By empowering dissenting insiders to break the insider/outsider boundary, digital tools help “collapse the context.” That’s the phrase scholars use to describe how digital infrastructure brings together people, information and ideas that used to survive through an ecology of separation.
Context collapse is why Facebook has become so stressful for teens after their parents signed up. Things that used to be separate are now on the same timeline. There’s Mom telling you to wear a warmer sweater on a comment thread about a party. There’s that uncle with a rant about Obama’s birth certificate.
Context collapse is everywhere. It’s not just teenagers on Facebook whose ordinary adolescent boundary-testing actions are viewed by finger-wagging adults; it’s not just a variety of institutions that have found their internal communications meant for friendly eyes are exposed to the world; it’s not just academics whose scholarly studies are being dug up by various constituencies as fodder for outrage. It’s everywhere.
The outsiders are peeking in and moving in, and they are here to stay.
If, as an institution, keeping your balance relies on outsiders staying outside while you talk in jargon and acronyms with your fellow insiders, it’s time to look for a safety net and a harness. A fall is coming, sooner or later. In this world, “this is what we have always done” is not going to cut it.
Grossartiger Text von Zeynep Tufekci.