[Air-l] online group dynamics

Jeremy J. Shapiro jshapiro at fielding.edu
Tue Aug 17 16:10:16 PDT 2004

I imagine that there are people who, when they first discover the Internet, 
with excitement and enthusiasm join all kinds of lists with the idea of the 
infinite possibility of everything that is out there, everything that they 
would like to keep track of and be involved in, and so on, but, being real 
people with real-life constraints, they don't really have time to keep up 
with these lists and don't really participate in them, but just let this 
mail accumulate on their computers that they occasionally -- every few 
months or every few years -- delete them.  Or maybe just save them for some 
vague time in the future when they imagine they'll have time to look at 
them.  Then one of these lists will act up -- there will be a lot of 
communication on it or there will be some kind of repeating messages such 
as "unsubscribe" -- and all of a sudden these same people suddenly feel 
that they and their computers are being overwhelmed and swamped, and so 
they suddenly feel the need to get off the list or lists, but they never 
really paid attention to the list or the original instructions as to how to 
unsubscribe, and, being now in a panic, they don't even pay attention to 
the fact that these very unwanted messages contain unsubscribe 
instructions, and so they just start sending "unsubscribe" messages.  So 
these people may very well be not people who specialize in Internet 
technology but rather just were vaguely interested in the list or the idea 
of it.  I think many of us have seen this same phenomenon happen on many 
lists, and the people who are sending unsubscribe messages tend to be 
people who are only peripherally connected to the list.


At 06:28 PM 8/17/2004, your brain seems to have output the following:
I was thinking along similar lines as Guillaume earlier today.  How funny 
that folk who supposedly specialize in internet technology/online 
communication (right?) can't follow simple directions!  I *hadn''t* moved 
to the level of analysis of considering that some folk might be doing it on 
purpose, just to get a rise out of somebody else.  :-)    I tend to 
privilege a more habitual (unconscious?) behavioral explanation of folks 
not paying complete attention, becoming annoyed, and reacting from the 
annoyance, instead of dealing with the lack of presence.   :-)  Guillaume's 
leap implies more agency for the individual.  I like it!


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