Wednesday, 18 March 2020

ARTICLE 12 - Part 2: Perception & Social Media Amplification

Viable Underdogs concerns itself with anything that is a Type 1, or global, issue. You can check an outline of all Viable Underdogs books and materials in this post:

Book Links & Other Viable Underdogs Material

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Parts 1 and 3 of this article can be found here: 

Article 12 - Part 1: Incorrect Global Perception 

Article 12 - Part 3: Proof of Compromised Global Communication Channels

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Perception & Social Media Amplification

If you have read any of my books and other material, you'll no doubt be aware of how often I stress the importance of effective communication, likely to the point of annoyance, and this article will be no exception. We’re going to dive a little deeper into an idea that was briefly explored in the book, Uncage Human Ingenuity, and Episode 42 of the Podcast-Audiobook (Technically Episode -5). This problem is known as ‘Social Media Feedback Loops’ or ‘Social Media Amplification.’

Amplification pertains to how one channel of communication can amplify another channel of communication. This, in turn, can make a message, or story, appear much larger than it is due to this amplification. This occurs for two main reasons: the first reason is that a social media post can be reposted over and over within its own platform, and then further reposted as it extends out to other social media platforms. For instance, a celebrity or athlete can declaim their thoughts on pseudo-scientific theories like Flat Earth or Anti-Vaxx on Twitter:

https://sports.yahoo.com/reggie-bush-pushes-disinformation-vaccines-twitter-conversation-070042428.html

This ‘viral’ tweet can then be forwarded onto other social media platforms like Reddit. The second reason for amplification is that this type of click-bait type story becomes appealing to various global news media which are underfunded (See: Fundamental Disruption of Journalism or FALL OF JOURNALISM - Part 6 of Renegades of Disruption).

To be clear, it’s not social media that’s the problem. It’s the required clarification on what constitutes ‘actual news stories,’ and what exactly the impact and consequences should be when the strong influence from the Role of Individuals (in this case, through the usage of social media) overlaps and affects other Roles in our world. In this article, we’ll explore an example of how the Role of Individuals is overlapping the Role of Business, the Role of Information, and finally, the Role of Government.


The 5 Roles That Each Have A Separate Communication Channel

Every individual on the planet is exposed to five main communication channels competing for the individual’s attention. This concept was explored briefly in Part 7 of Renegades of Disruption, and will be explored in more detail in the upcoming book, The Paradox of Civilizations. Here’s a visual representation of the five communication channels every individual on our planet is exposed to (You can click on pictures for bigger version):




Every individual’s exposure is different depending on the level of influence each ‘Role’ has on the individual’s life. For instance, for a non-religious person, the Role of Religion may not exhibit a very strong influence in that individual’s life. Conversely, a person who is very religious is strongly influenced by this Role and corresponding communication channel. However, regardless of the level of influence of each individual role, each of these exhibit overlap with one another. Here’s an example:

Let’s say a particular individual has almost zero exposure from the Role of Religion and the corresponding communication channel, and let’s pretend that the Pope recently publicly made a statement that could be seen as rather controversial. Let’s say he publicly stated he enjoys pineapple on pizza (Obviously, this is a lighthearted example, but hopefully you understand where I am going with this).

Now, when statements that carry a great deal of potential controversy are made, they are often picked up and amplified by other Roles in our World’s Organizational Structure. In this scenario, the Pope’s love of pineapples will make the rounds on Social Media (Part of the Role of Individuals) and News Media (Part of the Role of Information). This means that our initial individual, who normally has zero exposure to the Role of Religion’s communication channel, is now exposed to it since that communication channel is momentarily amplified by two other communication channels: Social Media and News Media.

We’ll explore this idea in more detail by displaying an ongoing problem currently compounding our compromised global communication system: Social Media Amplification.


Social Media (Primarily a Communication Channel for the Role of Individuals)

Social media represents the first time in history that almost any person on the globe can hypothetically gain a world-wide audience. A large audience is rather difficult to achieve since billions are active on social media platforms. Although some businesses and large organizations do have a social media presence, it’s important to keep in mind that this is mostly a communication channel intended for individuals. However, as I have stated, the various roles in our World’s Organizational Structure (See Part 7 of Renegades of Disruption and the upcoming book, The Paradox of Civilizations, for more details on this) tend to overlap one another in many ways, and social media is no exception to this.


