Manuel Cebrian

Absolutely intriguing research compiled here. Being relatively uneducated in the science surrounding social networks, I was at first worried about how far my lack of understanding could take me, but upon reading, it soon became clear that this paper was written in such a clear, concise and relate-able way that even the most complex and detailed information could resonate with someone as ignorant as I.

Mr. Cebrian puts forward some truly fascinating discussion points in ascertaining how our burgeoning human desire for anonymity is a direct reflection of the ever-shrinking world we see before us. How search-ability can no longer be simply viewed as efficient & useful but as something more perverse, something that calls into question our true individuality and uniqueness.

I was particularly affected by the questions left unanswered when it came to the saboteurs, and their successfully achieved endeavor to create meaningful destruction to the DARPA Shredder Challenge. Upon comparison to the DARPA Network Challenge, I came to a possible hypothesis that depending on the identity of the persona reflected in the challenge, the chance of sabotage is more or less likely to happen.

Let me expand..

The DARPA Shredder Challenge was a test to our internal sensibilities; by presenting the task to be completed alone, isolated from the ‘real world’ by technology and the need to expend significant mental capabilities in its undertaking; the challenge was more likely to be sabotaged. This could be explained by online ‘Avatars’ that create a sense of anonymity, that can be used to help socially unacceptable behaviours flourish. Frustration born out of mental distress can help to bring forth otherwise hidden/buried personas which helps misbehaviour easier to slip into; combined with the disconnection to the project through the isolation of the internet and you have created an environment that makes subversion not only possible but likely, especially when considering a participation group as large as 3,500 people.

Compare this with the DARPA Network Challenge, which instead asked the individuals to test themselves externally. With a grounding in reality, a sense of genuine ‘team-work’ and an extrinsic visual cue to be working from, it increased the likelihood of collaboration & cooperation to be exhibited. Being conditioned since childhood to be task-oriented with an emphasis on team-work, we have learned to keep the mind from drifting by giving it an external task to focus on. We find it easier to push ourselves when working on an accessible assignment and with the task taking place outside of the body, the possibility of improper behaviour being exhibited through hidden personas, is greatly reduced.

Obviously this is simple speculation on my part, but I am deeply inquisitive to hear other’s points of view on the subject. Any particular agreements/disagreements to my hypothesis? Any particular readings I could under-take to educate myself further?