Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Social Decision Making

Some of the hardest things about bank holidays, are all the decisions to be made. Go away or stay at home? Where to watch the Royal Wedding? Whether the in-laws really need to be invited for Easter... 

I often pester my friends or partner with this sort of trivial dilemma after work, but all these bank holidays actually mean I have so much work to 'tie up' I'm too tired for post 6pm drinks! I need a new method of putting questions to the panel. Preferably in warmth and comfort. Enter, the social network.

The collaboration aspect of Web 2.0 allows us to ask questions of our network, and amongst my own network more and more often I’m beginning to see people asking for advice. Many of my friends used to make decisions on purchases, for example, by googling the product and looking for review websites or forum mentions. Now, they are simply logging into a social network and asking friends, acquaintances or complete strangers for recommendations, in the hope that they will have insight on the matter.

For example:

Drew Benvie, managing director of agency 33 digital commented on his experience of decision-making via social media in their 2010 social media report:
I spent one week asking my social network whenever I had to make a decision. Not only was my social graph of use to me in recommending places to eat, drink and be merry, but it taught me all sorts of interesting things. It persuaded me to exercise more, showed me the benefits of new things, and even how I should travel.
Last year, a particularly astounding example of social decision making came to light. A blogging couple asked people to decide whether or not they had an abortion on . Thankfully I can report that this was effectively a PR stunt by a pro-life campaigner, and no actual babies (or foetuses) were harmed in the making of the website. Her argument, however, was that the pro-choice camp would be absurd not to recognise a 'choice' no matter what basis it was made on. Whilst I won't comment on the abortion debate itself (or the morality of the methods she used to highlight it), I do find it very interesting that 'crowd sourced' social decision making is being applied to more and more situations, even ones where the (alleged) outcomes would have such a profound effect on a human life.