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POSTED 19 Mar 2019 15:31

Ethereum community and its ecosystem: crowd psychology analysis part 1


Ethereum community and its ecosystem: crowd psychology analysis

The 5 conditions for the formation of a collective group consciousness

Devcon 4 has demonstrated that the ethereum ecosystem continues developing at a fast pace and getting increasingly mature. However, its governance model and more specifically the social layer of the governance mechanism continues to raise a lot of questions. Time efficiency between proposal, approval, and the implementation of updates is seen as drawn out for some, the control of the process and its decision is often seen as too centralized for others.

Blockchain governance is “more an art than a science”

Game theory, coordination problems and social norms between different Stakeholders, investors and users turn governance into a very complex puzzle to solve. What I would like to propose is to advance the debate around governance in Ethereum with a different pair of glasses. In my opinion, trying to understand an ecosystem and his community is a necessary step before trying to solve the issue of “blockchain governance.” Especially if by blockchain, we are talking about decentralised and permissionless sociotechnical protocols. I will publish a series of articles to shed light on the possibility of different ranges of reading (“prisme de lecture”) to address the topic of public blockchain governance (decentralized and permissionless sociotechnical protocols) with a new look.

“To look differently is to extend, to decenter and especially to rethink our look at things. This allows any action to extend and enrich our knowledge of reality.” (Antoine Collet et Arthur Clauss Ecole national superieur d’architecture)

According to a general definition a community is “a group of people living in the same place or having a characteristic in common, the condition of sharing or having certain attitudes and interests in common…”.
As anthropologist like to point out “communities forms when people are indebted with each other” As for the definition of Ecosystem: “a structured systems and communities governed by general rules.”

Attempts have been made in the past by several individuals in order to define the Ethereum community, unconference (EIP 0), it turns out that because of the nebulous nature of its network of participants, her diversity and for some, his pseudo-anonymity, it is very difficult to examined it.

However, I generally disagree with the thought that because of its decentralised nature there is little you can study or understand about this community. I start here with the assumption that a raw and organic community around Ethereum is a reality. To understand and study about this community, and without the need of collecting information about every single participant, a crowd psychology approach (a branch of social psychology popularized by E.Freud and before him by Gustave Le Bon) will be used.

If you remove its technological aspect and ask the question what is Ethereum? (socially speaking). What you will generally get in return is lot of uncertainties; a one man show, a cult, a grassroots movement, a meme, a trademark, an unbiased and non-partisan community experimenting around the technology, a bit of both or all of this at once? All we can be certain of, Ethereum has the capability to attract the attention of relatively a broad number of diverse individuals (a crowd) spread out around the globe.

If a crowd is willing to organise, cooperate and coordinate decisions because of some kind of socio-economic incentives mechanisms, then “it has a common interest, they must all be interested in the same object, that they experience the same feelings in the presence of a given situation, and some degree of reciprocal influence between the members and the groups” (Mc Dougall: The Group Mind p23). Freud will add that the more this mental and emotional homogeneity is strong, the more likely it is that individuals will form a psychological mass, endowed with a soul and a collective intelligence. It also means that there will inevitably be a point in the future where this collective intelligence will have to solve a problem of governance which will have to be clearly defined and resolved by seeking a consensus among all the participants of this mass.

How to define, or understand a community which is composed by a crowd, distributed around the world, often anonymous and evolves all the time (waves of participants coming in and out constantly and without permission)?
How to demonstrate that this crowd has a common interest and some degree of reciprocal influence between the members and the groups?

A crowd analysis will conclude that to overcome its coordination issue a crowd must be aware of its own soul, and its own existence (collective intelligence capability like the feeling of totality).

For McDougall, the formation of a mass begins with the intensification of emotions, among certain type of individuals who share things in common: “principle of direct induction of emotion ” or effect of "primitive sympathetic reaction, the emotional contagion. Individuals are formed together by a shared emotion and in this context, the excitement of others affect the individual and vice versa.

For McDougall and also for Gustave le Bon (the pioneer of mass psychology analysis) "a raw and disorganized crowd always characterized itself as being extremely excitable, impulsive, passionate, versatile, inconsistent, undecided,
ready for extreme actions, accessible only to the grossest of passions and the simplest of feelings, extraordinarily suggestible, mild and light in his ways to think, violent in his judgment, receptive only to the simplest and most imperfect conclusions and arguments, easy to direct and shake, without self-awareness, without self-respect or sense of responsibility…." For him a crowd needs 5 principles conditions in order to organically elevate itself to higher level of consciousness:

  1. A dose of continuity in the constitution of the mass, this continuity can be material or formal. Material when the same people remain in the mass a long time. Formal, when inside the mass, the development of determined positions is assigned, and then people taking turns over each other.

  2. Secondly, every individual in the crowd must have been educated as to the nature, function, activity and requirements of the crowd, an idea from which his affective attitude towards the whole crowd flows.

  3. Thirdly, each crowd must be in contact with other similar formations, but differing from them in many respects; that there is a sort of rivalry between a given crowd and the others..

  4. Fourthly, it is necessary that the crowd has traditions, devices, institutions, the main ones of which refer to the mutual relations of its members.

  5. Fifthly, the crowd must have an organization, expressing itself in the specialization and differentiation of the activities assigned to each of them.

When all 5 or at least some of the 5 conditions are activated, then we can objectively say that this crowd has a form of collective intelligence that is organized in community.

In the second part of this article, we will try to see if some of these 5 conditions can be applied to Ethereum by putting it in relation with a crowd that is very similar to it.