Sunday, 29 June 2008

Are we all just social insects?

LONDON - MARCH 12:  Naturalist and broadcaster...Ever since i started to become interesting in SEO, i developed a facinastion with how human beings interact online. This community ideal that nolonger exisits in Western society is now blossoming in an untangable environment. Some people enjoy their invisible status, lurking behind the scenes and observing, while others welcome a chance to elevate their status via their profiles, sharing and generally getting involved, some go beyond that and start communities maintaning order and dealing with bad behaviour from their memebers with a firm "BLOCK".

I was writing an article on 'community justice' for a client when i started to consider the idea of over crowding and loss of communities. The Māori’s for instance maintain community law by making criminals face their victims, this idea was preposterous to the western bureaucracy who see "law" not as a human element but a "rule" an unseen thing, rather like "god" i suppose and anything opposite to that is unworthy and barbaric.

The internet being a return to this barbarism and freedom of communication, the idea that a tight nit community could contain individuals that lived 100s of thousands of miles away from each other and yet, coexisted in a sentient space of collective information must be very frightening to those individuals wanting to control the spead of information (but thats a whole other post).

I started to think of our ancestors and how they lived within smaller groups as hunter gathers before the introduction of agriculture and then I thought of animals or rather insects, Ants to be exact. We share a lot of similarities with our ant friends, their use of propaganda, they solve complex problems, they develop mimetic, commensally, parasitic and mutualistic relationships with other species (such as milking aphids like cows and growing gardens from fungus, they fight to protect their homes their young and they also build incredible communities that can last for years.


Imagine you are David Attenborough for a second crawling on your belly through the inter-growth with a camera poised and you come across something never before observed.

if you did peer into the THE SOCIAL NEST, what would you expect to see?

Well you would definitely be looking for a number of members of this species that collectively make up the working community;

The Queen - Outbound (i.e. Elder) – Process of leaving the community due to new relationships, new positions, new outlooks

The Royal family - Boundary (i.e. Leader) – A leader, sustains membership participation and brokers interactions

The Workers ants - Inbound (i.e. Novice) – Newcomer is invested in the community and heading towards full participation

The Soldier ants - Insider (i.e. Regular) – Full committed community participant

The parasitic ant's - Peripheral (i.e. Lurker) – An outside, unstructured participation

The Larva - Relationships within the community

Rival ant - Spammer

“So what we can see here is the centre of activity for the nest, all this central activity you can see is a number of higher ranking individuals and workers activating and carrying various threads around, if we look closely we can see that these are “new widget technologies” a huge post about some thing called “plurk’ll never catch on” and one about a “local news story on knife crime”.

“Now we must be careful to remain very, very quiet as we sit here on the lip of the nest, so as not to disturb the buzz. If we make any comments or movements that could be mistaken for salesy in anyway the social ants may well pick up on our pheromones and may send their soldiers to block us”

“I’ll just back away just slightly as not to affect their natural behaviour, and this position I’m adopting is called a lurking posture, it means that I’m not going to interact with the nest and should make them ignore us”

Two smaller social ants pass by, within inches of your camera, they are acting rather peculiarly and so you watch as they tentatively enter the NEST.

“Now this is interesting, I was hoping we would be able to observe this behaviour. These are two possible lurkers or new workers for the community who are trying to blend in and might well try to interact given that they seam very interested in those larger threads there”

As you watch the two ants avoid contact with the other larger ants and hide themselves in the shadows behind a number of threads.

“Ahhh, It is looking more likely that there the parasitic ants or the 'lurkers' that I was describing, this could get ugly if they try to interact with the community straight away”

You pause “No, it seams I was wrong, one of them is beginning to interact with one of the smaller threads on “facebook” you can see it is carrying it across to a much larger ant that looks like a solider and nudging it with the tip of the thread, the other ant has now come in and is helping what appears to be a group of worker ants carry that enormous ‘matt cutts cat’ post”

“Now the reason why these ants were so careful when entering is that if the nest community picks up on their trust pheromones before they have a chance to prove themselves, there is a risk of the new ants being eaten alive”

“The new ants are now interacting with a number of threads and will hopefully be accepted into the community as workers, they may remain as workers for sometime, growing up the ranks until they are fully established enough to become solders creating food for thought for the entire nest”

“The soldiers are the ants over there, these are much bigger and brownish looking, they carrying a number of threads at once and are top contributors to the nest and pay a huge part in its stability by challenging any attack on the nest”

A number of much larger ants appear; they are much fatter and are carrying what appear to be maggots.

“Ahh now this very interesting, these are the elders and Royal family members, they all look very similar, you’ll notice that whitish grey tinge to their hind quarters, you also notice that they interact much less with the new ants and instead they are getting the Larva to regurgitate what look like more threads that the soldiers then carry to the workers who feeding on this and carrying it off into to centre of the nest”

You smile “It’s amasing to think that this chain reaction of elders and new comers or larva and lurkers is happening in thousands of millions of places, under our very noses in nests like these all over the web every second of every day”

Zemanta Pixie

No comments: