-made philosopher with a grand but completely vacuous 'theory of everything' will sooner or later find a coterie of people whose knowledge and critical acumen is even less, but who are willing to be impressed."

The Symptoms of Group Think are:

1) Illusion of Invulnerability
2) Belief in Inherent Morality of Group
3) Collective Rationalization
4) Stereotypes of Out-Groups
5) Self-Censorship
6) Illusion of Unanimity
7) Direct Pressure on Dissenters
8) Self-Appointed Mind-Guards

Give the nature of the self-selection in most online chat groups, these symptoms are quite likely to emerge.
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