I often get questions to the hints at quantum mechanics and my love for science in general mentioned in my online profiles. People do not seem to link hard science with social engagement. ;-). However, when you start to think about it, the possible links are endless.
Let’s take one of my personal favorites: chaos theory (trust me, just one look at my desk would convince you).
Before you all rush to Wikipedia to determine what the heck I am talking about: Chaos theory is a less known part of mathematics, with tentacles in a plethora of disciplines such as biology, agogics, chemistry, mechanics, physics, economics, sociometrics, biology, and –kidding you not- philosophy. Long story short: a complex dynamic system of interconnecting variables is set up and the behavior of the system is studied. The interactions within the system are so interconnected that the smallest variations in the conditions account for highly diverging outcomes. Amusingly enough, these diverging outcomes proof to be mostly unpredictable. A typical example can be found in a variety of natural systems, like the weather. My excuses as well for abusing your patience, as for the highly vulgarized summary of great science.
Most of you might know the chaos theory from the popular adagio: “if a butterfly flaps its wings in Africa, it triggers a hurricane over the Pacific.” Right. :-). Bear with me one more second. Let’s look at social engagement. Let’s look at the complex systems that govern the reality of online communication: social sites such as Facebook, microblogging systems such as Twitter, countless interconnected blogs, newswires, sites… the Internet, where sentiment loaded factual information is constantly swapped around, de facto creating a highly (yes!) complex dynamic system of interconnected variables.
While all of the components and outcomes can be measured with a great deal of accuracy, the outcome of this complex environment nudges in the shadow of the chaos theory. A single variation of one little online citizen with enough strength and reach can trigger a whole cascade of uncalculated change. One comment that is highly appealing or creative can be carried by the system, and propelled into a social hurricane.
While the deep theory of chaos tells us you cannot predict which flap of the wing will trigger the stormy winds, we do know that certain social butterflies are more prone to drive change than others.
Butterflies that are trusted, well connected, and engaged are the ones that will generate most wind. Butterflies that float and glide graciously with the system live longer than the dirt flies smashing into the windshield of communication.
We’re in an era where anyone can generate change with enough power to shift perception, cloud opinion, and even topple a government. But it all starts with the flap of a wing… yours.