As we begin our arduous journey deep into the exciting world of collective behavior and how as artists we can harness its power to create the positive change we want to see. We will first, as with any cornerstone, have to establish some baselines and common understanding.
But dear reader worry not, for from “almost” the outset this is a tale of daring adventure, amazing characters, and wild conspiracies. As valuable to your memes, as knowledge of SEO is to a website marketing company. With that said. Let’s just set a few things straight.
Collective behavior refers to the actions and behaviors of a group of people, has long been a subject of fascination for scholars and researchers. From protest riots to celebrations, collective behavior can take many forms and can be driven by a range of emotions and motivations.
Collective behavior definition
Collective behavior is the actions and behaviors exhibited by a group of people, whether they are physically together or connected by mass media. According to emergent norm theory, it is the result of the interaction and negotiation of individual and collective behaviors, rather than simply being the sum of the behaviors of its individual members. Convergent behavior, on the other hand, refers to the tendency of individuals within a group to conform to the norms and expectations of the group. Although collective behavior differs from convergent, the study of both are useful in understanding the dynamics of groups and their role in shaping social movements and public discourse.
So what is it?
Collective behavior refers to the actions and behaviors exhibited by a group of people, whether they are physically together or connected by mass media. There are three primary forms of collective behavior: the crowd, the mass, and the public. A crowd is a group of people in close proximity, while a mass is a more dispersed group connected by mass media. The public refers to a group of people who share a common interest or concern, but may not be physically present in the same location.
Sometimes Collective behavior generates weak and unconventional norms which can take many forms, including protest and dissent,but also joy and celebration also. Protests, for example, may involve collective vocalization or collective locomotion as a means of expressing discontent or outrage..
Over the past few decades, scholars have studied the dynamics that shape crowd behavior in order to better understand the potential and actual dangers of these events.
Pretty straightforward huh? So now we know what we are talking about. What does it do?
Crowd behavior refers to the actions and behaviors of a group of people gathered in a specific location. It is a subcategory of collective behavior and is characterized by a lack of organization or preplanning. Crowds can be influenced by a common goal or objective, but their actions are not necessarily coordinated or directed by a central authority, leading to spontaneous and sometimes unpredictable behavior. Examples of crowd behavior include protests or demonstrations, and it can be influenced by factors such as group dynamics, media coverage, and the perceived legitimacy of the cause. Understanding crowd behavior is important for understanding the forces that shape society and social change.
How does collective behavior affect society?
Still can’t quite get your head around it? Let’s take a look at some examples where things let’s say, escalated quickly.
- The Salem Witch Trials: In 1692, a series of trials were held in Salem, Massachusetts to prosecute individuals accused of practicing witchcraft. The trials, which were marked by hysteria and fear, resulted in the execution of 20 people and the imprisonment of hundreds more.
- The Black Lives Matter movement: Beginning in 2013, the Black Lives Matter movement has emerged as a global movement advocating for racial justice and equality. The movement has organized protests, boycotts, and other forms of collective action in response to incidents of police violence and systemic racism.
- The COVID-19 pandemic: The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major impact on collective behavior around the world, with many countries implementing lockdowns, social distancing measures, and other restrictions.. The pandemic has also led to a surge in protest activity, as people have taken to the streets to demand action on issues such as public health, economic inequality, and racial justice.
It’s not all doom and gloom. Sometimes it’s just fun.
- The “Harlem Shake”: In 2013, the “Harlem Shake” trend swept across social media, in which people filmed themselves dancing to a song by the same name. The trend spawned thousands of videos and helped to popularize the song, which became a viral hit.
- The “Ice Bucket Challenge”: In 2014, the “Ice Bucket Challenge” trend swept across social media, in which people filmed themselves dumping a bucket of ice water over their heads to raise awareness and funds for the ALS Association. The trend was successful in raising millions of dollars for the organization and spawned a number of humorous and creative videos.
- The Macarena Dance Craze: In the mid-1990s, the Macarena dance craze swept across the globe, fueled by the popularity of the song “Macarena” by Los Del Rio. The dance, which involves a series of simple steps and hand movements, became a popular craze at parties and events and spawned a number of parodies and imitations. The craze was a memorable moment of collective behavior and is still remembered as a fun and upbeat cultural phenomenon.So there we have it. It’s a thing. I’m sure you can now think of a million more. So before we get into what this has to do with memes. Let’s look into where these observations first came from.
Early collective behavior theories
Gustave le bon
One of the earliest collective behavior theories was developed by French sociologist Gustave Le Bon in his 1895 book “The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind.” Le Bon argued that individuals in a crowd lose their sense of individuality and become susceptible to suggestion and emotional contagion.
