- October
Posted By : Adrian Chan
What Goes Up One Way Comes Down Another

I’ve had a few notes sitting here in my text editor on asymmetries in social systems. For example, that when the stock market is rising, it has no upper limit; but when falling, its lower limit is very real.

  • That in the stock market, the purchase of shares is an extension of trust on the part of the investor.
  • That purchase, as a transaction between buyer and seller, is a bet on the future.
  • That trust in markets is extracted, and invested, in the future : and set in the price of exchange.
  • That the transaction uses price as its expression — but is no less a system of communication than any other.
  • That trust also characterizes social networks
  • That this trust is also extended by means of a transaction — in this case, however, the transaction is a “connection” and not an exchange
  • That the medium or currency of the social marketplace is may be the “interest” that we take in each other, and which we can show one another by paying attention
  • That the basis of transactions in a social system is a handshake (of sorts)
  • But that in the imperfect social system that is social media, the handshake is rare : a form of unilateral and monological communication prevails, often unanswered
  • That this produces a high degree of redundancy (noise), as participants post more than they acknowledge having read or viewed
  • That in contrast to the stock market’s vertical asymmetry (of up vs down), communication media, or social media, have a horizontal asymmetry (or sending/receiving)
  • That possibly all social systems are inherently asymmetrical, in that no system can provide complete knowledge, or truth, or proof, that the meaning we intend is the meaning understood by others, or that the meaning we make of others is the meaning they mean also
  • That the asymmetry between one’s own experience and the experiences of others will always subsist beneath any communication or transactional system (Markets: trust in the future, certainty, ability to anticipate future events; Social media: trust in relations, ambiguity of the audience’s interest, unknowability of the other’s attention and interest)
  • And will be a fundamental experiential currency of that system (and that psychology is unavoidable when individuals use systems to mediate their relations)

What was the point of all this? To think through the comparison of market-based social systems and communication based social systems. And to pose the question: might the intrinsic asymmetry between production and consumption, between acting and reacting, between intending meaning and interpreting meaning, not always govern and organize our experiences and thus account for motives and behaviors?

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