Is Social Media a Science?

by Dan Robles on 08/26/2011

UncertaintyCartoon When Social Media Becomes a ScienceJay Deragon posted a series of articles on his Relationship Economy blog which I found especially exciting. As usual, Jay is bringing forward some very important ideas related to social media components and outcomes, but what really sets this new mindset apart is the fact that Jay is asking the same questions that have been plaguing scientists for 100 years.

In Jay’s posting “The Social Moment is Gone” He describes how organizational decisions are driven by metrics that no longer exist.

In another post: ”Measuring Social Moments”, Jay suggests that if things are in a dynamic state then measuring, a moment becomes irrelevant to what is happening the next moment.

In quantum mechanics, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that certain pairs of physical properties, like position and momentum, cannot both be known to arbitrary precision. That is, the more precisely one property is known, the less precisely the other can be known.

Scientists figured out that in order to study a sub-atomic particle, they had to stop it from moving. As soon as they did that, the nature of the particle changed. Scientists could only study their interaction with the particle, not the particle itself.

Jay is saying something similar: “How can you measure social media if it is responding as a function of your interaction with it? All you are doing is looking at yourself in a mirror – so stop it”. He’s right.

Status Quanta

Keep in mind that this comes in a time when the chorus of social media gurus are still trumpeting the C-Suite Concerto called “ROI or Die”. Maybe someone should remind them that the value of the Corporation that they so fungibly defend is in fact an approximation based on things that cannot be measured. Let me explain:

It is not surprising, therefore, that Wall Street hires Quantum physicists (affectionately known as Quants) to manage money and investments in markets and to “Innovate” new financial instruments.

The Calculus of Social Media…on Wall Street?

Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle lead to the development of a new branch of probabilistic mathematics for approximating both the position and the momentum of subatomic particles. In fact, the science of Quantum physics is entirely contained in probabilities that events will or have occurred and not necessarily based on direct observation – and so are the Wall Street Valuations.

Wall Street uses the same calculus to estimate the probabilities that financial particles will have a specific location and momentum without having to actually witness them. The result is a host of exotic financial instruments that make, bet, hedge, and securitize such approximations for the benefit of stockholders…..

Getting Back to Jay

Markets are conversations. People make products, invent things, design stuff, hold stock, buy, sell and trade everything. Those Quantum Physicists on Wall Street are estimating the position and momentum of people.

All Jay is saying is that now you can do it too.



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