During the French Revolution, Le Bon witnessed firsthand the power of crowds and the influence they could have on society. He was also influenced by the Industrial Revolution, which saw the rise of mass production and mass consumption, and the emergence of new forms of communication such as the printing press and the telegraph.
Le Bon’s book was written during a time of great social and political change, and it reflects the concerns and fears of the time. Le Bon was concerned about the potential dangers of crowds and the power they could wield. He believed that individuals in a crowd lost their sense of individuality and became susceptible to suggestion and emotional contagion, and that crowds were irrational and prone to mob mentality and violence.
Le Bon was concerned about the potential for unrest and social upheaval, and his book reflects these concerns. However, his theories have been widely debated and have been both praised and criticized by later sociologists. Despite this, Le Bon’s work remains influential and continues to be studied and discussed by scholars today.
It seems ironic almost that Le Bon’s work was perhaps itself influenced by his own macro group influences.
Georg Simmel’s theory of collective behavior, outlined in his 1908 book “The Sociology of Georg Simmel,” was one of the earliest theories to address the nature and function of crowds. Simmel argued against the notion that crowds were inherently irrational or dangerous, and instead posited that they were a natural form of social organization. According to Simmel, crowds were formed based on shared interests and goals, and were capable of rational thought and decision-making.
This theory was developed at a time when the socio-economic climate was marked by significant changes and disruptions. Industrialization and urbanization were transforming society, and the rise of mass media was allowing for the rapid dissemination of information and ideas.
Simmel’s theory of collective behavior was influenced by these developments, and sought to challenge the dominant view of crowds as irrational and dangerous. Instead, Simmel argued that crowds were a natural and necessary part of social life, and that they could play a positive role in shaping public opinion and driving social change.
Herbert Blumer’s theory of collective behavior, outlined in his 1939 book “Collective Behavior,” was one of the most influential early theories in the field. Like Georg Simmel before him, Blumer argued that collective behavior was not inherently irrational or dangerous, but rather a normal and necessary part of society.
Blumer’s theory was developed during a time of significant socio-economic change and disruption. The 1930s were marked by the Great Depression and the rise of authoritarian regimes in Europe. Political and social movements were gaining traction around the world. In this context, collective behavior was becoming increasingly common, as people sought to express their discontent and push for change.
According to Blumer, collective behavior was driven by a sense of common identity and shared goals. He believed that collective behavior could be either positive or negative depending on the context, and that it was influenced by a range of factors, including the social and economic conditions of the time.
Casual crowd vs Conventional crowd
Casual crowds are both forms of collective behavior typically composed of individuals who come together for a specific purpose or event, but do not have a long-standing social connection. They may be brought together by a shared interest or activity, such as attending a concert or participating in a protest. The casual crowd tend to be more spontaneous and less organized than conventional crowds, and are more likely to exhibit more varied and unpredictable behavior.
Conventional crowds, on the other hand, are composed of individuals who have a more established social connection and a shared sense of identity or purpose. They may be organized around a particular cause or ideology, and are typically more stable and predictable in their behavior. Examples of conventional crowds include religious groups, political organizations, and sports fans.
One of the key differences between the conventional and casual crowd is the degree of social cohesion and organization. The Casual crowd tend to be more loosely organized, with individuals coming together for a specific purpose and then dispersing once that purpose has been achieved. Conventional crowds, on the other hand, are typically more cohesive and have a more enduring social structure. This difference in social cohesion can have significant implications for the behavior of the crowd, as more cohesive crowds may be more resistant to outside influence and more able to sustain collective action over time.
In the study of collective behavior, the distinction between casual crowd and conventional crowds is important because it helps to shed light on the factors that influence group behavior. Researchers have found that the social structure and cohesion of a crowd can have a significant impact on the way that individuals within the crowd behave, and that different types of crowds may exhibit different patterns of behavior. Understanding the differences between casual and conventional crowds can therefore provide valuable insights into the dynamics of group behavior and the ways in which individuals are influenced by the social context in which they operate.
The Expressive crowd
The expressive crowd is a form of collective behavior characterized by the expression of strong emotions or opinions through collective action, such as protests or rallies. These crowds often form in response to issues or events that are perceived as significant or deeply felt by the participants, and are motivated by a sense of shared identity and purpose. Expressive crowds may be influenced by social media, mass media, and other external factors, and their behavior may be shaped by emergent norms and patterns of collective behavior. Understanding the dynamics of expressive crowds is important for understanding the forces that shape social movements and public opinion.
The acting crowd, also known as a “pseudo-crowd,” are a group of people who come together for a specific purpose or goal, such as participating in a protest or rally. These groups are different from “natural” crowds, which are formed spontaneously and are driven by shared emotions or goals. The acting crowd are typically more organized and purposeful, and their members may have a greater sense of individual identity and agency.
