Working Together

In chapter eight of Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky goes deeper into his discussion of groups by explaining the characteristics of groups – “plausible promise, an effective tool and an acceptable bargain,” (260). While the promise drives people to participate in groups, the tool gives those people the ability to properly coordinate and function.

Once these two characteristics are working together, bargain comes into play by establishing the overall expectations of group participants. By understanding what you can expect and what can be expected of you, group members are able to maintain agreement and shared awareness. The bargain is so important because not only does it have to be established, like the promise and the tool, but also enforced.

In chapter two of Smart Mobs, Howard Rheingold discusses collective action dilemmas and what groups need to do to keep their members cooperatively engaged. This discussion very much applies to the need for a bargain in groups. In order to successfully enforce the bargain, members of the group must cooperate with one another.

Regardless of size, how can a group properly function without cooperation? Working together to help and support one another, as well as establishing trust, are key ingredients in cooperation. If a person does not trust a group member, then they will not be likely to defend them, and even less likely to support their goals. This creates a vicious cycle that will ultimately lead to the collapse of the group as a whole. By grouping individuals who share a common goal, the motivation to achieve that goal results in an established sense of commitment to cooperate. When facing a situation where they must cooperate or be selfish, a person is much more likely to cooperate if they are committed to their group. The Internet has provided individuals the essential tools to create, join and participate in groups. Keeping this in mind, does the Internet necessarily make it easier for groups to remain cooperatively engaged? Or is face-to-face group interaction better for establishing trust, making people less likely to act out of self-interest?

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This entry was posted in Winter 2012. Bookmark the permalink.

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