BJ’s Water (Analogy from EPISODE 26)

I’ll illustrate the concept of ‘communication channel amplification,’ (or Social Media Feedback Loops) using the analogy of the bottled water business that Carlos and I started in Episode 26:

Let’s say that BJ’s Water was a large publicly-traded enterprise when the city started its investigation into the damaged water aquifer. Once BJ’s Water was named as a possible culprit, it’s more than likely that this news would affect BJ’s Water’s share price in the stock market. This would be the time to hire on a team to handle this potential crisis to the organization. Crisis Managers and Crisis Communicators would be hired on to help mitigate the problems occurring (although, as stated before, communication is often dismissed as unimportant, so many companies and organizations opt not to use these types of services during these crises - See: EPISODE 31, and the book, Crisis Communications, by Steven Fink).

During this ‘crisis,’ Carlos takes to Twitter and Facebook to start sharing his opinions of what is occurring. To be clear, this is Carlos’ personal social media pages, since the crisis communicators are now managing BJ’s’ social media campaign to ensure effective communication.

What Carlos says on his own page is his personal business…. isn’t it?

The official message being sent out by BJ’s’ communication team is that BJ’s is cooperating with the city to develop a solution. However, Carlos mentions that the city is overstepping its boundaries, and assures stakeholders that BJ’s will not be paying for damages, nor cooperating with the city, since there is no conclusive proof that BJ’s damaged the aquifer (despite strong scientific evidence suggesting otherwise). Although, Carlos only has one third the number of followers that BJ’s Water has on social media, the general public is informed of Carlos’ tweets contradicting BJ’s official statements as his tweets make the rounds throughout various social media platforms and news outlets. Carlos wasn’t officially speaking for the company, since his social media page is Part of the Role of Individuals, and the company was looking to cooperate, as stated on their official social media platforms. Despite BJ’s Water’s true intent, Carlos’ personal social media ramblings are then amplified by news media who then distribute the message to a much larger audience than his number of social media followers.

These conflicting messages, originating from two separate communication channels, then result in further lowering the share price of BJ’s Water, as investors and the market start questioning BJ’s ability to manage this crisis.


Role of Individuals (Social Media) Overlapping The Role of Business

One of the main questions to ask is: should news media be reporting on Carlos’ personal social media page? That’s a question you need to answer for yourself, but keep in mind, this type of Social Media Amplification occurs all the time around the globe. Here’s one such example:

https://www.wired.com/story/elon-musk-twitter-stock-tweets-libel-suit/

Elon Musk’s Twitter, as of March, 2020, has just under 32 million (a decent following to be sure, but representing a fraction of a percent of the global population), but his audience grows exponentially when others repost his thoughts on other social media platforms, which eventually means these viral posts are further amplified once news sources report on the story. Theoretically, Musk’s tweet is intended for his followers, but now, due to Social Media Amplification (or ‘Social Media Feedback Loops’), his tweet finds a massive global audience, even for those who do not have a social media presence. (And remember, although 32 million is a respectable number, it’s not like they’re exclusively his followers - most people follow more than one person on social media. None of this is to comment one way or the other on Musk’s business decisions, whether you like the guy or not. That’s not my point. I’m just sometimes too tired to invent another analogy).

Other than a small Instagram page I have (primarily used for prior social experiments on the perception of sustainability - see Podcast-Audiobook for more details), I have no social media presence. If I want to know what Elon Musk’s personal thoughts are on Twitter, I can easily access his page should I wish to do so, however, although I never have, I’m well aware of many of his personal thoughts and various marketing strategies (he’s a brilliant promoter on various social media networks) due to the fact that many of his tweets exit his personal communication channel (his Twitter) to global news communication channels. I read about his tweets through various news feeds.

Although none of his personal tweets were official statements being made by his company’s board of directors (Tesla), they heavily impacted Tesla’s share price. This presents another question: should leaders like CEO’s of large publicly-traded organizations have personal social media pages? Again, this is up to you to decide.

In the world of sports, handling the personal social media accounts of its athletes has become a large point of discussion. Here’s one such example of a policy implemented in the National Hockey League (NHL):

https://www.nhl.com/flames/news/nhl-institutes-new-social-media-policy/c-588608

Although policies such as these could help address the problem I just outlined in publicly-traded organizations, I’m personally never a fan of restriction on speech. Another option would merely be to clarify what constitutes news and what doesn’t. If a personal CEO’s social media page is decided to be regarded as news, that other communication channels will then amplify, then these should be considered official communication from the company itself. The reason for this logic is that there is a clear overlap between the Role of Individuals and the Role of Business, since an individual’s personal comments affect a business’ operations and profits. If the individual’s personal comments are not regarded as news, then the tweets themselves should never leave the original communication channel (in Musk’s case, this would be his 32 million followers).

