Archive for March 2009
Here is a compact introduction to the case #myyrmanni in Finland 11.10.2002. Seven people died and over 80 injured accidentally or planned due to heavy homemade with shrapnels bomb exploded in the backpack of the teenager (who died also) on the suburbian Myyrmanni shopping center .
It is very obvious to make expectations and speculations about the connections to the school spree killers and Columbine branch (Jokela 2007 and Kauhajoki 2008 cases in Finland), But this Myyrmanni case 2002 was well before the Columbine and it maybe was an accident. Sounds like a suicide bomber launched his arsenal accidentally, by run into the clown on the mall, but well, real life is amazing. We will never know how the lethal backpack exploded – with or without the assistance of the owner of the stuff.
Myyrmanni is also one of the key cases in my article-based PhD at University of Jyväskylä on the department of sociology. I will cover some details of this case of the netcrowd later in this blog, including the inner dynamics and the roles in the netcrowd. One of my primary material in this case and my PhD is over 27 000 lines of log of the irc channel lines with over 2000 participators, althought most of them are lurkers (1-9-90), as always.
In my pov, there are several leads and findings with this case, how the netcrowd differs and actually *do* things compared for example to the instant classic of the Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. Also, these findings reflect straight for example to the classic works of Robert D. Putnam (social capital; binding and bridging ties) and Mark Granovetter (strong and weak ties). Open social networks like netcrowds have more nuanced relationships and ties than just bonding / bridging or strong / weak.
With Ossi Leander, we reconstrued for the biggest newspaper in Finland, Helsingin Sanomat (HS), what happened on the netcrowd side. How the netcrowd solved the identity of the suicider approximately at the same time than both police and media?
Just for the sake of no-repeating or copy-paste, here is the english and published version of our timetable article of the case #myyrmanni, originally in Finnish.
After Tianamen 1989, Seattle 1999 and Manila 2001, this #myyrmanni case was the very first what kicked me off: is there some kind of pattern with these cases, or inside the cases some phases like project-based coordinative actions or so? For example, Tarmo Toikkanen has the brilliant blog marking about waterfall project model and its quests.
Do common people make these efforts ad hoc and start always from the zero point? Are there some replicable or reproducible features for success of the netcrowd? In this blog, I’ll cover these issues deeper.
After Tiananmen informer phone blocking 1989, my research interest with the netcrowd arouse again as late as 2002. There were some cases in-between indeed. For example Graham Meikle has covered in Future Active (2002) how Seattle demonstrations were organized extremely fluidily and self-repairingly in 1999. Howard Rheingold introduced in Smart Mobs (2002) the case of Manila – peaceful revolution with sms.
However, these cases were more or less well-organised spectacles by new social movements (NSM) than actual cases of the netcrowds. On the other hand, they *have* many similar features that later emerged in netcrowds cases, like self-repairing autonomous cybernetic systems. Also the Tiananmen faxes has to be put into this branch: NSMs using nu/lotek innovatively and self-organized themselves like distributed networks – or – the net 🙂
Obvisously, there might be many other cases, but these three are the ones I have spotted so far in this level of activity.
So, cases of Tiananmen 1989, Seattle 1999 and Manila 2001 could be treated as the pre-era of the actual netcrowd phenomenon. Also, NSMs have opponents, shared beliefs and other distinctive features like Daniella della Porta and Mario Diani have classically defined. Netcrowd in most cases lacks everything of the definion of NSM. Anyway, I put in that time – just after Millenium – all these case to the same trough: hacktivism in the material world enhanced with physical bodies and flexible devices.
That was before the #myyrmanni case. I suppose that no-one of the over 2 000 participants had ever experienced anything that kind Internet Hunt (invented by Rick Gates) before. But that time Internet Hunt was for real.
Dunbar’s number is a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships and minding businesses of other familiar people (in the neocortex region of the brain). Discovered by anthropologist Robin Dunbar, the number is commonly cited approximately 150. So, the number is the estimation how many people can know each other well at the same time.
After social media services on the net, this number is considered much higher than 150, like amount of friends in facebook or contacts in Jaiku. On the other hands, there are estimations that the core network of human beign is much less than 150. The discussion is starting to reach out of hands.
First, Dunbar made his unique observation with ape and human hunter-gatherer societies, also for example among regilious Hutterites and the military. These are all tight cohesive communities with physical presence and in many cases, they have some outer or inner restrictions to have more or mixed population. This means that you do not have much choice who do you will meet and actually you are ‘forced’ to mind common i.e. collective businesses and the people related to them.
Secondly, if your descendants somehow happen to born in facebook, its is presumable that they will have much more deep reationships than just 150 because they’ve spent their whole life there and have had time to meet much more people and much more efficiently than in hunter-gatherer societies.
Thirdly, on the net, you spend much less time in one network service and you can communicate between of them for example with Feedworld and micro channels without any physical restrictions to reach or even no need to log into the services.
So, more logical would be to count the overall number of contacts in all social networks. For example I have 247 contacts and channel memberships in Jaiku, 332 ‘friends’ in facebook, 150 followers in Twitter and 65 ‘friends’ in Sometu Ning network. There are other networks also, like many of us have.
