The PLU problem online – a short thought

Looking at the world with a social captial filter on we need to remember the three types of social captial – Bonding, Bridging and Linking (Putman).  One of the notable features about most online communities is their homogeneity – ie their bonding capital.  Given the need for formal democracy to be inclusive I need ways to ensure that spaces that we create have bridging as well as bonding capital.

At home we call this the PLU factor – People Like You – which is a lazy way of grouping people with the same attitudes and world view as yourself.  This is considerably less messy than the democratic reality that you need to rub up against all kinds of people to make a country work.  When we all trusted and respected our politicians, and when the world was perhaps a simpler or at least slower place, then the PLU factor didn’t matter – your representative was there to deal with this messyness.  Now however we all need to find a way of meeting different types of people with whom we share resources and requirements in order to figure out what to do.  Another reason for doing this online – apart from all the arguments of convenience and authenticity is the fact that it is a lot less threatening to meet new people online than in person.  the flip side of this is the fact that we are known to value these relationships less.  I am hoping to show that by giving these groups of people a common democratic purpose and also by making it clear that they have common problems to solve we are able to create bridging as well as bonding capital in the groups we work with on the project.

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