As stated before, if I am interested in anyone’s public social media page, I know where to go looking for it. However, it appears we have globally decided that social media and tweets are newsworthy, which means there are overlapping roles that should be treated as such. Prior to the creation of social media, an individual CEO’s remarks on a news network would have been considered an official statement, would it not? If that’s the case, then nothing really has changed, except that any individual can make any statement anytime they want. And if they’re really clever, then can clog up a communication channel by saturating it with messages (Loukides, M., 2019).

The previous examples are examples of the overlapping Role of Individuals (mostly through social media) with the Role of Business, so let’s next take a look at the Role of Individuals (again through social media) overlapping with the Role of Information.

Social Media Feedback Loops (EPISODE 42)

The Role of Information overlapping the Role of Individuals (mainly through Social Media networks) is very troubling due to one main reason:

Social Media is known to have a rampant problem of misinformation and disinformation. This means it is a communication channel that is largely unreliable. Conversely, the Role of Information is intended to be a very reliable communication channel. This includes news outlets and Academia all around the globe. Over the last decade or two, a known reliable communication channel (mostly comprised of news outlets - part of the Role of Information) has become heavily overlapped with a known unreliable communication channel (Social Media - Part of the Role of Individuals). This is one of the factors that have contributed to the Fall of Journalism (Fundamental Disruption of Journalism - See: Part 6 of Renegades of Disruption).

It should not come as much of a surprise that Social Media can strongly influence our ability to globally communicate. As just one example of the various ways this happens, here’s an example of a Social Media Feedback Loop that has occurred between Social Media and Journalists:

Now, I’m going to go ahead and hazard a guess that 99% of people out there do not believe the Earth is flat. This means the number of flat Earth believers are less than 77 million people. Its probably a lot less than that, but whatever.

So, 99%, or more, of our global population believes, without question, that the Earth is round.

According to Everett Rogers, there exists a miniscule amount of our population that refuse to change their minds regardless of how much evidence is presented to them, (Beerendonk, S., N.D.). This can even occur in science, as we have demonstrated when we mentioned hygiene and sterilization during Surgery (Cartwright, F., 2019). In Renegades of Disruption, I refer to these individuals as ‘extreme laggards.’

The existence of Flat Earthers was likely always there. The reason you are now hearing more about them is that the Internet afforded them the ability to locate and communicate with one another. The Fall of Journalism means that this type of click-bait story becomes necessary for some outlets to run so they can remain profitable. This, in turn, means the story gains more exposure form Journalists. Then, this can lead to people assuming the group is much larger than it is.

Then science correspondents weigh in on the issue. This means they do media interviews and upload videos on YouTube. In this scenario, the science correspondent is primarily acting from the Role of Individuals since they are acting of their own personal accord. However, there is strong overlap here with the Role of Information, since this is why the science correspondent has the number of followers that they do.

Then the story is once again picked up by media, since it’s popular. Then, this creates a false public perception, because the story has become much larger than it ever had a right becoming (Sample, I., 2019.). Then, and this is quite ironic, the additional exposure invites more people to join these groups (Sample, I., 2019.). And this ridiculous cycle repeats itself until we reach a point where a YouTube video about Flat Earthers has millions of views, and a Global Crisis Message is largely ignored.

Note: The Global Crisis Message refers to the United Nations message that was sent out over a year ago in September of 2018. (Secretary-General’s remarks on climate change [as delivered], 2018).

Here is an example of one such flat Earth video (as of March 2020, this episode has 5.4 million views):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLPPE3_DVCw

And here’s the mentioned United Nation’s video (as of March 2020, this episode has just 28 thousand views - almost 200 times less views - see episode 42 for the relevance of this comparison):

United Nations Global Crisis Message (Sept., 2018)



Posts Never ‘Die’ Online - ‘ECHOES’…

Prior to the Internet, news was typically always up-to-date. Yesterday’s newspapers were already in the recycling bin, and today’s newspaper was what was being read. However, these days, an article can continue to get passed along through various social media and news media until it becomes difficult to track the source of the story itself. Any story posted online remains there, which makes it difficult to communicate messages due to the ‘echo’ of old news stories. This adds to Information Saturation (See: Renegades of Disruption).