But by stetson estimation, there might be some 30 procent contact overlapping with different services i.e. I have relationships with same peoples reagardless of the service. By stetson method more and without any actual calculating, I suppose I have 20 – 40 persons I deeply chat, irc, sms, skype, email etc in daily or weekly basis.
As Howard Rheingold wrote recently, Peter Marsden has thought that most humans maintain a much smaller core network than 150.
That’s make much sense to me on the age of the net. Basically it is possible to have much more relationship on the net. But, it is stil time-consuming and laborius work to manage them in personal level, like Clay Shirky has presented in Here Comes Everybody.
At the moment I’m making sna analysis of Sometu Ning network with 841 members. In my preliminary findings, there are some 10-20 core people who make the core network. This means, that quite a many persons, who have 10-20 contacts, have make mostly their contants just to these core people. More about the analysis of Sometu during the spring.
The trial is going on in Sweden against The Pirate Bay. It might be interesting to see how the official party wing – Piratpartiet – and its www site is connected on the net.
Graph 1: How pirate party www sites were connected in April, 2007.
Original 1200px img dl here (1,2mb png)
I made this SNA graph about piratpartiet.se in April, 2007 with IssueCrawler, a very recommendable and free SNA tool on the net invented by Govcom.org and its director dr Richard Rogers. I cover IC issues later more, but the basic idea of this tools is, that it crawls voluntarily made www links between the www sites. So this (human-made) www linking indicates, that people who make links, somehow appreciate the sites to they are linking. This means that you can make at least slight expectations which kind of people or movement is making these links.
The graph shows at least that Piratpartiet.se is much more networked than to piracy issues only. There are heavy connections to issues like wikis, copyrights, open source etc. and that indicates that people in the party are more keen about the overall issues than just swapping commercial files for free.
The Piratpartiet.se graph is a part of my article Pirates in politics – internet piracy as individualised politics (2008). It was published with deeper analysis about the Swedish piracy movement itself in Net working / Networking: Citizen Initiated Internet Politics (Tapio Häyhtiö and Jarmo Rinne eds., Tampere University Press 2008). Introduction about the anthology in facebook.
The anthology Net working / Networking itself is some kind of quite interesting update to the net activism issues nowadays handled previously in the dawn of hactivism in another anthology: McCaughey, Martha & Ayers, Michael D. (eds.) (2003). Cyberactivism. Online Activism in Theory and Practice. Routledge, New York.
The very first time I met netcrowd phenomenon in action, was 1989. I was Secretary of Information and Internet Affairs of Student Union of University of Helsinki. Yes, there were quite a much net activism at those times, like GreenNet and PeaceNet.
One of the über student activist of Finland at those times, Raino Ollila (r.i.p.) came to me with very anxious mode with blank and fully printed papers.
– Kari, have you ever heard about Usenet? he urged.
– Yes, why?
– Fine. Now we need to send blank papers via every faxes we have on the office to these numbers. Here is also a list of phone numbers. Can we call to all of them at the same time?
– Not officially and not with my traits, but, well…
– Ok, let,s start with the faxes.
– Gzee, there will be fine phone bill to student union with these numbers, I sortly asked. – Are we going fax white papers to South Pole?
– Yes? I’m the Minister of International Affairs. Just go to faxes and start to send. Usenet will tell us what is happening. Go!
Later, when we found our way to proper Usenet group with our modest 1200 bps modem, the big picture start to brighten. Or at least to unfold. There was something really complicated happening in Tiananmen square. There were fifly official informer telephone lines waiting to possible students and others to inform about thestudent participants of the situation on the Square.
But, someone innovative person has got the idea: what if people, mostly in student movement, collectively start to block these fifty phone numbers around the globe with calling, faxes and modems? Of course, there will be more phone lines etc. But, eventually, there might be a tipping point, when it is more complicated to set up new numbers and announce them than to block them. And the back channels to coordinate this action and spread the numbers realtime were Usenet and FidoNet.
That was the moment when I started to interest about the emerging netcrowd and internet as a platform of self-organizing masses.
In my dissertation I am examining and studying new forms of collective action and intelligence on the internet. Due to the new and emerging phenomenon, there is not an established single theory or term for describing it yet. I have coined it as netcrowd (verkkovoima in Finnish) .
In this blog I introduce this netcrowd and some of its distinctive characteristics with some case descriptions and essential sociological theories how they explain this new form of collective action. I also argument a sociological nature of netcrowd and point out some research lines of my dissertation. In my dissertation my aim is to create a theoretical model and rules of mechanisms how these netcrowds emerge, work and vanish after getting its project-like goals.
I have described the netcrowd as: ”a mass of occasional and ordinary people can organize themselves and act very quickly, efficiently, temporarily and globally for shared, concrete and collective goals on the internet without any formal coordination, common beliefs or other social ties or structures.”
This happened for example when Finnish citizens in Finland and Thailand solved the names of the victims of Tsunami (2004-2005), citizens of New Orleans started to track damages of Katrina hurricane and the locations of evacuated people (2005) across the country and internet users in Finland solved the identity of Finnish suicide bomber (2002). Netcrowd has often, but not necessarily, strict social goals, and in some cases it has tried to get an economical benefit to its participators. Some times, the netcrowd has temporarily replaced the officials, like ministries, specially in the cases after catastrophes.