Saturday, August 6, 2011

Groups of Fear

On Google+, Dave Gray asked about effective ways that humans organize themselves into groups. A combination of that question, the general political environment in the US right now, and some projects at work got me thinking (which can be dangerous).

One particularly effective way I think we humans organize ourselves is around common fears (or at least perceived common fears) – fear of an idea, a group, a person, a practice, etc. This is what political types call blocking coalitions, groups of people that ordinarily have nothing in common except their opposition to something (or someone). Their common fear doesn’t even have to be that well thought out or clearly articulated for such groups to be wildly effective. “Not this” or “not that” is usually sufficient, the enemy-of-my-enemy sort of thing.

As a group, people organized by fear can be a powerful force – though not always one for good.

Seems to me there is a design challenge in there. Because while these sorts of fear- or anger-based groups can be good at stopping things or steering a conversation to their interests, how often do they really address the root issue, rather than the thing that brought them together in the first place? My guess: not often.

This sounds like the sort of big meta-design problem we designers should be able to help reveal.

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