From Zeynep Tufekci’s blog:
… it is quite likely that preferential-attachment processes are part of the reason for the rise of oligarchies and charismatic authorities. Ironically, this effect is likely exacerbated in peer-to-peer media where everything is accessible to everybody. Since it is just as easy to look at one person’s twitter feed as another’s, no matter where you are or where the other person is, it is easier to draw more from the total pool and further entrenching an advantage compared to the offline world where there are more barriers to exposure and attachment. Thus, networks which start out as diffuse can and likely will quickly evolve into hierarchies not in spite but because of their open and flat nature.
Disposition is not destiny. In one of my favorite books as a teenager, The Dispossessed, Ursula K. Leguin imagines a utopian colony under harsh conditions and describes their attempts to guard against the rise of such a ossified leadership through multiple mechanisms: rotation of jobs, refusal of titles, attempts to use a language that is based on sharing and utility rather than possession and others. The novel does not resolve if it is all futile but certainly conveys the yearning for a truly egalitarian society.
My research eventually veers into studying networked movements and the concept of the emergence of leaderlessness, despite not making any much effort (also see entropy, which is kind of counternarrative, since order should not create another form of order?) to construct a hierarchy. It leads to many of its variations : preferential attachments, microcelebrity network activism (both Tufekci’s terms), the theory of iron law of oligarchy, and sociological theory charismatic authority, exhibiting our social tendencies towards elitism.
It’s been a long day, so I am retreating to bed reading The Dispossessed. Good night.