AU MA Social Media

A class blog about social media.

How The Internet’s “Protective Screen” Promotes Collaboration

Posted by AlanaR on July 11, 2012

I read an interesting New York Time article this morning titled “The Rise of Groupthink” by Susan Cain. The article essentially says that our culture has shifted from individualistic towards emphasizing the importance of group collaboration, whether that be in the classroom, workplace, engineering lab, etc.  However, there is strong research which suggests that people are the most creative and productive when they are introverted and work alone. These individuals are extroverted enough to share their ideas, but their true genius lies in the work they do in solitude. Cain cites Apple’s Steve Wozniak (that’s right…Wozniak, not Jobs) as one example.

Yet what I found most interesting was this:

The one important exception to this dismal record is electronic brainstorming, where large groups outperform individuals; and the larger the group the better. The protection of the screen mitigates many problems of group work. This is why the Internet has yielded such wondrous collective creations. Marcel Proust called reading a “miracle of communication in the midst of solitude,” and that’s what the Internet is, too. It’s a place where we can be alone together — and this is precisely what gives it power.

Cain makes a very good point about the “protective screen” surrounding online communication, which allows people to throw their ideas out there without the fear of face-to-face rejection from a close friend or colleague.  However, I wonder…is this a good thing or a bad thing? How conscious should employers be to this reality? Is it a reality? Is there room to incorporate a “protective screen” in the office or is the screen only protective because people communicating online often don’t know each other?

What are your thoughts?


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