For a while I’ve been troubled by the effect that language can have on the group design process. When we began to come up with ideas and solutions for ITV’s online news proposition, we used terminology to share our individual understanding and to communicate different solutions between us - we would use the words “feed” and “stream” interchangeably, as were phrases like “topic landing page” and “dynamically generated index page”. You could say that this is a natural symptom of having multiple humans from different backgrounds with different mindsets working together on the same shared problem. We want very different people working together, this is good. But what we want less of is the misunderstandings, confusion and antagonistic recollections. We want more group flow, enthusiasm, cohesion and personal investment so that we can use less energy for more benefit.
I saw Mark Earls talk at Planningness in Brooklyn: How to understand and create social influence, and since then I have found myself thinking a lot about the video of the dancing man at the Sasquatch Music Festival that he showed us.
Mark's talk was about Social Learning. The basic premise, people learn through observation - a phenomenon he was able to demonstrate with an eager audience. Mark has described this type of open social 'copying' at a group level as:
The engine by which stuff gets pulled through populations, from technology to health habits
And the point he makes about the Sasquatch dancing man is how it's NOT about the intervention of influencers, but rather it's about everyone reacting to the growing crowd in a kind of cascade. The video made me think more about the way we should try and design social spaces to be more open - possibly open enough to allow people to lose themselves in the crowd. It seems to me that being able to lose even a little a bit of your 'self' within a semi-chaotic social experience is a type of primal joy that everyone - everyone except the lone nut - enjoys.