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Friday, April 16, 2010

The "Vortex Of Death Spiral"

The Streamys have passed. The dust has settled. But one question remains? What happened? No, we are not talking about the drama, but rather a phenomena much more important.

In watching and reading about the Streamys one thing seemed to pop out. There was a "transition moment." Strangely that happened because of a technical "phail". Ironically, while tech phails are not a good thing, virtually everyone who commented or wrote about it did not attribute the tech phails as the major problem. Why then was this particular tech phail which interrupted the Streamys so relevant?

The answer may lie in the nature of what are called cooperative process. Some of you may remember chem lab where you placed your carefully crafted "pure compound" into a tiny tube and measured the temperature at which it melted. This melting is a classic example of a cooperative process. There is a change in state; in this case from solid to liquid.

Cooperative processes take place because one entity affects all other entities around it. In the case of a large pure crystal the melting is almost instantaneous because each molecule is closely aligned and affected by its neighbors.

How then does this tie in with the Streamys and the so called "vortex of death spiral?" and why is it important? It would be reasonable to assume that the "pause in the ceremony" gave time for those watching in the theater and on the www to reflect. In doing so they talked to each other. They looked at their cell phones, or their Tweetdeck etc. They saw what others were thinking and contributed their own thoughts. Each person affected others in their social network. In doing so it probably created a "feedback loop" and affected more and more people, just like a crystal melting when it reaches a particular temperature. There was a change in state.

Rather than the analogy of melting where a compound melts at a particular temperature, the "feedback loop" appears to have created an almost instantaneous "change in awareness." The vortex of death spiral had begun. The web series community had begun to question everything that had gone before.

Not all cooperative processes take place instantaneously. In the analogy of the compound melting it depends on the purity of the compound and the complexity of its structure because that affects how tightly each molecule is associated with its neighbors. Likewise at the Streamys the key change of state took place over several minutes. To a degree there was a long tail to the change in state simply because of how social networks are arranged. To complete the change it takes time for all members in the social network to be influenced. For example because of time zones there were "after shocks" as each region of the World came "on line."

OK, big deal. Why is this even important? We have moved from an industrial age to an information age. With that comes a fracturing of the mass market and the development of a more pluralistic society arranged around "common interests" The "web series community" is a classic example of such a grouping and the vortex of death spiral is a harbinger of things to come; especially from Generation Z which has grown up entirely in an Internet based society.

There will probably always be "mass events" such as the death of Michael Jackson. However much more significant and much more powerful are these "micro-events" that take place within tightly knit social groupings. In this case the vortex of death had a negative spin to it, but just imagine the power and social change that will be unleashed as social groupings evolve unfettered by the constraints of geography or political boundaries. Welcome to the future. Welcome to the World of generation Z.

Image source: http://thesamerowdycrowd.files.wordpress.com/2008/12/black-hole.jpg

The term "Vortex Of Death Spiral" came from a comment left in iJustines blog in response to the Streamys.

Thanks to those who contributed to this article with your helpful discussions and insights.

1 comment:

  1. It is probably worth adding that some transitions are reversible, while others are not. In this case some might want things to go back to where they were before. However "changes in awareness" do not often completely reverse them self and in this case, that would probably be a good thing.


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