The acting crowd can influence group behavior in a number of ways. They can create a sense of solidarity and shared identity among members, and can provide a platform for individuals to express their views and values. The Acting crowd can also be influential in shaping public opinion and can bring attention to social and political issues.
However, they can also be a source of conflict and division. They can be influenced by outside actors, such as political organizations or media outlets, and can become a vehicle for propaganda and manipulation. This can cause them to be prone to polarization and extremism, as members may become more entrenched in their views and less willing to compromise.
Overall, they can have both positive and negative influences and can shape the course of social and political events. Understanding the dynamics is important for understanding the behavior of groups and the role they play in society. Let’s take a closer look at some real-life examples.
Antifa, short for “anti-fascist,” is a loosely organized movement that seeks to confront and oppose far-right and fascist groups. Antifa has been known to use acting crowds as a tactic to mobilize and bring attention to their cause.
Antifa activists have organized protests, rallies, and other public events to oppose far-right groups and ideologies. These can be used to disrupt events, such as rallies or speeches, and to show public opposition to their views. Antifa activists may also use them to promote their own messages and values.
However, Antifa’s use has also been controversial, as some of their tactics, such as vandalism and general civil disorder participation, have been criticized as violent and counter-productive. Also, Antifa’s use of these methods has also been used by far-right groups as a justification for actual danger posed and caused by their own violent actions.
The Women’s Suffrage Movement, also known as the Suffragette Movement, was a social and political movement that sought to secure the right to vote for women. The Suffragettes were successful in using expressive crowds as a tactic to advocate for their cause.
Suffragettes used the techniques to organize protests, rallies, and other public events to bring attention to their demand for the right to vote amongst an expressive crowd. These were often large and well-organized, and they were used to demonstrate the size and strength of the movement. The Suffragettes also engaged in acts of civil disobedience, such as picketing, boycotting, and disrupting public events, in order to draw attention to their cause and put pressure on the government to grant women the right to vote.
The Vietnam War peace Movement
The Anti-War Movement was a social and political movement that opposed the Vietnam War and advocated for peace. Expressive crowds were used by the Anti-War Movement as not just a means to organize protests, rallies, and other public events but to express opposition to the war and advocate for peace amongst casual crowds. These were often large and well-organized, and they were used to demonstrate the size and strength of the movement. The Anti-War Movement also used expressive crowds to engage in acts of civil disobedience, amongst casual crowds such as sit-ins, in order to draw attention to their cause and put pressure on the government to end the war.
Rumors, Mass Hysteria and Moral Panics
Rumors, mass hysteria, and moral panics are forms of collective behavior in which people share common beliefs and views, often without physically interacting with each other. Rumors are unverified pieces of information spread from person to person, mass hysteria involves the spread of irrational fears within a group, and moral panics are instances of widespread outrage or concern over perceived threats to social values.
New craze phenomena, on the other hand, are sudden and widespread trends or activities that may involve collective behavior, but do not necessarily involve shared beliefs or views to the same extent. This is interesting… Kek.
Emergent norm theory (Who the heck is Norm?)
Emergent norm theory asserts how social norms and behaviors emerge within groups of people. According to this theory, social norms and behaviors are not predetermined or fixed, but rather, they emerge and evolve as a result of the interactions and communication among group members. The theory suggests that people are more likely to conform to social norms and behaviors when they are part of a group, as they seek to fit in and be accepted by their peers. Emergent norm theory also suggests that social norms and behaviors are influenced by the context and environment in which they occur, as well as the goals and values of the group.
One famous practical example of emergent norm theory is the “Asch conformity experiments,” conducted by psychologist Solomon Asch in the 1950s. In these experiments, participants were shown a line on a card and asked to match it with a line on another card. The other participants, however, were all confederates of the experimenter, and they intentionally gave the wrong answer. The results showed that the majority of participants conformed to the incorrect answer at least once, demonstrating the power of social influence and the emergence of social norms within a group.
There is also a very funny clip from Dave Gorman which is “almost” on topic. Right HERE
The future of Memeology
As decentralised communities of artists, we have the ability to use the power of acting crowds to bring about positive change and a shared sense of purpose. One way to do this is through the strategic use of memes to spread ideas and messages, as seen in the Rarepepe and Counterparty XCP communities. By understanding the principles of collective behavior and using them to our advantage, we can harness the power of the crowd to bring about meaningful change and work towards a better future. It’s time to take control and steer events in a direction that align with our values and goals.
That’s all for now.
Join us for next time as we pull further back the velvet curtain of collective behavior and peer deep into the lives of the people who shaped western thought. Not to mention a master class in positive behaviour support and how we can use that knowledge to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery. You don’t wanna miss it. It’s gonna be a doozy.