Formerly SpringBlog

Monday, March 21, 2011

The Importance of Sharing

Our discussion about the levels of social activity that Clay Shirky outlined in chapter two made me rethink some of my previous viewpoints about what I expect from people's involvement in the online social community. To refresh people's memories about the social ladder that Shirky discussed, he broke down that involvement into sharing, cooperation, collaborative production, and collective action. Each level was seen as rungs on a ladder, being organized in a way to go from easiest to hardest. It seemed that many people in the class were of the opinion that all participants in the social web should at least attempt to climb this ladder, and become more involved by way of putting more time and effort into an endeavor that might have a greater impact on society. This impact may be in the form of a labor union, a group forming in order to petition a law, creating an informative Wikipedia page, or connecting to people who would offer their time for charity or disaster relief. In those ways, I can understand why people would hope for the climbing of this social ladder, as this no doubt injects positive and real involvement back into a community or society in general. However, should we totally discount the importance of sharing? In many ways I believe that sharing should be looked at as a valuable and useful tool in the social web, and not just seen as a stepping stone to more important social involvement.

To take the recent tragedy in Japan as an example, sharing had an extremely important role in many ways. Videos of the disaster spread quickly, giving us a great understanding of the magnitude of the quake and proceeding tsunami. Information about friends and relatives whereabouts was able to reach a vast number of people through sharing, allowing them to be found. Firsthand accounts of the devastation were posted on sites such as reddit, which allowed for people to understand exactly what they were going through. Sharing no doubt has its limitations, but what we must keep in mind is that the other rungs on the ladder suffer from its own downfalls. Do I believe that a climb up this ladder should be in order for some people? Of course. What I am trying to point out is that people who are simply content on sharing should still be seen at times as a valuable and useful tool that can promote positive influence.

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