More about online influence, meta-frames and context

Steve at OnePotMeal is untangling the strands of online influence.

He starts by agreeing with AKMA that, regardless of the sometimes high noise-signal ratio on the web:

we can devise and sustain persistent salutary connections online in new ways that would have been significantly less workable and durable under the limitations of physical interaction

and adds a nuance from Anne Galloway:

it has become (somewhat painfully) obvious that the same inequalities that we struggle with in the everyday are equally present in cyberspace – they just take on context-specific qualities

and poses this question:

How do we begin to tease out these context specific modes of influence without trapping ourselves in the assumption that we’re working in entirely familiar territory, while at the same time recognizing that we have inevitably carried over much of our offline behavior into the linked realm? […] The way to understand context specific influence is to explore its specific context. Simple, no? One means of doing this is to track an individual meme, an individual link, in other words, as it moves and meanders across the web. Not to count the number of times it’s linked, but rather to understand the ways in which it is linked, because I think real influence, genuine power is tied up in the ability to make meanings and direct the meaning-making of others far more than in raw numbers and visibility […]

I would put this another way – real influence comes from setting the high-level meta-frames, which in themselves are the context…

Steve goes on:

The web equivalent, at least the way I’m thinking about it here, isn’t who links the most but whose links have the biggest impact. For example, I generally trust AKMA as a thinker and source of information, so I take seriously whatever he links to. When I follow those links, I’m then reading them through the lens of my trust of AKMA, so I’m perhaps more likely to read in a way sympathetic to his reading. Which is not to say I’ll agree with him exactly all the time–far from it–just that the context in which I read a link can be defined by how I get there […] What am I actually proposing? Something that, by dint of its enormity, may not even be possible, or would at least be complex and difficult. Essentially, hypothetically, to follow every link to a particular meme in order of appearance, map those, map the further links and the ways in which they branch of from each original link, and parse all of the contexts in which those links were made

Setting aside, for the moment, the practical issues associated with this (that Steve acknowledges) I’d like to suggest an addition…

  • If we could identify which memes were “close to each other” (in some unspecified but intuitive way) we could start to identify the frames of reference that are operating. (I am suggesting that by associating links with memes these may be at too small a “chunk size” to identify guiding ideas)
  • By tracking the links in the way Steve suggests we could start to map these frames to levels of abstraction – to see which represent the “higher” levels of context.
  • Taking our thought experiment a step further, if we could then establish some sort of “ownership coefficient” between those frames and the people who are most associated with expressing them we could see who had most influence within a given community of ideas…

I think this needs a


Proactive application of technology to business

My interests include technology, personal knowledge management, social change