How Online Mobs Act Like Flocks Of Birds

“A growing body of research suggests that human behavior on social media — coordinated activism, information cascades, harassment mobs — bears striking similarity to this kind of so-called “emergent behavior” in nature: occasions when organisms like birds or fish or ants act as a cohesive unit, without hierarchical direction from a designated leader. How that local response is transmitted — how one bird follows another, how I retweet you and you retweet me — is also determined by the structure of the network. For birds, signals along the network are passed from eyes or ears to brains pre-wired at birth with the accumulated wisdom of the millenia. For humans, signals are passed from screen to screen, news feed to news feed, along an artificial superstructure designed by humans but increasingly mediated by at-times-unpredictable algorithms. It is curation algorithms, for example, that choose what content or users appear in your feed; the algorithm determines the seven birds, and you react.”

Read more at Noema: How Online Mobs Act Like Flocks Of Birds