Only 1 Crisis At A Time, Please

In March, 2020, there are two global ongoing crises occurring at the same time: The Coronavirus Crisis and the Sustainability Crisis. However, due to the many problems I have identified in our global communication system, we are only able to somewhat effectively communicate 1 crisis at a time (I say ‘somewhat,’ due to the known misinformation / disinformation problems occurring - See 
Coronavirus Article). This becomes troubling due to the large number of potential crises that can occur from any number of Type 1 problems. For instance, what would we currently do if another volcano erupted like in 2010?:

https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/11/01/experts-warn-icelands-biggest-volcano-is-ready-to-erupt/#63ffcbd91f0c

https://www.severe-weather.eu/news/iceland-volcano/

The financial damages of that crisis totaled in the billions, and experts are suggesting that other volcanoes can have an even greater impact if they erupt. The problems include disruptions to air travel (which includes supply chain issues), health problems, and agriculture.This is merely an example, but there are many different types of global crises that can occur, and the more time that goes on, the higher the likelihood that more than one will occur simultaneously. In fact, it’s already happening, in case anyone wants to further bury their heads in the sand rather than face the reality I present. As a reminder, this can all be solved. I am trying my best to sell my Global Systems Consulting Services after all.


Should Politicians’ Personal Social Media Count As ‘News?’

The last example we will explore is the Role of Individuals (again, from personal social media pages of the respective individuals) overlapping with the Role of Government. The big question is: what exactly does a message from an elected leader’s social media signify? Is it held to the same standard as official statements made by the government itself? For well over a decade, this has never been clarified (Smith, A., 2009), leading many to wonder if a bad tweet could inadvertently start a war:

https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-january-30-2018-1.4509065/could-a-tweet-start-a-war-how-smartphones-and-social-media-are-creating-new-battlegrounds-1.4509069

The article makes reference to the current American president, however, this really started with the previous administration:

https://www.theverge.com/2012/12/3/3724256/barack-obama-twitter-town-hall-policy-fiscal-cliff

Although the current administration and the previous administration are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, both have utilized social media, and the subsequent amplification provided by social media feedback loops and news media, to promote themselves and market their campaigns. This means that democratic elections are now partially influenced by the level of skill each candidate displays in social media marketing.

Regardless of your opinion on the political policies of any administration or political official, this overlap of the Role of Government and The Role of Individuals becomes quite problematic when an elected official’s social media posts can flood global communication channels, which are already saturated, and thereby hijack global communication. Regardless of where you are on the globe, there are certain politicians, celebrities, and CEO’s whose every controversial thought become sweet temptations for underfunded journalism to run these click-bait type stories (See: 
Fall of Journalism).


Incorrect Global Perception

Part 1 of this Article explored the idea that there is currently an ‘alarm’ going off in the world that only people with low associative barriers (who also have read, or already intuitively understand, the majority of material presented by Viable Underdogs) can hear. If reading my books and articles, and listening to my podcast does not immediately create a strong sense of urgency within you, then I suggest your associative barriers are still too high.

Here is the same picture presented at the start of the article on the subject of the various ‘messages’ being diffused on the ongoing Sustainability Crisis:



Depending on what source any individual is exposed to the most will most heavily influence which of the three messages the individual believes most strongly (3 messages: “It’s a crisis.” “It’s a problem, but not a crisis.” “There is no problem.”). However, due to the high level of role overlap, and subsequent communication channel overlap, all three messages are directly or indirectly communicated to every single person on the globe.

Keep in mind, much like how many have denied the severity of the Sustainability Crisis, so too did some initially deny the severity of the Coronavirus Crisis until the problem had become so bad that denial was no longer possible. The cruise ship, in this analogy, was already engulfed in flames.

I hope your associative barriers are low enough. If not, I’d advise you to re-read my books or re-listen to the podcast. There is a lot of information that I doubt anyone could fully digest on the first read through. I have to re-read my own work quite frequently just so I can better understand these ideas and build upon them (Bridging a 70 year gap in Academia is no easy task).

Do you understand that there is a global alarm that was activated by our global governments in September, 2018? An alarm that was subsequently activated by The Vatican (as part of the Role of Religion), and responsible journalists and academics (as part of the Role of Information). This alarm was intended to shift public perception on the Sustainability Crisis to increase urgency. The same urgency currently felt by the Coronavirus Crisis on March 18, 2020.

