ly. But without social media that also
promotes complex coordination and
institution building, in the end nothing is achieved. We need a deeper understanding of how to tap into network
incentives, and for activating the right
incentives through information filtering and consensus building.
However, unlike message content
and social network structure, incentives are far less visible. They manifest themselves through the actions
of individuals, and often a particular
action comes from multiple incentives. Before we produce a practical
theory of social mobilization, we need
to develop new ways of measuring,
influencing, and modeling incentives
in networks, and for interpreting individual action in their light. Our efforts in the large-scale mobilization
challenges are only a first small step
in that direction.
Adam Smith is considered by many
to be the intellectual father of the
idea that only observable actions matter: people act in the market, and an
invisible hand produces an efficient
outcome without knowing the private
information and motivations behind
people’s actions. But in his Theory of
Moral Sentiments, Smith made it very
clear that a true understanding of social phenomena must incorporate
the multitude of psychological and
cultural motives. By moving our attention from observable viral processes
to modeling their underlying motivational dynamics, we would pay tribute
to Smith’s nuanced understanding of
human nature. And, perhaps, along
the way, design the next generation of
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Manuel Cebrian ( firstname.lastname@example.org)
is Research Group Leader with the Data61 Unit at the
Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research
Organisation (CSIRO), Australia.
Iyad Rahwan ( email@example.com) is an associate
professor of Media Arts and Sciences at the Media Lab,
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Alex “Sandy” Pentland ( firstname.lastname@example.org) directs the
MIT Connection Science and Human Dynamics labs and
previously helped create and direct the MI T Media Lab
and the Media Lab Asia in India.
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