When under threat from an approaching feline, gazelles will repeatedly leap up and down in the air – even when logically it seems they should run. It’s an example of a signal – used to communicate a concept to trigger a reaction. In this case, “I am strong and fast – if you chase me you’ll be wasting your time.”
What does this phenomenon of nature have to do with human communication online? We give off signals all the time – to deceive, to attract, to manipulate, to provoke reactions and establish impressions of who we are. We have gotten used to practices of signaling in person. But the web has completely changed how we signal.
Judith Donath, founder of MIT’s Sociable Media research group, is completing a book on signaling theory and online communications called Signals, Truth, and Design. Today she stops by Radio Berkman to chat about signaling and human behavior on the web.
Creative Commons music used this week from Jeremiah Jacobs.