However, due to all the factors I have outlined in all my work (including this issue of Social Media Amplification), this alarm is only being heard by one person. Me.

I am tired of listening to an ‘alarm’ that only I can hear. I hope you succeed in successfully lowering your associative barriers to the point you can hear it too. Only then can we all start correcting the problem. Don’t stress too much if you can ‘hear’ it. My biggest concern at this point is that I will never articulate myself in such a way to get others to hear it. If you can hear it, there’s hope, but you have to help me spread this ‘alarm.’

We’re both passengers on the ‘Earth Cruise Ship,’ and our warning systems (alarm systems) are compromised. This can be seen for both short-term crises (like Coronavirus) and long-term crises (like Sustainability). We have two fires that are currently spreading. One is more accelerated, but likely won’t sink the ship (Coronavirus), while the other one is a tad slower, but if left unchecked, will result in sinking the entire ship - our Earth Cruise Ship (Sustainability). And I assure you, the severity and frequency of these types of global crises will both increase as time goes on. The urgency on sustainability should currently match the urgency on coronavirus, but this has not occurred.

Although I have diagnosed the problem (the malfunctioning alarm) and have created a strategy to overcome all of these challenges simultaneously (Viable Underdogs), this strategy only works if others buy into it.

Are your associative barriers low enough?

Can you hear this global ‘alarm?’

Are you ‘buying’ what I’m ‘selling?’

#YouBuying?
#ViableUnderdogs

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References


Baer, J., (2018). Yahoo Sports. Reggie Bush pushes disinformation about vaccines in twitter ‘conversation.’
https://sports.yahoo.com/reggie-bush-pushes-disinformation-vaccines-twitter-conversation-070042428.html

Beerendonk, S., (N.D.). Silverside. Understanding Rogers Adoption Curves.
https://www.silverside.com/understanding-rogers-adoption-curve/

Cartwright, F., (2019). Encyclopaedia Britannica. Joseph Lister.
https://www.britannica.com/biography/Joseph-Lister-Baron-Lister-of-Lyme-Regis

Davies, A., (2018). Wired. A Brief History on Elon Musk’s market-moving tweets.
https://www.wired.com/story/elon-musk-twitter-stock-tweets-libel-suit/

Flis, A., (2019). Severe Weather Europe. Volcanoes in Iceland are slowly waking up. Which one will erupt first?

https://www.severe-weather.eu/news/iceland-volcano/ 

Goldenthal, H., (2018). CBC The Current. Could a tweet start a war? How smartphones and social media are creating new battlegrounds.
https://www.cbc.ca/radio/thecurrent/the-current-for-january-30-2018-1.4509065/could-a-tweet-start-a-war-how-smartphones-and-social-media-are-creating-new-battlegrounds-1.4509069



**The following article explores the idea of social media amplification, feedback loops, and deepfake technology (See: Uncage Human Ingenuity). As always, I’m not the only one to present this type of idea:

Loukides, M., (2019). Quartz. The biggest problem with social media has nothing to do with free speech.
https://qz.com/1714598/information-feedback-loops-make-social-media-more-dangerous/

Nace, T., (2017). Forbes. Experts warn Iceland's biggest volcano is 'ready to erupt.'

Sample, I., (2019). The Guardian. Study blames YouTube for rise in number of Flat Earthers.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/feb/17/study-blames-youtube-for-rise-in-number-of-flat-earthers

Smith, A., (2009). Pew Research Center. The Internet’s role in campaign 2008.
https://www.pewresearch.org/internet/2009/04/15/the-internets-role-in-campaign-2008/

Sottek, T.C., (2012). The Verge. Beyond the election, President Obama uses Twitter to push his agenda to the public.
https://www.theverge.com/2012/12/3/3724256/barack-obama-twitter-town-hall-policy-fiscal-cliff

Staff Writers / Calgary Flames (2011). NHL. NHL institutes new social media policy.
https://www.nhl.com/flames/news/nhl-institutes-new-social-media-policy/c-588608

Star Talk. (2018). YouTube: StarTalk. Neil Tyson demonstrates absurdity of flat Earth.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hLPPE3_DVCw

United Nations (2018). United Nations. UN Chief on Climate Change and his vision for the 2019 Climate Change Summit.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jsi5Vp_6tdE

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