(Week 3) Should social media have status restrictions?

Social Communicative Aspects of ICT

In the article The reader-to-leader framework: motivating technology-mediated social participation, the author attributed one of the motivations people participate in social media actively, even collaboratively, to the potential status rise and fame. The author then continues, “In offline situations,…, a commonly used ploy is to restrict access to allow only those with higher status to participate.” While I agree with that,  it quite bothers me that “some researchers are exploring these concepts online”.

There is no doubt that for businesses,it does no harm to create such a privileged feeling for their most active and thus “loyal” customers. What’s more, it can even serve as an incentive for other customers to participate more, or simply buy the privilege with money.

In fact, if we look closer, we can find many examples already existing. Many websites and BBS have points systems which allow users to exchange points for real commodities. You can gain points by writing threads and participate in activities, but the fastest way is simply spending money.  Sounds like the mechanics of an i-App free game.

However, when I think about it, many ethic questions do raise. Is it really good to restrict the online community for just those “privileged and high status” opinion leaders? Is it fair for other users who, although do not create much content online, participate offline? Does being an active user online, creating more content online equals to an opinion leader who can exert positive impact on the society? Or, are those “opinion leaders” real leaders?

Even if they are, here raises the controversial question often discussed in communication studies: how about those majority readers who are silent and seldom participate in online discussion? In real life, “the Spiral of Silence” has already been revolving for a long time; if the so-called “status” interfere with the online world, which used to be equal and anonymous, will it inherit the inequality and unfairness of the real world?

Reflections: Thinking of the relations between this question with last week’s reading, I think it emphasizes one point: the technology and the society both have impact and determinism on each other. We invent technology to make it do things we want it to do, so in this case, if some people want the Internet to have status, then it could easily happen.